I understood at that moment fully and
suddenly why he would not carry me, and why he had not
come to my defense in times past when I was battling for
my place in the world. It was not because he failed to love me,
but because he loved me so well.
The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent
Neither The Heretic's Daughter and Year of Wonders are classified as Christian fiction. Both novels do, however, have spiritual elements as the characters consider the role of God amidst their circumstances. It is the former novel that inspired me to write Hope Springs Eternal in which my characters ask the question "Where is God?" as they struggle to find hope in their own trying situation. Reading The Heretic's Daughter only reinforced that desire to show in my own writing the struggle that faith can sometimes be. Yet, since they are both mainstream publications, I found myself considering who my target audience is - mainstream readers of readers of Christian novels. Couldn't it be both? I think in my heart of hearts that I desire to write in a way that transcends the line that most draw between Christian or secular books and explores faith issues in a genuine way that might be appreciated by both. I bring the "non-Christian" books up first because I am pleased to see the subject of faith addressed in mainstream publishing. Although, what appealed to me about these particular novels were the slice of history they covered, and also that The Heretic's Daughter included a few true life (secondary) characters from my own family history (yes, I have ancesters everywhere!). A book needn't always be overtly Christian for me to enjoy, yet I almost exclusively read Christian fiction because it has all of the elements I enjoy (and write about) most, such as the Christian fiction titles that I mentioned above. The Frontiersman's Daughter is an excellent example of a Christian novel that I believe transcends audiences.
As I consider these debut novels I ponder what makes the author's work stand out right from the beginning of their career. I've already uncovered one element that I find that makes them appeal to me - authenticating faith. Other qualities I admire are a well-formed protagonist (strong, striking, transformation), a rich setting, a well-woven plot, skilled/eloquent writing, and a theme that has the capacity to change my own heart - the words must move me.
What are some of your favorite debut novels? Why did they move you?