Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Guest Blog: Author Cathy West

Today, I'm pleased to have as my guest author my cyber-friend, Catherine West, whose debut novel, Yesterday's Tomorrow  has just released through OakTara Publishers. Educated in Bermuda, England and Canada, Catherine holds a degree in English from the University of Toronto. When she’s not at the computer blogging or working on her next story, you can find her taking her Border Collie for long walks or tending to her roses and orchids.

Catherine and her husband live on the beautiful island of Bermuda, with their two college-aged children. Catherine is a member of Romance Writers of America, and American Christian Fiction Writers, and is a founding member of International Christian Fiction Writers.

Oh, and after you've read Catherine's guest post here, head over to her blog and read what I have to say there about my own road to publication. Now, here's Cathy.

    Since the release of my debut novel, I’ve been asked a lot of questions. Most popular seem to be, “When did you know you were a writer?” and, from some not familiar with the term, “What exactly is Christian fiction? Do I have to be a Christian to read your book?”

   The answer to the first question is pretty easy. I knew I was a writer in grade school. I couldn’t concentrate on much except for the stories in my head. I loved making stuff up and writing it down. As I matured, went through college and tried my hand at journalism, I knew where I’d end up. I wanted to write fiction more than anything. So I did.

    Now onto the second question, which is not so easy. I think there are many definitions of Christian fiction and many ways to write it. I prefer to say I write from a Christian worldview. So what’s that? Well, again, there are a few ways to answer this. I found a good explanation on this website.

    A “worldview” refers to a comprehensive conception of the world from a specific standpoint. A “Christian worldview,” then, is a comprehensive conception of the world from a Christian standpoint. An individual’s worldview is his “big picture,” a harmony of all his beliefs about the world. It is his way of understanding reality. One’s worldview is the basis for making daily decisions and is therefore extremely important.

    A Christian worldview leads us to believe in moral absolutes, miracles, human dignity, and the possibility of redemption. It is important to remember that a worldview is comprehensive. It affects every area of life, from money to morality, from politics to art. True Christianity is more than a set of ideas to use at church. Christianity as taught in the Bible is itself a worldview. The Bible never distinguishes between a “religious” and a “secular” life; the Christian life is the only life there is. Jesus proclaimed Himself “the way, the truth, and the life," and, in doing so, became our worldview.

    In the past, I’ve struggled with the question of whether I want to be a Christian who writes books, or a writer who writes Christian books. Ultimately I have come to the conclusion that because of who I am in Christ, I cannot keep my faith outside of my fiction. The problem I had was figuring out exactly how to do it.

    I used to worry about being too preachy or not being able to attract readers if I didn’t use enough ‘Christianese’, and even turning off readers who don’t want anything to do with God. It’s a vicious circle and I think you can go ‘round and ‘round with it all until the cows come home. Eventually, there comes a point where you have to make a decision. Are you going to write for the world or for God? Can you do both?

    If you are a Christian who happens to be writing for the secular market, please do not take offense. I’m not saying all Christians need to be corralled into the field marked CBA. What fun would that be? I’m just saying that for me, I’ve realized it’s where I’m supposed to be.

    But what will that look like? Well, I will still write from the heart. I will still write the stories that I believe need to be told. I will not sugarcoat or gussy-up the sin we all deal with on a daily basis. I will write truth, and I will write with integrity.

    I’m so blessed to have found a publisher who will stand by me in that. I’m no longer sitting on the fence wondering which way to go, and for that, I’m grateful. I’m also humbled by the response my first book is getting. Maybe some non-Christians won’t read it, but many are, and they’re loving it and even saying I’ve given them food for thought. Which tells me I’m doing something right.

    The biggest mistake I’ve made in this journey so far is giving in to worry and fear. Publishing is a crazy business with many ups and downs and unknowns. It’s easy to panic and forget that I know how to swim. It’s also sometimes easy to forget to ask Someone to chuck me that life-ring.

    I’m learning. I don’t know what the future holds for me as a newly published author, but I do know it’s been an amazing ride thus far, and God has been gracious. After all, this whole thing was God’s idea in the first place, so who I am to get in His way?


Catherine West said...

Thanks for having me, Richard, and swapping blogs with me today!

Rosslyn Elliott said...

Cathy, I really like your thoughts here. I think all Christian authors--all thoughtful authors of any worldview--must wrestle with how their beliefs emerge in their fiction. You might be interested in reading The Thousand Autumns of Jacob DeZoet. (I just blogged about this novel.) It's the most "Christian" literary novel I've ever read, meaning mostly that it doesn't shy away from presenting a sincere Christian character in a setting which is likely to contain one! I applaud this because it's not historically accurate when writers simply erase all faith issues from their historical fiction.

Catherine West said...

Thanks, Rosslyn, I will check that book out!!