This week I am back at my desk after a whirlwind week in London where I went to attend a gala awards dinner, hosted by the Crime Writers’ Association. The Jazz Files did not win the CWA Endeavour Historical Dagger award. It was pipped at the post by the very worthy Stasi Child by David Young. But what a fantastic night we had! A gang from my publishers’ Lion Hudson were there to cheer Poppy along and my husband, Rodney, came down from Newcastle with me.
I have just received the most lovely review from an American reader who also happens to be a Christian. Now, although my publisher Lion Fiction is part of a Christian publishing company (and their American distributor, Kregel, is a Christian company too), Lion’s aim, and mine, is not to write ‘Christian fiction’. It is to write great fiction, compatible with a Christian worldview, that can be enjoyed by anyone. So I never describe what I write as Christian fiction and am grateful that in most bookshops The Jazz Files is listed simply under historical mystery and crime.
For me, faith – or the lack of it – is part of the fabric of life. So it is inevitable that faith will seep into my writing. That would happen whether I was writing for a Christian publisher or not. My novel The Peace Garden (published by Crafty Publishing) is not a ‘Christian book’ in any way, but some of the characters are Christian (and some Jewish and some Muslim). And of course themes of redemption, forgiveness and reconciliation run through the book. The same is true of the Poppy Denby Investigates series. It has been read and reviewed by people of faith and no faith – and that’s just the way I want it to be. It is also stocked in general bookshops such as Waterstones here in the UK. So if people of no faith – or a different faith – get back to me and say they think I am trying to Bible bash them, I would think I had failed as a novelist. And, I suppose, general bookshops might stop stocking it and that would prevent a whole lot of readers – who would never buy a book from a so-called ‘Christian’ bookshop – having access to it.
I am not a Christian novelist (although I am a novelist who happens to be a Christian). I am first and foremost a storyteller. I simply want to write about real people with messy lives. In Poppy’s case that means struggling with the faith she has been brought up with as she tries to find her own way in the world. That includes thinking about what she believes in God, for herself, not just what her upbringing has taught her. A few – and fortunately only a very few – Christians have been offended that I have put my character in the midst of ‘sinners’ and felt she was not ‘Christian’ enough. Well perhaps the Poppy Denby Investigates series is not their cup of tea. But how heartening it is to receive reviews from Christian readers who really seem to get it. One of those reviewers was Beth Milinski on her wonderful blog, For the Love of Books. She said:
“I enjoyed all of the characters in this book but I absolutely LOVED Poppy Denby. She is a great character with a natural curiosity and instinct to find out the truth. She struggles with what is right and wrong, making choices to honor her beliefs. Poppy loves her Aunt Dot and is motivated by Dot’s confidence in her. All of the characters in this book are real, their lives are messy, trouble happens, people get hurt, good people do bad things to try to help, and good can triumph over evil.”
Thank you Beth. It’s good to be reminded that we are all people with messy lives. And yet, we are still loved.