With every new book I publish, sometimes I worry about alienating earlier readers who started following my writing after reading Confessions of a Prodigal Daughter. I worry about making the wrong impression in conservative places like church, as each novel gets progressively edgier. I’ve shifted from writing Young Adult novels to New Adult not just because my characters are older, but the themes are maturing as well.
I’ve found that there’s a certain freedom in creating characters who don’t necessarily share my values. That’s a common misconception people have: that the author always endorses the actions of their character(s). I can say with certainty that Adelaide in A Stunning Accusation has very different values than I do when it comes to relationships. She lives a lifestyle I never found appealing (though there’s a reason for it – but explaining it would be a major spoiler).
Since I’m writing for a specific audience, I wanted to write a story that appeals to their values. Young adults who are impacted by rape culture are not typically abstinent. They probably curse and drink. This demographic deserves to know that their previous sexual choices have no relevance to being sexually assaulted. This is a group of people who are commonly told that if they didn’t sleep around so much, if they didn’t get drunk so often, they wouldn’t have been raped. That is a lie, and this is a story I wanted to write for them.
But this book is not “Christian,” which puts me in an odd position as I meet new people at church who ask me what I do for a living, and where they can find my books. I have different objectives for each book I write, and I already made my Christian statement with Confessions. There’s a fine line between holding a core set of values that separate you from the rest, and following a prescribed set of rules because it’s expected of you. That’s a battle I struggle with when writing for specific audiences: but it’s a very good reason why I don’t write Christian fiction.
I’m hoping that people will be able to appreciate the overall message of my book without getting hung up on the choices my characters make. Believe it or not, they aren’t all autobiographical – and some of my favorite books are the ones where the characters make all kinds of messy choices, but become wiser and stronger as a result of them.
Anyone else worry about readers judging your character based on what you write about?