"Fiction?" he said. "You think it has the power to transform marriages? Isn't that a bit of a stretch? I mean … seriously."
"No," I said. "I am being serious."
Did this conversation really happen? No, it's fiction. I made it up as I anticipated how some might react to the claim in this article. But I really do believe well-written fiction can do far more than just entertain; it has the power to change people's lives.
I know it's true. It certainly has changed mine.
Before I began reading and writing fiction, I was a pastor for many years. Most pastors don't read fiction (not sure you knew that). Oh, they read. They read A LOT. They mostly (if not exclusively) read thick theology books and nonfiction books on Christian living. Books with answers to all the big questions of life and faith people keep asking them about.
I noticed a significant change in the way I thought about people, even the way I treated them, after I began reading fiction books. Even more so, after I began writing fiction myself. To put it plainly, I cared more. I noticed more. And I felt more.
I actually cry, sometimes several times, with every book I write. I cry while certain scenes are coming to me, as I write them, and months later?in some of those same places?when I edit the story. It doesn't seem to occur to me that I've made all this up in my head. The things the characters are going through just get to me. They affect the way I think and the way I feel.
I've read countless emails from people who've told me how God has changed their hearts in amazing and unexpected ways as they've read my books. Some people have felt stirred to forgive a spouse they'd been bitter toward for years. Fathers have felt convicted to put their families ahead of their careers. Wives have been inspired to believe God really could restore their marriages.
As a pastor for 25 years, besides officiating at weddings, my wife and I did a lot of premarital and marriage counseling, and I taught marriage and parenting seminars on many occasions over the years. Most of the content for those activities came from nonfiction teaching books on Christian marriage (books that had helped my wife and me in our own relationship). I still believe in those books, and many other good ones have been written since I retired from pastoral ministry.
But like I said, now I write novels.
The Reunion, my latest and sixth novel with Revell, has just released this month. For those who haven't read my books, magazine and blog reviewers often compare my work to bestselling authors Nicholas Sparks and Richard Paul Evans. Apparently, we are rather odd birds (male authors who write emotional love stories and family-life dramas). My novels are similar to theirs but carry a stronger Christian message.