Wednesday, January 16, 2013

God, Boys, and Real Life Special: Guest Post: Writing the "Christian" into Fiction by Ann Lee Miller

Writing the “Christian” into Fiction

Author Ann Miller opens up about how she approaches writing Christian Fiction and authors who have inspired her.

Avra’s God and Kicking Eternity were written for a Christian audience, but many non-religious people have found the faith aspect palatable because they fall in love with the characters. Avra feels like somebody you’ve sweated with on the soccer field. And doesn’t everyone know at least one Cisco, the hot badboy we all want to reform?

Religion should be an organic part of a character. The reader needs to buy that faith is part of the character’s personality—whether because of the environment the character grew up in, he or she has turned to Jesus to escape pain, or some other plausible reason.

If the author fails at this, the reader—even if not on a conscious level—will feel like religion is being shoved at her and will be turned off. For example, I’m all for breast-feeding, but one book on the subject came across as propaganda. I was so annoyed, I wanted to fling it across the room. Subtlety is king. A little bit of religion goes a long way. An author needs to let the story make her point.

Some authors who do a good job of this in young adult contemporary are Jenny B. Jones, Shelly Adina, and Beth Webb Hart. In adult contemporary Margo Schalesky, Christa Allen, and Kristen Heitzmann are my picks. Elizabeth Musser and Julie Lessman are historical writers who weave faith seamlessly into their books. My all-time fav is Francine Rivers’ The Atonement Child. I will always be a little bit in love with Joe, whose ex-girlfriend aborted his child and who loves the coed heroine throughout an unwanted pregnancy.

I’ve migrated from writing to Christians to writing to the non-religious reader in The Art of My Life. It’s taken me three books, but I’ve found my niche. Many Christians will disagree with me, but I strive for realism. Even my characters who have faith occasionally drop a potty word and do things that go against their convictions. Maybe my corner of Christianity is particularly poorly behaved, but I don’t think so. We’re all just people. We screw up. The only difference I can see is that Christians know where to go to get rid of the guilt.

Every book has a message, whether religious or irreligious. In Jessica Park’s Flat Out Love, good guys sometimes get the girl.  Ann Brashares’ (best known for Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) The Last Summer of Me and You shows that real love endures every obstacle. In Peaches, by Jodi Lynn Anderson, girl-girl friendships go deeper than family and get us through our teens.

Like these authors, I write themes I feel passionate about. Kicking Eternity focuses on capturing the dreams we dream for our lives, Avra’s God on overcoming betrayal, The Art of My Life on finding our place in the world. Faith shows up in my books, but as a natural part of how the characters deal with these issues. I don’t feel responsible to paint an intricate portrait of Christianity for my reader. My hope is that each book will be a piece in the puzzle of my reader’s faith. If I whet my reader’s appetite for Jesus, I’ve done my job.

Other Posts in the God, Boys, and Real Life Special

Indie Shoutout: Author Ann Lee Miller

Be sure to stop by TeamNerd Reviews tomorrow to check out an Excerpt from Ann Miller's book KICKING ETERNITY and get the chance to win a copy!


  1. Great post, Ann! It's one of the things I love about your books - the faith aspects are natural. Not only do you strive for realism - in my opinion, you totally nail it. That's how I want to write, and you inspire me - as well as entertain me :)

  2. Aww! Thanks, Helen. Can't wait to read your books!

    Ann Lee Miller


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