Adding this Social-In article to the library…
Why Did You Write Down and Dead in Dixie as a Clean Read rather than as an Inspirational novel?
I’ve been asked that question dozens of times since Down and Dead in Dixie was released just two months ago. It’s interesting because many who have read and reviewed it see it as an inspirational novel, and many don’t. Normally this muddy clarity is not a good thing, but in this particular case it is a wonderful thing—and exactly what I hoped to achieve.
As real human beings, we often face situations with muddy clarity. Characters are to emulate real human beings so that we identify with them, so why should these characters be exempt?
The protagonist in Down and Dead in Dixie, Daisy Grant, was raised in a series of foster homes. Like many today, she wasn’t exposed to a Christian environment. Her mother dumped her and her little brother at a grocery store, under the pretext of going to park her car. She never came back. Daisy and her little brother, Jackson, entered the foster care program. Some foster parents were good to them, some weren’t. What Daisy knew of faith was that she believed in God, but a fellow student warned her off praying, telling her that if she prayed “wrong,” He’d be angry. Daisy believed her, and was too afraid to pray.
She struggled through life on her own from the age of sixteen. She built a life and took responsibility for herself and her brother. It wasn’t until much later that she was given her first Bible from a zany, senior neighbor, Lester. She read and studied and had limited understanding of her reading but her heart was pure and she tried, really tried to get a grip on God and to understand His ways and laws. Sometimes with success, sometimes not.
But then her world got turned on its ear, and like most of us, when in deep and serious trouble, she turned to God and dared to risk wrath by praying. When the earth didn’t rumble under her feet, she turned to Him more and more for guidance and direction. Daisy had faith. What she didn’t have were the tools she needed to embrace faith.
I think of people like Daisy often. Good people, honorable people, who are mired in a lifetime of just not knowing much about faith and their own spiritual natures. We are souls, living in bodies. But many of us don’t know that. Or we know it and don’t understand it or what it means.
I worry about people like Daisy. About them walking through life believing they’re alone. Life can be so hard sometimes, and so many are lost and feel alone. You can be in a room full of people and be alone. How hard life can be without faith—in yourself, in others, and in God. The idea of facing all that comes without it, or not having the certainty of that reliance has to be beyond hard.
As more and more people know less about faith, about their spiritual selves and natures, more and more people face the situations Daisy faced, the way she faced it.
For a Bridge-Walker like me, with one foot in the spiritual world and one foot in the secular world, that’s a summons and a call to action. Daisy comes to realize that God has been with her every step of her life, especially during the hardest of times when she had felt most alone. She felt comforted and reassured and saw those who came into her life and helped her at “just the right time” as more than coincidence, as intervention.
That’s why I am writing the Down and Dead, Inc. series. So others have an opportunity to find faith in themselves, in others and in God, too.
While this explains why I’m writing the series, it doesn’t explain why they’re Clean Read books rather than inspirational novels, though those with faith see them that way. Writers and friends, think a second. Those who read inspirational novels are already aware. To reach those who might not yet be aware, you have to go where they are, and that’s the reason I’m writing the series as Clean Read books.
Some who read will know the experiences shared. Some won’t. The light touch of spirituality in the books will resonate with some, with others it won’t. But I firmly believe that those meant to be touched by these books will be. And all readers will find in them what they need at the time to take another step on their personal journey.
Remember, there are those among us who have little to no reason to trust. They’ve been hurt, lied to, cheated on, betrayed, abandoned, abused, disrespected, neglected—well, you get my point. Life has kicked them in the teeth, the gut, and smacked them when they were already down. They don’t need flowery speeches and fine philosophy strung out in lyrical words. They need plain-speaking, people like them with fears and doubts who want and need more and have no idea where to find it. They need people with the courage to take a risk—on themselves, on someone special, on God. If they see Daisy make it, then that is proof that people can make it. If she made it, then they can, too.
A little of this and that, a little hope, a little humor, and a little food for thought. That’s the objective. Whether the faith sought is in one’s self, in other people, or in God, the takeaway will be what the reader chooses based on his/her need. Offering readers that opportunity is my job. The rest is in hands far more capable than mine, to touch and embrace as is seen fit.
Normally writers want to be crystal clear on the type of book they’re writing—and I am crystal clear on the type of books I want Down and Dead in Dixie and the other Down and Dead, Inc. works to be. They’re purpose books. It’s just that sometimes—and this has happened to me often in my career—there isn’t a genre tagged Bridge Walkers. So I write without it.
I wouldn’t normally recommend that, but when you’re writing purpose books, you have no choice really. Well, you do, but you feel compelled to work at your purpose, so it’s one of those things you just have to do, regardless. Oh, others will try to talk you out of it. Actually, most of the professionals in your writing life will try, and their objections are valid, solid and wise business decisions. While I try to make wise business decisions, I’m not just about writing. I’m about purpose and that’s to help others heal. So that’s my priority.
You must decide your own professional (and personal) priorities. I leapt onto the bridge long ago. I belong there.
I hope the detail in this makes it clear that while others’ clarity might get to be muddy, a writer’s clarity does not. You can break with tradition, create new genres, do the new and different and untried. I’ve done all that and more in my career. But not recklessly. Do it knowing exactly why you’re doing it and how you’ll create a niche where there is none, and how you can genre-blend or make this vision of yours work in what already exists. In other words, follow your purpose but minimize your risks as much as you’re able. You’ll never get rid of all of the risks. That’s just a fact. But you’ll best serve yourself and others if you’re clear on what they are and address them.
Bottom line, you can adopt muddy clarity for purpose. But to you, your reasons for doing so should be crystal clear.
© 2014, Vicki Hinze. Hinze is the award-winning, USA Today bestselling author of nearly thirty novels in a variety of genres including, suspense, mystery, thriller, and romantic or faith-affirming thrillers. Her latest release is Down and Dead in Dixie. She holds a MFA in Creative Writing and a Ph.D. in Philosophy, Theocentric Business and Ethics. Hinze’s online community: Facebook. Books. Twitter. Contact. www.vickihinze.com. Bridge-Walker.com