So, as I’ve written about before, Next to Me is a bit of a departure for me from The Lake. The Lake Trilogy is very clearly a coming of age story and very much Young Adult (YA). It was a beautiful and exciting story that fit well within the YA genre. It was easy and more understandable for Will and Layla to exercise some restraint when it came to their physical relationship. It was also easy for me to write them as characters who were not prone to colorful language.
Next to Me is…different. It falls into the New Adult (NA) genre. I talked about the differences between YA and NA in a previous post. The move from YA to NA was…interesting.
Let me preface the rest of this post by saying that I LOVE this book. I’m so happy with how the story developed and am as proud to put my name on it just as I was with The Lake Trilogy. I just wanted to share my thoughts with you on writing a story that is so different than my previous books.
The departure for me was how to write a realistic story about adults facing adult issues in the world and still stay true to who I am. So…how do I, as a Christian, write NON Christian Fiction and still maintain the core value of my beliefs? I had what I believed was a great story in my head and I wanted to tell it as realistically as possible.
The reality is that people use colorful language to express excitement, disappointment, anger, love, lust. Whether you use commonly accepted curse words or you call someone a Do-Da when they cut you off in traffic, we all use words to express ourselves. (My thoughts on swearing are probably best reserved for another post or a personal conversation). People find themselves in intimate, sexual situations. Seriously, Christian or not, we all want to have sex. You can’t write about a guy and girl who are attracted to each other and pretend that they aren’t going to find themselves in a sticky situation. Again, Christian or not, you’re lying if you’ve said you never found yourself wanting to tear the clothes off of your boyfriend or girlfriend.
So how do I do that? How do I write real people and realistic relationships? THAT is an excellent question. I think my first approach is to reflect on my own life. Did heavy make out sessions with my boyfriend mean I wasn’t a Christian? Not all of us wait until our wedding day to have our first kiss and (in my opinion) it’s unrealistic to expect that from anyone. The only other thing I knew to do was to get sound advice from someone I trusted who has the same belief system that I do. I weighed those conversations and made a decision based on what I believed and what I believed was best for this story.
As I write this, I’m really trying to figure out WHY I’m telling you all of this. Maybe it’s because many of you who read my books have known me my whole life. Maybe it’s because I want to make sure that no one who knows me reads this book and thinks I’ve compromised myself.
Or maybe…maybe it’s because I want people to know that as a Christian, it’s possible to create media that isn’t necessarily “Christian.” I think there’s a misconception that if you’re a Christian and you create something like music, movies, or books that what you create has to be spiritual in some way. That if your music, film, or book doesn’t have a Christian moral to it you’re not being a good Christian.
There are plenty of actors, musicians, screenwriters, and authors who are Christians who are enjoying a wonderful career and aren’t producing anything that is blatantly “Christian.” U2 being the most widely known. Chris Daughtry (Daughtry), Zachary Levi (Chuck), Tony Hale (Arrested Development) and the members of Paramore come to mind. Steve Taylor’s film adaptation of Blue Like Jazz is the best example of how a film can be “Christian” yet so wonderfully irreverent.
It is more than possible to be a believer and see the value, beauty, and quality of something that is NOT faith-based. This post would be far too long if I named every book, every film, every play, every book I’ve read that was pure genius and had nothing to do with Christian morals or values.
So, with that said, I am ridiculously excited about Next to Me! I’m excited to stretch myself as a person and as a writer. I LOVE writing! I love creating characters and developing a story that draws readers in. My goal now and forever will be to write books that accurately represent the human nature while creating stories that leave my readers escaping, crying, laughing, swooning, and unable to get anything done because they just can’t put the book down.
I’m excited for you to be on this journey with me and am thrilled that you’re along for this ride as I work to constantly grow and stretch as a writer, but more importantly as a person. God has big plans for me and I hope you’ll stick around and see how that plays out in my writing!