I wrote a book called What The Chat Dragged In that I'm very proud of. It's a mystery, an intense one that deals with some very dark subject matter. It's also a romance about two people who feel as if they are each irretrievably broken. And there's a lot of cracking wise, too. Because that's how I am in real life. The darker the situation, the more likely I am to let fly with the jokes. There's also a lot of talk about food in there, too. I like to cook, I like to eat. Generally my characters do as well. Part of it is that I can't imagine not loving cooking and it also gives my characters an interest I can write about without having to do a great deal of research. I don't know how to play golf, but I can tell you how to score a hole-in-one with a pot roast.
But as I read reviews for this book and talked to friends who read it, I discovered something else as well.
This was the first Amazon review:
"I cannot pin down exactly what genre to put this book in. It's a quirky romance, it's a witty mystery, it's a foodie book, it's a crime novel, it's a little bit of a police procedural, there's elements of Christian fiction, it deals with non-combat PTSD... This is not entirely an easy novel to read because even though it's fiction we know that the evil that is a main character actually exists in our world."
I don't know that I've ever thought of my work as what is considered "Christian " fiction, at least not the kind that would end up under that genre on a bookstore shelf.
But according to another review, it's a pretty dominant theme.
"This is the second book I've read by this author and I liked them both. That's surprising because they have a bit of a Christian slant and I usually avoid these. Here it is not intrusive and it is part of the story. The ending is satisfying and I'm looking forward to the next book.
Unless you have a strong anti Christian bias this book is worth your time."
I'm not complaining at all about that review. It was five stars and I think the reviewer was honestly concerned that some people might be put off.
So is What The Chat Dragged In a piece of Christian fiction? As I said before, you wouldn't find it in a Christian bookstore. There's violence, lots and lots of unapologetic pre-marital sex, and it deals with the dark, dark subject matter of pedophilia. There's also some church-going. But I wonder if that shows my Midwestern self more than my faith.
Most people I know go to church. It's not a big deal. It's just part of their lives. White, straight conservative or gay, black liberal, church is just part of their lives. It comes up in conversation. People say they will pray for each other, and they mean it. It's not weird. It's not preachy. It just is.
In What The Chat Dragged In, a main character's brother-in-law is a pastor and that does figure into the plot. And the choice between the ideal of forgiveness and the satisfaction of revenge is central. I suppose that perhaps the unusual thing here is that in a book that features pastors and pedophiles, the pastor is not the pedophile.
I see much stronger religious overtones in my first mystery American Goth, though I promise you it was not something I planned. It just happened.
Although as my main character in that book explains, she doesn't think she's that good of a Christian, “Sometimes I am. I don’t tithe and I take the Lord’s name in vain and I don’t have much sympathy for people in prison and sometimes I wish the homeless would just go home.”
In my books, as in life, questions about God and faith and doing the right thing are mixed in with tragedy, comedy, sex, and all kinds of other stuff.
Like a lot of folks, the first thing that pops into my mind when I hear a piece of popular culture labeled "Christian" is the hope that it will not be preachy or bland. Which is interesting, since the Bible is one of the juiciest, spiciest, most violent reads you'll ever see. It's chocked full of flawed individuals that fall short of their ideals. It's kind of what I aim for, too.