I’ve posted a picture of a friend named Diane, standing between a script-writer friend named Kathie and yours truly, taken at a recent writers’ conference where Kathie and I were on faculty together. Diane graciously posted this picture on Facebook and referred to Kathie and me as “mentors.” I’ve been thinking about that a lot. I can certainly see her point since Diane is a writer and has drawn from Kathie and me at conferences over the years. But what about readers? Do they draw from writers as well? Is it stretching the point to think that writers, without consciously trying, are also mentors to their readers?
I think back over the many authors I’ve read and followed over the years, and I know that some have certainly influenced my own writing, as well as other passions in my life. For instance, Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton (set in South Africa in the 1940s) profoundly influenced my thinking and, ultimately, the first novel in my Extreme Devotion series, No Greater Love, set in South Africa in 1989. And then there was the reviewer of my novel Deliver Me From Evil, the opening novel in my Freedom (human trafficking) series, who referred to me as a “modern-day Harriet Beecher Stowe,” calling my readers to fight slavery. I was a bit stunned by the comparison but had to admit that Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin also impacted my life and my thinking through the years.
I’m not sure those two examples confirm that writers can actually be mentors to their readers, but the possibility has re-enforced my determination to write only what I believe are “parables with purpose,” the sort of stories that Jesus told to His listeners, tales they related to and enjoyed but that also confronted and challenged them right where they lived. And always, whatever types of books I write, I want my messages to measure up to the Truth of the Scriptures, for ultimately I am responsible to God for any influence I may wield with my readers.
Any thoughts on the topic from a reader’s point of view?