Thursday, August 3

Posted by Laurel Garver on Thursday, August 03, 2017 1 comment
How do you go about writing about faith in a way that isn’t off-putting to contemporary teens, but feels like it’s part of normal life?

My approach begins from understanding that a life of faith isn’t lived across a line in the sand, that this spot over here is where I have a spiritual life, and on the other side is where the rest of the world goes about its business. Real faith doesn’t need a sanitized bubble in order to exist. It walks with courage into dark places through the power of the Holy Spirit, and tries to act as Jesus did. He reached out to those who were at the margins, who were hurting. I write what I hope is an invitation to teens of faith to see their purpose in this way.

In my Christian YA series, faith is a piece of the heroine Dani’s framework for understanding the world, just like her artistic ability is. The imagery and stories of her faith weave through her thought world as much as the language of painting and drawing. Like any teen raised in a Christian home, she goes through a coming-of-age process in which she has to decide if she truly believes for herself, rather than believing in a parent’s belief.

Infusing lots of humor into the story where possible is also important. People of faith are often stereotyped as dour, fault-finding folk who take themselves way too seriously. So my heroine has a bit of a sarcastic streak and finds the funny in things, quite often the funny in her own foibles—a self-deprecating kind of humor that makes her approachable.

Most centrally, I wrote my novels as dramatic stories, not handbooks or manuals on “how to grieve well/how to handle a family crisis well.” Readers walk with Dani through sadness, longing, first love, turmoil, broken relationships, confusion, and doubt. The adults in her world sometimes help, sometimes fail her badly. She has to come to grips with what is really real, with who God is, and with how she must grow and change in order to become her best self.

Preachiness in literature comes when characters aren’t given this space to “come to their senses” on their own. Jesus’ example of how to show a transformation well is the prodigal son story. Did someone come and preach at the younger brother, and tell him he had been a selfish jerk and he should just go home and apologize to his family? No, the story events led him to that conclusion. So it is with my characters. They make their mistakes and gradually learn from them. When epiphanies come, they act on them, and test their new understanding. They move from blindness to insight to realized truth.

I don’t think you have to be a Christian to read stories like mine and get something positive out of them. I’m not Jewish, but I really love Chaim Potok’s stories, which give me a glimpse into Hasidic and Orthodox Jewish communities. One of the most lovely things about literature is how it opens a window into other worlds, gives us a chance to understand other perspectives by living inside them for just a little while.

About the books

Never Gone

Sunday school never prepared her for this kind of life after death.

Teen artist Dani Deane feels like the universe has imploded when her photographer father is killed. Days after his death, she sees him leafing through sketches in her room, roaming the halls at church, wandering his own wake. Is grief making her crazy? Or is her dad truly adrift between this world and the next, trying to contact her?

Dani longs for his help as she tries and fails to connect with her workaholic mother. Her pain only deepens when astonishing secrets about her family history come to light. But Dani finds a surprising ally in Theo, the quiet guy lingering in the backstage of her life. He persistently reaches out as Dani’s faith falters, her family relationships unravel, and she withdraws into a dangerous obsession with her father’s ghostly appearances. Will she let her broken, prodigal heart find reason to hope again?

Read an excerpt.
Add it on Goodreads
Purchase the e-book at / Amazon UK / Amazon (Aus) / Amazon (Can)
Barnes and Noble / Apple iTunes
With sneak peek chapters from the sequel, Almost There 

Purchase the paperback at CreateSpace / Amazon (US) / Amazon (Can) / Amazon (UK) /
Barnes and NobleThe Book Depository (free shipping)

Almost There

How do you find hope when a family crisis threatens everything you love?

Paris, the City of Lights. To seventeen-year-old Dani Deane, it’s the Promised Land. There, her widowed mother’s depression will vanish and she will no longer fear losing her only parent, her arty New York life, or her devoted boyfriend.

But shortly before their Paris getaway, Dani’s tyrannical grandfather falls ill, pulling them to rural Pennsylvania to deal with his hoarder horror of a house. Among the piles, Dani finds disturbing truths that could make Mum completely unravel. Desperate to protect her from pain and escape to Paris, Dani hatches a plan with the flirtatious neighbor boy that only threatens the relationships she most wants to save.

Why would God block all paths to Paris? Could real hope for healing be as close as a box tucked in the rafters?

Add it on Goodreads
Read sneak peek scenes for FREE on Wattpad
Purchase the ebook on Amazon (US) / Amazon (UK) / Amazon (Aus) / Amazon (Can)
Barnes and Noble / Smashwords / KoboApple iTunes

Purchase the paperback from Createspace / Amazon (US) / Amazon (Can) / Amazon (UK) /
Barnes and Noble / Book Depository (free shipping)

Do you find characters of faith compelling or off-putting? Why?

Thanks to Cecelia Earl for inviting me to write about this topic for her launch party. I repost it for broader sharing here with her blessing.


  1. All of my books and manuscripts have characters who deal with loss of faith or hope and come to find them again by the end of the stories. Though my books are written for a general audience, they are all Christian, because I write through my Christian lens and my characters view life that way as well. I had a section of preachiness in my first published book that a beta reader caught. I've been much more careful since to keep discovery and learning more natural and for the character, not the reader! If that makes sense. And thanks for the link! <3