According to some intel I’ve received (I’ve been watching too much Alias), World Magazine is interviewing a few Christian novelists in the July issue. I received a set of the interview questions, and had fun answering them. If you want to read the opinions of other novelists, please find a copy of World in July.
World: You’ve written both fiction and non-fiction books. What are you able to do through novels that you can’t do through your other writing?
[AH] Create worlds. A novel is a unique art form, a microcosm that says “this is how the world is” or “this is how the world works.” That’s why the author’s worldview is always revealed through the story—because ultimately, we are revealing our deepest beliefs about man’s purpose and reasons for living. Best of all, novelists can do all of the aforementioned things so subtly that the reader is unaware of the “engine” beneath the entertainment.
World: Do you enjoy writing fiction or non-fiction more?
[AH] Fiction is definitely more challenging . . . and therefore more worthwhile. Nonfiction provides a nice change of pace, but I’ve found my calling in fiction. After all, Jesus chose to use stories in order to teach.
World: Do you get different types of reader responses to your fictional characters than you do in regard to the people you write about in your non-fiction work?
[AH] Definitely. People react strongly to fictional personalities, probably because novels are designed so that readers will identify with those characters.
World: Your novels have messages. How do you keep the message from overwhelming the characters – or do you want it to?
[AH] All novels have messages. All novels reveal the novelist’s worldview. Otherwise, why invest so many months of your life in the work? So whether the author is touting his/her faith in love, humanity, or existentialism, you can bet there’s a message present.
But since no one wants to read a sermon-disguised-as-novel, the novelist has to make the reader care about the characters. Writers must make sure that the character’s reasons to choose wrong are as fully viable as those urging the protagonist to choose right. One-sided arguments only result in didacticism.
World: What makes a novel “Christian”? Must you have a scene in which a key character turns to Christ?
[AH] My friend Karen Kingsbury tells this story about two of her children. Kelsey and Tyler had just heard a rip-roaring sermon on heaven and hell, so on the way home from church, Kelsey, age six, was really giving it to Tyler, age three. “What’s it going to be, Tyler,” she asked, “heaven or hell? Where do you want to go?”
Tyler pulled out his pacifier and said, “Disneyland.”
Some of my novels might be considered “Disneyland” books. Others are definitely concerned about eternal choices. Everything depends upon the story. But because I’m a Christian, my world view is reflected in anything I write. I believe humans are created beings whose root problems are caused by sin. Because God loves us, Jesus redeemed those who will accept His gift. That message may not be explicit in all of my novels, but those themes are implicit.
World: What are your favorite novels and movies of the past twenty years (up to five of each)? Is there a common denominator?
[AH] Four of my five top favorites are books as well as movies! I love Les Miserables because it’s a beautiful depiction of redemption and grace. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a brilliant story of man’s two natures—and how there’s no escaping our evil nature through our own efforts. The Count of Monte Cristo is a portrait of grace and forgiveness. The Nun’s Story teaches the difficulty and value of unfailing obedience to God, and Signs is a profound illustration of the sovereignty of God.
*Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
*The Count of Monte Cristo
*The Nun’s Story