I’ve been hearing a lot about books needing a theme, that deeper thread, that “message” that Christian readers like to find. You’ll hear varying opinions on what makes a book have a good “message.” As I’ve listened to opinions on both sides, I found myself feeling a bit defensive. So far, my books have not addressed those hard-gripping, emotionally charged issues that make you feel like you’ve been wrung out and hung up to dry. My heroes and heroines haven’t faced deep problems. I’m willing to say that as a writer, I’m not alone in that. We who write genre fiction, shorter novels, might be looked at as writing something that’s disposable. Here one month, gone the next.
I realize that some readers don’t want, and probably don’t need, the heavy-hitting, gut-wrenching, box o’ tissues read. The world has enough trouble and sorrow of its own that sometimes it’s nice to curl up in someone else’s world.
However, I am reminded that often, as Mary Poppins sang, “a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down in the most delightful way.” We who write sweet and light realize that our characters don’t have the pristine lives as they’d like for us to believe when we first meet them. I’ve enjoyed discovering their little secrets and that yes, indeed, my characters have–gasp–issues.
In Christmas At Barncastle Inn, my contribution to the anthology is a novella called “Christmas Duets.” Sweet and light, it’s my writer’s homage to one of my favorite movies, “White Christmas,” I discovered that the marshmallow world in the winter masked some issues.
Middle school music teacher Marcella Goudreau doesn’t like change. Change came in a big way when her grandmother threw grandpa out of the house the day after Thanksgiving. So she and her sister cook up a plan to get them back together over Christmas. Where else? By singing duets from “White Christmas” at Barncastle Inn. Armand Goudreau and his wife of over 50 years face what many couples do–growing older, starting to grow apart, and not communicating well.
Physician Assistant Sean McSweeney, a veteran whose time in the service is over, works for the Veterans Affairs facility where Armand likes to work out at the gym. Sean is very successful at shutting people out of his life. For him, Christmas is a solitary time because of his fractured family and alcoholic mother. Then he takes Armand in after the man shows up on his doorstep. Armand, though, refuses to miss out on the family’s Christmas gathering at Vermont’s Barncastle Inn, and insists that Sean go with him.
A fluffy and light Christmas read? Maybe just a little. Sometimes, though, that’s exactly what we need, and any “message” goes down easy and settles inside us to do its thing. I hope my readers think so. Merry Christmas to you all, and as you go about your preparations, remember that it’s okay if not everything goes according to plan. Sometimes that makes for the best Christmas ever.
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Lynette Sowell writes fiction for the inspirational market, from contemporary romance to mysteries. She’s always looking for the perfect recipe for a story–or a great dish–and is always up for a Texas road trip.