In the last few months I’ve been thinking about what a privilege it is to have folks read my books. All writing is personal to some degree, but novels are different. They only start with the writer. They’re really finished, so to speak, by the reader. As an author I tell a story with an audience in mind, but the reader brings their whole lived experience with them when they read and that has a special way of subtly shaping the book to them personally. It’s amazing what a reader will get out of a story that I didn’t know was in there. To me, that shows God’s hand in the writing process and there is nothing I want more than to be His instrument.
Writing in times of political or cultural turmoil, like we’re in now, can be hard. Strife tends to drain the creative well. I’ve been filling mine by reading as much as I can and trying not to jump into every debate I see on social media. God has been gently redirecting me to find common ground with the folks I disagree with and trying to encourage anyone I interact with to reach for what unites us rather than divides us. It’s been rough. A lot of folks are angry, scared, and worried. We’re snapping at each other out of our uncertainty and pain.
When I feel powerless to change how people think or feel, I remember that’s not my job. My job as a Christian is to spread the Gospel, to reach out to those lost and wandering in our modern wilderness with the Good News. My job as an author is to put the stories I am given into words that will reach readers. It’s always been my goal to have a reader finish my book feeling better than when they started it; it’s that feeling you get when you walk out of a really good movie. In today’s world, I also want to share the big truths, to talk about common experiences, to find a way to unite us together in a good story.
My dad is a story teller. Over family dinners or at vacation get-togethers it doesn’t take much to prompt him to talk about his time in the service, what it was like growing up in the rural south, or his experiences working in the airline industry. Each time I want to take out my phone and record him, not because the stories are entertaining, although they are, but because it’s like he’s sharing a piece of his life with us and I want to remember it.
I think we’d all be better off if we could sit down to dinner once a week with ten people we don’t know and swap stories. Since that would take some logistics that are probably impossible, writing and reading is the next best thing. Reading books by authors of a different ethnicity or background is a great way to understand someone you might not meet in real life. When I write, I keep that in mind. I want my characters to feel like real people, with real struggles. I want to help us understand each other. When we listen to each other’s stories, we build a bond, we stop seeing that person as a stranger. They become a friend.
When someone reads one of my books and reaches out to me to say how it touched them, or what they found it in, it’s a thrill like no other. It’s getting to swap stories with a new friend; it’s one of writing’s greatest rewards. If you’re a reader of mine, I hope you’ve found something in my books that echoed with you. If you’d like to reach out to tell me about it, please do! You can find me on Facebook or at my website christamacdonald.com. I’d love to swap stories with you!
Book 2 in Christa MacDonald’s SWEET RIVER REDEMPTION series,
At the Crossroad,
releases October 1, 2017.
Congratulations on her finaling in the 2017 ACFW Carol Awards with book 1 in SWEET RIVER REDEMPTION, The Broken Trail!
Christa MacDonald began her writing career at the age of eleven, filling a sketchbook with poems and short stories. While at Gordon College she traded the sketchbooks for floppy discs, publishing short personal narratives in the literary journal The Idiom. After graduation and traveling cross-country she settled down to focus first on her career in operations management and then her growing family. When her children reached grade school Christa returned to her love of writing, finding the time between conference calls, dance lessons, and baseball games. This November Mountain Brook Ink will be publishing her first novel, The Broken Trail.
When not at her desk working or writing, Christa can be found curled up in her favorite chair reading, out and about with her husband and kids, or in the garden. She lives with her family along the coast of Massachusetts in the converted barn they share with a dog and two formerly-feral cats.
You can find Christa at: christamacdonald.com