One of the beauties of self-publishing is that the gatekeeper has been fired. In this new world of books made possible by the Internet, no one is left to guard the door. To tell the reader what is what. This state of affairs may introduce an element of confusion for dogmatic readers, but the good news is, new breeds of literature are being created.
Self-publishing allows literature to cross over in new ways. Traditional Christian fiction publishers, for instance, disallow most references to sex, and even the most juvenile profanity. Self-publishing changes this. Not to suggest a writer should ever debase a genre—as writers we are obliged to choose our words carefully. But the old Christian books kept many readers away. “I’m not going to read that. That’s Christian. It’s boring.” Still, nearly every Christian I know periodically swears, fights, and even becomes amorous from time to time. Christians like good stories too, with depth of character, excitement, whimsy, action. The success of a book like The Shack shows the need for stories of real people dealing with real problems, in a faith-based context. It doesn’t even have to be good literature.
As humans, we all look for answers. Stories are stories. Conflict builds to crisis, which leads to a form of resolution. Sure, some people never doubt their faiths, even in the face of horrible tragedy. Others do. Some never ascribed to a faith in the first place, and instead spend their days casting about for a context to this condition we call humanness. The problem with much traditional Christian literature is this; when a character is pushed to a crisis, and the only change we read is “he fell on his knees, then and there, and accepted Jesus into his heart,” that incident may describe a beautiful sentiment, and may have value to a real person in real life, but as a reader, it doesn’t tell me anything. A reader wants details. He wants to see the sweat break out. She wants to hear the thoughts and words that accompany the character’s condition. Literature is literature. We want to see development. We want to get inside the characters. We want to get to know them. That’s why we care. Regardless of the genre label put on the book.
Doxology is a story in between. The book has a religious message; given its primary setting in rural north Louisiana, that message is Christian. But the characters are just people. They experience the same emotions all people do—love, joy, loss. Their conflicts grow and grow until they must be resolved. Like real people, they go astray, take paths of separation from God, or just from what is good for them. They experience desires that can never be fulfilled, want things that can never be had or even understood. They discover the traits in their lives that aren’t working, and set out to find new habits that will work. Many Christian values are universal—a belief, despite evidence to the contrary, that our lives are worthwhile. An understanding that letting go, and learning how little we are in charge, makes life more manageable. A certainty that the kindness and compassion we offer to others is returned to us a hundredfold.
Some say God. Some say the universe. But we all–when we’re honest, and when we pay attention, have a sense of something looking out for us, giving us what we need. Putting people we need into our lives. We give credit for these gifts as we see fit. Good literature promotes a point of view by showing the reader how a character’s modes of operation and beliefs work for her (or don’t). Good literature, whatever its genre, lets the reader inside. Lets the reader do part of the work. Doxology, in this vein, is a story at the crossroad of God and man. It presents God as the characters experience God, and as real people experience God, looking out for them, giving them what they need. Coming to understand how God has been there all along.
Doxology is a love story. Faith plays a role, as it helps the characters find answers and resolution, improves their lives. Like Jody and Vernon and the others, we all look for redemption from brokenness of the past. They and we find it, as people both real and imaginary alike do, in family, friends, productive work, a sense of place, a faith in something greater. Doxology is a story, first and foremost. Its characters face problems. Their conflicts grow. They look for resolutions and ultimately find them, imperfect as they are. We the readers get to know them, and we care. We sympathize. They matter.