Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
May 11, 2009
Christian writer advises writing for the readers
Catholic author says be a great person in order to be a great writer
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
CALGARY — Inspirational women’s fiction author, Lisa Samson only recently returned to her Catholic faith.
Still, the prolific writer, with more than 25 novels to her credit, liberally sprinkles her conversation with references to her Catholic faith experiences, ranging from volunteering at the Catholic Action Center near her inner city home in Lexington, Ky., to sharing quotes and prayers from her favourite saints, and sharing anecdotes about her relationship with her priest-confessor.
It is not the usual fare for the nearly 60, mostly evangelical Christian participants gathered for the InScribe Christian Writers Fellowship (ICWF) Spring ‘09 WorDshop at First Alliance Church, April 17-18.
Samson, who is anything but conventional in her writing, is equally unconventional in the tips she offered on how to become a successful author.
The winner of two Christy Awards for Christian Fiction for her novels, Songbird and Hollywood Nobody, emphasizes the quality of the person over technical ability.
“To be a great writer, be a great person yourself, first. It’s better to be a kind, giving person than to write the greatest book in the world and be nothing like Christ.”
For Samson, it is who you are as a person that determines how effective and successful you will be as a Christian writer. Trained in television production, Samson is self-taught as a writer. She says being a voracious reader was the major source in the development of her writing talent.
The authors whose books she read became her writing instructors. She believes fiction writers need to be readers, in a broad range of genres, not just in areas they like or are comfortable with.
In her mid-20s, married and with three children, she decided to write a novel. Two years later, in 1994, a publisher accepted her first manuscript. But, she says, for her, breaking into the Christian writing market was a matter of timing.
“I submitted my first novel, a historical romance, just when the ‘queen’ of historical Christian romance died. I filled a niche that was open.”
She reminds writers that they are writing for readers, and not for themselves, so they need to see themselves as servants of their readers. Quoting F. Scott Fitzgerald, she says, you shouldn’t be writing because you want to say something, but because you have something to say.
Though she does not see her writing as autobiographical, she admits to using life experiences to build fictional scenarios.
She has struggled with depression, was part of the “sandwich” generation caring for young children and her parents during her mother’s final illness, and has intentionally moved into an inner city setting to serve those with needs unseen in the suburbs.
All of these have become themes in her writing.
Living in inner city Lexington gives her an advantage that living in the suburbs of Baltimore did not afford.
Walking around the neighbourhood she now lives in, and getting to know and observe the people around her, is a learning experience. It provides grist for writing that is authentic.
“Suburban dwellers are at a disadvantage. It’s hard to see things from a car. You need to get out and walk, to see what is going on and what people are doing.”
She says, like Jesus, writers should put their lives into the people who need hospitality — the lonely, the homeless and opt for radical inclusion that goes beyond their own “little family.”
DO AS JESUS DID
“Widen your family. Seek people out who need what you have to offer. Volunteer in places that stretch you. Get out there and see what it means to be the hands and feet of Jesus.”
Experience, along with the reading of good books, will be the best teacher for the Christian writer who wants to excel at writing about real people.
Apart from the two Christy Awards, Samson’s novel Quaker Summer, was Women of Faith’s 2007 Novel of the Year, Publisher’s Weekly’s Best Books of 2007, and received Christianity Today’s 2008 Book Award for Fiction. Samson’s latest novel, The Passion of Mary-Margaret, was released in March, 2009.