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Monday, March 25, 2013

Nicki Elson Takes a Turn at Controversy

Nicki Elson:  author of Divine
 Temptation

       Just to show I'm not the only one who can stir some controversy, I've invited Nicki Elson to come stir things up and toss out some of her own.   Nicki's got a book coming out on March 26th  (hey! That's tomorrow for those reading this today).    The opinions presented in this post are not necessarily those of the Tossing It Out management so if any rotten eggs are thrown, toss them in Nicki's direction.    I know that my readers are nicer than that, but do let Nicki know what you think in the comment section.   

Divine Temptation

I’m so excited—and yes, a bit nervous—about being invited over for Arlee’s Controversy Monday. He extended the invitation after I hinted about a controversy regarding my new novel, Divine Temptation (to release tomorrow!). I didn’t mean to write a controversial book. I’m just a Jesus-loving girl who also happens to like writing sexy books, and I didn’t think the two had to be mutually exclusive. I still don’t think they have to, but I’ve already come across those who beg to differ…and the book hasn’t even been released yet, so I can only imagine what I’m in for.

Now, I did fully expect to take some flak for including explicit sexual content in a novel that features a heavenly angel as one of the leading characters. On this point, I’ll refer you to my post Should I have faded to black? (written in response to an earlier novel, but it applies to this story as well), but what surprised me, and what I want to talk about today, is how unwelcome any ounce of faith is in a mainstream paranormal romance novel, even one about an angel.

I get that when reading a romance novel, no one wants a CCD lesson, so I appreciate the feedback that led me to pare back and even cut certain scenes. They weren’t plot essential, and now the story moves at a better pace, but what bruises my heart is to see that just the suggestion in the narrative that God is all-powerful or that Satan actually exists or that a person should feel guilty for their sins can set some people off.

I certainly don’t think that everyone in the world believes these things, but I also don’t understand why those who don’t believe choose to get irate instead of simply viewing my world as a fictional universe. The story is fiction, after all. I’m sure no one ever asked J.K. Rowling to qualify narrative statements to say “Harry had been taught to fear Voldemort.” In that universe, Voldemort does exist and he is evil. In mine, Satan does exist and he is evil. And God is all-powerful.

So why in a world that doesn’t flinch when fictional stories speak of Voldemorts or Aslans or Saurons as real beings, does flat-out stating core tenets of Christian faith in a work of mainstream fiction fluster certain people? Why is it more palatable when the characters are dressed up as lions and wizards?

Seriously—why?

--
Nicki Elson
Author
www.nickielson.com



Links:

Divine Temptation at Goodreads (the 25th will be the last day to enter to win a paperback copy)

Author page at Amazon (Divine Temptation will release on 3/26, but Amazon has been known to post Kindle versions early, so it might be available at post time)









39 comments:

  1. Nicki, that is a damn good question!! What is it about Christian elements that riles people to the point of frothy anger? It's as if those things threaten people. Or because it's viewed as politically incorrect.
    The Christian elements in your book don't scare me and I applaud you for being brave enough to include them.
    The erotic stuff - that I might skim, just because I'd rather go do it than read it. Cool?

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  2. It's a double-standard. You can be controversial if it's a liberal issue but not a conservative one.

    My YA series has Christian elements and they are very strong in the 2dn and 4th books. If someone doesn't like that aspect, don't read them. But it's very much a part of my world and I see it every day, and since my books are set in the South, it felt natural to include that element.

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  3. I don't think dressing up those issues in wizard robes makes the world view it in an acceptable light. There are so many people who are just as irate about Harry Potter and other fantasy, paranormal, scifi novels as they are about general fiction. No matter what anyone writes, there will be someone out there who'll find fault with it (unfortunately).

    Don't bother asking why. Just write what you want to write because for all the people who'll find fault with it, there are way more people who will appreciate it for what it is.

    Congrats on your novel, Nicki!!

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  4. I applaud that you write what YOU want to write, at the end of the day people don't have to read.
    Good luck
    Yvonne.

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  5. Alex - I think you're on to something with people feeling threatened. Hehe, you have a most excellent reason for skimming the sexy parts and of course that's cool with me.

    Diane - the double standard is totally what I was feeling. I'm glad you didn't let that keep you from including the elements that felt natural and right for your stories. I think that's the best way to break that double standard.

    Laura - true, true, people can freak about anything at all, can't they? And it's a lot more fun to write something that gets a reaction anyhow.

    Arlee - so I should be expecting rotten eggs for breakfast, then? Haha. Thanks for having me over. ;)

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  6. Great post, Nicki, and I think Diane hit the nail on the head. Big time double standard.

    Best wishes on your release! :)

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  7. Hello Nicki,

    You just resonated my thoughts through this writing. I believe it's sheer duplicity of those who find it hard to accept your fiction story involving Satan when they can delightfully accept negative characters from other stories.
    I wish you All the best with your book.

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  8. Perhaps you could state in the blurb, "may contain elements relating to Christian beliefs".

    Then the readers would know up front what they will encounter in the story. Someone recently wrote a post about being scolded for not indicating Christian elements of their story (can't remember if it was an Amazon review or a blogger post asking opinions on whether it should be a requirement).

    With everyone having a voice and an opinion, feathers will get ruffled whenever the subject is sensitive. I say go with how you want to write the story, and be prepared to hear from both sides.

    We should be willing to defend why we write the story a certain way, after all, it's our story.

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  9. Nick, you look beautiful and your thoughts are very well articulated. I remember during the edits close to Christmas when this was first brought to your attention and I'm glad to see this post about it. I hope you get a lot of people thinking and responding.

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  10. Thanks, Mark & Salvwi. We are of a like mind.

    D.G. - I'm kind of considering mention of the angel in the blurb as an indication that Christian elements, or at lease spiritual ones, may ensue. I'd love to read that post you refer to if you remember who it was by. You give good advice - write it how I feel it and be prepared to take flak. Thanks.

    Suze - nice hat. ;) Felt good to write this post and know that everything I was worried about a couple months ago came out okay.

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  11. It's just the fact/fiction divide. Everyone knows that other stuff is fiction to the author, too, but Satan and God are not fiction to you, and, really, you're not presenting them in a fictional light (I say, having not read the book). That kind of thing is threatening to people, because people don't want to acknowledge sin and Truth and all kinds of things.

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  12. Nicki, Here is the link to one of the posts I've read. This one was on Rachelle Gardner's site. (sorry just copied the URL) She had a few comments on this one.

    http://www.rachellegardner.com/2012/01/should-we-label-christian-fiction/

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  13. Bizarrely this novel looks like something I might actually enjoy despite it's controversial aspect. I love that the author is somebody who comes from a good wholesome background yet writes books like this and if the book is anything like today's blog post then they're exceptionally written too, fantastic post.

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  14. Nicki, If I knew the answer to one single "why" in this world, then I would be a very wise woman, and probably a wealthy one, too. But I think it's worthwhile to remember that a lot of people went crazy over the Harry Potter books and said they were satanic because they have witches and wizards in them. There were even people who went nuts when the kids in the series became older and started "snogging." They were convinced that snogging is the same as a word that starts with "F." I always saw the Christian elements in Harry Potter, the good v. evil, and J.K. Rowling confirmed in an interview that she intended for the books to be Christian, so to speak. I often asked why people complained about Harry Potter, but didn't complain about The Chronicles of Narnia. Magic is used in those books, too, but C.S. Lewis was a famous Christian. Some people are determined to find evil wherever they look. As for me, I kinda liked the sexy stuff in Three Daves, but I also liked the Bible verses. Do what feels right to you, I say. People are going to complain no matter what, and the complaints about the Harry Potter series merely provided more publicity for the books.

    Love,
    Janie

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  15. Once you establish the "rules of the universe" and stick to them it shouldn't matter. I totally agree with you. I also think you shouldn't have to put in a Sidenote about Christian principles being at work here so you don't offend people. This is a book of fiction.

    What you are up against is the Liberal Mindset of people who are anti-Christian (or anti anything they don't like). In their world, if they don't like it, or think it is good for a person, then NO ONE should have it, hear it, read about it, or have any sort of access to it. In other words, if it doesn't suit them, then clearly it is no good for anyone else, either. Frankly, I have never seen anything like this in my entire life. In other words, when you come across someone with this mentality, arguing and defending is futile.

    Your book is what it is. Don't apologize. Don't sidestep. Don't back down. The only way is THROUGH. Right down the middle.

    Carry on Warrior Princess! Personally, I am looking forward to reading it:)

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  16. Hi Andrew, You said that so succinctly and well, and I believe nailed the answer.

    Thanks for coming back with the link, D.G.! I'll head right over.

    Yeamie, you made me laugh that you find it bizarre that you might like my book. Thank you for your very kind words.

    Right, Janie, I do remember the silly controversy over the Harry Potter books - and nope, didn't seem to hurt that series at all. I've wondered the same thing about why C.S. Lewis and Tolkien got away with it without catching any heat, and yes, the only reason I can see was that they were blatant Christians. But who knows, if they published those books today, they might also have come under fire one way or the other. Tucked somewhere in one of my HP books is a list of 10 Christian elements in the series - perhaps it's time I dust them off & get a few blog posts out of it.

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  17. Some good responses so far and no rotten eggs for breakfast yet. I'm enjoying the discussion.

    My thought is that all authors have some sort of agenda to convey or belief system they are working with and why should only Christianity or stories that are faith based get singled out as proselytizing if they are clearly written as fiction. Heavy-handed messages will out the author as preaching and that will get reflected in a certain number of bad reviews.

    If the writing is done well and the story-telling is well-structured and entertaining or enlightening in some way I'm not sure the message should be what the book is judged by. The reader can take it or leave that. The main thing is whether or not the book was a good read.

    Sadly I think many non-Christians consider themselves open-minded until it has something to do with faith and God. Then they're up in arms that they've been conned. I get conned by pop culture all the time and know what to avoid in the future if I don't appreciate something.

    Good post, Nicki. I look forward to hearing more of what the readers have to say.

    Thanks for being here today.

    Lee

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  18. Thanks for the pep talk, Robin! Isn't it ironic that the reason such people rail against people of faith is because they presume that we're trying to impose our values on them, when in reality, they're trying to push their values on us in their attempts to quash our voices. Not sure that came out in a way that will make sense, but maybe a sliver of it did.

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  19. Interesting because I thought having a Christian theme in a book would entice readers, not threaten.

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  20. I wouldn't lose any sleep over a few malcontents. My understanding with respect to religious beliefs is that more people are leaning to spirituality rather than religious dogma. And their getting irrate over sexuality is sooooooo yesterday. Bravo for standing your ground, Nicki.

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  21. I think the concept sounds fascinating and full of built-in conflict. I'd be totally interested in reading it and have entered the GR contest. Someone the other day left a review of Carrie Butler's Strength, saying it was preachy when it wasn't in the least and had one very short scene in a church. I thought that was ridiculous. Having said that, there is a fine line between including aspects of faith and a belief in God and preaching to your audience. James Scott Bell is a perfect example of this. I loved his books that have a subtle message, but when they were in my face, I put the book down. So I guess it's all in the technique.

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  22. Great post, Nicki and a great question. I run into this same thing whenever I have angels in my books. Sometimes it's the smallest part of the story, seriously one line, that raises an eyebrow. I always find that interesting.

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  23. Arlee - totally agree with all you said. Thanks for having me here today.

    C. Lee - yep, that one caught me a little off guard too.

    Feather - I think the malcontents make things more fun, actually, so no worries about me losing sleep. ;)

    Thanks for entering the contest, Nancy. I agree about it being in the technique. I don't care for in-your-face tactics either. That's ridiculous that a small thing like showing characters in church would set someone off. Thousands and thousands of people go to church every week, isn't it only realistic to show a few characters doing the same?

    Cherie - who knew angels would be the thing to so easily get people's panties in a bunch?

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  24. I was raised Holy Roller Southern Baptist, and for a long while, I believed everything I was told. Eventually I grew into my own opinions and relate more as an Agnostic than Christian. One of the things that assisted my world view was reading novels with different views than what I was raised.

    I don't shy away from books that explore a relationship with God, or Christianity. A lot of the fantasy novels I read have those elements, even if its called sorcery. Religion of any sort is a huge part of any individual's world views, so seeing Christianity in a novel doesn't bother me - as long as it doesn't preach at me.

    Maybe some people just need something to complain about. Who knows?

    ......dhole

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  25. Hi Donna. Thanks for your perspective, which is a very objective one. I like the term "world view" and I agree that reading preachy stuff (unless that's specifically what you are looking for) is not fun.

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  26. Nicki
    Obviously there are many of us who believe the author has a right to his or her voice. I applaud you for being comfortable to write in the dark and the light. If people are uncomfortable, that really is there issue.

    You go girl and I hope its a grand success.

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  27. I think the issue arises when you have a blend of fact and fiction. I read an article on the "liberties" that were taken with history in the recent movie Lincoln. The writer of the article bemoaned the fact that non-students of history would accept the movie as fact. Perhaps some Christians have a problem with fiction that includes elements of their faith because they're concerned about someone distorting the Word of God.

    For the most part, I have no problem with it.

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  28. Controversy is interesting. Congratulations Nicki-the book sounds great. Stop by with Arlee and everyone you know because I'm having a luau!

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  29. Thanks, Leslie. :)

    LD, You raise a very good point. I think that was an issue with The DaVinci Code - lots of people seemed to forget it was a work of fiction. I tried to balance my fictional work with staying true to my understanding of the Bible, and I'm getting itchy to find out how people think I did with that.

    Desert Rocks - a luau! How can I resist?

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  30. I just checked, and Amazon didn't have the Kindle version available yet, but I WILL order your book asap. It sounds thoroughly intriguing to me. You go, girl!

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  31. Yeah now you have me intrigued to see what your book is like.

    I guess it's not really that odd that Christianity gets flack. Because the fact of the matter is, our predecessors didn't do a lot of good marketing. Think the crusades or the Spanish Inquisition.

    So the people who don't know God tend to have a REALLY bad impression of Him.

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  32. Hello, I'm Lacey, I blog too. Found your blog thru A-Z Challenge, (I'm hopping around today). My blog is at www.piggyinternational.com

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  33. Hi Nikki :) I am another reader/writer here to applaud you for using Christian elements in your writing. If that's the world you live in and the world you want to write about, then why should anyone else complain? They should just put the book down if it bothers them. Witchcraft bothers me, so instead of reading books that are full of it and then complaining about them or giving them bad reviews, I just steer clear of them.

    PS - Congratulations on the release of your book!

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  34. Glad to know you're intrigued, Susan & Misha. Ha, Misha, I never quite thought of it as marketing, but that's a really good way to put it. It's doubly terrible when someone uses the cross as an excuse for being a nasty person.

    Thanks for the congrats, Rachel. Your approach is so utterly sensible - just stay clear of the types of books you don't like rather than acting like the other person has no right to write it.

    This was a really, really fun exercise. I appreciate everyone being so open with their thoughts - this can only mean that Arlee is a wonderful, welcoming, intelligent-people-attracting blog master. ;)

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  35. Nicki --Thanks for those last kind words. I do have some wonderful readers who know how to leave good comments.

    Thanks so much for this excellent post and the ensuing discussion. You are welcome anytime at my sites.

    Lee

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  36. >> . . . Perhaps you could state in the blurb, "may contain elements relating to Christian beliefs"

    What, like "A Warning Label"? (Was the paper printed on a machine that may have come into contact with peanuts?)

    Uh-uh. I wouldn't go there. No need to warn, no need to apologize, no need to back down.

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

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  37. I think LD hit the nail on the head--many Christians have no sense of humor (not exactly the right word I'm looking for, since this is fiction and not necessarily funny, but it's 4am and the word isn't coming to me) about their faith. They feel anything that might even slightly portray their faith in a light other than perfectly prim, proper, and reverent is to be squashed. But here's the thing: PEOPLE aren't perfect, and thus fiction cannot be perfect. And even sex can be and is biblical(for those who take issue with the sex). Have you ever read Song of Solomon? That's some hot stuff. ;).

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  38. Many congratulations on your book Nicki!
    What an interesting thread to your very well
    written question! I enjoyed all the comments. All on your side as I am too. Interesting isn't it how a complex gets tweaked as evidenced in some who negatively criticise? There IS no easy answer- but all faith to you and may good conquer over evil, always. There is of course the image of a patriarchal G.d which may rile feathers amongst many women -

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Lee