Yes, I also went to seminary, and still love Jesus very much. So what happened? Am I trying to tempt people into lusting after prostitutes? Do I enjoy the look when people look up from the first page and think, “What kind of story is this?”
The story is about a husband who has lost his infant to a catastrophic accident and in his mourning, instead of turning to his wife for healing, he turns away. As a new father nearing my sixth anniversary with my wife, I can testify to the very real temptation of turning away from my wife in the tough times.
Scavenger: Evolution is the story of a character a mile down a path I’ve yet to tread. In the small town surrounded by sand dunes, he has rejected his profession as a sand diver and in his misery, picked up the only job that would allow him to maintain his depression: being a janitor at a bar and brothel. (It’s also one of the locations mentioned in the world my story is inspired by, Sand by Hugh Howey.)
I didn’t come to this decision because I looked forward to explaining to my Christian friends why I was so sinful as to write a story about such abominable living. I came to the decision because, like I always try to do in my fiction, I was trying to be as honest and genuine as possible about my character. In his state of depression, this is where he would have ended up. And then, as would likely happen after spending time away from his wife and in the company of prostitutes, he has developed a lustful addiction.
I’ll say up front that I believe you can be honest and genuine without being explicit, but then everyone’s idea of explicit is different. For me, I have no guilt before God. I don’t see this setting and his struggle as glorifying anything. It is a glimpse into his life in all its horror, honestly. My goal in showing that was to create the empathy needed to want to join him as he tries to fight his way free.
So, yes, my debut novel starts off in a brothel. Yes, it has a little swearing in it, too. I didn’t include these elements to impress anyone. I included them because the heart struggle they illustrate is one I know well and look to overcome.
I don’t pretend to write about Christian characters. I write about characters that struggle with what I struggle with. Rush, my main character, must find a way to go on when he feels he’s lost it all. This is inspiring for me because I sometimes hit a lesser form of depression, and when I fantasize about adventure, I want to ideally see someone who understands depression and can yet still be a hero.
As Rush sand dives for love, for treasure, and within chaos, I’m ultimately hoping he ends up on the surface holding his wife’s hand, smiling, and planning to start over. But, because I’m honest, I don’t know if it will end happily ever after. I go on, as I do in real life, in hope that it will.
This is a kind of farewell for me at New Authors Fellowship. I haven’t blogged in awhile, ever since taking over Adventures in SciFi Publishing in the summer of 2013. We were recently nominated for a Hugo Award, btw. Pretty awesome, if I may say so. I stepped down as executive producer last August to focus on my family and novel, but the show has been passed on to the very able hands of Brent Bowen.
I still have thoughts about what it means to be a Christian author writing stories that deal with things many Christians find offensive and inappropriate. On the other hand, if I told another section of my online friends that I’m Christian, I would then become the offensive and inappropriate one.
So, where do I go from here? Have I successfully ostracized both sides of the spectrum of the people I may be writing for?
I don’t know. I write about characters that reflect struggles and longing in my heart. Because I have the safety net of them being fictional, I can take them to lower places than I’d go, but this is beneficial in seeing a kind of warning before I end up there. I don’t as much write for people as I write for my self. I hope people will support that endeavor, obviously, but the focus is on writing inspired fiction.
I have some short stories that are less offensive (though I still don’t classify what I wrote in Scavenger, offensive, I can’t deny that some people have put the story down because of a bit of moaning and an image of a prostitute in her lacing.) I have a story, “The Bomb in the President’s Bathroom,” in the Tales from Pennsylvania anthology, a shared world collection of stories set in the Amish Scifi world of Pennsylvania by Michael Bunker. I have a story, “Staring Into,” coming up in the Masters of Time anthology. So it’s not that I’m trying to push people’s buttons. I just write what characters come to mind.
I have a novel waiting in the submissions inbox that I’m very excited about. Caroline is the story of a young woman who steps into the magical rift between Iowa and the Abyss. It explores the philosophy of worship and survival in its many well intentioned and darker forms. It’s my best attempt of describing faith and violence in a way that makes people examine the heart and not the label, movement, or reality of past experience. It’s also pretty scary (see, The Ring), and full of action (praying mantis apocalypse).
Thank you to New Authors Fellowship for being a place to hang and chat about faith and writing. I hope to come back and let you know how it’s going. I’m currently plotting out Scavenger: Evolution Book Two (title a secret), waiting on the audiobook to be turned back in from my producer, David Robison of Wonderthings Studios, and enjoying evenings with my wife and son.