Archive for the ‘Christian fiction’ Tag

Interview with Margaret Eleanor Leigh   4 comments

Today’s interview is with Margaret Eleanor Leigh, writer of Frog Dog Summer, The Wrong Shade of Yellow, The Incorruptible and several other novels. Margaret is a multi-genre writer: The Wrong Shade of Yellow is wonderful travelogue, The Incorruptible is a murder mystery set in Greece, and Frog Dog Summer is the first of a quartet of children’s books.

 

Margaret Eleanor LeighTell us something about yourself, Margaret.

Well first of all, Lela, thanks very much for having me! I currently live in wet, wet Wales, but I was born and raised in dry, dry South Africa. At the age of 24, I finally shook the African dust from my heels and spent the next two decades living in New Zealand. I’ve also lived in England, the Scottish Highlands and Greece. So you could say I’ve been around the block …

 

Wow! That is a lot of traveling! What was the first story you ever wrote and when?

I was six. I’d just learned to write. I desperately wanted to be an author. So I bound my first story with blue wool to make it look like a proper book—it was about a lost kitten, incidentally . So you could say I was an Indie authors before the term was even invented.

 

What is your favorite genre? To read or to write? And why?

My favourite genre is the humorous travelogue. I will put everything aside to read a well-written and funny travel narrative. I suppose it is for this reason that my favourite piece of writing to date also happens to be a travel memoir. That being said, I do enjoy escaping into fiction, and have also written three crime novels and four children’s books. I am prolific. I read a quote the other day saying that “writer’s block is a term invented by people in California who cannot write.” While I can’t generalize about the people of California, I do agree with the basic idea. If you are a writer, if it’s in your blood to be a writer, then words are like an unstoppable stream. Well they are in my case and always have been.

 

Wrong Shade of YellowTotally agree with you. Writer’s block is what exists in my head in the 15 minutes between when I wake up in the morning and the coffee kicks in. Tell us about The Wrong Shade of Yellow.

The Wrong Shade of Yellow tells  of a truly  ridiculous jaunt across Europe with nothing but a bicycle, tent, and tiny primus stove. I was headed for Greece, because I was firmly convinced I’d find Utopia there and I sort of did. But at the end of the day our search for Utopia is  always doomed, isn’t it, for this is a fallen world. So too my search for Utopia.  I had a lot of fun along the way, though, finding out, and I had a lot of fun writing about it.

 

Yes. Everytime I’ve stared at heaven on earth for too long, it started to decay. What about your crime fiction?

My crime fiction is right down a side road, well off the main highway. I don’t write about sex or extreme violence and while my heroines are all fairly flawed, they do have a kind of faith. It’s pretty low key, this religiosity, and that’s why I would never call my work Christian fiction. I appear to fall between two extremes,  and I sometimes suspect there’s not enough blood, guts and bonking  to satisfy one extreme, and there’s not enough self-righteous piety to satisfy the other. I am sure there is a market for this kind of via media in books – I’ve just got to find those followers of the via media and say to them: “Here’s something completely different, why not give it a whirl?”

 

Frog Dog SummerMy kind of author! I do the same thing, refuse to write to a Christian niche that I’m convinced isn’t actually reading those bonnet books they buy. But, yeah, how do you find that audience? What do you find the most difficult about being an indie author?

 

The marketing, the marketing, the marketing! I’m not a natural marketer and any time spent marketing feels like time spent away from writing.  I’m trying hard to change that because I have realized it was very foolish to throw all seven books at the internet without much space between them and  no marketing whatsoever. And then expect people to notice! It is very hard to be noticed in the present-day market gluttedness. Aside from The Wrong Shade of Yellow, which sells fairly steadily, and has done right from day one, my fiction has slipped under the radar and in part because it’s much  harder to sell fiction than non-fiction in the current climate.  But now I am playing catch up and performing marketing antics I should have performed right from the start, in order to draw a little attention to my fiction.

 

The IncorruptibleWhat  are you working on at the moment?

I have two projects on the stove at the moment. One is the upcoming release of a children’s audio book due out in early December. It’s called Frog Dog Summer and is the story of the ugliest dog in Wales. As I have no previous experience of audio books it has been an interesting learning curve. I do love what the narrator, Hugh Noble, has done with it. He’s captured the essence of the ugly-lovely Frog and brings the story most charmingly to life.

At the same time I’m trying my hand at yet another genre – a romance. It’s going to be a fairly restrained romance, though. I’m hoping to create the requisite level of eroticism through suggestion rather than explicitness. That’s what the Victorians did, isn’t it?

 

Yes, they did and it was very entertaining! I don’t often read romances anymore because I don’t read erotica, but you might interest me in that one if it’s more restrained.

 

You can find Margaret and her books at the following links —

 

My website: www.books.wordwinnower.com, and

My blog, http://margareteleanorleigh.wordpress.com/

Twitter address:  @MargaretLeigh8

 

Links to my  books on Amazon:

 

The Wrong Shade of Yellow http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00LM7R36O

 

The Incorruptible http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KC5MZJC

 

With Regret http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KPFQ1P8

 

A Deadly Doctrine http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MSVEXTS

 

Frog Dog Summer http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NLES4X2

 

Animal Ark Autumn http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00O30BCEQ

 

Bird King Spring http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NOUA3UU

 

 

 

 

 

Christian Fiction As Propaganda   4 comments

As a Christian who is a writer, I don’t necessarily seek to write Christian literature. However, I believe true Christians cannot help to exude our faith as we live our lives or write our books and I do hope Christians won’t avoid my work because I am not writing specifically for them.

Far too often, when I browse the “Christian” section at Barnes & Noble, I see a lot of propaganda wrapped up in books of fiction. It’s worse when I go to the Christian bookstore. The vast majority of what passes for Christian literature is banal, poorly written, dull as tears and message-driven.

I could blame the writers, the publishers or the audience, but I’m going to go out on a limb and blame the entire Christian community. Publishers know their market. That’s how they make money. There is a market for banal, poorly written, dull as tears, message-driven books that can be labeled “Christian”. That’s why these books get published. The Christian Book Association bases it criteria not on literary merit or commercial success, but on doctrine and message. If publishers want to put a Christian label on a book, the book has to meet a definitive standard. It can’t have sex, it can’t have a lot of violence, Christian characters must be at the center of the plot, and it can’t have a lot of drugs or drinking.

Whoops! There goes my work in progress about a young alcoholic facing the music for killing his sister. There’s a secondary character that’s a Christian, but Peter never is and he’s unlikely to become one soon because he has a lot to distract him from salvation. It’s more the story of his Christian friend’s failure to offer him solutions, so no publisher of Christian literature is going to be interested in it because CBA would say it doesn’t meet their guidelines.

Writers face a similar dilemma. If we don’t write to the CBA requirements, no matter how good our work is, it will be rejected. The Chronicles of Narnia couldn’t meet the current standards. We all know CS Lewis was a Christian. His book Mere Christianity was involved in some of us becoming Christians. Yet Chronicles has drinking, drug addiction (Turkish Delight), war and violence and it gets a little loose on some theology. Nobody ever bows a knee and accepts Christ either. Is Chronicles a Christian series or not? According to the CBA’s guidelines, it’s not.

Most of the books that receive the Christian label are message driven to the point where plot and character development are sacrificed. The message is often very compelling, but the plots feel contrived or sensationalized because it’s manipulating the reader to a preconceived place where everything turns out lovely because God intervenes. I stopped reading the Left Behind series when the Tribulation Force survived a nuclear blast, but I had already wearied of one-dimensional characters. I knew what they were going to say or do … well, all of the time. YAWN!

Then there’s that tendency to end stories with tidy conclusions that leave you feeling uplifted. Peter killed his sister. Realistically, do you think his life going forward is going to be easy, even if he were to accept Christ? And, should it be?

Writing to a message would have him repentant and forgiven, maybe a little sad, but secure in the support from his Christian friends. That’s not how I chose to write it because I don’t want to promote fantasy Christianity in a world that has never existed.

The Christian faith found within most Christian fiction does not exist. Demons are slain, sinners saved, prayers answered immediately, the righteous resist temptation and never fall, the unrighteous come to faith or a bad end through God’s power. Does this sound at all like real life?

Christian fiction has earned a bad reputation because of this. And, I hate that! Christianity should be synonymous with the highest quality of whatever craft we engage in. Christian fiction should be filled with solid characters you identify with and care about, a setting so vivid you feel you’ve been there, and a plot that transports you like you’re one of the characters. Christian writing should be the Bach of literature. Instead, it’s known for just the opposite and derided even by those who buy the books.

That’s the weird thing. Christians buy this awful stuff and read it … while at the same time, they also read George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire (The Game of Thrones). Often they hide Martin’s books from the Small-Group Bible Study — which also makes me sad.

I used to do that too, until I realized what a travesty we are creating by pretending Christianity is something it isn’t. Now some of my favorite authors grace shelves in the public areas of my home. It’s fun to gauge the reaction of visitors who are Christians.

The pursed lips or the guilty chuckle? Those who do the guilty chuckle get to be my alpha readers.

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