“The Holocaust” in Christian Fiction

There’s a disturbing trend present in Christian fiction, which has been going on for a while. Its something that I too was guilty of when I wrote Christian fiction and have had to repent of. It’s something that many Christian authors do. Novels based during WWII…more particularly, during the Holocaust (1933 through 1945) are popular within the Christian market. Fine, I mean, there are many secular novels out there based in that time period. Some of the most inspiring and devout believers lived during the war: Sophie Scholl, Corrie ten Boom, Martin Niemoller, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Edith Stein, Maximilian Kolbe…

What I want to focus on is a specific story plot in which a number of authors fall prey to (Again, myself included. God forgive me). The Holocaust is at the backdrop, a romance is at the forefront, and at some point, in the novel a Jewish character comes to Christ. Its one thing to write about Jewish Christians during that era – they did exist. But this is something completely different. This is not storytelling for the sake of storytelling… this is evangelism. The story intentionally plays out in such a way to have a Jewish character convert to Christianity. The purpose of Christian fiction – other than to entertain believers in Christ – is to be used to win others to Christ.

A come to Jesus moment is expected in Christian fiction. Pick up any Bonnet Book (a.k.a. Christian Historical Romance) and there will be Scriptures, prayers, an epiphany, and redemption. Again, fine. What I am concerned about – and what many others have rightfully objected to – is using the Holocaust as a means to evangelize. Taking one of history’s darkest eras and manipulating it in such a way to further a religious agenda is cruel. It is offensive to the Jewish people and their beliefs. Its a smack in the face of those who lived during the war. It shouldn’t be done. Believers in Christ should know better.

It is wrong.

Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox for now. But I’m leaving you with some links in case you would like to do further research. Please keep in mind what these other authors have to say on the matter. Thank you for listening.

 

http://databases.jewishlibraries.org/sites/default/files/proceedings/proceedings2012/stover%20text%202012.pdf

http://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/192714/a-romance-novel-about-a-nazi-and-a-jew-nein

http://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/reviews/for-such-a-time-by-kate-breslin/

http://dearauthor.com/features/letters-of-opinion/joint-discussion-time-kate-breslin/

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Father Brown

My current WIP has been revised and is now in the capable hands of two fellow writers who are critiquing. Maybe just one more revision before I can start querying agents again ::fingers crossed::

Today I am going to ramble about one of my favorite shows, “Father Brown.”

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Starring Mark Williams, it is about a wise and lovable Catholic priest who, along with his friends, solves mysteries in 1950s Kimbleford, England. Unable to drive, he traverses via his bicycle, with a Bible in one hand and an umbrella in the other (not at the same time, obviously :~). You can’t help but smile over his adventures and misadventures. He reminds me of a Basset Hound – I have a Basset Hound – he’s loving, stubborn, strong, comical, a little goofy. I don’t know how the tv show compares with the books, but I am now interested in hunting down G. K. Chesterton’s works.

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I want to say that is very rare these days to find Christians portrayed in a sympathetic light, especially when it’s a secular production. Not that whatever criticism we receive is due us, but its refreshing to have a Christian character such as Father Brown portrayed in such a positive light. He’s not perfect, he never claims to be, but his representation of Christ and how he practices his faith, has been a true inspiration to me. His closest friends are a devout Catholic matron, a reformed criminal, a member of the aristocracy, and a free-spirited young woman. He never forces his faith on anyone, never judges. Yet Father Brown is always prepared to proclaim the truth and encourages even those who have committed the most heinous crimes, that God loves them and they can redeem themselves.

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So give “Father Brown” a chance. I guarantee that he will work his way into your heart.

What about you? What show or movie reflects your beliefs, or has been an inspiration to you?

Epiphany

Last summer I wrote a post entitled, “Potential” and I rambled on about how a literary agent told me a WIP of mine had potential and I agreed. I decided to go back and do some revising. Well, that’s not what happened. I intended to, but whenever I looked at the manuscript, I couldn’t find its weaknesses. It was lacking something but I couldn’t figure out what.

Fast forward eight months and I’m still at a loss. I read it and did minor edits, but nothing that would improve the prose or the narrative. Then, as my eyes are skimming over the third part, I realize that it’s the strongest section of the book. It flows the best and is the most engaging. Yes, I’m sure it too needs its share of polishing, but it feels right.

EPIPHANY!

What is the difference between the first two parts and the third? The first two were done in the first person, and the third was done in the third person. Ergo, the story meant to be told in the third person. Makes sense, right? There should be consistency in a piece of writing. Seems obvious. But when I wrote the first draft, I was trying to attempt artistic and unique. Something eye catching. Something that I would not do. Which leads into my second EPIPHANY.

Judy Garland said it best: “Always be a first-rate version of yourself, rather than a second-rate version of somebody else.”

No wonder the story fell flat. I wasn’t being true to myself or my style. But now that I know what I have to do, I can get back on track. And I can’t wait. I wish I could have realized this eight months ago, but sometimes you need to take a step back, let a manuscript rest, write other things, and then when you do return to it, you can see things a bit more clearly.

Until next time!

The Man Who Invented Christmas

(CAUTION: There are spoilers in this post, so if you haven’t seen the movie, you might want to hold off on reading this.)

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I love movies about writers and the writing process. So, when I heard that a movie was being released about Charles Dickens and how he created “A Christmas Carol,” I wanted to see it. I knew only superficial information about Dickens. He grew up poor, wrote many classics (A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, David Copperfield, A Christmas Carol), his book “Great Expectations bored me to tears when I read it as a teenager and I could never grasp his works, he had some sort of affair with a younger woman…those sorts of things. Anyway, I wanted to like “The Man Who Invented Christmas.”

And I did.

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Not only that, I was blown away by how beautiful and powerful this story was. As I said, I really know nothing about Charles Dickens the man, but Dan Stevens makes you fall in love with Charles Dickens the character. By the way, where are Dan’s awards for portraying such a complex character? I heard accolades about his role in Beauty and the Beast – which I also loved – but in my opinion, this is his best role yet. Not only does he tap into a writer’s psyche, he manages to convey that Dickens was both Tiny Tim and Scrooge (right? I mean, I wasn’t the only one who noticed that, right?) He deserves an Oscar. He captures every writer’s struggle, to produce a piece of work that comes from the heart, while at the same time fending off writer’s block and balancing real life responsibilities. Writers live in an imaginary world of their own making; we breathe life into our characters and they become personal to us. We are an odd and eccentric breed. We’re the only ones who can get away with hearing voices and not be committed.

Kudos to Jonathan Pryce, who portrayed Charles’ con artist/well-meaning father. (He also played Patrick Bronte, the father of the Bronte sisters in “To Walk Invisible.” I really hope that someone makes a new biopic about Jane Austen, that way he can portray her father too. And, if there is ever a biopic about Louisa May Alcott, I bet he could be her father as well.) Christopher Plummer as Scrooge was perfection. He was sharp and witty, a nasty old man, but he made Scrooge endearing and lifelike. Scrooge shows up as a figment of Dickens’ imagination, along with other characters from “A Christmas Carol,” to help Dickens delve into the story. Together, Dickens and Scrooge create a Christmas and literary classic.

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I don’t think I can say enough how refreshing it was to see a nice, family friendly, positive film. In an age where blood and gore, violence, deceit, hated, selfishness, etc. is promoted, it’s remarkable to find a movie that encourages you to become a better person, to forgive those who wronged you, to love one another. Some scenes might be overwhelming for younger children, parents should use their discretion, of course. Obviously, I am recommending “The Man Who Invented Christmas.” I think this will be my favorite movie of the year. Apologies if I rambled too much, but I just loved this movie.

Now, I would like to ask a favor from you. I want to read something of Dickens’. To the Charles Dickens fans out there, could you recommend a good book of his to start with? I generally prefer women writers and female protagonists. Should I just dive into “A Christmas Carol?” Thank you in advance!

Online Sexual Harassment & International Women’s Day

KaylaAnn

When I first wrote this blog article, I did not even realize that I had scheduled it to be posted on International Women’s Day. The timing could not have been more perfect!

So here’s the deal. Something has been happening more frequently lately and it’s about time that I talk about it. (Warning: This post is a bit more lengthy than my normal posts, but this is such an important topic.)

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Every since I opened my author page on facebook, my instagram author account, and my WordPress, I have had to deal with the unwanted, unsolicited advances of men who seem to think that my professional pages/accounts/sites are their dating venues. It didn’t happen right away, but it also did not take longer than a month for my facebook messenger to get a message from a man who wanted to “get to know me better ;)”

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Not men who wanted…

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Agent Advice

In the years that I have queried literary agents, I have had every encounter, misunderstanding, and disappointment known to man. Obviously, I have had no success in my endeavors but have had many lessons learned. The first six years I pestered them were needless; I had no business contacting them at all. My manuscript was poorly written, the characters were ridiculous, and I used every cliché in the book. Still I persevered, convinced that my novel would “change the world” and that God had told me to write it. Today I am thankful that none of my earlier works have ever seen the light of day. (And never will if I have my way.)

So, what lessons have I learned while stalking the literary agents? Here is an incomplete list below. I hope you may benefit from my many screw-ups.

Always, always, always be certain that the agent you are querying is legitimate. There are hundreds of cons out there just waiting to pounce on some unsuspecting, desperate, newbie author. The best place to do a background check on agents/agency is at absolutewrite.com’s forum. They have a whole message board dedicated to it.

If you put the date above the letter, be sure to put the accurate date. I think this was perhaps the first mistake I made ever, way back in 2004. I listed the date as December 24th, and it was the 23rd. I didn’t really learn from my lesson though, because since then I have continued to put down the wrong date. Year changes are always difficult for me.

Be sure to address the correct agent/spell name correctly/be certain of gender. Yes, I am repeat offender of this one. I have put down the wrong name, incorrectly spelled a last name, and mistakenly called a gentleman a “Ms.” Misspellings and such are very unprofessional and a sign of disrespect. Not only that, you feel incredibly foolish afterwards. Although, it is not a guaranteed rejection. The gentleman I thought was a woman actually requested to read my full manuscript. I never did hear back from him though.

Carefully craft your query. Make sure it is free of inaccuracies, misspellings and other common flaws. Your query is a reflection of you as an author and of your style. Don’t try to convince the agent that you have the next bestseller (even if you turn out to be right, its off-putting). Don’t claim to be the next Kathryn Stockett, Jane Austen, Nora Roberts, John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Stephen King, etc.

Do not flip out on the agent when/if you are rejected. I have never done this, but I’m sure there are a few loons out there that have. Even if the agent is jerky and may really deserve it, be the bigger person. When they reject you, it is not meant to be personal. They receive thousands of letters ever year. They are not the devil.

Critiquing and criticism is a matter of taste. One agent says one thing, another says something completely different. What one agent thinks does not automatically guarantee that every other agent would agree. Take what they say with a grain of salt. Maybe keep a record of responses; if the responses match up, then maybe they are on to something.

Keep good records. Keep an organized list of agents, ones that you have queried, when, and what the end result was. It is embarrassing to query the same agent twice in a short time span. According to one writing friend of mine, you’re not supposed to query the agent again once you have been rejected by him/her. Many agencies also prefer you not to query the other agents within the same agency. Apparently, they share the queries that they receive with one another. I usually wait six months or more before writing to another agent within that same agency.

Follow their guidelines. Every agent/agency has their own list of guidelines that a writer has to meet when they query. If you’re smart, you’ll follow these to a T. Writers that don’t play by the rules, generally are automatically ignored/rejected. Your story may be dynamic, but you are not anymore more special than any other writer out there. Which is another lesson I had to learn the hard way.

God did not tell you to write that. I do believe there are books out there have been divinely inspired by God. God did give us our talents and the ambition to create something. But just because you throw a bunch of words onto a page and it ends up somewhat reminiscent of a story, does not mean that God is holding your hand and writing those words down for you. Just because you’re a Christian and a writer doesn’t mean everything you touch is golden (I don’t mean to sound harsh about this; trust me, early on I truly believed otherwise.) God may have given you a gift; He may have even placed a certain subject on your heart. Great. But you have to fail and fail miserably so that you can improve and grow and develop your craft. God has a plan for you, yes, but He expects us to evolve as writers.

Requesting a Manuscript. If an agent requests part or your whole manuscript, it is a positive thing. You will soon begin entertaining fantasies of signing with them and publishing the next best seller. And that is generally how you will find that special someone to represent you and your work. But a manuscript request is not a guarantee into the publishing world. Neither is having your manuscript with an agent on an exclusive basis (to read about my own personal debacle, click here). Having an agent request your manuscript is merely a step in the right direction. That is all.

Until next time…