The amazing thing about writing a novel is how it takes on a life of it's own. There comes a time when the characters begin to speak on their own, and act on their own, and as a writer I am just the pen and paper keeping track of it.
Most of the time, this is a good thing. I am thrilled with the development of characters, caught by surprise by the way the story is unfolding, better than I planned it. I get to uncover secrets. I get to fall in love with characters I thought I'd hate, or even ones I didn't give more than a passing thought too. This is the fun part. So far in my writing, this is mostly what happens.
But sometimes it isn't fun. Sometimes it takes you to a place you didn't want to go. Sometimes characters die. I remember reading an interview with Madeline L'Engle many years ago when she described the first time she read her developing story to her kids, and one of them got really angry that the character of Adam died (I believe this was her YA book, ARM OF THE STARFISH). He wouldn't talk to her for a week, other to insist that she change it. She told him that she couldn't change it. She didn't intend for Adam to die. But when the end of the story came, that was what had to happen. This happens to me sometimes, too. At the end of my first book, I found myself actually crying over one of the characters, wishing things could have been different for her, and feeling really angry that one of the other characters ended up with such a crappy life that he so didn't deserve. I really loved him, and wanted better.
And sometimes, it's just complicating. Today, I ran into complications. Since the beginning of this book, I intended Bab's faith and church to play a role in the book. Faith is part of many, many people's lives, and to leave it completely out of a book seems false to me. So it was a part of the story, but not the kind of thing that throws the book into a Christian-publisher-only realm.
Until Pastor Joel walked into the story today. And suddenly, faith became more important that I realized it was going to be. God is more important to this family than I believed. Scripture is swirling in the air. And suddenly I am caught in a conundrum I didn't want to be in: is this a Christian book? Is it now unsaleable in the secular marketplace?
There are other books that have made it in the mainstream with faith integral to the plot, although I think these days it is not usually Christian faith. There is a greater tolerance, at least in America, for other faiths that can be passed off as more cultural than spiritual. But even so, there are a few, like the Mitford Series, that do make it.
I'm not afraid of being a Christian author. I am, however, afraid of only targeting a Christian audience, because that is not what I feel like my mission as a writer is. But this book is what it is. To take this emerging faith out would be to strip it of it's soul.
For now, I continue to write. We go on with the path that we are on. But I am thrown for a loop, here. It's one thing to learn someone dies in the book, or that the rebel turns out to be the genius, but it's quite another to realize you may have to look at an entirely different group of agents. I don't want to pigeon-hole the book yet. It's still way too early. Who knows what other surprises are in store? I suppose, like Babs, I just have to have faith.