Deep POV: Confessions of a Christian Writer

The ramblings of an emergent-realistic-edgy-working-for-God-and-the-pay-isn’t-that-great-sometimes-confused-christian-fiction writer (uh, that would be me).

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Susan Howatch

Touchstone Magazine 12.2 - An Interview with Susan Howatch

Without a doubt, my favorite contemporary author is Susan Howatch. She is the type of Christian writer I aspire to be. I realize that probably gets me into hot water with some Christians who'll say Howatch is a liberal Christian who mixes psychology with her theology, but that doesn't bother me. Not only is Howatch a wonderful writer whose characters and plotting are both spot on, she ministers the love of Christ to those who don't know Him in a way that shines above the rest. This particular interview was done awhile back because she talks about The High Flyer being her next book and it was published in 2001. Here is my favorite quote in this lengthy interview:

"I think it is extremely dangerous for any novelist to set out to evangelize, because you end up writing a Christian polemic. A novelist’s first duty is to write a story. A novelist’s second duty is to write a readable story, and without a readable story nothing is possible. You can’t write a polemic for a lost generation. That’s not the way it works. It would be phony. If you get the story right, the Christian themes will emerge from the interaction of the people, and they can be completely understated."
This is the correct way, I think, to write in the general market yet still be true to your faith. You don't start out with the idea of evangelizing, you start with an idea. Then you write a great story. God's role in the story might be there for people to see (explicit), if it fits into your characters' lives, or it might not be that apparent. But in the end, since the heavens declare the glory of God, doesn't He always get glorified? As Howatch says, unless you are writing about something vile and there's no good reason for it, in the end, the reader is going to be exposed to the divine one way or another. First, though, that reader has to be given the emotional experience that will make her (or him) continue to read. Howatch does both superbly. Like I always say, when I grow up, I want to be Susan Howatch.

And if you've never read The Heartbreaker, I recommend it. However, be advised that it is not a CBA-type novel. Since it explores the world of a male "leisure worker," it can be very graphic, although it never crosses the line into titillation. But if you don't enjoy "bad" words, you probably would not enjoy this novel. Which is a shame because for my money, it is the best and most realistic portrayal of one man's journey to Christ I've ever read.