Monday, November 4, 2019

Heavy Subject Matter, or Not? by Christa MacDonald

Christa MacDonald
I'm glad to welcome fellow Mountain Brook Ink author Christa MacDonald back to the blog today. She's here with a relatable post about how heavy we make our stories/characters/plots. Check it out. You may relate like I do! ~ Annette

I leave a lot of shorthand for myself when outlining an idea for a new book. Sometimes, I have trouble figuring out what on earth I meant when I wrote it, but this one is easy: “Deep dark past? Light or emotional? Figure this out!” I write contemporary Christian romance and one of the decisions I have to make early on is whether or not to get into the harder realities of modern life. Do I give the characters deep wounds, complicated families, heavy emotional burdens, or do I give them the regular “slings and arrows of fortune” that most of us face?

A few months ago I was helping my father deal with a health crisis. It involved a lot of doctor’s appointments and the stress that goes along with aiding any loved one dealing with illnesses. I reached out to a Christian fiction Facebook group I’m a member of and asked for book recommendations that were light and fun, nothing heavy. They responded with dozens, and I immediately started downloading a few since I desperately needed distraction in the waiting room. There’s something about waiting that chips away at my peace. I need to be distracted or I imagine the absolute worst-case scenario. Books with snappy dialogue, a good plot and relatable characters, but no serious stuff are a perfect distraction, a place to go and visit someone else’s reality. Some might call this “fluff,” but the books I like have depth and meaning aplenty, they just steer clear of the serious.

The stories I have written in the past have the serious stuff in good measure. In fact, I try not to shy away from it and instead find the balance between serious and light. It’s important to me as a person of faith that my books reflect the authentic lives of Christians and that definitely includes some heavy subjects. For me, there is nothing worse than reading a book where Christians are saintly, sinless individuals pitted against broadly drawn secular characters. They end up being cartoonish, I can’t connect to them. When I write, I try to be as real as possible, even when I’m not being serious so readers can feel like they are right there with the characters, experiencing the story with them.

For this new work, I’m writing the kind of book I love to read, one that some other daughter of a stoic dad who never complains and works too hard can read while she waits to see if he’s going to be okay. (My dad is, by the way, and God is good.) In this new project I’m hoping to draw the reader into a small town on the coast of Massachusetts and into the lives of Emma and Finn, the former town princess and the handyman. There will be conflict, sparks, and possibly some swooning. It’s going to be so much fun!

How about you? When you’re reading Christian fiction, do you want to dive into the deeper, edgier topics, or would you rather find something light in order to escape life’s hardships?

Readers of fiction: do you want to see heavy topics in the books you read, or not? @CricketMacD

Writers of fiction: do you want to write about heavy topics, or not? @CricketMacD


The Redemption Road
It’s redemption that he needs, and she’ll pay any price to help him find it.

As the new game warden in Sweet River, Alex Moretti is focused on enforcing Maine’s wildlife laws and little else. Moving from tragedy to a fresh start, all he wants is a way to fix his life in the tranquility of the north woods. Until he meets Annie Caldwell at Coffee by the Book. But his own bitter, dark life is a threat to Annie’s sweetness and light. It’s better for him to stay away.

Annie doesn’t know how to label her relationship with Alex, but she is determined to figure it out. After a few false starts and a kiss under the Christmas lights, their romance goes from fiction to fact. Annie has fallen hard. Then trouble shows up. Someone is stalking Alex, seeking to punish him for a mistake which ended in deadly consequences. When Annie becomes a target, he tries to push her away, but she won’t abandon him. Alex is desperate to keep Annie safe while he attempts to reconcile the past, but what he really needs is redemption. And she will risk her life to help him find it.


Christa MacDonald began her writing career at the age of eleven, filling a sketchbook with poems and short stories. While at Gordon College she traded the sketchbooks for floppy discs, publishing short personal narratives in the literary journal The Idiom. After graduation and traveling cross-country she settled down to focus first on her career in operations management and then her growing family. When her children reached grade school Christa returned to her love of writing, finding the time between conference calls, dance lessons, and baseball games. This November Mountain Brook Ink will be publishing her first novel, The Broken Trail. When not at her desk working or writing, Christa can be found curled up in her favorite chair reading, out and about with her husband and kids, or in the garden. She lives with her family along the coast of Massachusetts in the converted barn they share with a dog and two formerly-feral cats.

Connect with Christa here:



  1. Hi Christa! I'm definitely in the "write what you love to read" camp. I've written everything from light, fun (and shorter) books to more serious books. No matter the subject matter, however, the one constant in all of them is humor. I'd rather make readers smile than cry, although I've been accused of both. :) As you said, "It’s important to me as a person of faith that my books reflect the authentic lives of Christians and that definitely includes some heavy subjects." Amen! I wholeheartedly share that philosophy. I have one of your books on my Kindle, and I'll have plenty of time to read soon on a cruise. And your upcoming book sounds right up my alley! I'm thankful your dad is doing well. Thanks for the post and blessings as your write to glorify the Lord!

    1. Thank you JoAnn! I am with you on the humor. Even if it's a serious book, it's got to have some light moments.

  2. I almost always prefer something light. I read to either escape the stress in my own life or to give me something to do while I wait, a book that can be interrupted when the waiting is done. I rarely ever pick up a book I know is heavy and too serious, especially if it has anything tragic happening to children--I can't handle that.

    1. Agreed. I can't read about kids being hurt. It's nightmare-making.

  3. Thanks for joining us, Christa! I had to make that decision just this weekend for my NaNo project. It's always important to me to get it right b/c as a reader, I read for escape and I don't want to write something so heavy readers feel burdened. My trick is to add humor for a bit of balance while still dealing with heavier subjects with honesty. Thanks for the post!

    1. I think that's the trick - adding in the funny to take the sting out of the serious.

  4. Boy ... I tend to write more on the serious side with splashes of humor here and there to relieve tension. But when it comes to reading, it depends on my mood at the time.

    1. I get that. Sometimes I'm in the mood for a book that will have me reaching for the tissues. It can be really cathartic.

  5. I enjoy reading a variety of subjects. Sometimes I want to read a light hearted story with love and a happy ending. Other times I may read about a hard subject.

  6. Christa, thank you for explaining exactly why I have to read a different type book right before bedtime than when I'm sitting on the balcony at the beach or beside the lake.
    No John Grisham except on rare, sunlit, carefree days LONG before bedtime. LOL Right now I'm reading an old American classic novel, The Spy, by James Fenimore Cooper in prep for my next novel set during the Revolution. Wonderful James, touted to be one of America's first historical novelists, manages to put me right to sleep in a few pages. I may never get to the end...
    Blessings, Elva Cobb Martin


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