And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
This was my second week laying low at home, recovering from mono. I spent most of my time sleeping, but also reading (for fun), writing, and watching The Waltons (again). In writing, I worked mostly on some guest blogs that I’m going to be doing as a blog tour, starting the end of April and into May.
One of the bloggers asked me to talk about how to handle writing about controversial issues. Another blogger asked me to write about being banned. Interestingly, this came right about the same time as the first serious review of Hope Always Rises, by Sublime Book Reviews. While the review was glowing, it included the following: “From a spiritual perspective, some may take offense with the portrayal of an almost human-like God, but I accepted it as a work of fiction and was intrigued by the vision of Heaven and its leader.”
Link to review: https://www.sublimebookreview.com/bookreviews/hopealwaysrises
This got me to thinking, and I have to admit that, while I expected some push-back over the way I presented those who choose to end their own lives, I hadn’t really thought about the way I wrote the character of God, who is very active in this book.
For someone who doesn’t belong to any church, who doesn’t consider herself religious, and who flinches at the stock phrase, “I’m not religious, but I’m spiritual,” I’ve actually written about God quite a bit, and always as a character. This really surprised me, and I wouldn’t have made that statement about myself up until this week.
But my very first published story, written when I was fifteen years old, rewrote the story of Christ in 1970’s slang (it was 1975). It was accepted by the Catholic Herald Citizen, even though it was too long. They sliced it into four pieces and published it as a serial.
Later, when I was a senior in high school, I wrote a story where God was a computer and Jesus was his technician. The proverbial end of days came, God blew up, but the world went on. This story was accepted in the school’s literary magazine, and somehow, my topic got out and parents protested. But the administration stood by me and the story appeared.
Many years later, I wrote a series of magical realism stories about Jesus, who liked to hang out with the dinosaurs. In the first story of that series, I took on Christianity, evolutionism, reincarnation, and any number of things. God appears regularly as well, and in fact, in one story, he creates Prozac. (In Hope Always Rises, Hope mentions to her friend that she hasn’t seen Jesus yet, and the friend replies, “Oh, he likes hanging out with the dinosaurs.” You now know one of the many hidden tongue-in-cheek comments in the book.)
I also wrote a story called “North of Heaven”, where a country club blows up due to a gas leak, and as the people who die in the explosion are filing into Heaven, country club members realize they are going to be living with the people who worked in housekeeping, the kitchens, the lawnwork. I developed in that story my idea of condos being built every day in Heaven to house those that die on that particular day.
So it turns out I’ve written quite a bit about God, even though I don’t really consider myself a believer. A seeker, sure. But a believer? No.
But I’d like to be.
I’ve said often about this book that I hope Heaven, and God, are like the way I’ve portrayed them. If so, I’ve said, I’m looking forward to going to Heaven. God, as I presented him, is someone I’d really like to sit down and talk to. Others have called my version of God, “human in the most inhuman of ways.”
When the Sublime Books review came out, I began to worry a little. When you write about controversial things, you brace yourself for the comments and attacks that will undoubtedly come your way. And I was (am) braced. But then to find out there was a second thing I had to brace myself for, something that I hadn’t considered…sigh.
But then today, I received a message from a reader. A reader who is a lay minister. She was able to take the day off today, and she used it to, as she put it, sink into my book. She said, “Though I did struggle with the way God was presented at times.” When I thanked her, and then questioned her, she said, “He (God in the book) is all living and all caring. You made me see how human he is, that is what the struggle was. It is a good thing. Helps me be a bit more open minded.”
Wow. I haven’t stopped smiling yet.
Maybe I don’t need to be so braced after all.
(Yeah, I do.)
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.
And P.S. – be watching for the links for the guest blogs. I’m writing about the two topics I mentioned above, plus about how I managed to sell 14 books in 13 years to traditional presses, why I’m both a pantser and a planner (writers will understand that reference), how to balance a writing career with raising children, and how to deal with depression.
Also, the Jesus stories I mentioned above, as well as “North Of Heaven”, can be found in my short story collection, Oddities & Endings; The Collected Stories Of Kathie Giorgio.