Amazing huh? Actually, I’ve been thinking about my writing in relation to the niche or genre in which I’d like to eventually market it. I pretty much think I write for a women’s oriented audience, it may be chick lit but I think it’s more like contemporary lit. I’m not sure I’m bold enough to call it literary fiction, for me that genre seems a whole lot more pretentious than I write, but reading the NANO lit-fic forums, I feel like my stories fit into that genre. I am not writing romance, though I include that in my stories. It’s part of life, right? My fiction always contains elements of angst, tension, and struggle. There is always something big that happens. It’s drama and my characters must work their way through it all. The drama/struggle/challenge, not sure what to call it, is immediate from the moment Lena’s story begins. In Isabel’s story, it takes awhile to appear, but there is quite a bit to shake up her life, even with her ambivalence about her brother’s ordination to the priesthood, it’s there.
Now… I’ve mused about if I’m writing Catholic Fiction or if I’m just a Catholic Writer writing about Catholic characters. I certainly don’t think any of my stories would fit in the Catholic/Christian fiction genre. Actually, I know they wouldn’t. The nature of my stories don’t fit into that niche at all. Quite honestly, it’s not a genre of fiction that I have any interest in reading anyway. I have a not so objective opinion about how I feel about that genre. I have a stereotype in my head about the genre. I suspect the plots are solidly written, religious in nature, but don’t have much by way of tension or drama. I’ve been told publishers don’t like to see any cursing, swearing or sex of any kind in the stories. Surely, it would just be wrong for the characters to have pre-martial sex– maybe they kiss sweetly, but not deeply, passionately on the mouth. It’s electrifying just to hold hands. They can’t go further than that. They always go to Church on Sundays, perhaps there is a preachy message about salvation and redemption. Perhaps in some ways, these books serve to evangelize the unsaved, maybe they serve to entertain the already believing flock or perhaps they exist to counter balance all the other work that is out there, that doesn’t necessarily fit this mold. The stories that are daring, that don’t mince words, that may be dark yet still teach the same lessons in redemption and salvation, but aren’t white washed.
Honestly, I’m not trying to be snarky but I do worry that my fiction might be way too Catholic. That I might be preaching the faith too much in my work and am by some unintended way, making my fiction inaccessible to a mainstream audience.
I believe that my stories have lessons in salvation and redemption as well. It may not necessarily be in a religious sense, but in a personal sense anyway.
However, discussions I’ve witnessed on forums and communities have also led me to the notion that my work would not fit in either. I’m not writing to shock or create scandal. My characters are just who they are, some created from facets of my own personality, some are people I’d never want to be and others are idealized versions of who I might like to be. We, writers, all do that. In original fic, the dreaded Mary Sue, isn’t as dreadful or the kiss of death as it is in fandom writing. I willingly admit that my characters are part of me and come from my own experiences. I cannot say that I am writing wish-fulfillment stories through my main characters. Quite frankly, I don’t think I’d really want to have their lives entirely.
My characters, I hope are fallible and human. They don’t strive to be perfect, in fact, their flaws make them human. I try to capture a moment as I see it happen in their lives.
So while I worry about the Catholicism creeping in and turning off main stream readers, I wonder what Catholic readers would think?
Oddly enough, I suspect that my characters would be judged harshly in the Internet Catholic Realm. I still find my mouth agape when I read stuff posted by other Catholics on the Internet regarding real people, so as my characters reflect reality, I suspect that the term “Cafeteria Catholic,” or the accusation of being “not a real and true Catholic” would be tossed at out many of them. My characters are sinners, just like everyone. And they seem to catch flack in my fictional universe. There’s Lena’s brother who abandons the church to go to a gay friendly Episcopal church in DC. The aunt who apostates, the priest who truly believes in his vocation, is strong in his faith and wishes his twin sister understood him. The younger brother who is lost, the cousin who had an abortion, the grandmother who lost her faith completely, the seeking boyfriend who finds his faith.
It seems like in my universe my characters are either looking for faith or something, or are abandoning it one way or another. I hadn’t thought much of faith in my fiction until one day I sat down and reread and revised some of Lena’s story. When I started writing it, I was lapsed from mine, but elements of Catholicism crept into the story through Lena’s culture and upbringing. It amazed me just how much it all influenced her and though she doesn’t want to believe (I don’t think she disbelieves, but she doesn’t need or want God in her life) she can’t deny how it has shaped her life. We Catholics joke about Catholic guilt all the time, but it’s very real. We just all deal with it differently. Some obsess, some blow it of and some confess it all the time to a priest. I’m sure there are other ways too.
Anyway, I’m starting to ramble and am not sure if any of this makes any sense. I’ll come back later and see.