Wow, Day 3 already…time to stroll around the tour and see what everybody else is saying about Cyndere’s Midnight.
You Don’t Need a Great Resume to Get Published, but it Helps: Several bloggers on the tour noted Jeffrey Overstreet’s numerous and substantial writing credits and awards, and I was a little ticked at myself for not realizing he’s the same guy whose insightful commentary on film and culture I’ve enjoyed so much over the last few years at Christianity Today. Here’s a sample. Rachel Briard tried out his Facebook page and found him very accessible and responsive to inquiries from readers, a trait which always impresses me. Wade Ogletree was inspired to jealousy at first, then to poetry!
The Keeper is Not God (I think): It’s hard to read a work of Christian fiction without, consciously or unconsciously, trying to make an allegory of it or assigning specific identities or themes to the various elements of the story. Yes, I did it myself. There was some speculation about which character filled which role–did the mysterious, dragonish Keeper represent God? What about Auralia–the details of her birth are obscure, she enlightens and brightens the world of everyone she meets, she’s presumably dead, but no one’s found the body, and her followers feel compelled to spread her story and the healing benefits of her colors across their world. Hmm. John Otte (surely not the least-read blog on the internet by now) had his own provocative ideas. Keenan Brand made a connection to the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast in the relationship between the noble Cyndere and mutant Jordram.
It’s a Long Way to Tipperary: Several folks echoed my comments that Cyndere’s Midnight isn’t an easy read. A few readers didn’t get all the way through it in time for the review. A couple mentioned that it took them 100 pages or so to “get into” the story, and they almost lost patience with it (though they were glad they stuck with it). I’ve had a couple of recent story submissions rejected because the editors felt the stories moved too slowly to engage readers, so I can appreciate the courage it takes to believe in your story enough to tell it at its own pace. I love flash fiction, but I wonder sometimes if it’s damaging people’s ability to appreciate the richness of longer, more sedate works.
Coming Attractions: Robert Treskillard pulled in an outstanding interview with Jeffrey Overstreet that included a few tantalizing hints about what’s to come in the Auralia Thread series. Mr. Overstreet also talks about his creative process, and it sounds a lot like what C.S. Lewis said about the Narnia books. He doesn’t write toward a particular agenda, there’s no intent to create an allegory, and it all begins with pictures:
It’s like the opposite of preaching. Preachers usually begin with a lesson and finds ways to illustrate it. I start with an illustration and start exploring it. If it’s a good picture, it will eventually reveal all kinds of themes, all kinds of insights. For some people, Auralia’s Colors is a story about artists and the power of imagination. For others, it’s a story about following your calling. For others, it’s about God. Maybe it’s about all those things. I’m not worried about that while I write. I’m just following characters so I can find out what will happen to them if they choose a particular path.
If you’ve read Cyndere’s Midnight, and are curious about that green moon, read the interview all the way to the end. Do that anyway.
Jayson Joyner scored another interview with Mr. Overstreet, in which he discusses some of his inspirations for the Auralia Thread and his opinions on the current state of Christian literature:
“Christian fiction” is usually notable because of the “message.” It is very rarely written with the kind of artistry that will stand up to critique. I don’t want to write stuff that will only be read by people who believe what I believe. I want it to be read by people who love imaginative storytelling… and I want them to still be reading it a hundred years from now…Christian bookstores are full of books that say good things. But many of those books say good things very poorly, or without much imagination.
Yes, It’s the Christian SF&F Blog Tour: Rebecca Miller wonders if Overstreet sees himself, to use his own metaphor, “at the intersection of art and faith,” and I agree. Overstreet’s thoughts echo those of many writers and fans of Christian fiction, myself included, and they provide a call to action–we need to write more imaginative fiction informed by the knowledge that quality workmanship in writing speaks as loudly as its overt message.
On the other hand, Steve Rice wonders if perhaps the message in Cyndere’s Midnight is too obscure and he provides a scathing critique of what he sees as a trend toward secularization of Christian fiction, to the point that it’s indistinguishable from everything else out there.
There’s a balance point there somewhere, between hammering people with a poorly-written message and focusing on the craft so much that the message is undetectably stealthed, but doggone if I know where it is. Are quality writing and a clear Gospel message contradictory? Of course not, but we’re not seeing them in harmony very often today, and even the paragons of Christian fiction are routinely taken to task by modern critics for being either too blunt or too subtle. I wrestle with this issue every time I write a story, angst about it in my blog, and haven’t yet come to a conclusion that totally satisfies me.
May the Eternal Artist guide us into all truth as we try, in our poor, broken way, to imitate Him.
And that concludes my portion of the February CSFF Blog Tour. Next month, we’ll get a little more lighthearted with a tweener adventure story, Hunter Brown and the Secret of the Shadow, by Christopher and Allan Miller. See you then.
For more commentary on Cyndere’s Midnight, please visit the other fine sites on this month’s tour:
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
Todd Michael Greene
Rebecca LuElla Miller
John W. Otte
Alice M. Roelke
Rachel Starr Thomson
>>This review is based upon a copy of the book provided to me free of charge by the publisher, a courtesy I appreciate, but which does not guarantee my recommendation. I strive to evaluate every book I review purely on its intrinsic merits.<<