47 Comments

Put Down Your Sword…and Write

A friend of mine pointed out that my Amazon author page is “getting very interesting.” Yes, even without a book of my own I have an author page because of the anthologies my stories are in. The “interesting” part comes from the fact that half of those anthologies contain my inspirational personal experience stories…while the other half are horror.

I laughed when she said this, and replied, “Yeah, skitzo Kat.”

She said, “No, it’s balanced.”

Hah! That’s quite the twisted scale, my dear. But it did make me think.

She’s right–it is interesting. And balanced in its own way. Although some would think it’s not. Some think writing like that simply doesn’t belong together.

There seems to be this war going on between Christian writers. Because there are “preach to the choir” Christian books, and “edgy” Christian books, and books written by Christians that aren’t overt at all and really could be classified as secular. And there are straight-up secular books read by Christians as well.

Everyone has their own idea about what makes a book “Christian”—whether that means squeaky clean, edgy, or horror. And to be honest, I’m tired of people pounding their chests, exclaiming that their kind writing is the best kind of Christian writing.

I have short stories in several Sunday school magazines of various denominations, and in an anthology called The Ultimate Christian Living. Not to mention the story about my grandmother in Grandmothers’ Necklace. These are sweet, uplifting stories, in mainstream Christian publications. They are meant for a particular audience. Not so much the audience I’m actually a part of, but I had something to share with them and I did so in a way that audience would want it shared.

I have short stories in Christian speculative fiction markets. Places like Digital Dragon Magazine and Residential Aliens. Clean fun, most of them. Enjoyable stories. For Christians who don’t read mainstream. Are they crazy edgy? No. Are they deeply theological? Somewhat, maybe. Does it matter?

I have stories in horror magazines and anthologies. Some Christian, some secular. I believe Christian horror is a legitimate genre. My website has a picture on the welcome page, with these words: “Darkness can’t be brought into the light without being extinguished…but when Light is brought into the Darkness it will continue to Shine.” Jesus is not going to be hurt by being put into dark fiction. He shines wherever He is. There is nothing wrong with writing dark Christian fiction.

But there’s nothing wrong with NOT writing it either. There is nothing wrong with “fluff” fiction. Some people need books like that. Readers read with different intentions, with different needs, from different places on their spiritual walk, and with different vantage points from which they view Jesus.

I believe in all types of Christian writing (whether I like it or not), and secular writing, and I see no reason for the war. One does NOT have to win over the other. I won’t make you read my horror stories if you won’t make me read your Amish romance, but by God you have every right to read and write what you want. And to love it. And to connect with Jesus through it—the side of Jesus you see through it.

Because, yes, you ARE seeing Jesus through it. The real Jesus. The same Jesus I see through my horror stories. Jesus cannot be put into a box. And by saying Christian writing must be “this” or it’s not “real” is bull(stuff). What’s “real” is knowing that Jesus comes to you, wherever you are, at whatever stage, with whatever needs and reading tastes you have.

The pen may be mightier than the sword, but it is not mightier than Jesus. He is not limited by genre. He shines in both light and dark writing. He won’t refuse to let you see Him through writing that is less than perfect. He is not diminished by “fluffy” writing. We as writers, as humans, simply don’t have the power to filter Him.

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About Kat Heckenbach

Kat grew up in the small town of Riverview, Florida, where she spent most of her time either drawing or sitting in her "reading tree" with her nose buried in a fantasy novel...except for the hours pretending her back yard was an enchanted forest that could only be reached through the secret passage in her closet... She never could give up on the idea that maybe she really was magic, mistakenly placed in a world not her own...but as the years passed, and no elves or fairies carted her away...she realized she was just going to have to create the life of her fantasies. She shares that life with her husband and two homeschooling kids. Kat is a graduate of the University of Tampa, Magna Cum Laude, B.S. in Biology. She spent several years teaching, but never in a traditional classroom--everything from Art to Algebra II. Her writing spans the gamut from inspirational personal essays to dark and disturbing fantasy and horror, with over forty short fiction and nonfiction credits to her name.

47 comments on “Put Down Your Sword…and Write

  1. The definitive commentary on the subject. Well done.

  2. So you are saying we can’t put Jesus in a box? *smacks head* 😀 Great post, Chicky.

    • Yes, and I’m also saying that those Christians who are running around saying, ‘You can’t write like that! You’re putting Jesus in a box! He’s really like blah-blah-blah,” are trying to put him in a box. Why can’t He be the gritty, sinner-loving Jesus AND the sweet Lamb that’s portrayed in mainstream Christian fiction? He can be. He is. He is all to us, everything. People have different ways of drawing closer to Him, and we can’t dictate how others do so.

      • The reason I think many of us don’t like the the “sweet Lamb” Jesus that’s presented in modern mainstream Christian fiction is because that isn’t how Jesus was 90% of the time. What that turns Jesus into is the Jesus of the world. Non-Christians like to view Jesus as a nice man who said nice things and was nice to everyone and told everyone to be nice to people. Surprisingly enough, that makes people think Jesus is just that. Nice. Sweet. Caring. But above all, simple. The reason I find that frustrating is that Jesus was so much more than that, and if that is how he is represented in most Christian fiction, that is what the world will think he is to us. While I am perfectly prepared to accept there is a place for the sweet lamb “nice” Jesus, I think that place should be about as far from the mainstream of Christian literature as possible. Yes it is true that people at different stages in their Christian walks need Jesus in different ways, but the people who have the biggest need of Jesus are those who do not yet know him. Those people take one look at the mainstream of Christian literature, and are left with a very nasty sugary taste in their mouth.

      • Michael, I agree. The Jesus I know isn’t quite that sweet lamb that is personified in most mainstream Christian fiction. It does frustrate me. I can’t relate to it.

        But I do know a lot of Christians who do see Him that way–that’s the Jesus they connect to and cling to. That is the audience for that kind of Christian fiction. It’s not *meant* to “reach out” to the unsaved, imho. It’s meant for the choir.

        But I think instead of just being frustrated with what’s out there, we need to create new options. I don’t think this kind of writing is going to just go away.

        What this boils down to is: We’re frustrated from a writers perspective. Publishers keep publishing this stuff and they are not giving us a chance. We’re writing things that the CBA doesn’t feel comfortable with. But let’s face it–what got the whole CBA started? Wanting to provide “safe” fiction for Christians who don’t want to have to sludge through smut and violence. It was created for the choir. And if we want to reach out to the nonChristians, we’ll have to do it through subtlety and use of the secular market. Because content aside, nonChristians aren’t going to venture into the Christian section of the bookstore anyway. Why clamor to be placed in there, in hopes of being a “real” Christian novel meant to appeal to nonChristians if they are going to walk right past you because of the sign hanging over the shelf you’re on?

  3. Wow. Nothing wrong with fluff? You mean I don’t have to beat myself up and offer excuses for my existence and what I want to write? Revolutionary.

    • For the record, I’m not a fan of (most) fluff. But I see no reason to make others feel subhuman and stupid for liking to read it. I hated Twilight because I consider it fluff–I don’t like romance for the most part because so much of it is fluff. But not all reading MUST be intellectually stimulating. Sometimes it’s the explosions and unrealistic, quippy dialog that makes a book or movie fun.

      • Caprice, you naughty girl – don’t you dare suggest that your stuff is remotely close to fluff. Someone tell me she was joking… 😉

      • She has to being joking. 😛

      • Many would call my sci-fi fluff. You know, that crazy fanfiction I must be “playing at” to the tune of half a million words while everyone else is being “serious” writing publishable books. That fluff.

      • But fanfic does not equate to fluff. Perhaps some people’s does, but HELLO, this is YOU we are talking about here 😛 I read one of yours so I consider myself halfway qualified to say! lol.

      • Caprice, you get it. Your writing is not “fluff”–it’s incredible–but your sci-fi is for fun. And there is nothing wrong with that. Just as there is nothing wrong with romance and some of the other fiction so-called “serious” writers insist all writing must be. You’ve proven with your novels you can do serious. No matter what you pen, girl, you are good! 😀

  4. Kum-by-ya, my Lord… hehehe… You’re absolutely right, Kat. We are not all bread from the same mold, so why would we expect Jesus to be a one-kind Savior. He knows are needs and how to fill them–it may look like a touching inspirational romance to one, or an edgy, horror, yes-I-do-have-a-supernatural-side one. Very astute. You are years ahead of many. 🙂

    • Aw, Ralene, thanks! BTW, I like how you put that: “…why would we expect Jesus to be a one-kind Savior.”

  5. Wow. My sentiments almost to the letter. I said a while ago, I am a Christian who writes, but I am not a “Christian writer”. Why? Because the latter has the stigma. The stigma of cheese, of weak writing. It does. “Oh, he/she’s a Christian writer…” “That book is “Christian”. “It’s okay but it can’t compare to secular fiction.”

    Look at the industry.

    This is exactly the same way I feel about music. Ya can’t limit Christ! He’s going to speak wherever, when ever He chooses.

    I have a short horror in the works. I asked “What will they say?” But quickly decided that I kinda don’t care, you know?

    I mean I DO care. I really do. We have to be held accountable for what we say…write…everything. BUT, there is a reason I’m writing it. He’s going to shine.

    I spoke to who used to be my youth pastor a few months ago and I was really excited, telling him about my writing and what I’m writing about. He said, You can’t put God in a box.

    From my Like page:

    –My name is Tymothy Longoria. I am a Christian. I am a writer. But I am not a “Christian writer”. What’s the difference? Well, the latter, like all generalizations, attempts to put me in a box. Well, God cannot be contained and neither can His gifts.
    We all have “dreams.” One of mine is to write for a living. I’m getting there.

    For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
    Romans 11:29–

    I had just moments ago commented on Eric Wilson’s FB status about how I truly believe the aforementioned stigma is waning. It has to. Well, it doesn’t have to…but it will.

    KAT. GREAT POST.

    • Tymothy, I remember writing my first horror story and worrying so much what my conservative Christian friends and family members would think. But I knew I HAD to write the story.

      I definitely agree with you on the stigma of “Christian writer” and “Christian fiction.” It’s come to equate with “cheese.” But I get up in arms when writers insist that type of writing must be purged, as though every Christian out there needs to “get real” and face Jesus down and dirty. I think we need to not war about it, and let readers and writers of “cheesy Christian fiction” continue on in peace while we make our way elsewhere.

      Christian fiction needs to come in different shades and styles and levels of overtness. My stories range from personal-sweet-overt to symbolically/allegorically Christian to completely secular. And yet *I* am still the same Christian.

      • Your last sentence? EXACTLY.

        A character in my book says: “I am a lover in every sense of the word…but I will fight for those and that which I love.”

        Christ battled. HE fought. We should not.

        You’re right also, of course about the writing being “purged.” No, it belongs. It has its place. Just as yours. Just as mine.

        Different shades…I like that. Many shades of black the song says. I am but one. You are another. That person is that and so on and so forth.

        Onward.

      • Do you not think though, Kat, that there is simply far far far too much cheese out there than can be healthy for the outlook of Christian writing? When the rest of the world looks in, they’re not going to see the kind of Jesus that is really there. The cheese needs to give way, else we’re very in danger of over-representing it. What the cheese does is represent to the world a kind of Jesus the world can readily agree with. A nice, fluffy Jesus.

      • MIchael–do I think there is too much cheese in Christian fiction? Absolutely. That’s why I don’t read much of it. I love Tocsa Lee’s writing and a handful of others. I’ve shifted pretty much all my Christian reading to small, daring presses.

        Here’s the problem with the idea about the “outside looking in” and being disgusted by the cheese. They’re not looking in. They don’t even know cheesy Christian fiction exists.

        Until I started writing–a little less than four years ago–I didn’t know Christian fiction existed. And I was already a Christian! But I read exclusively secular, had heard of NO Christian fiction authors, assumed that every book in the Christian bookstores was nonfiction and Bibles. It’s been my experience that most nonChristians see the Christian bookstores the same way. Or they do realize there is, or at least must be, Christian fiction, but they’re not going to read it anyway.

        Granted, I’m going by my observations and personal experience. I have no research to back it.

  6. There’s been SO much commentary and raging debate on the blogs about this lately. Here at last is a sensible and, yes, *balanced* view. Hear, hear! I’ve got a good mind to zip over to the debaters and tell them about this…

  7. First off, I DON”T LIKE THIS NEW SHTUFF!!!!!!!!! I WANT MY OLD NAME BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!

    My Dearest Kat,

    OH HECK I’M SO MAD, I FORGOT WHAT I WAS GOING TO SAY!!!!!!!! LATER!!!!

  8. My Dearest Kat,

    So called “Christians” didn’t like it when Jesus allowed Mary to wash His feet with her tears! We as Christians cannot allow ourselves to try and become an elite society who never allow sinners in. If we are doing something wrong then It is up to God to convict us. Does it not tell us to beware of such judgements for we may be entertaining Angels. God and only God can make such a choice. Anyways that’s all I’ve got to say for now cause I have to go pray about my anger!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. Kat – you are so on target in so many ways. Don’t bother heading my way Grace because I am getting ready to link to this one right now.

  10. You really did stir up a firestorm, Kat.

    I wanted to throw the old “if Jesus is everything to everyone, then all writing would qualify as Christian” argument just to be mean, but you’ve hit such a chord with your writer commentors, I won’t do it. 🙂 I think you’ve made your meaning with this post quite clear and any such turtle trail would be simply that.

    In the last year or so, I’ve learned “I” am what makes my writing Christian. Me, a Christ follower. The writing will be what God is teaching me, and occasionally what I’m not learning, too. When I focus on Him, I would hope my writing will be to His glory, whether it’s called secular, fluff, hard or cheesy.

    BTW, I like a little cheese in my stories. Adds flavor.

    • You have a real point there, Robynn. It’s not just where the audience is, it’s where the writer is.

      And yes, I know all about you and your cheese :).

  11. Mom! Kat’s being reasonable again!

  12. While not a fan of fluff (except in my pillows) I do believe it is our duty to do what God calls us to do. If He calls us to write fluff, then that is what we should do because, by being obedient, we can be sure that He will be in our work. If He calls us to write super-edgy, scare-the-church-ladies-group, fiction, then that is what we should be doing. God know what is needed to call the lost and if He is in our writing then the fruit of our labors can be nothing less than excellent.

    My concern is that Christians writers will shy away from overtly Christian writing fo fear of not being taken seriously by the world. As Tymothy pointed out, the attitude seems to be: “It’s Christian so it’s probably not as good as normal stuff”. I don’t think we should be scared of this but rather working to change this attitude. It also worries me that Christians may not be writing what they feel called to write because they know that the big houses are going to reject anything that crosses the “edgy” threshold. I am so thrilled that the Lord is raising up people like Grace, Jeff and Chila, who aren’t scared to take on the “weird” stuff. God will be in the fruit of our labors if we follow Him, whether it be fluff, fantasy or horror.

    Okay, I’ll put my soap box away now. 😉

    Excellent post Kat.

    • Oh, Paul, I totally believe we need to not be afraid to write what we feel. We need to not worry about the CBA standards. Absolutely.

      But we need to leave the church-lady, CBA, fluff-lovers alone. That is their “real.” They don’t relate to artificial intelligence and magic and paranormal and even just plain old “grit” anymore than we relate to sweet, cheesy “Christian fiction.”

      Sure, the outside world is going to judge our writing based on the standard Christian fluff writing. I’m just saying that instead of trying to rid the world of that fluff–since I simply don’t see that happening because far too many people buy it, so publishers will continue to publish it–we do exactly what those small presses you mentioned do–we write differently.

      I just would like to see the name-calling stop. We can write and publish what we want and still let them write and publish what they want without acting like we’re superior. We’re different. Jesus is in their writing just as He is in our writing, just a different way of finding Him.

      • Kat, I don’ know how old you are but I wager quite at a bit younger than me. And, you show a wisdom beyond your years. I review a lot of CBA fiction (about 100 novels a year) and I read every word I review. I also read a good bit of faith-based fiction from the smaller presses (Marcher Lord Press, Splashdown, etc..). After five years of doing this almost full time I couldn’t says it better than this:

        I just would like to see the name-calling stop. We can write and publish what we want and still let them write and publish what they want without acting like we’re superior. We’re different. Jesus is in their writing just as He is in our writing, just a different way of finding Him.

        I know what it is like to struggle to get published in the CBA. For me it is because I am unpublished and write suspense. At this time, there are only four CBA houses seeking suspense and three of them will not take unpublished works. Just last week I learned the publisher who was about ready to sign me has decided to only do Historical and Contemporary Romance for the next 6 months to a year.

        In spite of these disappointments, I refuse to become snarky and snobbish by deriding the people who write or read Buggies and Bonnets. I know a number of those people and they are every bit as committed to God and what they do as any one “on the edge.” Keep on calling everyone you know to the same.

      • Tim, wow, thank you :). Not sure how to reply to that. I don’t feel wise!

        And I admit I’ve done a bit of snarking about the CBA and the fluffy romance and how irritating it is to see that stuff published when my is getting rejected. My first reaction was defensiveness. But I’ve let that slide away because, well, it’s pointless. And because I am in writers groups with all these sweet older ladies who love that kind of writing–the kind I don’t–and yet they are loving and supportive of me and my weird writing that they don’t understand!

  13. […] Put Down Your Sword…and Write (newauthors.wordpress.com) […]

  14. Love your post precious sister. Hugs! 🙂

    Paulette Harris.

  15. My Dearest Kat,

    You don’t have to be wise to recognize wise, You don’t have to be a saint to recognize one, but you do have to be a child of God to recognize His work. I think we all see Him in you at work. Thank you Jesus!

  16. […] the post comments, someone linked to Kat Heckenbach’s Put Down Your Sword… and Write. Kat […]

  17. […] not one for dragging things out, but I was a bit blown away by the reaction to my last post, “Put Down Your Sword…and Write.” Apparently a few people even brought it to author Mike Duran’s attention because of his blog […]

  18. […] for writers? Read this excellent post at the New Authors’ Fellowship. Quit whacking on the “other” more conservative […]

  19. “Jesus is not limited by genre.”

    That should be on a billboard. Great article, Kat.

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