(Guest post by Glynn Young) I’m learning what fiction can do for people, and I’m learning it from people who read fiction.
I was on an airplane in 2002, flying to San Francisco for a conference. The in-flight movies weren’t terribly appealing, and so I was flipping through the music channels. One program stopped my channel surfing – an hour-long interview and music show featuring a singer from Greece I’d never head of – Mario Frangoulis.
He had (and still has) a beautiful tenor voice; I sat mesmerized by the songs and the interview. When he sang the song “Luna Rossa” in Italian, the only thing I understood was that it was about a red moon. But it evoked an image in my mind – a priest dancing on a beach. And not a Catholic priest, but an Episcopal priest. I don’t know why, but it did.
The image percolated, literally for years. I began imagining a story in my head – and it grew in my head for three years. In late 2005, I began to pour the story on to the computer screen, and I poured some 300,000 words (a typical novel has between 70,000 and 100,000 words). And then I cut and slashed and burned. I rewrote. I divided and divided again.
The result was a 93,000-word manuscript, which was spurned by every agent and publisher I contacted. As one agent told me at a writer’s conference, “If it ain’t got vampires, it ain’t gonna sell.” And it didn’t have 50 shades of gray, either.
The manuscript eventually found a publishing home, with a small publisher in the Midwest. It became Dancing Priest, and made its appearance in late 2011. I won’t be able to retire on the royalties, but it did OK for a first novel by an unknown writer published by a small firm. It’s a love story – a young Anglican priest falls in love with a young American woman who doesn’t share his faith in God.
It’s not what’s strictly known today as “Christian fiction.” It’s also not what’s considered “general fiction.” It’s a hybrid, a kind of crossover book.
I’d written a story that had been in my head and eventually my heart for years. I was taken aback by what readers said.
“It demonstrates that noble behavior is still a good and possible thing for young men today.”
“I’d heard people talk about faith for years, but I finally understood what they meant. This made sense to me.”
“I can’t believe people still write big, inspiring stories.”
That’s one thing I learned: people are hungry for big stories that inspire and celebrate inspirational behavior.
Dancing Priest now has a sequel, A Light Shining, published in late November. It’s still about the young priest and the young woman he’s in love with, but the story takes a turn into suspense. What had been for them an ordinary existence becomes the center of world events – and a target.
One reader said this: “I think you’ve done a marvelous job with developing Mike and Sarah’s relationship and (especially) their faith in God’s plan. Since reading Dancing Priest and now A Light Shining, I find myself pondering my own prayer life and day-to-day relationship with God in a new light.”
My novel did that?
And this from a colleague at work, who sat himself in my office and said: “I stayed up until 4 a.m. reading your book, and I was blubbering. Everyone else was asleep – I had no one to talk to about it.”
We need stories in our lives, and we need to read stories that help us make sense of things.
But the lessons can be humbling.
Glynn is giving away a print copy (or Kindle version if you prefer) of either Dancing Priest or A Light Shining. Just a leave a comment and a name will be selected at random.