Introducing my gorgeous fifth special guest, Tricia Mingerink.
Tricia Mingerink is a twenty-something, book-loving, horse-riding country girl. She lives in Michigan with her family and their pack of pets. When she isn't writing, she can be found pursuing backwoods adventures across the country.
1. If you write romance into your stories, how much intimacy are you comfortable writing, and why?
I write some romance into my stories, but usually as a subplot. Being single and never having a romance of my own, what little is in there is researched from my married brothers and my sister-in-laws. I don’t see myself ever writing something exceptionally steamy.
So I guess my line is I will write kissing, hand holding, and maybe some cute cuddling. I know that is already more than most strict clean writers will do. While I grew up in a very conservative church as far as doctrine, it wasn’t hit with the whole courtship thing like some Christian communities. Every couple I have ever observed and know got married through traditional, Godly, Christian dating. Yes, that means kissing before being engaged, though after the couple is already plenty serious about each other. And hand holding. And stuff like that. But I find something incredibly sweet in the sort of kiss that demands nothing beyond a simple kiss or a couple holding hands just because they want to hold hands at that moment without wanting more. So that’s the sort of romance I’ll write.
2. If you write scenes with violence, what do you rely on as a guide/gauge?
This is the question I’ve thought about the most since I’ve lost more stars due to violence than anything else. If not for the violence in my books, they are incredibly clean since the romance never goes past kissing and there isn’t any language since I would be uncomfortable personally writing steamy scenes or language in my books.
I do believe there is a difference between writing a steamy bedroom scene and the type of violence I write. A steamy scene gets the readers into the minds of the characters as they are thinking very passionate thoughts. A swear word written out on the page puts that word into the readers’ heads and makes them say it, even in their mind. In contrast, most of the violence is being done to the main characters. We are not in the head of the character doing the violence. I think I would have a really hard time writing extended scenes from a villain’s POV because it would revel in evil and violence. The one time I’ve done it (a section of the short story Deal available as a newsletter perk), I felt far dirtier and disgusted afterwards than anything in all the other books.
But violence done to a character is something readers will experience themselves all the time. Whether it is bullying in school, sexual harassment, a mass shooting or terrorist attack reported on the news, or simply seeing the violence of death when a pet dies or is hit by a car. Violence is an evil in this world we can’t escape. I was the type of kid who read true accounts of the Holocaust from the adult section when I was 12 because seeing someone go through something far worse than I was and surviving helped me put my own trials into perspective. Those are the type of readers I am aiming for. The ones like me who need to read about characters experiencing darkness and growing in their faith so that their own faith can grow.
I do have some boundaries. I usually go into more detail when violence is being done to a character than when a character is the one doing the violence. I will show blood, but I draw the line at guts and that sort of gore. I endeavour to show violence in all its very real horror. Movies and video games often give a fake version of violence that makes it easy to become desensitized. People just fall to the ground when shot. What little blood portrayed on screen is fake and easily ignored. In many ways, I go a step more graphic so that readers can’t overlook it as fake and funny. In my books, blood and death smell and taste real so that the horror of those moments can’t be ignored. If I lose a star because a reader felt disgusted and sick reading those moments, then good. I’ve done my job.
To be honest, I’ve never felt sick writing anything in The Blades of Acktar. I grew up on a farm. I’ve seen far worse as far as dead animals, spilling guts, blood, and death than anything I’ve written. When I write, I see how many graphic details I’m holding back.
It sometimes surprises me how many Christians don’t even like blood to be mentioned in books. After all, our faith is based on blood theology. Christ shed His own blood to pay for our sins. Blood is mentioned 392 times in the Bible, more times than in the entire Blades of Acktar series. In the Old Testament, the law required animal sacrifices. The people had to watch blood being spilled over and over. They knew the price sin demanded.
Nowadays, we sometimes say “Christ died for me” almost flippantly. We hold communion where we commemorate His death and we are supposed to see (in varying degrees of symbolism or reality depending on the doctrines you hold to) Christ’s blood and body spilled and broken. Yet our world is so sanitized or fake I’m not sure we realize how sick we should feel standing there. We have been desensitized to the depth of the sacrifice Jesus made for us by familiarity and lack of understanding.
If you ever felt sick reading about blood or death in The Blades of Acktar, then go read about the Crucifixion and see that the reality was much worse. If the torture in Defy seemed like a lot, then go to the Bible and see that Christ suffered much, much worse. More than any human could ever describe. And if you catch a glimpse of the depths of self-sacrificial love in my books, then please see the even greater depths of Christ’s self-sacrifice in the midst of greater darkness than we can comprehend.
3. If you write magic into your work, could you please explain why you choose to do so?
If I wrote magic into a fantasy book I intended to market as Christian fantasy, I would probably use magic allegorically, the way C.S. Lewis does. I most likely wouldn’t call it magic.
If I wrote something more fantastical and magical than that, I would probably market it as secular fiction under a penname since any Christianity would be more Tolkien-flavored in that heroes would be moral heroes and the bad guys would be bad guys with consequences for evil.
4. In your opinion is Christian Fantasy becoming too worldly?
5. In your own words how would you define ‘clean’ fiction?
Since a lot of readers and authors turn to Philippians 4:8, I’ll use that to describe my stance: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
In its context, this verse is giving instructions on how not to worry when we see darkness in this world and experience trials. There is a difference between seeing something and dwelling on it. It is possible to read about something and not ponder it. As Christians, we are told to be watchful. We aren’t to be blind to the things happening around us in this world, yet we are to dwell on God no matter what we see. I am careful when I write to use whatever darkness portrayed in my books to direct the mind to dwell on God’s light that can be found even in that darkness.
It is true that there is great darkness, wickedness, evil, and violence in this world. I will portray that honestly, for it is just as dishonest to gloss over it or make it less than what it is than to glorify it or revel in it. I will show the struggle for justice and the purity in a God-honoring relationship. And above all, I will show the loveliness of Christ’s sacrifice, resurrection, and the salvation provided in Him. If there is any glimmer of virtue in writing the way I do, I will do it to the glory of God.
6. Do you believe Christian Fantasy should be written to appeal to general or selective readership? Could you explain why?
I believe Christian writers can be called to write for different audiences. Some Christians can be called to write for a secular audience since this audience desperately needs to hear the gospel. These authors will probably write fantasy that holds glimmers and the basics of Christianity, though I probably wouldn’t define it strictly as Christian fantasy. This would probably be considered Christians writing fantasy. This is a good calling.
I also believe that Christian writers can be called to write for a Christian audience. This is a good calling as well. Christians are an audience who need good fiction to help challenge and grow their faith. They need fiction that goes deeper than the basics or perhaps deeper into the basics. When a Christian author writes fantasy for this Christian market, I would define that as Christian fantasy.
Both of these callings are equally good, and it hurts when Christians from either calling start claiming theirs is the only calling or the better calling. Both bring glory to God.
I can see myself writing for both secular and Christian markets, depending on the book. So far, I’ve only written for the Christian market, but I have ideas I’d like to write that fit more in the secular market. No matter what I do, the goal is always the glory of God, even if it is displayed in different ways.
And a couple of random questions completely unrelated to this topic just because I’m nosy and have your attention.
What is always in your refrigerator that never gets eaten?
I bought hummus with the good intentions of eating healthier and training myself to like it. The tub is still sitting in the bottom drawer.
The worst thing someone ever said about your writing?
Worst haircut experience?
The stylist, after cutting it, took a blow dryer to it. I have curly hair. You don’t blow dry it unless you want to try to tame a lion’s mane of frizz afterwards. I now cut my hair myself. Since it is long and curly, it isn’t too complicated to snip a little off the ends as needed. If the ends aren’t straight, no one will ever notice.
Favourite sandwich fillings?
Thank you so much to Tricia Mingerink, I hope you enjoyed hearing her thoughts.
Please join me again tomorrow as my final guest, Kate Willis, answers the same questions.