Sunday, August 16, 2009

100 Cupboards and The Role of a "Christian Writer"

A couple of weeks ago I picked up a book I had never heard of before called "100 Cupboards." I'm not quite sure why I bought it. I had never heard of it before. No one had given my a recommendation to pick it up, but I did nonetheless. Mostly I think because I had a nagging desire that I had to read it. I get that way sometimes. Most of you probably have the same experience. You go to a store, or you're driving and for some reason you know you should go somewhere, read something, meet someone... Some would call this coincidence or generalize this and call it fate. Being a Christian, I call it God leading me. When I feel that urge, barring no direct understanding of why something could be evil (discernment would be the word) I will without much hesitation, go and do that thing. Usually to much good in my life. I can give numerous examples. Well, not to digress too far, but I say all of that because I was wondering why was I so drawn to this book! The answer was encouraging.

First off let me say a word about the actual content of the book. It was awesome! If you haven't read it, please do. I think you will find a modern children's classic in it and its sequel "Dandelion Fire" has been awesome so far. It gives off so much of the vibe I have been longing for recently with the void I have been feeling every time I crack open a new book from my bookshelf. It's creepy, funny, inspiring and smart stuff in this series that feels like a cross between "Chronicles of Narnia" and "A Wrinkle In Time." My wife hasn't picked up a book in years for pleasure reading and she read it after me, finishing it in two days.

But what really encouraged me about this book was the author of the series. N D Wilson has all of the markings of one of the more imaginative and bold writers in the current children's book industry. Especially in "Dandelion Fire" Wilson shows a bravado not many would attempt to take. Beyond his talents as a writer, it's who he is as a writer that has been encouraging. N D Wilson is a no bones about it Christian. Why this is so encouraging to me is because I find it completely disheartening at the lack of Christians, or at least those who show no shame in the fact of what they believe in as if it's a crime (present company sometimes included), that are writing books for all audiences and not tailored for a Christian only audience. I used to work in a Christian book store years back and it would make my stomach turn everytime I would walk through the fiction section there. It all just felt forced, devoid of genuine heart and, honestly, any real substance we could all chew on... Christian or not.

As a Christian, my world-view dominates the writings I do. I don't try to force an issue on people though, nor do I spend time skirting it I hope. I believe what I believe, and that will inform me and the directions I will take with my stories. The danger so many of us (Christian authors I mean here) is that we feel we must force God into a story, instead of understanding that he already is there, regardless of what your characters believe in, or the subject matter. It's a given. your job is to tell a good story. Period. And along the way it would be appropriate to not debase yourself to writing garbage. Hopefully you know what I mean by that. If not, think on it.

Some of the most beloved books in our history were written by Christians, but the content of the story can seem devoid of any real biblical overtones. When Tolkien was asked about the Christian content of his writings, whether it was deliberate, he said no, but that he couldn't help what he believed in coming through. The stuff that matters, the ones that find a place with people, are the books that are genuine in telling a good clean story. I believe no matter what, we are to be good storytellers and that all people should be able to enjoy whatever it is we're writing. If in the end it sparks discussion amongst its readers, then great! What I found in N D Wilson (so far) is someone who exemplifies an attitude and approach to being both a writer and a Christian that I think is right. He writes good stories first and foremost. Anything else you either glean from it through personal introspection, or find by examining his life. And for this reason I think this book will have a long impact on people, myself included.


  1. Hey dude, this is Gunwhale from the Flight boards, who does the Guten Tag strips.

    Honestly, I suspected for a while now you may be a Christian, and it's encouraging to me to read this post from you. I'm also a believer, and I've often felt the same way about how to "include" God in my work, whether it be art or music, since I've been writing music for a few years now. I tend to agree with you. I should take my personal relationship with Christ serious, and want to share that with others, so it's naturally going to come out in the work I do, but I don't want it to come off as trite or didactic. And like you said, I've also felt the need to be creative and not just offer up a Christian version of something. I haven't done much of it in Guten Tag, since the format kind of lends itself to something goofy and trivial, but I've got a few projects I'm thinking of that I want to write Christian characters and worldviews into. In fact, my oldest brother and I have an idea for a graphic novel that's in the vein of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, except it would center on a Christian who travels through China in the early 1900s and his experience.

    But yeah, good post man. I'll definitely look for this book. I know Lewis and Tolkien are cited over and over as great Christian authors, but for the longest time I've wanted to see a graphic novel or movie done of Lewis's Silent Planet Trilogy. Loved those books.

    Hey man, I enjoy your stuff. How's everything going with the Unknowns? I'm working on a comic right now with my friend called MegaWest. It's almost steampunk, but moreso an alternate modern 'old-west' with stripped down technology. I'm almost halfway through penciling the pages, but here's my production blog if you want to check it out:

    I'm probably going to wait to post anything on Flight forum until I start inking.

    Alright dude, take care man. Hit me up on Flight forum whenever dude.

    -ryan hoffman

  2. Thanks for the encouraging words Ryan!


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