My Favorite Movies: 3:10 to Yuma

yumaEvery time I watch this movie, I can’t get it out of my head. I love big, morally ambiguous films like this one… stories that don’t spell out everything, that lures us into a false sense of security about characters and then sock us in the gut with their actions… tales that make me think. It’s my curse to analyze everything. If a movie doesn’t give me anything to think about, it sucks. So, I’m much more likely to love a movie that asks me to ponder something than one that doesn’t. (This could explain why the vast majority of movies these days bore the hell out of me.)

There are a few films floating around out there that I love because they give me something to ponder. This is one of them.

The Plot: ex-Civil War soldier Dale Evans volunteers to help escort notorious captured outlaw Ben Wade to the train to Yuma. Unfortunately for everyone involved, Wade’s gang of thugs is hard on their trail.

What do I love about it? How about everything? But that’s a lot to take in, so I’ll start with the basics.

The Director: on the commentary, James Mangold says he wanted to make the “tightest possible film for audiences,” because he feels like many movies are “pretentious” in taking up too much of the audience’s time. He cut this movie with the idea of, “Do I DESERVE to take up another five minutes of someone else’s time?” I like that. It shows respect. It shows a tight script. It comes in just under two hours, yet it has an amazing amount of character development. This is what every movie should be.

yumaThe Symbolism: many Christians have complained that this film is anti-religious. Wade carries around a revolver with a crucifix on the side of it, called “The Hand of God.” He quotes scripture when he’s not tossing sanctimonious jerks off cliffs. And he often calls people out on their hypocrisy. But, if you think the surface representation of faith in this film is “it,” you’re missing the entire point: that this film is in a sense, a journey toward redemption for both men. Wade tries to tempt Evans with evil – by offering to pay him a thousand dollars to let him go. By the end, Evans’ determination to stick with his principles changes both of them. It turns Evans into a hero, and Evans becomes a Christ figure for Wade. Evans is the first man Wade has ever met who actually can’t be bought.

The Parallels: This is where it really gets interesting. Here, we have two men who are more alike than we might think – both of them are in a tough situation, both have a younger man in their life watching their every move, and both are intelligent. Wade is the anti-Evans, and vice versa. Wade is bored with life; Evans is just trying to survive. Wade is fearless, because he doesn’t feel as if he has anything to lose; Evans is a coward. Wade is adored and looked up to by Charlie; Evans’ son despises him for his “cowardice.” In the end, they are “almost” friends, because Wade decides to help Evans become a hero to his son.

The Boys: there are also similarities between their “sons” – the ruthless Charlie, who will do anything to save Wade, and William, who follows after his father in spite of his low opinion of him, and then winds up trying to save him, just as Charlie is determined to get Wade back. Both boys seek to help their father figures. Charlie does it through utter brutality and violence; William does it with intelligence and bravery. One of the boys is already pure evil; the other is on the cusp of manhood. This is the moment of decision for both of them – and that’s why one lives, and the other must die.

yuma2Total Control: most movies have over the top villains, since actors don’t realize that the most terrifying bad guy is a quiet, calm, and totally secure evil. It doesn’t draw attention to itself, it’s not particularly flashy, but it still accomplishes its purpose. Here, we have two such characters – Ben Wade, who is so bored in his evil that he’s downright complacent, and Charlie, who doesn’t blink twice about shooting people. Wade’s sense of humor and calmness lure you into a sense of false security, and just when you start to like him – he kills someone, or tosses them off a cliff, or kicks them in the face… just to remind you who he really is. Furthermore, he wanted to get caught simply for his own amusement. There’s never a moment when he is not being “entertained” by events unfolding around him. It’s a game to him, and it ceases being a game only when he discovers that Evans is too honorable to play by Wade’s rules.

Honor: in the end, the story is really all about doing what is right in spite of the consequences. Evans chooses to take Wade to the station when no one else will – when everyone else has been gunned down in the street. He knows he’s going to die, and he does it anyway… even after Wade tries to bribe him to let him go, and after he tries to incapacitate (kill?) him halfway there. Evans dies becoming his son’s hero – and doing what he said he would do. His life is given in exchange for an act of bravery. So what does Wade do? Even though he doesn’t have to, even though he’s free, he gets on that train, so that Evans’ family will get the money the Pinkerton promised them.

The Ambiguities: a truly smart film never gives the audience all the answers, it asks them to reach their own conclusions. Most movies pander to mass stupidity and provide black and white reasons, but this one doesn’t. We never know what motivates the intense loyalty of Charlie, except through one provocative statement: “You forget what he’s done for us.” The film never tells us what Wade did to earn this unfailing loyalty. It doesn’t solve all its own mysteries but instead asks us to solve them ourselves.

yuma4The Ending: this is a point of contention between audiences, but I like that it’s shocking, horrifying, and ambiguous. Charlie kills Evans… and Wade kills Charlie and the rest of his gang. Why? Well, the movie doesn’t flat out tell us – and I like that. But you can tell a lot through the eyes of the actors. Wade’s eyes are misty and full of disgust when he pulls out Charlie’s revolver and shoots him with it. So, what conclusions might we reach? There’s not just one! Had Dale and Wade become friends? Had Wade finally found a godly man so he felt this death was undeserved and required punishment? Did he realize that as long as Charlie was alive, he was trapped in the life of a criminal? Was his only way out to kill them all? Or is it a validation of what he told William earlier, that “I wouldn’t last five minutes leading an outfit like that if I wasn’t rotten as hell”? I love the moment when William trains a gun on him… and doesn’t shoot. Wade waits to be shot. He expects it. He deserves it – and William lets him go, because William has chosen the man he is going to be – his father; a good man.

Good thinking man’s movies are hard to come by. Who knew I’d find one in a western?

91 thoughts on “My Favorite Movies: 3:10 to Yuma

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  1. Wooh, this has been an interesting thread to read. I haven’t read it all, but much. Skimmed. Yes.

    Christian fiction…. Ah. It was my diet in high school and much of college. Since then, I have come to see that it’s all so true what you all say. It’s all so very much fluffy. So lacking in depth. I want to get into the real, intense interior of a character, whether I’m writing or reading. I love what Charity says about wanting real problems and real villains and epic redemption. It was Tolkien and Dickens who taught me to write like that, not Lori Wick and Jeanette Oke.

    On the same note, Christian publishing… I have no desire for my own books to be relegated to the shelves of Christian novels and Christian bookstores. Such a tiny subset of the population will ever see them. And Charity, I think I may be in your boat. Too dark for Christian publishers (torture, PTSD, child abuse, slavery…), too religious for non-Christian publishers. I’ll have to see what comes. But I refuse to self-publish. I was a librarian for eight years, saw many, many self-published books, and my one impression of them was: low quality. They may have been excellent texts with truly good writing, but the quality of the publication itself turned me off.

    I have to say the idea of a pastor in a fantasy book who has to guard someone with a sword delights me unutterably.

    And now, for the point of why I have returned to this post: thank you so much for making me watch this movie! It’s incredible. I love the ending. I love (and hate) the parts that remind me that Wade is a bad, bad, nasty man, like when he kills the guy with a fork, because then his redemption is all the more moving. It’s not like deep down he was really a decent guy who took the wrong path and got nudged back on the straight and narrow by Evans. He was a real villain, and he was changed by what was good.
    The acting was magnificent, especially Russell Crowe’s. I like his quiet, thoughtful intensity and his wily intelligence, all behind his cold-blooded brutality. You know, he really reminded me of Ben Linus from “Lost,” with his continual propensity to manipulate people when he seemed to be in a position of weakness. This was the first movie where I realized that Russell Crowe is attractive.
    And of course how can you not love Firefly’s Wash as the adorable doctor! I loved his protest that they shouldn’t torture Wade because it wasn’t moral.
    The soundtrack was so excellent.
    The commentary was also really great to listen to. I love listening to intelligent people talking about the insides of things in an intelligent way.

    1. I’m glad to know I’m not alone, nor being needlessly harsh on Christian fiction. It’s just… so much of it seems like mainstream fiction but without the bite; the majority of what I’ve run across is “sexless” romance novels, in which there isn’t really a period of romance so much as “love at first sight.” I want to read deeper stuff than that, stuff that punches me in the gut and makes me confront my views on the world. The one book that totally gutted me was Susan Kay’s “Phantom” — a secular novel, with flaws all its own (child abuse, sensuality, violence), but toward the end it really tore a hole in my soul, when Erik cried out, “It’s too late [for redemption]; I gave my soul to the devil long ago.” I sat there and cried… because he had no hope, no notion that even in his sinful, fallen state, he could be FORGIVEN. THAT is tragic.

      Now, look at “3:10 to Yuma.” Non-Christian production, full of real villains, real struggles, real problems… yet it has a truly profound flip at the end. Wade changes, because he met an honest to goodness honorable man. And tragically, this movie has impacted me more than any Christian fiction I have ever read — period.

      So, what’s the bottom line? Christians need to write tough stuff but with redemption in it. They need to invade the secular market, and put their books into a world where non-Christians are going to read it. That’s what evangelism is all about. It’s not preachy, it’s not in your face, it’s just PART OF WHO YOU ARE and what you write. It’s not forced (which is also how I feel about a lot of Christian books — we must have the obligatory prayers, and sermons, and especially, someone getting saved at the end — but you’re just preaching to the choir by that point), but it plants seeds in your reader to want to know more, to have an unexpected emotion, to feel a connection to something they may not understand until it comes about in their life. (Sort of like what Tolkien and Lewis’ books do; both of them speak to a much deeper part of your soul than what is on the surface. I don’t even understand why, at times, Lewis’ stuff makes me cry. I just know that something inside me is crying out “yes!”)

      You know, I’m surprised self-published books made it into your library system. Most don’t! And sadly, how easy it is to print e-books now means the market will be even more saturated with subpar novels, because the publishers and agencies weeding out the “meh” stuff won’t have skimmed out the fluff.

      Ah, my sword-carrying pastor is… awesome. I just hope his presence doesn’t prevent me from finding an agent for the book. But if it does, Alistair stays anyway. He’s a great guy. =D

      ANYWAY… on to the movie itself. I am SO, SO glad that you liked it! I really am, since there are times I feel alone in my appreciation for it. I like Wade, so it’s hard for me to sit through his moments of sheer evil — stabbing someone with a fork, tossing an old man off a cliff, even smashing his boot into Evans’ face. What’s more, he’s serious in everything he says. He means it when he tells Evans’ son that had he had a gun in the pass, he would have used it on the kid to get out of there. So when he does turn on his gang at the end, there’s his redemption, his repulsion at their actions, his anger that a good man has been killed.

      Yay, another person won over to Russell Crowe! He’s a fine actor most of the time — when the director lets him have at it. And yes, it’s one of the better commentaries I’ve sat through. I appreciate thoughtful intelligence so much more than mindless droning on (don’t ever try and watch the commentary on “The Patriot” — while the producer is wonderful and has great things to say, the director sounds like a high school moron “It was, like, really hot that day and, like…”).

      1. “And tragically, this movie has impacted me more than any Christian fiction I have ever read — period.”
        Want to read some of mine? Snerk.

        “Christians need to write tough stuff but with redemption in it. They need to invade the secular market, and put their books into a world where non-Christians are going to read it.”
        That is *exactly* what I want to do.

        “You know, I’m surprised self-published books made it into your library system.”
        Well, it was a small theological school library, and we got lots of books written by pastors and missionaries, many donated, others coming in from the local denomination publishing company.

  2. Um, was that the episode where she wanted to interview Cloud Dancer so she could write an anthropology type book, and he agreed, as long as he had a chance to preview the manuscript, and then they were talking about customs involving dance, and she tried to show him the waltz, and before they knew it they were sharing a “moment”? Yeah that entire episode totally went over my head as a kid 😛

    Ah yes, “There is nothing new under the sun”, I think such books just irk me because they feel again like the “cleaned up” Christian fic variety.

    Talking sword? Stop sounding so darn intriguing every time you mention it! It sounds really promising though, and I am fascinated by how you said certain things came to symbolize the union of marriage–completely without your intent! :O

    Nope, I actually only saw it for the first time last year, I’d hesitated due to film’s R rating, and being irritated by drooly fangirly comments over all the “hunky guys”. But I liked it, Cora to me, symbolized the sort of woman who became the “mother” of a new country, in the next generation. Hawkeye–he sort of represents what the colonies were becoming. White/European by ancestry/birth, and by no means ashamed of that, but distinctly influenced by the New World and its peoples. I loved the costuming, action, and felt that much of the attitudes and whatnot seemed very “period” correct.

    I began tearing up when Alice fell to her death–even though, due to her fragility throughout the film, I sorta saw it coming. Officer Duncan Heyward–yes he was a bit stuffy, and Cora was right to refuse him if she did not love him, but the scene where he sacrifices himself really tears at your heart.

    By the time Uncas perished, I was sobbing, and continued sobbing for sometime after the film ended. The scene haunted me for sometime afterward, in part admittedly because it set me to thinking of all the young warriors who died fighting in the American revolution–on our side. Including those of the Mohican (also spelled Mahican, refered to as the “Stockbridge” Indians in George Washington’s letters), half their fighting men perished against the British. But you’ll never see a mention of it in any mainstream history book. Nor of any others, like the Abenaki, or the Oneida (who lost 1/3 of their people due to involvement in the cause), not even liberal historians who claim to “care” about minority history mention it. They gave their lives for a freedom which their descendants would not fully enjoy for two centuries, and for which they have never received proper credit. You have to dig really deep, through contemporary letters, and the back pages of scholarly volumes to find any information on the subject. (Can you tell we’ve stumbled upon another favorite topic of mine 😛 ?)

    Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee–I’d seen unfavorable reviews by both conservative and liberal critics, so I hadn’t bothered but now I might. I started reading the book but had to return it to the libary before I could finish it. I hate it when that happens! While I’m at it I probably ought to see Into the West as well. (I think it was made by the same people?) I’ve often thought that many aspects of Native American history actually contained lessons for conservatives, given our wariness of over reaching government. Many bad aspects of the “Indian policy” came about because of the decisions of politicians who had never even visited the areas they divided on a map, rather than individual settlers. Then there is later horrific story of the boarding school era, where children were terrorized, punished harshly (using items like these specially made child sized handcuffs ), told that everything their parents had told them was a lie, and stripped of all language and culture. When parents objected, they were told that failure to send their children to the boarding schools would result in supplies being cut-off, or jail time for the fathers. Some men chose the latter option.

    Yes, it was necessary that native children receive instruction in English, reading and writing, and the emerging modern world, but this could–and in fact had successfully been done before by missionaries, anthropologists, and other sympathetic groups, on the tribes home ground. (In fact an 1840s missionary managed successful dual language instruction, teaching the children English, and translating the Bible into their language in her spare time)

    Good ol’ Louis L’Amour 😛 , my dad loves his books, in fact just about anything in the thick, “paperback western” strain! (Haha–I’m amused by your grandpa reading them by the boxfull 😉 is this why westerns are considered a “man’s” genre? ) Um, I actually have no idea how long at this point–I want it to cover my character’s entire life time, but that’d be pretty long. For now I am trying to focus on actually getting it written. Some westerns, especially the Larry McMurtry kind seem really huge–but it probably varies with being an “established” author, how serious the novel is, the intended audience and whatnot. (I am glad you mentioned it though, as it’s set me thinking I ought to research a bit more about submission guidelines)

    Bu–but–Catholic Queens has such an epic sound to it! I can already see the gorgeous cover art! Not to mention it’s an amazing theme. Mother-Daughter-Granddaughter. Also stupid old fatso Henry VIII gets enough attention, time to shift the spotlight to the ladies for a bit 😛

    Again I ramble, but that’s what happens when you chance upon the opportunity for such insightful discussion!

    And yes, The Last of the Mohicans definitely deserves to be highlighted on this blog.

    1. Yep, that’s the episode! They did wind up falling in love with one another, throughout that season. Heh.

      Talking about Christian fiction, and reading what others have to say on the subject – I think it all boils down to this: write a good book first, and worry about whether or not it is “Christian” later. Whenever you try to be SOMETHING you are not, it comes out preachy. I cringe reading some of my earlier works – I tried to be “a Christian author” and it came across much too strong. Now, I’ve adjusted to where I write what I want to write, what I feel comfortable writing, and I’ll worry about where it fits into the Christian market later. I think sometimes CBD authors are hampered by trying to insert “religion” into their story, rather than letting it come about naturally. They force it – and as a result, it damages their plot. I read a comment somewhere that said Christian books don’t have to be religious – there’s a difference between writing a Christian novel, and being a Christian author.

      I’ll shut up about my book. Hopefully, sometime in the near future, you will have a chance to read it for yourself! It’s a little bit zany, a lot like Pratchett, and… well, dear to my heart, since I’ve never written humor before in book form. I wasn’t even sure I could pull it off.

      I love The Last of the Mohicans. I think it’s very well done (and has an absolutely gorgeous score), in all respects. Alice… troubled me as a character, in particular because I found her weak; but her one act of courage at the end is redemptive, since she chooses her fate, to be with the man she loves in death rather than to survive in a sort of hell. Duncan I disliked at first, but his act of redemption is similar, in sacrificing his life for Cora – that makes him probably the noblest of all the characters. Uncas… is the hardest, because he’s the most innocent, the most quiet, the most sincere… and yet he’s taken from those who love him.

      No way, you’re fascinated with the Revolution and the history of the American Indian tribes?! I WOULD NEVER HAVE KNOWN THAT!! 😉 Anyway, I haven’t seen Into the West — I just went and put a hold on it at the library, since I’ve been meaning to rent it for quite some time and never got around to it. What the government did to the Indians is … horrific, yet as my dad said, they didn’t have any better solution. You can’t simply adopt a native lifestyle into a modern civilization – yet, somewhere along the way, they should have figured out how to do so, for the betterment of the natives if nothing else. *sigh* It’s a tragic thing, it really is.

      Men just… love cowboy stuff. I think because deep down, all little boys want to be cowboys and when they grow up, they never really grow out of that desire!

      My discovery that YA typically wants between 80k and 100k words was a crushing blow to me, since my fantasy novel in its second draft was 150k words. I’ve sliced and diced that sucker down to about 65k… which I fear is too short. But I did the entire plot, I have humor and gags and quips and character development in there, and any more would be padding, so if I find an agent, I’ll let them tell me where to add another 10k words if they want it longer. =P

      Henry VIII… what I have to say about him isn’t very nice. But yeah, forget the loser and focus on the bad-ass women he was involved with on some level. Because you don’t get much more epic-ly bad-ass than Isabella of Spain!

  3. Love your comments standing up for Christian fic, Ruth. Some of it’s so wonderful and thought-provoking and really clever. Then there are the ones that are mere “fluff” and just a sweetheart of a read. Love the former but always appreciate the latter. 🙂

    “Well, I could get persnickety and say that Amish fiction really isn’t Christian fiction, but I won’t. I read a synopsis of one of them the other day and it was so saccharine sweet! Something about a female lawyer being chased by villains and getting rescued by an Amish man, and then, naturally, falling deeply in love. Doesn’t that just set the heart strings quivering. *eye roll*”

    Agree with you, Carissa. It’s just not my cup of tea. My mother read a bunch by Beverly Lewis back when she “previewed” everything and she was appalled by what went on. Now days, it never has intrigued my reader’s curiosity. Neither the premise nor the idea of the culture. Some people don’t mind it though…

  4. Not much of a fan of cowboy movies (though, “Cowboys and Aliens”: Sheer brilliance), but I’ve just had to request this movie from the library on account of you.

    1. There are SO MANY comments on this post, I’m not sure if you’re referencing the original topic or Maverick. If the former, I hope you find it intellectually stimulating. 😉

      (My disclaimer is as follows: 3:10 it earns the R-rating for violence and bad language, the former not being too bad and the latter being about a dozen abuses of God’s name in some form or another. Just wanted you to know that going in, since I hate recommending films that might offend someone. Maverick has a lot of swearing too — of the general variety — but it’s hilarious.)

      1. Oh, yes. The first time I saw a preview for that movie, I was overcome with delight. And the title is just stupid enough to be marvelous. It sounds like a Disney movie.

  5. Nope, I’ve never seen Snow River but given that you’re the third friend to recommend it to me in the past few months, the clearly needs to change 😛 (It’s a horse movie right? I love horsie movies!)

    Yeah–haha Dr Quinn and um, a lot of those ’90s shows are probably better best viewed through the lens of nostalgia 😛 This brings to mind a quandary I often ponder though. While I prefer that television, films etc; with a historical setting strive for accuracy, at the same time I feel irritated by people who get all their historical information from TV.

    because I’m not at all confident in my own writing… My first reaction was : askdhfa * flailz * cough * CHARITY LACKS CONFIDENCE IN HER OWN WRITING???


    Doubts like these are natural, and can help keep us sharp. I’ll spare you all the usual “nobody gets a book deal on the first try” or “don’t you know the last pulitzer winner went through the same thing” because you’ve probably read that a dozen times before. But I will tell you that whenever I’ve had the chance to read your fanfic, or excerpts of some of your work–it’s been amazing. It always leaves you wanting more. Some people write stuff that’s good, that makes you go “Not bad”, or “this could be interesting”. They’ve got something that could grow. Your stories are ready to take flight, the writing neither cloyingly wholesome nor sensationalized.

    If it makes you feel any better, extroverts balk at the whole book tour and signing deal. I think it’s due to fact that you’re interacting with the public on a much more intense level. And if you become at least moderately famous, there’ll be someone demanding headshots and a bio for public consumption…

    1. You may have to invest in a region-free player — since I think the only place you can find the entire series (four seasons) is in Australia! Though there’s a few episodes floating around on Amazon in our region, and maybe they’re up online somewhere… there IS a movie (two movies?) but I’m referencing the television series in particular, which I like so much more than the movie — better characters!

      Getting historical information from film is one of my pet peeves as well — but on the other hand, even the most historically inaccurate film can prompt enough interest in people that they’ll start reading up on the time period! I LOVE some totally historically inaccurate movies — like The Patriot and Gladiator. Ahh, good stuff.

      Well, I see it this way — if I lack confidence, at least I’ll not turn into one of those pretentious jackass authors who is so much better than everyone else, and never accepts any helpful advice, right?

      Last night, in my rounding up of literary agents to query, I ran across Stephanie Meyer’s agent. That gave me pause! I thought, “You know, after all the griping you’ve done about those books, it would take some brazen nerve for you to try that agent!” Maybe I should pass this time. 😉

      … ugh, pictures. But I did laugh about the bio — I don’t think there’s a person on earth whose bio would be MORE BORING than mine. How did she spend her entire life? In her quiet little ranch house writing books and arguing with people on the internet. Nuff said. =D

      1. Ah OK–I think most people were referencing the movie, but a TV series sounds awesome. Some Australian TV shows are pretty cute and underrated. I often find it curious that Australia exports plenty of talent, but is a blip on the radar when it comes to film and television. Same thing, now that I think about it, with Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa…, it seems the only other English speaking nation whose productions get international attention is the UK.

        Depending on the film, I sometimes still find historically inaccurate movies still entertaining in terms of visual appeal, or as snark material 😛 (“Suuure he’s going to break off his engagement with parasol!girl, breach of promise much?”)

        What? * gasp * You mean you weren’t looking forward to the day when you could pen your magnum opus lamenting a middle aged couple’s search for the answers to their mid-life crisis in the reflected kitchen linoleum? Set somewhere in suburbia of course. Correction, semi-rural, simmeringly repressed whitebread suburbia 😛 . I can already see the book clubs touting it..

        Oh man, Stephanie Meyer–of course–if you DID get published by them–then you could be touted as the ultimate anti-Twilight! Especially if you wrote a vampire story, and as the above commenters have established, you write awesome vampire stories!

        Pfft! Your life story will firmly ensconce you among the many other great authors in the semi-reclusive, rural vein, toiling over manuscripts by the light of a roaring oaken fire, and emerging from the brushwood only to parry with the other intellects of the day. Mark Twain meets Jane Austen! In all seriousness, I think many great writers have lived relatively quiet lives. There are exceptions, such as those whose writing is shaped by the experiences of war or travel. But ultimately the most vital key to good writing is wisdom, even more than wit or worldliness. Some traverse the globe, but never really take it all in, their itinerary is a laundry list of chic restaurants or snapshot worthy tourist attractions. Others can find every aspect of the human condition in one small village.

        Just wondering–you said a while ago that you worried your stories were “too dark” for Christian publishers, “too religious” for secular publishers? It sounds like you’re currently trying both?

        1. A lot of people do love the movie. I’ve never been fond of it, for whatever reason. But the series is … wonderful. I grew up madly in love with the oldest McGregor brother — Colin, the preacher. =D

          I was commenting the other day on how many truly great (and good looking) acting talent comes out of Australia — hands down, their actors can out-act American actors with their hands tied and their head in a bag. From Mel Gibson to Russell Crowe, talent doesn’t get much better than an Aussie. But yes, the country itself doesn’t produce a lot of novelists or films made in-country. That’s… interesting.

          Sadly, the market is flooded with vampire novels now. They fail to realize that once one thing really hits it big, nothing else is ever going to be that big in that genre — you need to follow up one book success with something in a totally different genre (kind of like how first, we had the mega-success of Potter, then Twilight, and now it’s The Hunger Games — three different genres, three different authors, and oddly enough, all three are WOMEN WRITERS!!).

          Yeah, I do think many authors like… quiet lives, to think, to dream, to plan, to write. I often wonder if some of them, like J.K. Rowling, ever tire of being a celebrity. You can’t go anywhere without being noticed, identified, and followed by reporters. It’s sad that we “reward” people’s success by stalking them and making their life a living hell!

          Most of my previous books… yeah, too experimental for most Christian publishers, too religious for most secular publishers. But since rewriting my fantasy novel, I think I’ve found a subtle medium that is sheer humorous fantasy with religious overtones that aren’t so blatant as to offend secular audiences, but that are there for the discerning Christian reader to latch onto. I’ve become much more low-key in that regard; as the author, I know what certain characters and things mean, but I don’t know that my audience will always pick up on the allegories. I’m trying secular agencies at the moment, but I may query a few Christian agencies that handle fantasy as well, just to see how brave they are.

          (“Hey, want to represent a book with dragons, spell books, houses full of moving rooms, ghosts, and evil witches in it? No? Didn’t think so!”)

          1. I suppose the flood of vampire novels has to do with copy-cats trying to ride the coattails of a big trend. It’s been odd, because I remember being a kid, as young as 9–and feeling like the odd girl out because I liked vampire stories. Not just regular tales of horror, but ones with a few “good guy” vampires as well! Now suddenly the violently conflicted but ultimately sympathetic vampire hero is the “in” thing–and it seems really odd. What’s next? Werewolves?? Teen Wolf and some other books and films in the genre have attracted fans, but I don’t know if it’ll seem too linked to the vampire phenomena.

            …sheer humorous fantasy with religious overtones that aren’t so blatant as to offend secular audiences, but that are there for the discerning Christian reader to latch onto…

            You know, I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately–I don’t have problems rambling onto friends about my “faith” in terms of what “type” of Christian I am, when I became one, officially, what my moral boundaries were, “how” I think one can strive to be a good Christian too—

            But I have absolutely no idea how to write about that–what am I supposed to say. “After a long day-dream filled walk, he went home, and thumbed through his Bible, stumbling across a verse in the Proverbs, which started him on several long winding trains of thought, that eventually led him to the conclusion that some arguments concerning indecency upon the stage might possess strong merit after all!”

            In most novels I’ve read, there seem to be several approaches to religion:

            1. Religion is not present, or only mentioned in a generic, passing way. (celebration of Christmas, Easter or a church wedding)

            2. Religion’s presence is something that has been drilled into the hero(ine?), they attend revivals, mass etc; depending on their denomination, because it is expected. (frequently found in historical fiction)

            3. Religion is present as a negative, dominating presence, that does more harm than good, smothering all the “natural”, or spontaneous and happy urges. (sometimes in historical fiction, or in modern fiction where characters deal with “angst”)

            4. Religion is present as a glorious, light, well….presence? Characters pray at moments that are meant to be touching, and experience amazing breakthroughs, which serve the double process of moving the plot forward. (seen in the historical Christian fiction I’ve sampled 😛 )

            “Hey, want to represent a book with dragons, spell books, houses full of moving rooms, ghosts, and evil witches in it? No? Didn’t think so!”

            That sounds like an utterly COOL premise. Christians looking for a clean read would read it–but so would a lot of secular readers just looking for a good read.

            Out of curiosity, do you find yourself worrying that some novels are more “marketable” than others? Irregardless of which is a personal favorite, or the better written?

          2. (There’s so many replies to this post, I’m having to go into my dashboard to answer all of them! And almost none of them have anything to do with the post itself — bwhahaha, that’s hilarious.)

            Yes, modern literature is very much a copycat genre, and there IS sometimes a good reason for it — often something like Twilight will create interest in, say, YA vampire novels, and a few more will do relatively well. But when EVERYONE is writing a vampire novel, agents get bored, and start turning down books — because they can’t sell 5 thousand vampire novels. You just watch — in two years, the big glut in the market will be the same sort of stuff as The Hunger Games — futuristic drama.

            Ironically, Anne Rice was THE vampire novelist for a long time — she abandoned it before YA picked it up, and now she is writing about werewolves!

            Writing books with faith in them is… hard, because you said, it can either be a positive or a negative; it can either be totally unbelievable or non-realistic. Reading Christian fiction, I usually skipped over all the flat-out “religious” passages (such as they go to church, and hear a sermon) because… well, I’d been to church that week, I’d heard a sermon, I have no interest in reading one. Then, there’s the other extreme — the typical Christian romance novel in which both parties get saved right at the end (here’s looking at you, Jaenette Oak!), so basically what you get is a nice little message tacked onto a “clean” romance novel.

            I meander around mostly in YA fiction these days, with an emphasis on fantasy / paranormal. The truly strange thing is… I find it even in Victorian paranormal fantasy, but it’s never truly representative of what a believer in that time period would actually believe — as you said, it’s in their life, but makes no difference TO their life. (One example — a ghost story I read had “good little Methodist girls” sitting down for a seance — um, no.)

            Taking this topic back to the original subject that started this conversation — I think the best religion is done how you’d find IN, say, 3:10 to Yuma. It isn’t in your face. It isn’t preachy. Less careful viewers might even miss it. But it’s there — it’s there in the actions of the characters, in the choices they make, in what motivates them, and how they change. The same goes for Les Miserables as a story — it’s not preachy (or at least, I don’t feel that it is) but a Christian can walk away from it with a total understanding that the book and its characters are really all about God! The same can be said of Tolkien’s works — and their movies. A normal moviegoer goes and has fun… I come out scratching my head, wondering, “How did everyone miss the spiritual allegories in that? The Hobbit is, if nothing else, a reminder of the exile of the Jews from Jerusalem!”

            So, what does this mean for MY fantasy books? Religion is there — and so is God, but He’s an actual character in their lives (and sometimes they don’t even know he’s there). One entire subplot between two adult characters is actually (and I didn’t realize this at the time I was writing it) a metaphor about feminism and marriage. BUT… one of my best characters, my male lead, if you will — happens to be a pastor. He’s bad-ass. He’s wise. He’s fearless. It’s not pretentious, he never preaches at anyone, yet you’re always relieved when Alistair turns up, because you know… it’s going to be okay now.

            YES, I absolutely worry about the marketability of my books. My favorite book that I’ve written I’m fairly cetain I could never find a real market for — it’s a historical epic, with slightly paranormal undertones (an empath / prophet as the main character). So, on one hand you have this charming, dangerous young man who can touch your hand and know your fate — and on the other, he’s running amuck with Geoge Washington and King George III. But you never know, maybe someday. 😉

            Regarding my fantasy novel… I’ve pretty much decided for the time being to write only in this world, so I’m going to adapt some of my previous books (including some historical novels) into it. I don’t know if I’m nervy enough to finish what I started with Katharine of Aragorn, but that just kind of… exploded when I started typing out a first chapter for fun. Since it’s not set in the real world, anything can — and anything WILL — happen. =D

          3. * giggles * I just thought of that–when I refreshed the page and saw we’d passed 70 + comments. Great discussions though!

            I’ve had the “obvious spiritual symbolism” mini-epiphanies most often with classic literature–given that, regardless of denomination, the Bible had such a HUGE influence on European culture, Biblical references and symbolism are almost unavoidable in many pre-20th century novels.

            Then, there’s the other extreme — the typical Christian romance novel in which both parties get saved right at the end (here’s looking at you, Jaenette Oak!), so basically what you get is a nice little message tacked onto a “clean” romance novel.

            This drives me insane, and is the main reason why I don’t read much Christian fiction. I’ve contemplated giving it another chance, based on friend’s recommendations. But I still usually prefer to tackle a still unread classic instead. (Can you believe it was only last year I read Jane Eyre?)

            Oh gosh–I LOVE that your guy’s going to be a pastor. Too often pastor’s are portrayed as lukewarm, milquetoast, generically good at best, unpleasantly smarmy and hypocritical at worst! But in reality there have been so many awesome religious leaders in history! (Recently I read about Roger Williams and William Penn–very inspiring! )

            One thing I’ve worried about is that my Western is going to sound too…offensive to most audiences? Because my hero is a Comanche, and it’s written from the native perspective, I worry it will put off conservatives because it sounds overly PC. But I know liberals will hate it because early on in the novel, two people who befriend and help the hero are a missionary couple. Good, dedicated people sincere in their beliefs, and desire to spread the Gospel–but who aren’t about to force it down anyone’s throat. Even if it disappoints them when people show little interest in religion, they try to stick with the idea of “deeds, not words”. My hero doesn’t convert during his stay with them, but he does come away with respect for (sincere) believers. In fact a lot of early missionaries were pretty “progressive” and advocated for native rights, but modern liberal historians hate to admit it 😛 .

            Ah, Katherine of Arragon…I STILL say you ought to write the one about Isabella one day if you get the chance 😉 .

          4. Yeah, this is the best discussion I have had in a LOOONG time!! =)

            I think that’s why I tend to like classic fiction better than a lot of modern fiction; faith was simply so engrained in the culture that it came out in novels without being in your face. Jane Eyre is a terrific example of a profoundly religious novel that isn’t ever preachy — yet, unfortunately, no one adapts it with the religion (both good and bad) intact, which undermines all Jane’s motivations in leaving Thornfield. (Ironically, I was reflecting on my “all time favorite storylines” recently — and that ranks close to the top. I just LOVE that novel.)

            My “problem” with a lot of fiction is that, while I don’t like wallowing in filth, I don’t want “superficial” either. It seems like either you have one, or the other. Since I’m not a romantic, stories where romance is the primary focus usually aren’t my favorite. I’d much rather watch Gladiator with its complex characterization and thought-provoking themes than the latest romcom. So, I’m left unsatisfied by a lot of Christian books because they’re… not emotionally fulfilling for me. I WANT villains so horrible, you can’t wait to see them die. I WANT heroes that struggle with REAL THINGS. I WANT epic redemption!

            I’ve often wondered — is it that Christian authors are so afraid to be controversial that they don’t delve into difficult topics, or is it that publishers won’t print it, thus there is none in the market? Why must I go to secular authors for the hard-hitting, deeply thought-provoking storylines?

            Pastors rock, particularly the sword-carrying kind. 😉 I wrote this novel three times: first draft, my villain was the primary focus, and my favorite male character. Second draft, my younger romantic lead came to the forefront. Third time, Alistair became my favorite, and “more important” than the rest.

            Hmm, that does sound like a challenge. But, I think if you can overcome the PC perspective on Indians (that they’re all really nice, and the mean white men stole their land, and they never killed anything just for fun, and they love mother earth and are total greenies, etc., ala Dances With Wolves) and have a few bad ones, you can overcome the conservative stigmata toward Indians in westerns. I think it’s terrific that you’re using a missionary couple — and also, that you don’t plan to go the usual trite route in which “by the end, everyone was praising Jesus and holding hands.” If just the seed of truth is there, it can grow — after the book’s final pages close.

            IF I ever delve back into serious historical fiction — yes, Isabella will get her own book, as will Mary. Now and again, I encounter them somewhere and am reminded of how much I truly love historical fiction.

          5. Haha–I remember when I was little (like 5) I wanted to see Dances With Wolves, until I discovered the main characters were humans, not wolves 😛 (On a side note, I’ve refrained from seeing it since, and it disgusts me a bit that the tribe was changed from the Comanches of the novel, to the Lakota for the film, because they’d be a more “sympathetic” tribe 😛 )

            This is actually making me remember, how when crawling a particularly odd nook of the internet I stumbled across….”Christian” fiction romance, of the “buttoned up white schoolmarm + Indian warrior with flowing hair” variety? O.o The summary for one was bizarre, apparently she’s a failed missionary, and he “can’t go back to the heathenish ways of his tribe” but doesn’t know of any better alternative religions?? It was just really odd, and left a bad taste in my mouth, especially since the covers were horribly reminiscent of mainstream cheesy romance paperbacks, save for being a bit more tame and restrained, with slightly less epic-ly flowing hair and bosominess. (Maybe we should classify this as a variant or sub-genre of the “prim eastern lady & roguish cowboy” category?)

            Sword-carrying pastor? OK, now I’m REALLY intrigued! But yes, another thing–historically speaking, some pastors were pretty tough, as frontiersman, or enduring persecution in Europe–the things they went through were unimaginable!

            I came across a quote on tumblr, of all places, that stated that modern environmentalists (extremists) and Indians of the 19th century and before, ultimately wouldn’t get along. Because while they’d agree on respecting the earth, (and we can all agree that pitching garbage by the side of the road is pretty darn disgusting), the natives of most tribes wouldn’t hesitate to use nature. Creating brush fires, cutting timber for canoes and lodges, hunting everything from bison to eagles etc;

            Now, I’d say that most tribes’ ideal was honorable combat. Against a worthy (armed adult male) opponent. The killing of children, or non-combatants in general (women, elderly etc;) was condemned, as was rape, pointless torture etc;.

            In fact, I’d say most societies have condemned these things. That doesn’t mean they never happened, and such was the case with any tribe. When sifting through statistics from the various Indian wars, (because what better way to spend Friday or Saturday night 😛 ? ) I found instances of inexcusable brutality, and instances of surprising compassion. There were women who described being gang raped, before being eventually discarded, or seeing their children and babies lanced before their eyes. But I also noticed that in many cases, in fact more often than not I would say, most tribes preferred to spare children, along with pregnant or nursing women, and even adult males whose bravery they respected. There was even a case where the Comanches collaborated with the local townspeople to catch a band of cattle rustlers 😛

            There will undoubtedly be both good and bad Indians, though my hero’s biggest bane will be those that are just annoying, especially when they also happen to be his relatives 😉 The central of the focus of the novel will probably be family–and to some extent friendship as well. I sorta just realized this emerging the other day, as a teen/youth, the hero is most interested in going on quests, proving himself, adventure just for the sake of adventure. But as a father and husband in his late 20s and 30s, protecting his family comes to the forefront, just as important, or interwoven with the idea of being a distinguished warrior. Meanwhile, he witnesses (or could you say this is mirrored–hang on–is it “mirroring” if this is not a plot twist but based on actual historical events 😛 ?) that contemporary Comanche leaders are swallowing their pride, and attempting reconciliation for the sake of their people. At the same time, there’s the painful reality that while you might have nothing against a fellow human, even be quite fond of them and become friends under certain circumstances, events beyond your control can force you to come face to face in battle. An issue with which many settlers struggled during the Civil War (called by some the “Brother’s War”). Hang on–is this more mirroring??

            If just the seed of truth is there, it can grow — after the book’s final pages close.

            You see, this is something I don’t think a lot of people realize. Liberals, I will speak of the clueless, PC variety in this case–often don’t. They’ll say that you ought to have more Strong Female Characters (TM) and Ethnic Diversity(C), in your historical fiction novel. But in reality–if you strive for the truth, this won’t be an issue at all. Writing about 1890s New York? Read the chronicles of the time, and you’ll see how much influence a society woman could wield, albeit unofficially, before you know it, that strong female character will have practically written herself! Trying to capture the atmosphere of old timey Santa Fe? Research the prominent citizens, the restaurants and architecture of the city, and soon you’ll have plenty of Hispanic characters scattered throughout your cast. Ethnic diversity doesn’t have to be forced. (And this leads me to my thoughts on how much I dislike affirmative action, but that’s another rant for another day * scowls * )

            When you say Mary–d’you mean Stuart? (I think you said you disliked the nickname “Bloody Mary”?) I believe you could pull off a novel about her, in fact I’ve seen some Tudor fiction readers complain she’s a bit neglected in contrast to Anne, Elizabeth or the Queen of Scots. (When it comes to continental Europe, why is every other novel about Catherine de Medici or Marie Antoinette ? They’re important, but there are SO many other fascinating royal figures. I’m glad you’ve done one on Katherine, and are keeping Isabella in mind, shifting the focus to Spain makes for a nice change)

            Sorry for the looong rambly comments, but my mind’s bubbling over at the moment 😛

          6. That book you discovered sounds like an episode of Dr. Quinn — that entire season where Sully’s Indian friend fell in love with the redheaded newspaper woman in town. (I guess it’s true that everything has been done at some point before! 😉

            Well, when you live in an enchanted wood in which you never know whether you will run amuck of harpies, giant wolves, or witches… as an honorable pastor assigned the task of protecting the wood’s guardian, naturally you would carry about a sword. Or two. Maybe even one that talks, on occasion…

            You’ve probably seen it (many times?) but the best example of non-PC writing for frontiersmen / Indians / historically-accurate “feminist” characters is in the 1992 version of The Last of the Mohicans (which I may actually do a post on at some point in the future). There’s good and bad Indians. The hero is likable, funny, and fits into his surroundings. The heroine is spunky and opinionated, but still stays within the limitations of what a woman was capable of in that era (she’s brave, but not fearless – and she still needs rescued sometimes).

            Oh, and there’s also the fantastic movie by HBO, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. It CAN be a bit PC, but before watching that, I never realized the worst thing we did to the Indians was take away their pride. That movie made me weep for their plight, and it’s well worth a rental.

            Your book sounds … epic, as if it has a huge scope. How long are you planning it to be? First-time novelists do have some constraints if they want to be accepted by agents and mainstream publishers (80k words is preferable, sometimes you can get them up to 100k). I don’t know much about the western market, but I do know that Louis Lamour (I’m sure that’s not spelled right) novels are shorter than most books. (My grandpa reads them by the box-full!)

            Elizabeth I is the popular monarch; her sister Mary isn’t, because she neither did nothing noteworthy nor has a reputation for anything except burning heretics by the hundreds. Yet, I understand Mary in a way that most might not. I have compassion for her, because of the horrific things she experienced during her father’s lifetime. I’ve always said if I did write books for them, I’d publish them all under The Catholic Queens Trilogy. Heh, that would make me REAL popular in some circles. 😉

  6. Stop making me want to watch it again! The first time was painful enough; I hate watching Christian Bale die. That’s really the only thing I remember about the movie. The horror blotted everything else out. Ah well, I’ve been watching various versions of “Romeo & Juliet” so maybe I should change it up with another story equally tragic. Crying does me good. *sniffle*

    1. If the emotional investment of the film, the eventual pay-off (his death changing Wade), and the incredible character development (no one ends at the same place they began) weren’t there, the ending of this film would have killed it for me. But because it does progress so well through its storyline, I’ve come to really love the ending — not because Evans dies, but because he sacrifices his life for an honorable reason and is avenged by the very man who minutes earlier tried to strangle him.

      I say watch it again — but coming from someone who just watched it twice in 48 hours, I may not be the best person to ask. Or you can wait and watch it with me sometime — we can discuss it all the way through and you may come to like it more. =)

      1. I’ve come a long way with my literary experiences since I first saw this movie. I’m putting it on hold as we speak and will just have to weep my way through the ending. But just because I’m planning to watch it now, doesn’t mean I won’t want to watch it with you in a few months. So long as you don’t mind handing me the tissues.

        1. I’m good at passing tissues. Plus, knowing the ending will help it not be such a shocker for you this time! Sometimes, opinions on movies change. I seem to remember you being very upset at the ending of a certain cheesy ’79 film your first time through. 😉

          1. Yes, this is true. Ahhh, how my heart broke when Van Helsing died. Now I see Oliver as the cheeseking he was! 😉

  7. Oh wow! I was just listening to the soundtrack for this film a few minutes ago (Who Let the Cows Out) , when I decided to check by here—and guess what’s at the top of the page 😛 ?

    That said, I haven’t seen it. But my mom did and loved it, she said she really recommended it. I think now you may have convinced me too 😛

    Hahaha–I love the directors remarks about whether he DESERVED to get another five minutes of the audience’s time! There are some good movies that slowly build, with a lot of atmosphere, but most of the time, especially nowadays, it IS pretentious. It’s just padding or stretching out a thin plot, and trying to pretend to be a “serious” (aka “Oscar fodder” rather than genuine Oscar caliber) film. “Look at me! Look at how many moody shots of long mesquite shadows I have!” (Can you tell I’ve sat through too many bad westerns 😛 ?)

    I love seeing these thoughtful reviews–and I would love to see more about your favorite westerns ❤

    1. … that’s awesome.

      I hope you enjoy it! Everyone seems divided on this film — either you love it, or you hate it. Either you find a lot to think about and ponder, or you’re offended by its implications and cease digging for the message.

      Pretentiousness really bothers me, and it’s an epidemic that not only movies seem to have at the moment, but also books. This director said, “If I expect my audience to sit at rapt attention for two hours, I need to deliver something worthy of their time.” I get that movies need character development… but most of the time, the length is just padding, it’s nothing essential to the plot — so we don’t GET character development, even though the movie is 40 minutes longer than it should be. This is really a problem both with the “brooding Oscar dramas” (Lincoln is good, but it’s also boring — it could be shortened) and the crowd-pleasing blockbusters (I enjoyed the Batman franchise, but all except the first film could have easily been a half hour shorter). Then, there are the movies that take thirty minutes before anything happens. I LIKE a director to think MY TIME is worth something — and not to waste it.

      I will do more thoughtful posts about movies in the future, but there won’t be many westerns — in part because offhand, my other favorite western is Maverick — not because it is deep or sincere or thought-provoking, but because I laugh my butt off every time I watch it. =D

      1. “my other favorite western is Maverick — not because it is deep or sincere or thought-provoking, but because I laugh my butt off every time I watch it.”

        *Chortles merrily*

      2. Oh I know! In fact I saw an article recently that suggested the reason so many children’s/YA books have sold well over the past decade is not because they’re inherently better than “grown-up” novels, but because they lack the pretentiousness associated with many award winning “serious” novels 😛 . Instead, they tended to focus on memorable characters, good pacing, and imaginative ideas–especially in the case of science fiction or fantasy.

        What!? No more westerns? * sniffle * I was counting on you ! 😛 OK, OK, it’s just that, since returning to working on my western novel, I’ve been on the prowl
        for inspiration. The problem (I think there was a discussion of this at your old blog?), is that as good as some classic John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart westerns are, older westerns are marked racism and sexism . Modern westerns have tried to remedy this by throwing in the occasional shoot-em-up heroine, or good guy Indian, but still tend to botch it up.

        That said, I think we’ll continue to see Westerns as a genre, even decades into the future. Because the frontier, with both courage and lawlessness, is something that’s forever seared into the American consciousness.

        Nevertheless, looking forward to seeing anything on your favorite movies, whatever the theme ❤ . While I read your reviews on Charity's Place, whenever you do some for this blog, it just feels extra special! I also love the way you manage to analyze things from a Christian standpoint, in a way that doesn't feel forced.

        1. I completely agree with that — the best YA novels are stripped down, fast-moving plots that really hold your interest. Harry Potter started that way and then… well, they got too long. And now, Rowling is writing “pretentious, boring, serious” novels to try and convince everyone that she’s really a “writer,” and not just a “YA writer.” WHY, JK, WHY??

          You’re writing a western again? That’s wonderful! The world needs well-written, well-plotted westerns. =)

          I think the reason so many modern westerns fail is that they’re too dominated by political correctness. That can KILL a western faster than anything else (which is why I like Maverick — all it does for two hours is mock political correctness, and westerns in general). In my mind, what makes a western truly great is that it’s about male characters. Sure, there may be a bit of romance with a girl on the side, but it’s about good vs. evil and in some cases, like this movie in particular, about bonding between different men on the same “trail.” (I’d include Tombstone as a pretty good western, overall.)

          Thank you for saying that — I appreciate it, particularly as sometimes I think, “I’ve already reviewed this… do I need to say anything more about it?” It makes me happy to think that while I am really just getting my thoughts out there, others enjoy reading them too. =)

        2. Pretentious is a good word for a lot of adult fiction nowadays. I don’t like the convenience of the plot. I’ve been reading a marvelous teen series by Shane Peacock about a boy Sherlock Holmes. It is splendid, some of the best plot development I’ve encountered in a long time. Now, why can’t adult fiction manage to do the same thing?

          Hope you don’t mind my two cents! I’ve been reading your and Charity’s conversation and it just seemed like such fun. 🙂

          1. I could drop a comment in here about lackluster Christian fiction as well — but I won’t. Glad to hear you’ve found a good YA series; it seems like they outnumber good adult fiction sometimes.

            Drop in on any conversation at any time — that’s what this blog is for, to DISCUSS things! =)

          2. Christian fiction, a lot of it, is lackluster, so you’re not claiming anything inaccurate. This happens to be the reason why I am sick to death of Christian fiction and jumped over to trying some teen fiction. Caitlin counted the pages of Amish fiction in our CBD magazine the other day and there were 14 pages. That is insane. If you don’t fit into one of only a very few fandoms, then you’re out of luck, and I HATE that.

            You really should try Shane Peacock’s “Boy Sherlock Holmes” series! It’s surprisingly good. He could have used a few more active verbs, but I was hooked with the 1st case. He’s only 13 at the beginning of the series, still has some emotional quirks, and he has some Jewish heritage, which is one reason for his being ostracized. It’s such a neat concept, and I think the author executed it rather well.

          3. Well, I could get persnickety and say that Amish fiction really isn’t Christian fiction, but I won’t. I read a synopsis of one of them the other day and it was so saccharine sweet! Something about a female lawyer being chased by villains and getting rescued by an Amish man, and then, naturally, falling deeply in love. Doesn’t that just set the heart strings quivering. *eye roll*

          4. That IS one thing that has me puzzled — the Amish religion is really just a works cult, so WHY are Christian publishers printing so much of it? And why won’t they print Catholic fiction, since it’s less of a cult than the Amish is?

          5. I never see Catholicism as a cult, just a little misguided in places. I don’t know that much about the Amish, but I do know that their religion does not line up with Christianity. It’s troubling to find their fiction in Christian bookstores. Why now incorporate Mormon fiction too? Once you open that door, where does it stop?

          6. Har, har . . . this discussion is all too funny!
            My non-religious step-mamma was trying to be nice and find me a good book to read for Christmas – she ended up buying me an Amish romance. (I really appreciated her effort, she was sweet).

            But ugghh, it was PAINFUL and irritating to get through, and then I donated it to the local library. Since when does an Amish young man, “walk downstairs to the kitchen and grab a glass of orange juice out of the refrigerator” and then “proceed to the barn to make a few phone calls.” (And that was just the non-Amish stuff in an Amish book).

            The well-worn Christian romance genre dilemma of “which marriage proposal should I accept” from the three men that love me – makes me want to gag.

          7. As if that is at all realistic! Most women are fortunate to receive one marriage proposal, let alone three.

            That is still very sweet of your step-mamma to try. I fear most non-religious readers assume that all Christian fiction is Amish or historic romance, which as Ruth has pointed out, isn’t true.

            I’m glad we amused you! I’m not sure how the conversation blossomed, but it sure has been fun!

          8. Peretti is really the only Christian author whose books I really like. Other than that, it’s all either prairie fiction or Amish fiction (… wut?) or “clean” romance novels. No, thanks. I’d rather have some angst and drama and humor!

            Holmes… is Jewish? Hmm, not sure what I think about that, but I’ll hold off my opinions until I’ve read one of his books. I liked Holmes in The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie King, and then she married him off to some girl 40 years younger than him, and she started ticking me off.

          9. Christian fiction used to be just prairie fiction and Amish fiction and “clean” romance novels…the market is a lot broader than it was ten years ago. It would have to be because I read quite a bit of CF and most of it doesn’t fall into those categories. 😉

          10. I hate the perception that inspy fiction is so limited…that was one of the main reasons I started blogging seven or eight years ago. 🙂

          11. i see a lot of Christian mysteries, westerns, Amish, romance, and suspense. I’m in charge of the inspirational list at my library, so that’s what usually comes through. A lot of the new authors, at least the ones I’m finding, are all about historic or Amish fiction. What I want to see more of is sci-fi and fantasy. There just aren’t enough to feed the need, or if there are, they’re bogged down with too much romance.

            You’re right in that it’s broader than it was 10 years ago, but I still wish that it were a little bit broader than it is. Maybe this will happen in the next ten years. Not that I’m really rooting for Christian vampire fiction anymore. I read two attempts by Christian authors and they both flopped. So sad!

          12. Have you checked out R.J. Larson, Anne Elisabeth Stengl, Patrick W. Carr, Kathy Tyers, or Karen Hancock? Those are the sci-fi/fantasy inspy authors that immediately come to mind. It’s a hard sell — no matter how much I see on blogs that people want it, it doesn’t always translate to sales. I’m encouraged, though, that Baker Publishing and Waterbrook are keeping the spec fiction flame alive.

          13. I’m thinking that our library goes with what’s “popular” in Christian fiction, and ignores some of the other genres. I know about Kathy Tyers (LOVE her) and have heard about Karen Hancock, but never had a chance to read her work. The others are completely new authors to me. I’ll have to look them up and see if I can talk collections into buying a couple of their books. I love speculative fiction, but not being able to find it easily in the Christian genre, does make me hunt for it elsewhere. I do hope that the Christian publishing companies accept more sci-fi authors. As much as I love Kathy Tyers, her books are being published on a very small scale now. Lord Marcher Press is a marvelous group, but their books aren’t all that widely read through no fault of their own, and that’s such a shame. Who knows, maybe the new generation of Christian readers will turn into Christian writers and add some new names to the sci-fi genre author list.

            Just curious, but do you work in publishing? You’re very knowledgeable, so I’m thinking that you must.

          14. Sigmund Brower has a YA Merlin’s Immortals series with Waterbrook, I think, and there’s a second series starting that I want to check out — Merlin’s Blade by Robert Treskillard. Then there’s Jill Williamson, who started with Marcher Lord Press…I have heard GREAT things about her fantasy, but haven’t read them yet (they are sitting on my Kindle).

          15. If memory serves one of Jill Williamson’s books w/ MLP won a Christy, which I thought was huge for the genre — and coming from an independent press, no less!

            I read Kathy Tyers’ Firebird books when Bethany first published them in the late ’90s…those books rocked my world (and continue to do so)…it seemed that the market was willing to experiment w/ spec fic for a while, and then it kind of dried up…and now I LOVE that there is a bit of a resurgence! 🙂

            I work in Christian retail, actually…and spend a ton of spare time reading publisher catalogs and haunting their websites for new releases and trying to keep up w/ trends. 🙂

          16. Now I really have to look up Jill Williamson! I wonder why I’ve never heard of her. So strange! It must be neat to work in Christian retail. I have a friend who once worked for Family Christian Stores and really enjoyed it. The atmosphere must be totally different than ordinary retail. What a blessing! 🙂

          17. Christian publishers are very cautious about fantasy as a genre — I considered trying to be published in that branch of Christian books and I don’t think they would accept my material, it’s so “out there.” But it is encouraging to see them branching out a bit more.

            What’s so hard about writing a good vampire novel? I could do it in my sleep! =D

          18. You could, yes! But Tracey Bateman adds the vampire as an after-thought, and that other author, even if her plot was interesting, was boring as mud. *bleh*

            But yes, you, if you decided to write vampire fiction, it would be AWESOME vampire fiction. I wish that Lord Marcher Press was a bigger publishing house and could take on more authors than they, currently, can handle. They are such a neat group, but the author should never expect a huge return on their writing. It’s very sad.

            Maybe we’ll be a turning point for Christian fiction by demanding more than the traditional genres. I want my sci-fi and fantasy. It’s as simple as that. You can only read Tolkien so many times.

          19. Is that the book with Johnny Depp’s picture on the cover? I read… two chapters and quit, it was so bad.

            Tackling vampires from a religious perspective would be fascinating to do as a writer. The irony is, most vampire writers already do it and don’t even realize it; as dirty as Anne Rice’s vampire novels are, she searched for God throughout. Still, it would be a challenge for me, because I like so many other people’s vampires even better than my own. Mick St. John has been done — who needs another one?

            That is indeed sad about Lord Marcher Press, but maybe in twenty or thirty years they’ll be enough of a powerhouse to have a mainstream market for their books.

          20. Yep, it is. I don’t even remember the book’s author. I think it was Debbie something. That goes to show what a deep, lasting impression she made.

            Since we’re now, somehow, on the topic of vampires, I watched the neatest Japanese movie last night, written by a Jpop star named Gackt that dealt with vampires. It’s incredible how spiritual truth can be reflected in a vampire movie that has nothing to do with Christianity! But the truth is still there! It was awesome. I did spend about 5 minutes crying, though. Mayhaps I’ll show it to you one day, if you don’t smack me. 😉

          21. There’s a bit of cheese near the beginning to show how CUTE these guys are when they fight, Hyde especially (yum), but it definitely gets serious. Although it is hard to root for someone who’s sort of a criminal. At least Mick was a good guy.

          22. Charity, have you looked into Marcher Lord Press as an option? They can be pretty “out there.” 🙂 And it seems like they have a pretty faithful following. 🙂

          23. He’s only half-Jewish. We know very little about Holmes’ background, so this author decided to take a unique approach to his history. I’m not sure I entirely buy it, but it’s a neat concept. I will say that Holmes, by still being a child, has his emotional ups and downs. He hasn’t quite developed into the Holmes we know and love just yet. But I love this ancient apothecary named Sigerson Bell who takes him under his wing in the 2nd book, teaching him science and martial arts. He’s seriously awesome, and such a goof.

            Peretti has always been, and will always be, brilliant. 🙂

          24. Haha–nay, I don’t mind you chiming in at all. The more the merrier!

            * makes note of Shane Peacock series *

            OK see, that’s what I mean! Why can’t “serious” books and films do the same? I think a lot of people are mistaking the idea of giving a book or film “depth” with simply muddying the waters 😛

            (I actually saw a post that addressed this 😛 )

            I’ve heard from several sources that (most) Christian publishers veer away from anything too “controversial” or tend to prefer something that fits within narrow guidelines. Hence all the “pioneer and amish” fiction. Yes, there’s something to be said for a “fun” read free of unpleasant content, but these books are NOT an honest reflection of the world. In fact, while believers are not required to condone or wallow in a portrayal of sin, to deny the more sordid side of life would be dishonest. And if it goes against truth, couldn’t we even argue it goes against God?

          25. I’ve actually given adult fiction a lot of thought lately — and I think that often those books can be pretentious because the author is trying to impress other authors — not entertain their readers. It’s more about falling into “the circle,” as CS Lewis would call it (the clique) than it is producing a good book. The unfortunate thing is — publishers let them do it. If publishers were as rigid on published authors as they were first time authors, there would be a lot better fiction in the world: shorter, more streamlined, less wasteful of a reader’s time.

            My favorite books aren’t considered Christian fiction, but they do have religious undertones. I think the only modern author who manages that extremely well is Jan Karon — and you won’t find her books in the Christian section, but she does religion better than just about any religious author and she’s not flat-out preachy about it.

            Oh, geez… that post is hilarious because it’s true! Most books do follow a typical formula.

            What I want from a book is a good plot, characters that evolve, and for it to be FUN. But there’s more angst books out there than fun books. I do enjoy angst. Some of my favorite stories are full of angst (see this entire post!), but I have yet to discover a Christian author who tackles the real world with unflinching realism. Is that the fault of the writers — or the publishers? It would be truly interesting to know.

            On a minor note — if Ruth happens to read this response: please don’t be offended by my criticism of religious fiction. I’m hard on every genre equally, in part because as an INTJ, I get bored very easily. =P

          26. Oh gosh, no worries. I didn’t mean to hijack this comment section, but I see so much MORE variety out there I can’t help but mention it. 🙂 The CF “industry” still makes its bread and butter w/ safe, prairie romances…so for those who are not really a fan, it can be frustrating. But…the publishers are very definitely responding to the largest customer base too. So I try to support excellence in inspy fiction and those books that are “outside the box” whenever I can.

            And that is hilarious that Jan Karon is one of your favorite authors…because she puts me to SLEEP. 😉

          27. I’m not a big Jan Karon fan (yes, she can be dull to some of us) — but I think what she does (write for the over 50 age group), she does extremely well; she has fully-realized, multi-dimensional, imperfect but wonderful characters, and she is profound without being preachy. My parents LOVE her books.

          28. Mwahaha, Jan Karon is in my inspirational fiction section at the library and I’m very proud of it. 🙂

          29. Yeah–the writing for the sake of “impressing authors, not readers” had occurred to me. Another peeve (mentioned in the link when it comes to “pre-1950s African-American fiction” etc;), is the habit of writing about something controversial for controversy’s sake. Yeah–there are plenty of painful issues we need to confront, but sensationalism functions more as a smokescreen for the truth than anything else.

            Haha–I know what you mean about being hard on every genre. There are plenty of genres I love, sci-fi and fantasy and historical fiction etc; But each seem plagued by their own set of problems. After our discussion about Westerns yesterday, I spent some time doing research–and it brought back to mind the reasons why Westerns are so often scorned. Most, even Christian fiction alas, fall into the category of either “romance” novels, “prim Eastern woman is forced out West due to circumstances, and becomes smitten upon arrival by a rugged rogue” or the “action” oriented, that focus on revenge, or manhunts.

            There’s also very little about the ORDINARY (normal 😛 ?) people who made up the west. The good, like the young couple who single handedly constructed their cabin and stockade, and the bad, the like the man, who upon realizing that his family’s camp was being attacked by Comanches, grabbed his rifle and fled into the woods, leaving his pregnant wife and two small sons to fend for themselves. ( Another depressing truth–men of the west weren’t always as ‘manly” as we’d like to believe 😛 )

            I do get encouraged though, at the thought of you, and many others I count friends, trying their hand at writing novels, even seriously attempting to break into publishing. We may not all become best selling authoresses 😉 , but it means there are Christians out there, intelligent, thoughtful Christians, trying to hold writers to a higher standard.

            By the way–a while ago you feeling conflicted over self publishing vs mainstream print publishing–any further thoughts on the matter?

          30. Another peeve … is the habit of writing about something controversial for controversy’s sake.

            THIS is how I felt while reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I thought, the entire time, “what pretentious, arrogant, sensationalist CRAP.” It basically threw in every possible thing a teenager can deal with (abuse, alienation, abortion, etc) into one short book, which professed to be “profound” but in reality was anything but profound. The following that book has sickens me, not just because the book is such awful tripe, but because the meaningless nonsense in it is considered some great moral wisdom (“and then, for a moment, we were infinite”). But… that’s another crab-fest for another day. =P

            I think some of the more successful westerns in the 1960’s had to do with something other than romance or misunderstandings — I remember watching one with Jimmy Stewart in it about a gun! I hated it, because it was so pointless in my view, but it was a “good” western throughout — it was all about getting back a Winchester rifle. Your comment about Christian fiction falling into the “prim Eastern woman is forced out west due to circumstances,” made me laugh — that’s essentially the first season of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. Hehehe.

            Well, we may indeed not all be best selling authoresses — but we can try, right? And at the very least, hopefully put some good books out into the world!

            I’m going to try and break into mainstream publishing through a major publisher. I’ve decided self-publishing isn’t for me. =)

          31. Oh man–yeah, I avoided The Perks of Being a Wallflower, but I’ve seen plenty of similar rot. I really don’t get it. While I know some people live lives that are a mess, and probably do endure some of those things–I somehow doubt they have time to drop everything for rambling internal monologues 😛 Or any of the other cliches that abound in books like that. Another issue–I doubt most of the authors have ever lived anything resembling the situations they describe. Some authors don’t even seem to have a solid grasp for what life is like for middle to lower class working Americans.

            Winchester 73 right? We own that movie actually, but it felt a bit slow and awkward, though I usually find Stewart’s cowboy characters pretty likeable.

            Ooooh–I was just about to say that I was too widdle to remember the first season of Dr Quinn–but then I remembered scenes where her “prim Eastern lady” first encounters the townsfolk from one of the later flashback episodes. (I think before their wedding?) That said I enjoyed it, but probably because it eventually moved beyond cliches of “East meets West”, “settlers vs indians” and so on. It covered topics like how hopeless things like blindness or cancer could be due to the medicine of the era. Of how you could go years without seeing relatives, forced to rely on letters or a telegram. Sure it wasn’t perfect, but pretty good considering the last few decades have seen the decline of the TV western.

            You’re very brave to tackle breaking into mainstream publishing. I honestly believe your writing is of professional caliber. Of all the people I count as friends across the internet, (meaning I’ve known them for a while, and feel fondness and respect for them), I think you’re one of the best writers I know. Quite possibly the best, (only one other person is a close tie–but I can’t say who 😛 * zips lips * ). You’re aware of pop culture, and of what makes for a good trend. But you’re also firm willed when it comes to matters of faith. I know it sounds like I’m laying it on thick now but–I really mean it. Whenever I’ve talked with other Christian friends about “breaking into the market”–I’ve often thought of you. Undoubtedly it’ll be tough–but you’ve got a shot.

            Self-publishing, well, I recently downloaded a bunch of free (usually self-published) kindle novels–and some are not too bad–but nothing fantastic either. Worthy efforts, but you can see why the authors went the self-published route. There were even a few by Christian authors, which were….sub-par to say the least. 😛

          32. Perks is one of the worst books I’ve ever read — and it horrifies me that some Christians are defending its messages. (The movie, which I did watch, is somewhat better in a sense that it avoids the 100+ f-words and sexual content, but not by much.) It was just… bad.

            Yup, that’s the one. I only saw it once, and all I remember is… didn’t Stewart’s wife or girlfriend or something get killed at one point?

            I liked Dr. Quinn. It’s only as an adult that I’ve come to realize how purely politically correct the entire series was, right down to its cliches. Have you ever seen Snowy River? It’s an Aussie western series but it’s good … it avoids being too P.C., and it has both likable and memorable characters. I think that’s one place my love of red-headed heroines got started. Hehe.

            Well, thank you. That means a lot to me, because I’m not at all confident in my own writing. Most of the time, the perfectionist in me screams dissatisfaction with any and everything I’ve ever written. But I bit the bullet recently and started sending our queries to literary agencies. I guess the worst that can happen is they’ll say no, but I’ll worry about that once I’ve queried every legitimate agency in the business. =D

            I actually read something recently about how self-publishing is flooding the market. It raised some good points on both sides. The up side is — people can easily publish their books! The bad side of it is, people can easily publish books that would never get past the slush pile. Meaning, now a few truly great novelists can get published — but their work might get lost among the boatload of poor material flooding into the market. I’m torn because on one hand… I know a lot of self-published authors (and as you probably know, I self-published a few books) and I admire their ambition and creativity. But… mainstream publishing is really the only way to make much money at it, or get much of a chance in the “big” market (ie, walking into Barnes & Noble and there’s your book!). Yes, it’s hard… and that’s part of what has kept me from tackling it, because it IS difficult. But the sheer amount of books that are published each year prove that it CAN be done.

            (Then too, I’ve resisted because — I’m an introvert. The idea of doing interviews, and book tours, and book signings, and everything small and big authors alike have to do to help sell their books intimidates me.)

          33. I had Wallflower on my holds list for awhile, and then decided I didn’t want to jam my brain with the junk, so took it off. Maybe I’ll read it someday, maybe not. I can get the same angst from The Outsiders without Ponyboy dealing with EVERY possible issue out there. His issues are pretty straight-forward.

          34. Don’t read it. Just… don’t. It is… to be honest, I read it with my mouth agape, thinking, “Oh, God (not a profanity — a prayer), is this REALLY what our young people are reading right now?” I was … appalled. I really was. If it wasn’t abortion, it was homosexuality; if it wasn’t homosexuality it was rape; if it wasn’t rape, it was referencing molestation. There’s absolutely nothing redeeming about it. I only read it all the way through because it’s short (maybe what, 50k words?) and I wanted to be informed enough to write a movie review — which I never bothered doing.

          35. No one suffers through all of that stuff, certainly not an ordinary teenager. Teens have their own set of problems, but not everything at once. That’s just ridiculous. I like realistic teen fiction, but that’s just it, I like it realistic. If it goes too far to one side, then I worry that teens reading it will suppose that angst is all there is in the life of a teenager, and that’s not so. It’s a lie perpetrated to make them dissatisfied with their lives, and drive a stronger wedge between them and their parents. Such authors should be ashamed of themselves.

          36. Well, how it worked out was:
            – main character figured out he was molested by his “favorite” aunt as a kid; witnessed a rape at a party, but didn’t do anything about it or know what was happening (… which makes everyone wonder, “is this kid autistic?” when they’re reading it, but apparently not?)
            – his sister was abused by her boyfriend (beat up) and got an abortion
            – one of his two best friends was gay, and endured persecution for it (while luring main character into “experimentation”)

            It’s just a pretentious YA novel with nothing good to impart, that’s it.

          37. There is an awesome book that I’m reading for class right now called “Literature Through the Eyes of Faith” by Susan Gallagher. I can’t recommend it enough! A lot of questions that Christians have about literature, but are afraid to ask, are addressed in this book. Yes, we have a Christian bias in how we read, and no, there’s nothing wrong with that bias. Reading with no opinion means reading with a totally empty mind. I had so many eye openers because of this book, it’s amazing.

            I like controversial books, more than the mundane formulaic plots that many Christian writers deliver now. Honestly, I wish I saw more men writing in Christian fiction. I like male authors, but Gilbert Morris can write only so much Christian fiction before he’s come full circle. It’s okay to portray sin in a Christian novel, so long as it has a negative effect (and the author doesn’t go into TOO many details). Don’t make it titillating, make it so the reader understands, okay, this action had some serious consequences. Maybe not immediately, but down the road. No one’s life is perfect, and I wish that more Christian fiction would get away from that false formula. *sighs*

          38. That Gallagher book sounds interesting!

            I haven’t read a Morris novel in YEARS, because, frankly, everything started to sound the same and new authors were making inroads in the market.

            Have you read Michael Phillips? He’s a classic fav of mine.

          39. That sounds like an interesting book! =) I’ll have to see if our library has a copy of it…

            I like books that challenge convention, since that’s what I’ve always written myself. When I was reading Linda Chaiken as a teenager, I was writing about a Revolutionary empath! Where male Christian writers are concerned — authors like Gilbert Morris were always a turn-off for me, because of the violence. I got tired of reading about fists smashing into faces and blood spurting.

          40. I really like male writers a lot, which is probably why I read every book Stephen Bly ever wrote. He had such a sarcastic sense of humor, never failed to make me laugh.

            A lot of the secular books on my shelves are written by men. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sir Walter Scott, Shane Peacock, C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, P. G. Wodehouse, Ray Bradbury, David Pirie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Evelyn Waugh, and the list just goes on. I still have some written by women like Jane Austen and a few of the Brontes, but overall, I just like male authors. Hmm, I wonder why that is.

            Was Gilbert Morris violent? It’s been so long since I read any of his stuff that I’ve forgotten. I do remember that the western he wrote for the House of Winslow with the one-eyed outlaw-turned-hero was pretty cool, but it also had its disturbing elements. That’s the one book of his that I really, truly loved.

          41. There may be more “classic” male authors than female ones. (Lewis, Tolkien, Scott, Wodehouse, Doyle, Waugh, Dickens, Thatchery, Trollope, Fitzgerald, Hardy, Twain vs. Austen, Bronte, Gaskell, Elliot, Montgomery, Alcott?)

            Yeah, Morris tended to be violent in his books — lots of fist fights and sword fights. Mom didn’t like him because “for a Christian author, he certainly talks about shapely women a lot!” I do admit, though, that I LOVED his idea of following one family through every generation (The House of Winslow?). I’d do that too, if I was still writing historical fiction.

          42. i will say that Morris lost his family thread a time or two when referencing past characters. Gilbert Winslow married Humility Cooper, not Charity Cooper. If I knew that, why didn’t he? *laughs*

          43. Sounds like a Christian novel I read that took place on the Titanic, in which a character said something six chapters after his death. (I’ve done that too — Mom usually catches it! Oops!)

          44. *chortles* At least he never had a dead person talking. What novel was this? If it was by Yvonne Lehman, you have my sympathy. She’s written over 40 books and is a terrible (in my opinion) writer. So sad.

          45. I honestly do not remember — it was published back in ’96 when a slew of Titanic-related fiction came out. But I do remember that it was a male author, and involved various murders on board. Then, I didn’t think it was too bad (of course, I picked out all the historical inaccuracies, hehe) but now, I don’t know if I could get through it. =D

    1. Because of what the ending implies… I don’t hate the ending. It’s one of my favorite things about the film. Apparently, the original has a “happy ending,” which the director said is “too fairy-tale for a western.”

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