Eagle Designs
Virginia Smith

A lifelong lover of books, Virginia Smith has always enjoyed immersing herself in fiction. She has published nine novels so far, including four contemporary and five mystery/romantic suspense. Her tenth book, Third Time’s a Charm, will be available in February 2010. Visit Virginia at www.VirginiaSmith.org, http://virginiasjournal.blogspot.com/, or www.facebook.com/Ginny.P.Smith.

Contemporary Novels: Timing Is Everything

As a reader, I spent a good number of years avoiding contemporary literature. Speculative fiction grabbed my attention at a young age, and I devoted myself to reading everything I could get my hands on that featured an elf, dragon, or spaceship. Naturally, my first attempts at writing reflected my reading tastes, and I produced dozens of sci-fi and fantasy stories. Imagine my surprise when the Lord gave me the idea for the book that would become my first published novel—and it was a contemporary story.

Contemporary novels are those with a modern setting, which several sources identify as anything after 1950. The characters, setting, and issues in the novel are those that could reasonably be encountered in modern times. Additionally, to be categorized as strictly contemporary, the novel can’t fall into another established genre, such as suspense, mystery, romance, or young adult. Elements of those genres can be included in the contemporary novel, of course, but the primary focus of the plot can’t revolve around those aspects.

All good fiction, regardless of genre, transports a reader into a fictitious world where the characters wrestle with identifiable needs. Those needs are basic to human nature, regardless of time period or setting. The fundamental requirements of physical sustenance, security, belonging, and love speak to a reader whether the character striving to achieve them is driving a wagon train across the prairie or strutting down a city street with an iPhone held to her ear. But the nature of the character’s struggle, and his or her reaction to that struggle, is defined by the society in which he or she lives. That is what sets the contemporary novel apart from others—the society is today’s.

As Christians who love fiction, we enjoy reading fictitious illustrations of spiritual truth. Our modern culture is riddled with issues that are unique to people living in today’s society. Many of these issues are tough, confusing, and sometimes extremely painful. The contemporary Christian novel allows us to see God move in the lives of the characters facing those issues. It reminds us that He really does intervene in our lives today as much as He did in times past. Novelist Arundhati Roy put it well when she said, “As I keep saying, fiction is truth. I think fiction is the truest thing there ever was.”

My contemporary novels have dealt with some pretty tough issues. Just As I Am featured a young woman with purple hair and multiple facial piercings, who became a willing tool for God to reach her hurting friends. The societal issues were AIDS and child abuse. The sequel, Sincerely, Mayla, tackled teen pregnancy, abortion, and outreach to friends living a homosexual lifestyle. Show me one person alive today who hasn’t been touched in some way by those issues and I’ll show you someone who’s been

living in a cave for the past few decades. How exciting to be able to demonstrate God’s very real life-changing power in the midst of huge problems like those.

The books in my Sister-to-Sister Series, Stuck in the Middle, Age Before Beauty, and the upcoming Third Time’s a Charm, center on an issue that many face today: the ripple effect of divorce on children, especially in terms of establishing lasting relationships later in life. With astronomically high divorce rates, more people are facing this situation than ever before. The problem goes beyond the struggle to break the pattern of divorce and find true love. How can a girl whose father deserted her understand the unconditional love of a Heavenly Father? The conflicts and questions in these books grew directly out of my own life. What a joy to share, through a contemporary Christian novel, the answers God has given me.

I still enjoy a good sci-fi or fantasy novel. Someday maybe I’ll even write one. In the meantime, I’ve developed a deep affinity for stories set right here on earth. Especially when they leave me with a sense of hope that God can and does meet every need I have, no matter what time period I live in. After all, He’s the same yesterday,today, and forever.

Sister To Sister Series