Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Garbage In, Garbage Out?

I had an interesting interaction with someone this weekend at my book signing at the Mesa Bookmans. I was handing a postcard with information on my novel to a woman who was standing about ten feet from me. She took it and said nothing at first. Then her eyes turned up at me and she smirked, proceeding to ask me what my angle was, what point was I trying to get across with my writing.

I wasn't sure how to answer that so I told her that I wasn't really trying to make a point, just write compelling fiction. I described my writing as a mix between the Christian symbolism that was evident in some of C.S. Lewis' works and the edginess in Stephen King's style of writing. Apparently she didn't like that. She told me those two things contradict each other and that they can't coexist successfully. I motioned to my books and told her to buy one, read it, and find out for herself if I was successful in pulling it off.

That's when she said, "Garbage in, garbage out." Then she told me she was extremely careful with the types of books she reads. I told her I understood and once again pointed out that she could purchase my book for only $10 and tell me what she thought. She asked me if I had read any of C.S. Lewis' books like the Screwtape Letters or Mere Christianity. I said no. I tried to be more clear and explained to her that my writing held a lot of the Christian symbolism that C.S. Lewis has in his Chronicles of Narnia. Then she said she was going to challenge me to go deeper into my faith and that I really need to take a harder look at C.S. Lewis before I go comparing myself to him or his works.

I realized at this point that she was trying to start some kind of religious debate with me at my table. I wasn't going to have any of it. I figure if someone wants to discuss theology and the angles that my book presents, then we can, but if someone is going to call my writing garbage before they've even read an excerpt of my book, then they are only out to prove their own points, in this case how evil Stephen King is or how evil I am...not sure exactly which one.

I handed the woman an excerpt and told her to read it while she browsed the store, just to get a feel of my writing. She took it and walked off. A woman nearby had overheard the conversation and told me that she too was a Christian and didn't understand what the other lady was getting so upset over. I explained the story to her and she told me she enjoyed Stephen King's writing and that my novel synopsis sounded intriguing. Then she told me that I handled the other woman's attempt at debate quite well.

How strange I think it is that some Christian's can be so close minded about things. I'm not attacking Christianity - because I am a Christian - but I have started to notice those that are so closed off from the world that they isolate themselves from anyone or anything that could deepen their faith or relationship with God. I completely understand that some people are very careful with what they read, but it seemed that just because I was comparing myself to Stephen King's writing style and C.S. Lewis' Christian allegory, she took it as me comparing Jesus to Satan.

I'll admit I was raised under a somewhat sheltered roof. There's really nothing wrong with that. But even now, at 30 years old, when I tell my mother that I am reading the Dark Tower series by Stephen King, I get a whole lecture on how evil and satanic his writing is. Please people, let's be a little more mature. I understand that we as Christians are called to separate ourselves from the world, but at the same time, I think we only push everyone else away by pointing our finger and calling out everything that doesn't sound Christian as evil. Stephen King may very well not be a Christian, but it doesn't mean he isn't gifted and it doesn't mean I can't learn a few things from him as a writer and apply it to my own work.

I love the fact that I've found a style that can incorporate the lessons of faith I have learned while walking with God, and mesh them with the edgy writing style that Stephen King offers up, especially in his Dark Tower series, which is a wonderful blend of science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

That woman eventually came back to me and set the excerpt down on the table. Then she said it was exactly what she thought it was. She said I was part of a cult. I told her to have a nice day and smiled as she left the store. Never a dull moment in this writer's life. Never.


Kat Heckenbach said...

Love this!

I haven't yet had someone call me evil, but I've worried about it because I've written stories that I consider "allegorical horrors." By the way, Stephen King writes books that would fall into the "Christian horror" genre if they weren't full of sex and cussing. Try reading "Desperation"--it's got a *clear* Christian message. And "The Stand"--King himself calls it a Christian book! (You can tell people from now on, too, that King is actually close friends with Jerry Jenkins--there was an awesome interview with the two of them together in the May/June 2009 issue of Writers Digest.)

Good for you for standing up for your writing! We Christian writers don't always fit into a neat little box.

One thing I keep in mind as an answer to those who question my genre--if and when that ever comes up--is that maybe you can't bring "dark" into a light room, but you can bring Light into a dark one.

Unknown said...

Very well put, Kat, about bringing light into a dark room. By the way, I also saw that interview in Writer's Digest when it was posted and I found it fascinating. I agree with you that we Christians don't always fit into a box, especially when some of us are writers. :)