Taboo: Breaking the Rules In Christian Fiction by Grant Dillon by Grant Dillon - Read Online

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Summary

What is "edgy" Christian fiction? Is nothing taboo anymore? When has the subjects of sex, nudity, violence, foul language been taken too far in Christian-"themed" fiction? Where do you draw the line? Should the edgy subgenre, with all its warts and bruises and very damaged characters, be examined for what it is, rather than offering up a sanitized account of what it isn't? Taboo subjects shouldn't be sugarcoated for the sake of money or fame. They should be exposed for what they are, and placed into their own separate category, not hidden "between the lines" within Christian literature. That seems like trickery. Some of these acts of trickery the Taboo author has found to be quite intentional on the edgy author's part. That just gives Christians and Christian fiction a bad rap. This book examines the edgy style from the edgy writer's point of view - and beyond.
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TABOO: BREAKING THE RULES IN CHRISTIAN FICTION

by

Grant Dillon

WHISKEY CREEK PRESS

www.whiskeycreekpress.com

Published by

WHISKEY CREEK PRESS

www.whiskeycreekpress.com

Copyright © 2012 by Grant Dillon

Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 (five) years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.

Names, characters and incidents depicted in this book are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of the author or the publisher.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

ISBN: 978-1-61160-233-3

Credits

Cover Artist: Gemini Judson

Editor: Marsha Briscoe

Printed in the United States of America

Dedication

This book is dedicated to the memory of Fred Saberhagen.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

A big thanks to all of the featured guests, without whose participation, cooperation, and dedication to the project the book wouldn’t exist. Also a big thanks to Bob Hamer, for graciously agreeing to be a part of this project despite his hectic schedule. And special thanks go to Joan Saberhagen, for contributing an interview for the book, and allowing me the honor of dedicating the book to her late husband, Fred Saberhagen. He will be sadly missed by his family, friends, and fans.

Contents:

Interviews:

Searching For Eden, author Keith Madsen

Enemies Among Us and The Last Undercover, author Bob Hamer

Back On Murder, author J. Mark Bertrand

Never Without Hope, author Michelle Sutton

Author K. Dawn Byrd

Someone To Blame, author C.S. Lakin

Fudge Laced Felonies, author Cynthia Hickey

Burden Of Faith, author Dean M. Thompson

Black Earth: The End of the Innocence, David N. Alderman

The Bishop, author Steven James

Vengeance, author Donna Dawson

Until the Last Dog Dies, author John Robinson

In the Midst of Deceit, author Deborah Piccurelli

Gedden’s Armor author Tom Bazow

Kris Rhen / author of the up-coming Hidden War trilogy

Tales of Faeraven, author Janalyn Voigt

Out Of the Darkness, author Anne Patrick

Bleeder, author John Desjarlais

Author/speaker Kathy Eberly

Beyond the Limit, author Joan Saberhagen

Author David Meigs

Frostbite, author Lynn Rush

Book excerpts, reviews, and previews

Short edgy fiction:

Talking to the Dead / by Grant Dillon

Preface

When I first sat down at my PC and began typing out the interviews for this book, I will have to admit, I was more than just a tad bit apprehensive. As a Christian myself, I thought it would be a piece of cake to know exactly how to approach Christian fiction writers, but I hadn’t stopped to think about the fact that this project wasn’t your typical Christian-themed book.

Allow me to elaborate; for example, fiction writers—whether they be Christian or non-believers—all have one thing in common: they work hard to provide the reader fictional characters and events they hope will be realistic and entertaining. Whereas on the other hand, the Christian fiction writer is stuck with the daunting task of doing the same thing, but without offending anyone within the Christian community.

As a Christian writer, it is common knowledge that we are expected to follow certain guidelines, when writing fiction, ones that writers who possess no strong faith in God are not expected to follow. You are damned if you do, and damned if you don’t, if you will pardon my French. Is it easy to abide by such restrictions? Should we be expected to? So many questions, so few answers. If you are a Christian who writes horror, non-Christian fans of the genre won’t buy the book, in fear that it will be too toned down in content to be scary. Christina readers won’t buy it in fear it will be too graphic. You can’t seem to win either way you go.

As it turned out, though, I had no reason to be apprehensive about asking personal questions about the lives and careers of the featured writers. Nor did I have any reason to be leery of reading their material. I’ve actually seen more graphic material in YA novels aimed at our youth than I have found in the edgy books written by these wonderful writers. Yes, there are some touchy subjects covered in these books: abortion, rape, murder, infidelity. Yet these subjects are handled with kid gloves in comparison to books listed in such noted venues as the New York Times best seller’s list.

These writers are all devout Christians as well, possess a strong faith in God, and most of all, write their stories to please God, to show their appreciation for their God-given talents. Should they be censored for attempting to provide the reader with a realistic look into the lives of their main characters? No. If you are writing about a low-life pimp, will you portray that person as someone who will talk like a Sunday school teacher? Of course not. It’s not reality.

I want to thank all of the authors featured here for all of their hard work, and if our work is categorized as too edgy for some readers, then so be it. We are trying to please God, not the masses.

Grant Dillon

March, 2011

Keith Madsen is an American Baptist Minister who has served churches in Kansas, Washington, Oregon, and New Jersey. Presently he is the Associate Pastor of Wilson Memorial Union Church in Watchung, New Jersey. In his pastoral capacity he has counseled many families who have lost teenagers and children, a central part of the story in Searching for Eden. He has also had an intense personal interest not only in the biblical stories about human origins, but also in historical and archaeological research into that subject. He has long thought that had he not become a minister, he would have liked to have become an archaeologist.

Keith has had a love of writing all of his life. He has used his writing talents in a variety of ways, including not only composing material for religious education, but also the writing of plays for use in church and community theater. He has also done some acting himself, having particularly enjoyed playing the roles of Jack (C.S.) Lewis (Shadowlands), Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird), and Porfiry (Crime and Punishment.) This background in drama has helped him both with character development and his dramatic touch in writing novels. Keith finds that being part of helping characters come alive in a story is one of his greatest life pleasures.

Keith lives in Laurence Harbor, New Jersey, with his wife Cathy. Together they have a yours, mine, and ours family of four daughters (Jennifer, Angie, Carina, and Kayla), a son (Brandon) and nine grandchildren.

* * * *

You must be a new voice in inspirational fiction; uplifting, but not preachy. Did you intend for your subject matter to come across to your readers this way?

Most certainly. Too much Christian fiction is like a sermon or Sunday School lesson put into story form. What it needs to be instead is real people wrestling with real issues, coming to find hope, but only after struggle. Only when the reader senses the story is real will they identify with the characters, and thus find in this fictional story something of their own life story.

The line Christian writers have to walk in order to not offend their target audience is a thin one indeed. Has it ever been hard for you make a decision about what should or should not be in your books?

Of course! All the time. However, when it comes right down to it, there is very little a person can write of consequence that will not offend someone. In the end, a Christian writer has to write to please God, not to try to avoid giving offense to some group of people. As I write that it sounds a little elitist, as if I alone know what pleases God. However, as imperfect as my knowledge is (1 Corinthians 13:12 is a favorite verse!), it is still what I believe God commissions each of us to do. How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God? (John 5:44)

Part of the problem is that it seems to me that too many Christians get offended at the wrong things. Tony Campolo, at some of his talks, used to tell audiences of Christian young people something to the effect of, thousands of children are dying every day around the world, but most of you don’t give a (expletive deleted). Then he would go on to say that the real tragedy was that most of them were feeling more offended by the street term he used than were offended by the number of children dying. What truly offends God is when injustice is done to the poor and oppressed, and his followers are on the side of the oppressors (Isa 1:12-20). What offends him even more is when God wants to offer people grace and forgiveness, and his followers would rather offer judgment. Paul really got upset with the Galatians for doing this. They were trying to water down the gospel of grace by requiring gentile converts to be circumcised. Paul wrote of these people, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves! (Gal. 5:12). My New Testament professor (who, of course, knew Greek far better than I) used to say that the English word emasculate was a far more polite word than the Greek word Paul used, a word that was Koine Greek or street language! My guess is some people were offended.

I don’t want to sound like I’m in favor of tossing away all restraint on language, because I am not. Most people think I’m almost Puritanical in relation to how I use language myself. However, I am saying, in part, there are bigger issues. I would also say, however, that when it comes to drawing characters in stories, they should be drawn accurately and effectively. This means they should use language that one would find in a character of their type. You don’t introduce a pimp and have him talking like a Sunday School teacher. Also, to really well-define a hero or protagonist, you define him or her in part by contrasting them with a foil or contrasting character. You are defining your lead character by showing what he or she is not—they are not this foul-mouthed sleaze who opposes him or her.

Also, from a biblical perspective, one should be more concerned with using God’s name in vain than with street language. There are no clear biblical injunctions against street language. What I try to do in my books, on occasion, is have a lead character talk to a character who is using inappropriate language. Here is an example from my book Searching for Eden (available through www.clublighthousepublishing.com and www.amazon.com ). In this excerpt, BehnAm, a devout Muslim, is talking with Carmen, a fourteen-year old former prostitute, who Evan, the main character, is trying to rehabilitate:

EXCERPT:

Wait! Wait! Carmen yelled as she scrambled toward the bus. She climbed back into the rear seat. God! If you guys are getting tired of me, just say so. No need to leave me stranded in a desert!

You know, young lady, said BehnAm, even though you do not refer to God as Allah, in an Islamic culture using God’s name in vain is taken as a very serious offense.

Carmen just looked at him with a blank stare. What?

You’re wasting your time, BehnAm, said Jessica, she’s clueless about such things.

Ignoring Jessica’s discouraging word, BehnAm continued to correct the young American. It’s a matter of respect. If someone made fun of your name, you would think they didn’t regard you with respect. It’s the same with Allah, only more so. You referred to the deity, but you were not thinking about him. You were only thinking about your anxiety over being left behind. In effect, it was like you were making your worry more important than the holy God of heaven. You said his name, but were unaware and unconcerned about whether he would respond. You used his name in vain.

Carmen was quiet for a moment. I never really thought of it like that before. Oh, my God!

BehnAm’s countenance fell and he looked at Jessica in exasperation.

What did I tell you? she asked. Just drop it!

What? Carmen repeated. I thought what he said was very profound.

BehnAm started up the Volkswagen bus, and pulled out into the road again. He glanced at Carmen in the rearview mirror. Just don’t talk to any men with beards and robes, and we might just survive this trip!

There are so many subgenres these days; horror/scifi, suspense/thriller, crime/noir, fantasy/horror, and so on and so on. Now, we have edgy Christian fiction, too. Is a subgenre just a clever but somewhat obvious way to tread across certain boundaries that should not be crossed?

Life is not a genre. I write about life.

Life does need boundaries. Psychologists say that people need personal boundaries, to know what is them and what is not them in order to avoid crossing over into schizophrenia. And so we also need boundaries for what is and is not Christian, and what is and is not Christian fiction. I would maintain that Christian fiction is fiction where the story line affirms and honors God as Christ revealed him to be—a God who loves us and sent Christ to redeem us. It does not have to put down other faiths. Fiction that does that is just an extended sales brochure for the faith. And it is not respectful of persons of those faith