Echoing God's big story
Author Chick Yuill explains why he started writing novels that could be read by people of all faiths and of none - and introduces his latest work
Writing has been part of my ministry for more than 40 years. In that time, I've written eight books on subjects such as discipleship, spiritual warfare, holiness, and sexuality. And I’ve published with IVP, Authentic, and Monarch.
But just over a decade ago, I began to feel unsettled about my writing output. At first it was difficult to put my finger on what was troubling me, but gradually I began to discern the cause of my unease: the only people who would ever read what I’d written would be committed Christians. Of course, I’m not for a moment suggesting that authors shouldn’t write for the Christian market. I’m just saying that for me there was a growing sense that it was time to do something else. I wanted to write the kind of book that might be read not only by Christians, but by people of all faiths and of none.
It’s important for me to say right away that this wasn’t a crisis of faith. I remain a passionate but imperfect follower of Jesus. In fact, it was my desire to be an authentic disciple that spurred me on to write fiction. A number of things came to the fore as I began to think things through.
I realised that I was becoming increasingly irritated by what I saw as the glibness of some evangelical thinking - tho' I still stand firmly in the evangelical tradition. Telling a convincing story means that you can't get away with glib and easy answers. Not everything can be put right. Not all problems can be solved and tied up in a neat bow. Life just ain't like that!
There was my increasing conviction that what we have to offer the world is not primarily a set of doctrinal propositions but a story. A BIG story in which we encounter God - the God who created the world, the God who gives us freedom of choice, the God who watches us mess things up, the God who reaches out to us in his Son, the God who offers us a second chance and the opportunity of a new beginning, the God who will one day put all things to rights. It’s the only story that makes sense of life. What if I could write compelling stories that would somehow echo that BIG story without resorting to preaching at people, or heavy moralising, or unconvincing ‘happy ever after’ endings?
Then there was my discomfort with the fact that we’ve often settled for one approach to evangelism. An approach that focuses exclusively on telling people what they should believe and trying to get their agreement. And that approach, of course, has its place. Yet it seems to me that Jesus rarely did that. He told stories - most of which don't specifically mention God! - stories that raised questions that settled like seeds deep in people's minds. I wanted to try to write stories that would work like that. And so I set out to become a novelist.
Not, I should emphasise, a ‘Christian novelist’. Just the best novelist I could be. ‘Christian fiction’ can end up being an evangelistic tract cunningly - and sometimes not so cunningly! - disguised as a novel. I firmly believe that there are really only two kinds of novels - those that are well-written and those that are not so well-written. And because I am a follower of Jesus, because my world-view is firmly in the Judeo-Christian tradition, that will be reflected in the kind of novel I write. But my first responsibility is to tell a convincing story in which credible characters face the challenges of true-to-life situations.
It’s become something of an addiction! My first novel was published in 2017 and was well-received. The response from readers was better than I could have wished for, both from Christian readers and those who made no profession of faith. And, encouraged by that reaction, another five novels have followed in fairly quick succession.
My latest novel - written especially with Christmas in mind - is Talking to Calippa Cumberland. Here’s a quick introduction-cum-precis just to whet your appetite:
It’s half past four on Christmas Eve, 1976. Lori Bloom, aged three and three quarters, is leaving a busy department store with her mother when the tannoy announces that a child in reception is lost and crying for her parents.
The impact on Lori is immediate. ‘Calippa Cumberland’, the mysterious girl with blond hair and a curious name, becomes her imaginary friend and a constant presence into adulthood. For as one Christmas follows another, Lori finds herself confronting painful questions and in need of a companion in whom she can confide.
But will there ever be someone Lori can completely trust? And will Christmas Eve ever be about finding and being found, rather than losing and being lost?
And here’s what one reviewer had to say about it on my recent blog tour:
I've read and reviewed Chick's books before and really enjoyed them, so I was looking forward to reading his latest, Talking to Calippa Cumberland, and I wasn't disappointed.
Chick is never afraid to address tough issues in his books. In this case the challenges started from the very beginning, as this book is written in the first person from a female point of view. Kudos must be given to his daughters who apparently answered some of the kinds of questions not often asked of daughters by their Dads! Chick's research approach proved effective, because Lori is both believable and relatable as a character at the various points in her life.
An engrossing read, recommended as a fresh approach to the 'Christmas Novel/Novella' genre.
And just one more thing to add. As an expression of my gratitude to God for all his goodness to me, I always donate all the author royalties to charity. So why not buy your copy, enjoy a good read, and support a worthy cause!
Talking to Calippa Cumberland (ISBN: 978-1-912726-48-6) by Chick Yuill is published by Instant Apostle and is available from bookshops and online retailers. Fiction, paperback, 224pp, £9.99
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