God’s Purpose for Fiction

“Hey.”

(Sidles onto stage.) “How are you? Ahem.

(Waves nervously.) “Hiya, my name is Kathrese McKee, and I’m the newest Scriblerian.”

Stage Fright

I was asked to introduce myself, and I came so close to complete writer’s block. Let’s call it stage fright. Should I write the standard Ten-Things-About-Me post? Should I just pick one thing, like Army brat or Texan?

A Message About Timing

Fortunately, I read a Facebook post by C.W. Briar (Chuck) in which he told the story of how he became an author. Specifically, he wrote about his journey to where he is today, “It wasn’t a crisis of faith, but rather a search to find where I belong and how to use my gifts and talents.”

Along the way, with prayer and the Spirit’s help, Chuck decided to take writing seriously and publish by age 33. He set to work, learning and practicing his craft until he finished his book. According to God’s perfect timing, then, he received the first proof copy of his book three hours before he turned 34.

Individualized, personalized timing is normal with God. My story is similar to Chuck’s. My search took longer, but all those years while I was doing other things, God was preparing me to write fiction (and other stuff).

God's Purpose for FictionOur Reason Why

In the parts of the world where technology is readily available, we are consumed by a thirst for entertainment. We binge watch programs on Netflix or YouTube or Amazon Prime. We read ebooks all day long; there’s a never-ending supply. We float on a sea of amusing infotainment, and we only return to shore for the kids’ soccer games and work. Even then, it’s hard to put the mobile devices away and just be human for a few hours. Don’t think I’m being self-righteous about this; I include myself in that number.

Based on what we see happening around us in the growth of Christian writing support groups like ACFW and Realm Makers, it seems that God is calling authors out from among believers in increasing numbers to write fiction. I think God is calling us to reach out with His message to our blind and deaf generation, a generation of people who won’t meet Him any other way than through the pages of an entertaining story.

Meeting This Generation on the Page (or the Screen)

In a few weeks, I get to join a group of other authors at the Realm Makers  conference. This isn’t your usual writing conference where lots of genres (and belief systems) are represented. This is a meeting of Christian authors who write speculative fiction. How oddly specific!

Here’s my theory: God wants us, the science fiction and fantasy authors He has called out, to meet speculative fiction lovers on the pages (and screens) where they spend their time. If they want entertainment, then our job is to (stay with me here) provide entertainment. To be present where they are. To hold out truth. To entertain—absolutely—and while we have their attention, to prompt them to blink out of their blind trance. To think for a moment. To consider Someone bigger. To know Him better.

I am a speculative fiction author who currently writes for young adults, so my assigned audience is young adults who enjoy epic fantasy adventure. Authors of other genres and sub-categories have different sets of readers to reach. Some audience overlap may occur. Personally, I enjoy reading a well-written Regency romance followed by a political thriller with a space opera for desert.

[Brace yourselves; we are entering personal opinion territory.]

Is there such a thing as Christian fiction?

In my opinion, the answer is no. A Christian is a person who is in Christ, and his or her message is Christ crucified. I know you want to argue for the existence of Christian fiction, but keep reading.

We have turned “Christian” into an adjective for the stuff we create, but the Scriptures only use the term in reference to believers. Go ahead, check out this search for “Christian” on BibleGateway.com . These days, “Christian” has become an imprecise shorthand for “a big ball of wibbly-wobbly . . . timey-wimey . . . stuff.”

My apologies, Dr. Who fans; I couldn’t resist. “Christian”—as a descriptor for stuff we create—is a dumbed-down, wishy-washy, amorphous concept that has little to do with God’s precious gift to mankind. To me, it makes more sense to label so-called “Christian art” as “Christ-inspired art.”

Can art be Christian?

Again, my answer is no. Art can be inspired by Christ. Art can point to Christ and glorify Him. Art can be offered to Christ in love, like the crayon drawings of a three-year-old. Such art, in God’s perfect time, can inspire non-believers to take Christ seriously, but only because God works on its audience through the Spirit by using the artist’s creation as a meeting point.

All art communicates a spiritual message, whether for good or evil. The massive sculptures and friezes created at the direction of the USSR’s government sent a spiritual message. Atheists’ art sends a spiritual message, whether they wish it or not. The art created by Christians, then, is important for the spiritual messages it communicates. That is why it is important for a Christian’s work to agree with God’s Truth.

Okay, I know I’m fighting a losing battle on the whole Christian-as-an-adjective-for-stuff thing. The publishing industry is deeply entrenched with the idea of a secular, “mainstream” market versus a religious market, some of which is “Christian.” The labels Christian music, Christian books, Christian jewelry, and Christian so-forth are here to stay. I just wish that we had settled on the term “Christ-inspired” instead.

[That wasn’t too bad, was it? And now you know how convoluted my thinking gets.]

A Light in a Dark Place

Our stories are one of the mediums through which God acts. The funny part is that our books don’t have to preach about Christ or contain an “altar call.” Christian authors don’t have to write allegories in order to glorify Christ or communicate Truth. The book of Esther contains no mention of God, yet the story is all about God’s power to save His people.

I think it is important for Christians to write fiction if they are moved to do so. Our “job” is to attract an audience and offer our best, most thoughtful, stories written from a Christian perspective.

When we meet our readers and fans in person or on-line, we must wear the name of Christ proudly and without shame. We must not shy away from being His witnesses. We must be Christians and walk the walk that we talk. Christians who write fiction can be a light in a dark place, and God will do the rest.

Wrath and RuinOur search, to paraphrase Chuck, is to find where we belong and how to use our gifts and talents. Our mission is to work conscientiously at our craft and present our best work to the reading public. We are called to meet non-believers (and believers too) on the page and on the screen through the medium of storytelling.

Chuck wrote this:

“I won’t say this is some God-ordained book. I won’t say this is the greatest thing I will ever accomplish (in fact, I hope to write many books and to improve with each and every one). I don’t know where this writing journey is leading, what stories I will tell, and whose lives I will impact. But I do know this: tonight I received the first copy of a book I wrote, a tangible confirmation of a journey started in earnest 4 years ago.”

My thanks to C.W. Briar for giving me permission to hijack his Facebook post. His first book, Wrath and Ruin, is on schedule to be released by the end of July, 2016. Love the title, by the way.

Do you agree or disagree?

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Dear Fourteen-Year-Old Me: A letter from the future by Kathrese McKee

Lessons learned the hard way

What Advice Would You Give Your Fourteen-Year-Old Self?

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of writing a guest post for The Scriblerians entitled, Failure Is An Option. Learning lessons the hard way must be much on my mind these days. There are many things I wish I had known ahead of time, so I wrote a letter to a younger version of myself. I’m putting it in a time travel capsule and hoping for the best.

Dear Fourteen-Year-Old Me,Dear Fourteen-Year-Old Me,

If you’re reading this letter, then the time travel capsule must have worked. This is me—or is it you?—writing to you from 2016.

First, let’s improve our overall quality of life. Skip working at that computer consulting firm (the second one, not the first one). Total mistake. Oh, and invest every spare dime in Apple stock—the company, not the fruit. But I’ve said too much already.

Second, start writing now. Put all your stories in a drawer and wait until the world’s longest river starts a fire. You’ll know what I mean when it happens. But seriously, write every day so you’ll be ready with lots of raw material and the skills to polish your stories for publication.

By the way, your “Only Friends” policy towards guys totally works, so keep that up. But you need to get out more. Go to rock concerts against the preacher’s advice. Lightning won’t strike you down if you attend prom. Don’t listen to the legalists, and don’t worry so much about what people think about you. Live a little. Then write about it. Do you sense a theme here?

Let’s see. What else can I tell you without triggering the “butterfly effect?” (I can use that reference since I know you read Ray Bradbury.)

There will come a time when a Cuban American, a Jewish guy, a reality television star, and a grandma will run for president. Sounds like a bad joke, right? I can neither confirm nor deny that I made it up, but a political thriller with that plot could become a bestseller. Trust me. Oh, and publish it in 2014 for the best marketing opportunities.

When a storm named Rita strikes, stay home. Sorry, I hate to be so cryptic. Never say you’ll never live in Dallas. Don’t buy the Volkswagen TDI. Beg, borrow, and steal to go to the second Realm Makers Conference because you’ll always regret that you spoiled your perfect attendance record. Okay, that’s probably enough, and let’s hope it’s not too much.

Stay in band, work hard in school, keep reading everything that looks interesting, and stay close to God.

Love,

Kathrese

 

Lessons Learned the Hard Way

Don’t you wish you could write a letter to a younger version of yourself? What would you tell him or her? What hints would you try to pass on (without disrupting the space time continuum)? Would your younger self believe what you wrote or blow it off?

I tried to keep it light, but I do wish I hadn’t had to learn so many things the hard way. Who doesn’t wish that? Maybe humans aren’t able to learn certain lessons except through enduring the consequences of making mistakes.

The truth is that I had some lessons I needed to learn at the second computer consulting job. However, I regret that I didn’t start writing in a serious way much sooner. I chose to write epic adventure fantasy with lots of political intrigue built in. I have to say, the contemporary political thriller would have been big, especially if I had nailed the election results. Move aside, Nostradamus!

Imitating Good Examples

We don’t need hints from the future to know that we should use our time wisely. Occasionally, we hear of someone who provides a great example of the best way to live.

The Scriblerians are grieving the passing of their friend and fellow writer, Vanessa Morton. Their stories about her are inspiring and full of love. She seemed too young and bright to be gone so soon. Her friends definitely think she was one of those examples to imitate. Let us burn as brightly as Vanessa did, and live as faithfully, to the very end.

What advice would you give your fourteen-year-old self?

Failure IS an option – by Kathrese McKee

Kathrese McKee is no stranger to the Scriblerians. Not only is she a great writer friend of mine, but we got to hang out with her at Realm Makers last year (the best conference for science fiction/ fantasy writers of faith). She also signed our slam book last year. Feel free to stop by that post to see the original cover of Mardan’s Mark and her high school picture. Two things she probably wishes weren’t still on the internet. 😉 

Now, please enjoy this wonderful post by a gifted writer.


During the Apollo 13 movie, Gene Kranz, the flight director played by Ed Harris, has this line: “Failure is not an option.” Then, he stalks out of the room, and his engineers scramble to find solutions. Man, I love that movie. And I loved that line.

In real life, Gene Kranz didn’t actually say that. He wishes he did, but he didn’t. In fact, he liked the quote so much, that he used it as the title for his memoir. I can appreciate the must-do philosophy in the context of the Apollo 13 emergency, but I disagree with it in the context of creative endeavors.

Failure is an option. I would argue that it’s the only option. How many authors write their tour de force on the first draft of their debut novel? How many painters create their masterpiece the first time they hold a paintbrush? How many screenwriters, sculptors, inventors, filmmakers, or dancers achieve the pinnacle of success before they have failed many times?

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. ~Thomas EdisonThomas Edison

Creative professionals must fine-tune their work, throwing out the pieces that don’t measure up and trying new ideas. That’s what happened to me on my debut novel, Mardan’s Mark. Actually, I think the writing is okay, but the cover is another story. If you want to learn more about the book or the original cover, you can see a post from a year ago on this website, “Swashbuckling Adventure, Anyone?”

There is no failure. Only feedback. ~Robert Allen

In the meantime, I’ve had a lot of time to ponder my cover choice. Tim Akers, one of the Scriblerians asked, “So tell me, if this was written for boys, why is there a woman’s face on the cover?” Ah, Tim, why’d you have to bring that up? Yeah, I wrote it for both genders.
Floryie, another reviewer, wrote this: “I loved the look of the book cover. But I couldn’t relate to the ‘character’ on the cover. She looks too old to represent any of the female characters.” Srilani does look too old, and Aldan really does need to be on the cover. Okay, okay, you talked me into it.

Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently. ~Henry Ford

So the hunt for a different cover designer began, not because the first designer was bad, but because the cover needed a fresh set of eyes. I hope that you agree it was worth the effort.

2016-264 HANDOVER Ebook Kathrese McKee, Mardan's Mark

Our business in life is not to succeed, but to continue to fail in good spirits. ~Robert Louis Stevenson

Enough about me, let’s talk about you. Are you in a slump? Do you have doubts? Those feelings are natural. Everyone experiences them. But our job as creative individuals is to push through those doldrums and accept failure as part of the process. The only ones who fail are those who quit trying. Put fear aside. Change something and try again.

C.S. LewisFailures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success. ~C. S. Lewis

When you look back at where you’ve been, the mileposts are likely to be those points where something went wrong and you had to make a decision to keep going in spite of adversity. Think of moments when you learned a life lesson through failure. Think of those events that changed you, broke you, and molded you. Ultimately, those failures made you who you are. Fail forward toward success.

What past failure set you up for success afterward?

Kathrese headshotTexas author, Kathrese McKee, writes epic adventures for anyone who enjoys pirates and princesses combined with life’s difficult questions. In Mardan’s Mark: A princess must rescue the heir from behind enemy lines before war breaks out. The stakes rise when she accepts help from a pirate’s slave. Join the Crew to read the first five chapters for free.

Calling all YA lovers – have I got a steal for you!

Turning Point: 7 Young Adult Inspirational Novels in One Set

Making it easy (and super cheap!) for you. All your summer reading is right here in this one set. Get seven full-length novels from some of your favorite authors. 7 full-length YA novels for $0.99 – that’s 14 cents each!

Books-in-the-set

By Darkness Hid, Jill Williamson Given the chance to train as a squire, kitchen servant Achan Cham hopes to pull himself out of his pitiful life and become a Kingsguard Knight. When Achan’s owner learns of his training, he forces Achan to spar with the Crown Prince–more of a death sentence than an honor. Meanwhile, strange voices in Achan’s head cause him to fear he’s going mad. While escorting the prince to a council presentation, their convoy is attacked. Achan is wounded and arrested, but escapes from prison–only to discover a secret about himself he never believed possible.

Whisper If You Have To, Staci Stallings Secrets. Alison Prescott has collected a boatload of them in her short lifetime. Moving to a new school in a new town was supposed to fix everything; however, when she meets a new set of friends, keeping those secrets might just ruin everything including her fledgling relationship with the school’s basketball star, Chad Dourozette. How far will Allison go to keep the secrets she can never tell anyone?

It’s Complicated, Laura L. Smith There’s a reason Facebook has the Status Update, It’s Complicated. Follow four college roommates, Claire, Palmer, Hannah, and Kat as they maneuver crushes, confusion, and the crisis when pushy boys go too far. Complicated as it is, these four friends will pull through, guided by the strength of their friendship and the power of God’s love.

Failstate, John W. Otte A fledgling teenage superhero competes on a reality TV show for a government vigilante license. When one of his competitors is murdered, Failstate sets out on a quest to avenge her death. But will his superpowered lunk of a big brother ruin everything?

The Wishing Pearl, Nicole O’Dell Sixteen-year-old Olivia Mansfield can’t wait to escape the confines of her home, which promises nothing but perpetual torment and abuse from her stepfather. When poor choices lead her to the brink of a complete breakdown, Olivia comes to a crossroads. Will she find the path to ultimate hope and healing that her heart longs for?

Mardan’s Mark, Kathrese McKee Abducted by pirates and taken behind enemy lines across the Great Gulf, Princess Srilani is determined to save her sisters and younger brother, the crown prince, from captivity. She convinces their caretaker, Aldan, and his brother slaves to share the perilous journey home. This ragtag group of unlikely heroes sets out on a quest — pursued by cutthroat pirates, merciless priests, and marauding soldiers — to return the heir to his kingdom before war breaks out. In this epic adventure fantasy, Srilani and Aldan risk everything to save a prince and a nation, discovering along the way that death is not their deepest fear.

Glass Girl, Laura Anderson Kurk After her older brother Wyatt is killed in a jealousy-fueled incident and her mother disappears, Meg Kavanagh decides surviving is easy—it’s living that takes guts. She believes she’s to blame for Wyatt’s death, but when Henry Whitmire steps in with a secret, will Meg forgive herself enough to accept the good things in life like the rush of first love and the power of mercy?

I’ve read 2, own 2 more, but I bought the set to get the other 3. It was too good a deal to pass up. 🙂

Available for pre-order on Amazon.

WHAT ABOUT YOU? Which ones have you read?

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