Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Rock Stars, Romance, and Jesus

How's that for a provocative post title? No, seriously -- I read a romance I really, really liked (and all of you know I’m notoriously tough to please). HER MINNESOTA MAN is set in—well, Minnesota. Brenda Coulter, author of all this bodacious terrificality, was kind enough to join us on JTTS today.

DK: Describe, please, what factors went into your starting the story 5 days after Jeb accepts Christ.

BC: Well, we see a lot of hero-gets-saved-at-the-end-of-the-story romances, don’t we? I wanted to do something different. I also wanted to show that getting saved doesn’t make a person’s life more comfortable, but less so. I mean, it’s easy to please ourselves, isn’t it? But living to please God . . . that’s a hard thing. Especially if you have never even been to church, how do you know where to start? And how are you supposed to respond when the people around you are laughing and pressuring you to get over your “foolishness” and return to “reality”?

A novelist always wants to open her story at a moment of great conflict for her protagonist, so I showed my hero being pressed on all sides as he struggles to find God’s will for his life. Right out of the box (I hope), readers who might otherwise have been less than sympathetic toward a rock-star hero will find themselves rooting for this poor guy who’s trying so very hard to do the right thing.

DK: I was surely rooting for Jeb! And Laney—she’s a tower of strength, but you show her struggling with faith questions. Do you feel that makes her a stronger Christian, or simply a normal one?

BC: I think she’s like most of us in that her faith sometimes wavers like a candle flame. The reader meets her at a particularly difficult time in her life: While she’s a true believer, she’s frustrated and emotionally exhausted to the point that she has stopped praying and attending church. She knows that’s wrong, and she means to get back on track. But just now, she’s feeling a tad resentful that God hasn’t moved to lighten her load.

DK: I can understand that, with all Laney has to deal with! How did you come to write the Three Graces? Do you know ladies like these?

BC: The Three Graces came straight out of my imagination, but I wish they were real. I would adore having tea with them, and maybe I would even ask them to teach me how to knit. I’d love to hug Millie and trade quips with Aggie and make Big Plans with Caroline.

DK: I’d like just to hang with them and see how triplets really interact! What went into your portrayal of the mainstream rock-and-roll singer’s life? Did you have to do “real-life” research?

BC: I watched a lot of “backstage” videos and read some Rolling Stone articles and also a bunch of on-the-road blogs by members of secular bands. It was fun because I love that music, even though I deplore the frequently unwholesome lyrics and the band members’ hedonistic lifestyles. (Over the course of my life, I have often whispered prayers for singers and bands whose lyrics have disturbed me. I imagine that’s where the idea for this story came from.)

DK: I came of age in the 70s, so I can relate to liking music I shouldn’t. At any time up to your decision to take your book direct-to-reader, did you feel any impulse to water down Jeb’s past life or his current struggles? What made you decide not to?

BC: My former publisher’s market research has repeatedly shown that in general, conservative Christian women don’t want to read about actors, sports stars, recording artists, and the like because those people are widely perceived as “hard-living” and unfaithful. I believed I’d written Jackson Bell in a way that would appeal to readers, but my editor was still compelled to “pass” on the project. Almost immediately, I was struck by the idea of self-publishing. My readers kept asking for longer books, and here was my chance to give them one. I would also be free to subtly depict the physical attraction between my hero and heroine without having to worry about those lines ending up on the cutting-room floor. I broke several more of my old publisher’s rules, and had a blast doing it. I was no longer writing for their audience, but solely for my own, and that was tremendously exciting. So this turned out to be a completely different book than it would have been had my editor bought the proposal. The story is bigger and more real, and I couldn’t be more satisfied!

Since I was previously published by Love Inspired, a huge name in Christian romance, some people have asked why I didn’t hire an agent to shop this story to the other Christian publishing houses. That simply never occurred to me. Self-publishing felt so right that I just never stopped to consider any other option.

I’m glad you made that choice. IMO, this was a story that deserved to be told. Brenda, thanks for two things: for writing such a terrific book and for sharing some of your heart for the story.

Potential fans and good-story-lovers, get HER MINNESOTA MAN at one of the links here:


Tracy Krauss said...

Interesting. I like the somewhat different take re: 'hero gets saved at the beginning' instead of at the end. If you like rock n' roll romance + Jesus, my book PLAY IT AGAIN might appeal to you also. Set in the 1980s rock scene - but hero does get saved near the end... just sayin' :)

Janny said...

Okay. Devil's advocate here. :-)

I really, really, REALLY wish that just once, I could find a Christian novel where a character doesn't feel the need to abandon the career they have before they get saved, just because it may have some bad associations or connotations that they consider to be less than "Christian." Why is it such a foregone conclusion that "of course" they'll turn their backs on what's been their livelihood up to that point? What would be so wrong about staying put?

There is absolutely nothing unrealistic about a Christian who chooses to stay in his band and continue to play rock and roll. Yet five days after he gets saved, this hero has already decided to walk. Doing so, he'll put at least four other people instantly out of work--something that he seems not to have truly comprehended until the band gets very angry (and justifiably so) at him. Now, this is a caveat--I haven't read the whole book, just part of a sample. I'm told things work themselves out. But frankly...I've already lost so much patience with, and respect for, the hero at that point that I'm not inclined to stick around and see that happen.

Even if his "decision" to quit the band hadn't put me off, the fact that he also lets a female character walk all over him--a person who works for him, mind you--would have done it. I'd have felt him to be much more realistic if he'd actually fallen back on bad habits, let fly with an uncharitable word or two maybe...done something less perfect or "noble" than the restrictive idea of "Christian" he's imposed on himself. Then he could repent, do some soul-searching, and have room to grow. Instead, he comes across as wimpy, and wimpy is not what I want to see in any hero, especially not a Christian hero.

No matter how new he is at being "saved," he's still a GUY. He should act like one...not allow people to wipe their feet on him.

When I read the part about the hero's childhood, OTOH, it gripped me instantly. But by the time I'm hearing about that, the damage of the first chapter's already been done, and I suspect there may be more than just one reader that has a problem with it. :-)

A lot of people probably are going to disagree with me; so be it. But this reader probably won't read on. If you don't convince me you've got a strong hero up front, I'm not going to wait around for him to GET that way. Unfortunate, maybe. But in this age where we need to grab readers instantly, this book let me go way too soon.

My take,