You’re a spec fiction author mainly, but I know you have other interests. If you could write novels in three different genres, what would they be and why?
Ooh, I love this question! YA contemporary would be my first choice. It’s my second love, after speculative fiction. And—a little-known fact about this speculative author—the majority of my published short stories are YA contemporary! Next choice would be historical. I’m a homeschooling mom of three kids. I read a lot of historical fiction, and I absolutely love it. Which is probably why I find steampunk so appealing as a speculative sub-genre!
My third alternate genre would probably be science fiction. I know, I know. It’s a spec fic genre. But it’s so different from what I write, which is mostly fantasy with a little dystopian or occasional space opera sprinkled in here and there, it feels like a totally separate thing. I love science, but sci-fi readers are hardcore. It’s an intimidating genre for me, but a challenge I’d love to conquer.
What do you think the most important thing a Christian writer needs to be aware of or get across as they write?
My marketing brain wants to click in and say “That depends on your audience.” And there is truth to that. If you’re writing for a Christian audience, there’s always the question of “How Christian do I make my stories?” And let me tell you, sometimes it feels like you can’t win. Too overt and you’re “preachy.” Too subtle and you have reviewers say “I can’t believe she masquerades as a ‘Christian’ author. There was no Jesus in this book!” If you’re writing for the secular market, perhaps the question is even more complicated. In that case, are your stories strictly for entertainment purposes, or are you attempting to preach the gospel through fiction without actually uttering any Christianese?
My writer’s heart (which is more spiritual than my marketing brain, if you must know) says write what your story requires. Christian, secular, overt, subtle, faith-affirming, moral worldview—what does your story require? I learned the hard way that, as much as each writer is different, each story is different, too. My first fantasy series is quite overt with a fairly obvious allegorical backdrop. That became my “brand.” When I sat down to write the first version of The Story Peddler (my second series), I needed to stick to my brand, of course, so I shoehorned a Christ allegory into the story. What resulted was an oddly soulless piece. I’d inadvertently made a zombie of a story. I realized that what this story—this idea—wanted to speak about had much more to do with art and the way artists reflect our Maker’s creativity. It’s still a wholly Christian concept, but it doesn’t require a picture of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection to make its point the way my first series did. At the end of the day, it really isn’t about your brand or your audience. It’s about doing the story justice.