i was recently asked what religion i practice and whether it factored into my writing. it was an innocent enough question and should have been easy enough to answer considering my ability to talk and talk and talk. but i froze. totally choked. absolutely no response formed in my mind or my mouth. seriously, crickets chirping kind of moment.
since then, i’ve had time to form a response over and over in my head, but the time had past and little can be as frustrating as replaying those kind of moments and wishing you’d said this or that. it just goes into a very distracting repeating loop in the vault of “if only’s” we all have inside of us. so today, while torturing myself with the missed opportunity instead of working on the revisions for my next release (if you’re my editor, i’m totally joking…i was working hard all day..every day), i realized why i couldn’t form an answer.
because i didn’t want to.
i’ll explain. those kinds of questions, whether by accident or design, tend to pigeon hole an author. when it comes to pigeon holes, think of me as claustrophobic. i am not embarrassed by my religion, but i have no wish to have my career defined by it for two big reasons.
1. the expectations of readers and organization. when people here that an author is a certain religion, or even lacks religion completely, there are certain things they then expect in their writing. or expect not to be in their writing. either way, if they are disappointed, there is an outcry. there are great sobs, gnashing of teeth, and burning at the stake! also, it limits the writer in what they are allowed to use in their stories, from themes to characters to language to heat level and beyond. at rwa, i attended one panel where one of the authors spoke about an anthology she was a part of. the anthology was marketed as “sweet romances” and many of the contributors were known as “christian authors”. she said that there turned out to be a lot of criticism for the collection from readers expecting completely “clean” romance and some of those stories apparently crossed that line for them. the thing was that the none of the stories did more than simply allude to love making, cutting off long before objectionable scenes behind closed doors. but there was too much description, i suppose, in the foreplay, some words that readers were shocked to see. and yet, the authors were classified as christian authors writing clean and sweet romances. people felt betrayed and tricked and those authors likely suffered in their reputation with the groups that had been making up quite a bit of their audience since being pigeon holed. i have no wish to follow suit. i write what i think is good for the story, whatever i think fits the characters and the tone, and whatever i feel comfortable having published with my name attached. and, of course, whatever i think my grandparents would approve of, because nobody wishes to deal with that kind of fall out!
2. i don’t want to cause any harm to the reputation of the institution i claim. say i answer that i am a member of the church of such and such. then people will read my stories and assume that whatever i wrote contains the same views as that church. then they can use that to attack that religion. that’s a lot of responsibility to bear! the opposite can also be said, that if someone else from that same religion does something bad, it could reflect badly on my career (as unfair as both of those scenarios might be, it is far from implausible). remember the scandal in the catholic church? that got cast on all members of the clergy and the anger boiled over to general members as well for “supporting” it. yes, it was ridiculous to think that everyone who was catholic knew about it and kept it secret or approved. but there you have it.
so there you have it. my answer to the question of religion in my career: no comment.