Saturday, November 6, 2010

Guest Post: John Herrick on Keeping It Real

When I decided to write about a preacher’s son in From The Dead, the character’s religion was the last thing I planned to examine.

Upon hearing Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man” on an oldies radio station, I found myself intrigued by the opposite of the song’s namesake: What would things look like if a preacher’s son had turned his back on his upbringing? What would go through the guy’s head and heart? Would he experience inner turmoil?

From day one, I intended From The Dead as a novel for a mainstream audience. (But the fact that those who like religious fiction seem to enjoy the book is, indeed, icing on the cake!)

Am I a churchgoer? Yeah. Am I a big reader of religious fiction? No. For some reason, the characters and events often seem too fluffy for me to relate to. Perhaps that’s why an honest portrayal of Jesse’s faith struggle appealed to me.

From The Dead’s main character, Jesse, is a preacher’s son. His father and sister, Chuck and Eden, have large roles in the novel, too. In planning the book, a thought struck me: Given their backgrounds and Chuck’s occupation, it would strike the reader as odd if the characters didn’t mention their faith or if Jesse’s background hadn’t impacted his life.

And so I began to weave the characters’ faith journeys into the story.

My foremost goal is for my writing to be straightforward and realistic. I craved to present the characters in an honest fashion, from their highest joys to their darkest depths.

Their actions, their dialogue, their thoughts—everything needed to be genuine, blemishes and all.Otherwise, it felt like I’d betray the story in my heart and, frankly, rip off the readers who choose to invest hours of their lives reading my book.

Still, the details seemed risky to me. On one hand, I could picture someone mistaking the book for religious fiction and discovering the first f-bomb on page four. On the other hand, although necessary for the characters to discuss their faith, the last thing I wanted was for the novel to sound preachy, because From The Dead is a character study.

I believe the important thing is to follow your heart. And often that means taking a risk. So my focus turned to crafting the best story I could, remaining true to the characters as I brought them to life.

Hopefully readers, regardless of their walks of life, will see facets of themselves in the characters.

Have you had an opportunity to read From The Dead? Did you relate to a particular character or circumstance? I’d love to hear from you at my website, www.johnherrick.net.

Thank you, Jessi and readers, for letting me stop by The Elliott Review. Feel free to follow my blog at: johnherricknet.blogspot.com.

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