Julie, here ... and what's the point, you ask? And no, Ruthy, it's not on my head. The point is Christian fiction not only matters, but it changes lives for the better!
Just like today's guest changed my life for the better when I met her over three years ago. Dr. Carrie Fancett Pagels is not only one of the smartest people I know, but one of the kindest too. Of course, as a psychologist, she struck gold with this CDQ (caffeinated drama queen), stumbling upon a virtual Disneyland of neuroses, not the least of which are my addictions to lip gloss and hazelnut coffee. Over and above her amazing analytical abilities, however, I am blessed to call Carrie a dear friend as well -- my E. F. Hutton, if you will -- because I never miss a chance to listen when she speaks. Without further ado, I give you my very dear friend and counselor/author extraordinaire, Dr. Carrie Fancett Pagels.
WHAT'S THE POINT OF CHRISTIAN FICTION?
By Dr. Carrie Fancett Pagels
I thought I might address the question of why do Christian authors write? Why do I write Christian fiction? I was a psychologist for 25 years and worked mostly with young people. But as my rheumatoid arthritis a worsened, my ability to work diminished to the point of nonexistence. But God called me to write for Him and to use what experiences He has given me. On the days I am feeling “good” (which for another person might be considered awful) I miss working with people and helping them solve their problems. And in a way, as I write my stories, I hope I’m building in a scaffolding of problem solving that the hero and heroine do in each manuscript.
Writing Christian fiction, I’ve read many books in this genre. And each person who writes Christian fiction has their own accountability to God as to why they write within this market and for this audience. For me, it is all about Christ and His impact on the characters in the story. I want to ask a meaningful question that will be answered in the story, using Christian tenets of faith.
Recently I got convicted that my core story, at the very heart of my heroine and my hero, had to be a significant faith issue that people struggle with. I’ve always looked at spiritual arcs, but I’ve come to believe it must be in the framework for the story. So in “Return to Shirley Plantation: A Civil War Romance,” for my heroine, Angelina Rose, the crux of her spiritual journey is that of radical obedience that is counter to anything one would think to do in her situation. She was a slave, is now a free woman with skills as a seamstress and could have left Virginia to start a new life in Ohio. Furthermore, with her light skin (she’s of one-eighth African descent) she could even choose to “pass” and become absorbed into the white community there. Take away Angelina’s choice to obey God, and you’ve taken away the pillar posts that support the story and the structure would cave in on itself. For the hero, his spiritual arc was about his struggle to deal with God’s timing in his life. A song that spoke to this, for me, was the popular Mumford and Sons’ song “I Will Wait for You.” Matthew would wait for Angelina and for his situation (conscripted against his will into the Confederate army and then injured.)
In my short story (originally titled) “Snowed In: A Northwoods Christmas” in Guidepost Books “A Cup of Christmas Cheer,” I have the theme of a Father’s provision—both God and earthly father. And I have the spiritual arc for the hero of having prayed to be spared in the war and to be given a family as a blessing. He’s a wounded veteran who held onto his hope that God would bless him. So in this story, we see how God provides a way in even terribly difficult situations. In this case, three young girls are left with their older sister (the hero’s beau). Her boyfriend’s grandmother and great uncle give the young girls a welcome respite from the loss of their mother and from the rough lumber camp in which they’ve grown up. They enjoy the first really lovely Christmas they’ve had. God’s provision through the hands of other Christians. The heroine’s question is whether God has abandoned her and left her bereft without mother, father, nor family to assist her. Yet God had another family already prepared for her, including a sweet and slightly eccentric grandmother.
How? Julie asked me how my background might affect my writing. Early on when I began blogging, I asked myself how could I use my experience as a psychologist to impact my blog and writing. When I began my blog “Overcoming With God,” I was by myself. I did some reviews, did some posts about things that interested me, but I wanted to identify myself as a writer not as a psychologist. However, I think like a psychologist regardless of whether I am practicing or not! And I like to know why people do what they are doing and how they get through things. But much more than this, when I interview people about what they’ve overcome, is their testimonies.
In our testimonies of overcoming, we bring glory to God. In our characters’ stories, we show how someone might overcome with Christ’s help.
As a psychologist, I heard of the deep struggles people experienced yet, praise God, I was also able to see how He brought about healing and overcoming. Similarly in a story, we writers can build a model of how God can help someone overcome something and how certain tenets of our faith factor into that growth. For instance, in Julie’s Boston series, every character had an issue to be dealt with and each had a spiritual arc and growth in a particular area of faith.
To sum up, I don’t write merely because at 2:00 in the morning, if I am awake from pain, I can write, but because I can’t do therapy with someone. Nor do I write Christian fiction simply to entertain, as I have read others comment. I write because God has led me to do so and because I hope and pray that my readers will benefit from reading how fictional characters have dealt with life’s issues by growing in their Christian faith. And I hope they will be entertained, too!
Giveaway: Guidepost Books “A Cup of Christmas Cheer” in which my short story “Snowed In” appears. This two volume set is now in its second printing after and intial print run of 30,000 copies! PTL! I have loved reading the other authors’ stories in this collection. The two book hard cover set is small enough that you can fit a volume in your purse and read a story during lunch time even. TO ENTER, PLEASE ANSWER THIS QUESTION: Why do you write (or read) Christian fiction?
Carrie Fancett Pagels (www.carriefancettpagels.com) is author of Amazon top-rated Civil War novella Return to Shirley Plantation: A Civil War Romance. Carrie also contributed to God’s Provision in Tough Times, Lighthouse of the Carolinas (July, 2013). Her short story, Snowed In: A Northwoods Christmas, will appear in Guidepost Books “A Cup of Christmas Cheer” (October, 2013). With a Ph.D. in School Psychology, Carrie served as a psychologist for twenty-five years. She has two popular group blogs: Overcoming With God (www.overcomingwithGod.com) and Colonial Quills (www.ColonialQuills.org).
Carrie is the former ACFW Zone Mid-Atlantic Zone Director and Virginia/West Virginia Area Coordinator and continues to serve as co-hostess of the Tidewater Area Christian Writers group. Married for over 25 years to the love of her life, she resides in Virginia’s historic triangle. She has an 11-year-old son and a 24-year-old daughter.
Carrie Fancett Pagels
Facebook Author Page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Carrie-Fancett-Pagels/317053071710640?fref=ts
Facebook Personal Page http://www.facebook.com/carriefancettpagels
Links to purchase Return to Shirley Plantation: A Civil War Romance
Barnes and Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/murray-puras-cry-of-freedom-volume-1-return-to-shirley-plantation-murray-pura/1114941171?ean=2940016542836
God’s Provision in Tough Times