Friday, October 5, 2012

Spiritual WarFare in Fiction. Oh my!

This month, I'm finishing up Elusive Hope, book 2 in my Escape to Paradise series.  I pitched this series as "LOST" vs "GONE WITH THE WIND". Apparently that raised a few brows and also got me a contract!  Which is a great thing!  But for those of you who are LOST fans, you may recall that the show had a very supernatural element to it. There was the black smoke monster (who actually used to be a man but had a curse put on him), underground bunkers built to withstand some cosmic blast that could destroy the world, a lighthouse of mirrors that could look into people's lives across the globe, time travel, a pool that led to an underground cave that seemed to be the gate to hell...etc. Cool Stuff! 

Fine for some crazy TV show, but what about Fiction?  My new series, Escape to Paradise, will be one of my most adventurous supernatural series. Without giving away too much, the characters will be haunted by  intense, disturbing visions from the past, there's an ancient cannibalistic temple, an old manuscript in Hebrew, and evil angels chained beneath the earth. Sounds great for Frank Peretti or Ted Dekker or even Stephen King, but what about for an historical romance? Yes Romance!  How can you have people falling in love in the midst of such mayhem!! 

I'm astounded by the influx of the supernatural in today's society.  From books about vampires, werewolves, wizards, and zombies to movies about hauntings and demon possession, it's incredible!   The only problem is, most of them only address the dark side of the spirit realm. Whenever any writer or director tries to create something about the light side (God's side), we get made fun of.  Gee. I wonder why? I wonder who is at work behind all this glorification of darkness?  But I digress.   I cannot tell you how many reviews I've received on my books that have said my spiritual scenes are cheesy and that my "obligatory" salvation scenes bored them to death. Really? So you'd rather read about a vampire granting eternal life to his victim by sucking out all her blood? That's not cheesy to you!?

Anyway, I'm wondering about your thoughts on the supernatural in books. How often do you come across it in a Christian book that isn't specifically labeled speculative like Dekker and Peretti?  In other words, how often do you come across supernatural elements in a book where you didn't expect to find them? Say, in an historical romance??  And when and if you do, do you find them distracting, interesting, silly? Or do they add to the excitement of the story?  No answer is right or wrong.. I'm seriously interested in hearing your opinions!

My experience with the spirit realm has always been a big part of my Christian walk, so reading (and writing) about it comes natural to me. But I tend to forget others' experiences (and perhaps even beliefs) can be different from mine. I guess my fear is people will pick up this series, expecting an historical romance (which it is!)  but will get frustrated with the supernatural woven into the story.

What do you think?


  1. I enjoy stories that bring up the supernatural! I'm a firm believer that God is still able to do amazing things. He's no less real than satan and much, much more powerful!

  2. Thought I'd leave my opinion for what it's worth! This new series of yours seems to be a little more on the speculative/fantasy/sci-fi edge than anything else you've done before, am I right? I mean, yes, I do remember a few supernatural things in some of the other books, like God protecting Charlisse from the rats, for example...or the thunderstorm in Washington D.C. that halted the British, which was really more of a natural catastrophe that God used. It sounds like you're taking things up a level. I'm not saying that's bad, or even that I would dislike it, just that it's a different approach. Have you ever read Madeleine L'Engle's YA series about the Austin family? My daughters and I love how she writes in general; however, one of the girls specifically mentioned to me how distracting it was to her to read some books in which the characters and situation seemed perfectly ordinary and in other books about the same people there were so many fantastical elements. She didn't like it, but maybe that had to do with getting out of character or changing the reality partway through the tale. I think if this is a totally different series from your other books, no one should mind so much.

    I want to mention that I don't think your salvation scenes are cheesy. What is Christian fiction all about anyway? If the characters just go on their same old way, where is the story? I do think that most of the time God works in us by speaking to our minds and hearts in His own way, that is His usual mode of supernatural change and "spiritual warfare" and that works, PTL! Sometimes of course He uses the intervention, life, or words of another person in a big way, or some natural or even supernatural event too. It's always a miracle no matter what. Could people who want more low-key or "cooler" (or something!) in those scenes not be facing some spiritual issues in their own lives? Or are we talking here about editors whose purchasing public is half secular and can't be offended? I know the writing rules about not preaching, but if your work is a ministry then I think you have to weave serious spiritual truths into the story. Which yes, you do! Thank you.

    I am so grateful that there are some writers like yourself out there who will challenge the deluge of "romance" that glorifies evil. Young women especially are dying for real love, and somebody needs to show them that the good side IS NOT boring and that relationships don't have to be terrifying, risky, secretive or otherwise dark to be exciting! If God is leading you in this direction right now, God bless. I'll be praying He'll use it in a great way.

  3. I think you're new series sounds intriguing! A cross between "Lost" and "Gone With the Wind"? Yes, please. :-D I myself am editing an MS that falls under the speculative category because of time travel, but is more Historical Romance than anything. So I know what you're talking about.

    I know you're led by God in the projects you take on, and I think this one is no different. I have full confidence that your series will be captivating, entertaining and life-impacting. :-)

  4. Fri Oct 5gh,
    "Morning, MaryLu."
    I totally know that the supernatural exists ... satan, his demons and demonic forces. God's Word tells us that -- "we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against darkness and principalities of the air" etc ....
    It is very real.
    Guess my answer would have to be: yes, it is interesting, scary/sobering, and definitely NOT silly.
    And on the other end of it ... as long as it (the evil/demonic side of it) did not take up the "entirety" of the story/novel, I would be totally fine with it.
    Then, there is the supernatural of God (goodness and light) ... "worshipping Him in Spirit and in truth". And Holy Spirit ... we cannot see Him either.
    And in all of your previous books, there have been things shared in the supernatural realm ... like -- storms being calmed, or, storms worsening, or clouds/dark skies appearing so that a ship might escape past the enemy ships without being noticed.
    I know a saying that's been around for years, MaryLu: "you can please some of the people some of the time ... but you can't please all of the people all of the time". No matter what you decide, no matter how you choose to write about it ... someone's nose will be "out of joint" over it !
    I say -- write about what your heart/spirit tells you to write.
    And furthermore ... what "if" you give it a shot, weaving more of the supernatural into the story ... and see how it goes ? "If" it proves successful, great. And, even if it does not prove to be successful, great. At least you would have tried something new, to know what works, and what doesn't.
    There now, aren't you sorry you asked for my opinion ??? !!! Trying something new/different can be a challenge and unsettling, because we fear how it is going to be received. But to me, not trying something new is, yes - safe, but where's the excitment in that !!! I'm quite sure, with prayer and guidance, (not fear), you will make the right decision.
    Thanks so much for sharing this with us MaryLu ... your ideas/concerns/thoughts. It makes us feel 'a part' of the process.
    Have a great weekend, everyone.
    Take care, and, God Bless,
    In Him, Brenda Hurley

  5. I have never read any of the books by the authors that you have listed, and I never seen the show Lost. However, I do not read Historical Romance just for the romance part. I think departing from the norm, can make for a really interesting book! But then again, you could write a dinner menu, and I would probably buy it and read it, so I don’t know how much help my comment really is!

  6. A book that I read, not expecting supernatural people in it as a Christian read; Tracey Batem "Thirsty". I did enjoy the story, but honestly I don't like Christian books with Vampire's, Werewolf's, or Witches. I don't mind Angel's and Demon's because that is truth strait out of the Bible. I guess it depends on where you are coming from. I enjoyed your post and thoughts.

  7. I, personally, only enjoy Spiritual WarFare novels that include a strong Good side (God side) and Good has to win in the end; no 'but, what if?' endings. Now, I know that this is a trilogy, MaryLu, so the endings in Books One and Two will more than likely leave us hanging a bit, but I am sure Good will win at the end of Book Three....that's just the way you roll. The more you talk about this trilogy, the more I want to read it!!!! I wish I was your editor, she gets to read it before anyone else...lucky Traci ! As far as Ted Dekker is concerned, his novels seem to be getting darker and Frank Peretti seems to have lost his touch in his latest novel. So, your new series sounds perfect!!!

  8. Great comments, Ladies!! Thank you! I love hearing all your insights!! Sounds like most of you wouldn't mind a romance with a bit more of the supernatural in it as long as it was Biblical and ended up with God winning! And was part of the overall theme and story and not thrown in as a surprise. Well, that is precisely what I'm hoping to accomplish (With God's help, of course)

    Thank you for saying my salvation scenes aren't cheesy.... and I agree about Christian Fiction being about the spiritual message more than anything, but believe me there are Christians out there who have told me my books are too spiritual. Go figure.

    Thanks for your faith in me, everyone! I need your prayers. I've never done something like this and want to make sure I'm on the right track and God is glorified. Sorry to hear Dekker has gotten darker.. and what's up with Peretti? Seems like we may need a new speculative fiction author to take their places. Hmmm

    And Emma.. you cracked me up with the dinner menu. I don't think my menu would be that interesting! LOL

  9. I love your books and own all of them. When I first found out about your new series I was very excited because of the supernatural aspect you had said was in it. I'm glad your taking a different direction with these books. There is a supernatural realm out there and so many are being decieved about it. So glad you will be giving the truth. Looking forward to reading them. I

  10. I love it, MaryLu! I had tingles when I read some of the supernatural parts in your other books - good tingles; VICTORY TINGLES! I love how you've incorporated it into the storylines.
    How great it is to read of the goodness of God and His supreme power when we feel powerless. "He that is in us is greater than he that is in the world." (1 John 4:4) I love that verse!
    The supernatural exists - the Bible is full of it - and we can't ignore it - as long as we don't glorify the evil supernatural, but instead, lift high the supernatural, mind-blowing characteristics of God.

  11. MaryLu, I just want to say that I appreciate how you've already tackled this issue in your previous books. I don't think that you've overdone it, nor have the salvation scenes been cheesy. As for being "too spiritual", that's almost like saying the Bible is too spiritual. What are these people thinking when they read the Word of God? And Who do they think gives you your ideas in the first place? When you follow God's leading, He will bless the effort. You're doing a great job, MaryLu. Good topic today. :)

  12. Thanks Amy, Caroline, and Angi! It's good to know there are women out there who feel like you do. I just want to reach as many people as I can and don't want some to be put off by the supernatural stuff. But I suppose that's in God's hands, right? This is such a hard business...trying to balance writing what's "popular" to keep my reader base and writing what I believe God tells me to write. Sigh.

  13. I think adding a supernatural element to a historical romance can be very powerful. I loved Tracy Higley's books 'Pompeii' and 'Petra' which had romance and a supernatural struggle between characters. Also I think of Francine Rivers 'Mark of the Lion' series which had spiritual warfare intertwined throughout the story. The truth is there is a supernatural world. And like Brenda quoted, "we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against darkness and principalities of the air" so why not write about it? It could change someone's life.

  14. Frank Peretti's spiritual warfare novels are what got me into reading Christian novels. He never disappointed me, until he wrote his last novel 'Illusion'. It wasn't his usual 'at the seat of your pants' writing. It was actually a bit boring in parts. I gave him a good review, however, because the book was good, just not 'wow' good. I think he was away from writing too long. I still enjoy reading both authors, I just don't get anxious waiting to read them anymore. You, on the other hand, keep me waiting very anxiously. :)