Characters and More

For the RosesThe other day I was thinking about characters and the power we as authors have in our creation of them. We have goals for our characters and in our execution of those goals we take our readers into a land we created and ask them to join in with us. Some enter and decide to stay with us, while others decide our land is not the place for them. That’s the truth that authors have to embrace: Everybody is not going to like your book. That’s hard to hear, but I deal with it by telling myself that if everybody who reads my books likes them, then I didn’t have very good distribution. You see, I’m good at turning lemons into lemonade. 🙂

I remember the first time I wanted to write to an author. That author was Julie Garwood. Yes, Julie Garwood, the then historical romance author. Okay, the then NYTimes bestselling historical romance author. In the 90’s, she wrote For the Roses. That book had me boo-hooing. Not because I was sad, but because I was touched. You see, For the Roses had a black male character as a member of Rose family, four orphans who banded together because no one wanted them. Three white men, one white woman (a baby when the teen-aged boys formed their family) and Adam.

In For the Roses, Julie Garwood took me into a world I had never entered. In Julie Garwood’s world, Adam’s “brothers” didn’t take rooms in the fancy hotel while Adam stayed in the livery. They didn’t ride in the comfortable passenger cars and leave Adam alone in a cattle car. In Julie Garwood’s world, Adam’s brothers loved him and showed that love by the way they treated him. In her world, Adam was the wise older brother, whose love and care for his family was returned in full measure.

Later, I read somewhere that For the Roses was among Julie Garwood’s worst-selling books. Still, a bestseller, but not as much so as her other titles. I hope that’s not true. I also remember reading one reader characterizing the book as unrealistic. I’m not sure what she meant, but I wonder if what I found touching in For the Roses, other readers found unrealistic. You see, in most books set in that time period, good ole Adam would have been left alone in the livery and the cattle car with a smile and a “take care.” But in Julie’s world, love worked differently.

I think now that I should have written to Julie Garwood and thanked her for writing For the Roses. From her, I learned the power that we as authors have. We choose the reality of our stories. We write fiction; we make up stories. We decide what to show and what to leave to the imagination. We decide what’s important and what’s not important in the worlds we create. And, in doing so, we hope to present the reader the truth that is reality. Now that’s a hard job. Some might even think of it as a calling.

My hat is off and my heart is open to my brother and sister authors who attempt to do this everyday with Christian fiction. We’re not going to please every reader every time, and sometimes we’re not going to please each other, but what we can do is give each other the space to tell the stories that God gives us. What may not work for me, could be life-saving for somebody else. Now that is reality.

Have a great day, everybody.

6 thoughts on “Characters and More

  1. Sorry, I haven’t been blogging as much but I have so much on my heart that I knew once I started commenting, I’d probably never stop–well, not for a while. So I’ll just comment on this for the moment.

    I know that this book got good reviews. I’m not sure if I read this book exactly but I did read the rest of that series and this one, I think, was the first. Yes, it may not have been very realistic for the times but I’m positive that things like this actually happened: a black character who became a brother to white children and vice versa.

    (Oh, yes, in case you didn’t know, they made a TV movie of this book, I think. I know that it wasn’t very true to the book but I can’t remember what they changed about it. I just looked it up on It’s called “Rose Hill” 1997. Hmm, guess who played the girl: Jennifer Garner. Jeffrey D. Sams (and variations) played Adam. Good-looking guy. No date of birth given.)

    For me, it’s a beautiful depiction of Christian love or unconditional love that we should have for all races, all ethnic groups, all people. And especially that Adam should be the eldest and try to instruct his “siblings” in manners, etc. was a great move on Julie’s part. He was the one in this book who’d had some guidance and love from his mother.

    I didn’t look at it as extraordinary at the time because we have a good Ghanaian friend who is like a brother to us. In fact, my sister just told me that she believes that her daughter who was 2 and a half years old when she first met Isaac actually thought of him as her real uncle for a long time. Two of my nephews have Indonesian blood. I’m glad we’re a mix. But I know that a very good black friend of ours told us that there were people in our church who discriminated against her. I know I mentioned that somewhere before. That’s the trouble with blogs: you can’t remember where you said what.

    I could hardly believe her but have seen evidence of it since. Others discriminate against people who don’t come to church dressed to the nines (is that the right expression?!?). I guess we all do have prejudices though we might think that we don’t. It need not be racial nor ethnic or poor vs. rich. But they are there.

    Actually, I might write to Julie. I’m on her newsletter list. She’s been revamping her site for the last, oh about a year or so.

    I also remember reading about white (for lack of a better word; not politically correct, I know but that is constantly in flux) women buying books by African-American authors and saying, “Oh, I’m getting this for a friend of mine,” because they didn’t want to let it be known that they actually read these books. It never mattered to me.

    I truly thank God for the parents and especially maternal grandmother He gave me. Although my grandmother may not ever have seen a black person personally, she taught her children to have love and respect for all people. She died when I was 5 and a half, but my mother carried on her legacy of never looking at the color of a person’s skin; bringing hitch-hikers home because she felt God was leading her to do that; sitting in a railroad compartment with her daughter and grand-daughter because a young black male was sitting in a compartment for 6 all by himself; talking to him; inviting a member of a visiting choir from the Cameroons to board with us. We went to see missionaries on a native reserve and worshipped with them at their Sunday meeting. My parents were good role models of Christ’s respect and love and that is one thing I’m more grateful for than many other things. It’s something nobody can take away from me because it’s in my heart.

    Since I’m still having a lot of problems with my right arm, I’ll quit for today.

    I was out on Tuesday as well and when I needed to find the bus stop to get home from the mall, an employee at Wal-Mart directed me to the complete other end of the mall. When I got there, the bus’s number was not posted anywhere. So I asked where the #14 Highbury bus left from and was told…”Around the corner from Wal-Mart’s.” I was sore and fuming by then. I had until 1400 h to take the bus free and it was 1430 when I finally got to the correct bus stop. I told the driver my tale of woe and he still let me get on without paying. Chasing around that mall for half an hour sure took its toll on my back, hips and legs. I still feel very sore.

    Do you have a holiday tomorrow, Good Friday? We do and I was just reminded that it was Easter this weekend. I hope you have a blessed one with fairly good weather. Ours is finally getting quite nice. The sun has been out a lot though it’s a little cloudy right now.

    BTW, do you have a new novel in the works?

    I wish you and any family and friends a blessed Easter.

    Hugs and blessings.

  2. Thank you soooo much. I was just speaking with a friend of mine and we were discussing books by black authors verses books by white authors. My friend’s argument centered around how many books by black authors are lacking in so many different areas. She compared this to how some black film makers seem to make films/movies of poor quality, poor/no plot, poor acting, and low in budget.

    I must say I was very disappointed in her response, but nevertheless, we are all intitled to our opinions. But as my pastor states, “If we had to pay each time we gave our opinion, we would be more careful as to what we’d say.”

    I just want to thank you because I am aware everyone will not like the books I will write. I am thankful for being an individual and being able to tell a story the way I see it.

    May God continue to bless all he has your hands to do.


  3. Actually in a way I was glad when they first made a point of singling out African-American writers because I definitely wanted to support you as I do Canadian writers. Angela, I realized when I learned about your book on writing for the African-American writer that there are a certain number of things that must be peculiar to your writing. (Peculiar in the sense of being different; I can think of the German word but am not sure “peculiar” is quite correct.) You just have a different voice, as you do in reality, too. I find the differences tantalizing.

    My mind is not working well. I’m tired when I shouldn’t really be. I slept for quite a while after I got home from a doctor’s visit. I just seem so tired all the time and sometimes my mind just doesn’t want to function. It kind of scares me but I know it’s all in God’s hands: I am in God’s hands. What a beautiful thought.

    Oops, just realized I have an appointment tomorrow. Almost forgot. I hope I’m a little more awake and articulate than I am now. We’ll be discussing ways that I can get my own little business going. Not that I feel up to it these days. Please pray for me if you read this. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee.”

  4. Vyta, I’ve many of the “black” authors every bit as good and some a lot better than the “white” authors. Certainly, some things are different but that doesn’t mean worse or less worthy. I guess your friend just hasn’t read the right books.

  5. Just don’t either of you forget that we can’t be all things to all people. There will always be nay-sayers but likely more yea-sayers. Nobody, but nobody is appreciated the same way by everybody–not even God and Christ. Why would or should we be different–and I’m speaking just as a person regardless of color. I know you have a heavier burden to bear. For a while, as a German just after WW II, we didn’t have an easy time of it either. I can remember several times when I’d run home because of the names children had called me. Of course, in general I don’t stand out because my skin color is white. It is certainly more difficult if you have, say Oriental features or dark skin or if you’re an albino. People will always single you out from the majority in whatever country you are. I’d stand out like a sore thumb in most of Africa, Asia and a lot of South America. It’s just the nature of things. Older people stand out in a crowd of teenagers and vice versa. Visible minorities will always be like that. God made us different but He gave each of us a soul that yearns for Him if we let the Holy Spirit talk to us.

    That’s why it was such a great idea that you had, Angela, to ask us to pray for the readers of “The Amen Sisters”. The Holy Spirit has to prepare the ground for the seed. Just as we need to pray for missionaries, we need to pray for those whom they will serve that the Holy Spirit will make their hearts ready for God’s message.

    Forgive me if I’m spouting nonsense. I guess I really should get to bed.

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