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Posts Tagged ‘Christian fiction’

As an author, I discovered a few books back that you can’t please everyone. Not long after my first novel was released in 2007, I remember standing with a group at church while one lady told me in a loud voice that she had been unable to get past Chapter Two! A few moments later, her daughter came up and said: ‘Oh, I loved your book so much! When is your next one coming out?’ This event armed me well for my writing days ahead.

Four novels followed. No doubt some who bought these were unable to persevere in reading them, but I am aware others have devoured them, because they bothered to write and tell me. Now quite a few authors I know are plagued by self-doubt—including me at times. It is something God has had to work on with me for a while, but I’m learning! And I must admit that positive comments about my books have helped. I don’t think it’s just because these nice, encouraging words feed my ego. I prefer to see them as little messages from God, saying to me: ‘You see—you are on the right track! Your writing is getting better and achieving what you hoped it would achieve. Keep touching people’s lives through your writing!’

But this past week has been a very interesting experience in receiving comments about my first non-fiction book Soul Friend: The story of a shared spiritual journey. I am finding I care even more about these than with my previous books, since this book is about my own journey with my spiritual friend and mentor Joy. Already I can see how careful I will need to be about taking any negative comments too much to heart. After all, didn’t I learn back in 2007 that you can’t please everyone? So when I received an email informing me that a review of Soul Friend had been taken down from a particular website because some of the ‘broader methods’ mentioned in the book could not be seen to be endorsed by the group whose website it was, I tried to laugh it off. I didn’t know I was that heretical! I wrote back, trying to be as gracious as possible. I am not sure I succeeded, since I discovered I was also quite annoyed.

But then two things happened. Firstly, I stumbled upon 2 Timothy 2:23:

Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he (she) must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.

Secondly, I began to see God’s gentle grace in action when three encouraging emails arrived from different readers in quick succession. ‘Your book, Soul Friend, is a wonderful story’, the first one began. ‘Soul Friend is everything the blurb says and more. I really congratulate you, Jo-Anne. We need books that are honest and for real and I am sure it will help many’, the second one read. Amazingly, she went on to warn me I might experience some opposition as a result of some things I had included in the book! The third email ended with the following: ‘Jo-Anne, you have such a beautiful way of articulating things. Thank you so much for being brave enough to share your story. And thank you to Joy also for your words of wisdom.’ Then and there, I endeavoured to take all this encouragement in and not let the one negative comment outweigh the positive.

May you too, writer or otherwise, find the right response to those whose opinions impact your life and may you be strengthened by God’s grace as you do.

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Just over a year ago, after completing six novels, I began planning out my very first non-fiction book. I had been thinking and talking about it for some time, but in May 2011, I knew I had to act. Months of reading through my old journals and emails, marshalling my thoughts into some sort of order and of course writing ensued, before the first draft of Soul Friend: the story of a shared spiritual journey emerged. Then it was time for much revision and editing, before submitting it to a publisher. To my delight, it was accepted and is now due for release in October.

Over these months, I noted several differences between writing novels and non-fiction – I hope I have managed to tackle these well and overcome the challenge of switching genre. But next came a further new experience – that of working with a different publisher. This turned out to be an excellent and comfortable fit, but it still involved learning how to work with someone different and understand what was expected of me.

However, now that Soul Friend is complete, I can see even more new challenges looming, as I begin my whole promotion journey. In many ways, this will be similar to promoting my novels, but I think I see differences ahead as well. Non-fiction opens up some areas for me that were closed to novels, while on the other hand, I expect there to be some difficulty in promoting my non-fiction work as readily as I have my novels in secular venues. So now is the time to re-think my approach, to pray, to discuss, to plan – and to begin contacting people and organisations yet again.

At times, I cringe at the thought – it all seems too daunting. But then as I take time to regroup with God, I begin to glimpse the exciting nature of it all and the amazing privilege that is mine of being able to write and speak in this way. And I also glimpse again the truth that I am not doing this on my own. God is with me and will lead and sustain me as I step out in this new part of my journey.

This morning, as I continued my regular reading of Scripture, I reached Isaiah 42:18-20 again. Back in 2003, God used these verses to challenge me to begin writing, to show me that I was being deaf and blind to the clear call I had already been given to get on with producing my first novel I had talked about for so long. Now my eyes were drawn to verse 16 a little earlier on:

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.

So … will God not be there at every new twist and turn in this different phase of my writing experience, showing me the way forward?  I might feel I’m still groping along rather blindly in it all, still not seeing and hearing clearly what to do, but God will be there, and will even be smoothing the way ahead for me. How gracious and loving and understanding is our God?

Yes, I am challenged. But I am also blessed beyond measure. How about you?

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