author spotlight – the talented kat heckenbach

I have had the pleasure of not only getting to know Kat Heckenbach over the last couple of weeks but also getting to read her first novel, Finding Angel.  Kat is delightful person and a writer of great young adult (YA) fantasy.  I’m looking forward to reading the second in her Toch Island Chronicles, Seeking Unseen. I am so pleased to have her on the blog today to talk about the theology in her novels.  I don’t think she even winced when I asked her to talk about theology. 😉  So, without further ado, please give a warm welcome to Kat…

What motivates you to write the way you do?

I love this quote: “Fairytales don’t teach children that dragons exist, children already know that dragons are real. Fairytales teach children that dragons can be beaten.”  –G.K. Chesterton

Do you consider yourself a Christian author or an author of Christian fiction? What do you think the difference is?

I guess I’ll start by describing what I think the difference is. I think an “author of Christian fiction” is someone who writes fiction in which Christianity is a central focus. For the most part, Christian fiction is written with a Christian audience in mind. Some authors of Christian fiction write to reach non-Christians with a gospel message as well.

A “Christian author“ can write Christian fiction. Or they can write fiction that is not specifically Christian. Their faith is personal, and may influence what they write, even as a strong undercurrent, but isn’t necessarily going to reach the surface of their writing—or, it may not be present at all.

Given those options, I would consider myself a “Christian author.” I am a Christian, and I’m an author, and much of my faith does come through in my writing. But very little of my writing is overtly Christian.

I’ve only written a few short stories where I directly reference Christianity or God. I prefer subtlety in my writing. My short stories tend to be allegorical and symbolic, if and when I write a story meant to have an underlying faith meaning. (Sometimes stories are just that, with no “meaning” whatsoever.)  Those stories have found homes in both the Christian and secular markets.

My novels are also very subtle. Yes, I’ve purposely alluded to my faith in my novels, with bits of Bible verses woven into narrative. There is a whole scene that was derived from the last chapters of Job. (Not one reader has picked up on that, though!) And I’ve got characters with faith, although I don’t reference what it is exactly. There are hints, though, if you look closely.

How is your theology (what you believe about God) reflected in your writing?

I believe in God as Creator, and there are definitely references to the Creator and Creation in my novels. I also see the world through very scientific eyes as I have a BS in Biology. I’m really interested in science from a Biblical world view vs. science from a secular world view, and in many ways the science with magic vs. science without magic in my novels represents that.

I also believe that God works through our lives and times things in ways that we don’t understand. He also often wants us to play a part in a situation, and then hand the ball to someone else because His intention was for us to grow or accomplish something different than what we originally thought.

Finally, God works directly through us. Our faith allows us to do more than we are capable of on our own. The magic in my novels represents that to me as well—an ability that can’t be explained by our genes.

What is one thing you’d like your readers to know?

That I believe fantasy and fairy tales have a rightful place among Christian fiction and Christian authors. That we’re not occultists or wiccans. That a character’s ability to levitate something is, well, first of all not actually real, and second of all not the same thing as summoning the power of demons.

I don’t mean to sound glib, but we Christian authors of fantasy aren’t doing this haplessly. It’s something we understand, something we have given great thought to, and prayed about. And most of us respect a reader’s decision to abstain from books about fairy tale magic if they so choose. 

What are your top 3 favorite books?

Can the Harry Potter series count as one book? 😀 Oh, to be fair, I’ll only pick one of those. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is my favorite of the series.

Another all-time favorite is The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.

Oh, this is so hard! I want to name classics, like A Wrinkle in Time and The Phantom Tollbooth…and newer books like Incarceron and Neverwhere. And Ender’s Game. And….

Sorry, but I can’t pick just three!

That’s OK, Kat.  I would be surprised if you could! 😉  Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts with us.  I’m looking forward to reading Seeking Unseen!

8 thoughts on “author spotlight – the talented kat heckenbach

  1. Very nice interview. But I was distracted throughout by that gorgeous earcuff, Kat! Trying to pick a favorite Potter book? Don’t think I could do that – they’re all so essential to each other. lol

    I agree with the differences between Christian writing & Christian writers. The one thing that tends to puzzle me (& frustrate me as a reader, though) is Christian books that are aimed toward the Christian readers & yet heavy with the salvation message. That’s great for the handful of non-Christian’s who happen to pick up the book (and stick with it) but a bit repetitive for the rest of us. Whereas books that have some focus on personal development & daily living are more likely to minister, imo.

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    1. Oh, I agree–that’s something I never understood either.Why do so many Christian books have the whole gospel laid out when the vast majority of its readers are already Christians? It’s not my market, though, and books like that sell…

      And thanks. I got the ear cuff from a great store on Etsy (RingRingRing, to be exact). If you can’t tell from the photo, it’s a griffin.

      I love all the Potter books, too. But for some reason Half-Blood Prince has always been my favorite. Not even sure why.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      And Lisa, thanks for the great interview questions :).

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      1. I had a feeling it was an etsy find. 😉 Thanks for their name – I’m gonna look them up! (wasn’t sure if it was a dragon or some other creature – even after I zoomed in on the photo)

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  2. Kat(s) – did you know you’re both named Kat? 🙂

    The Christian writers vs. Christian fiction is something I’ve been giving a lot of thought. I actually posted on Mike Duran’s blog but I think it was so late that no one ever commented on it. The post is http://mikeduran.com/2012/09/shooting-the-fictional-messenger/. Part of my comment was this:

    Are we Christians writing fiction or are we writing Christian fiction? It seems to me that if we are Christians in it just to write a good story, we are missing out on a great opportunity. Jesus commanded us to go into the world and make disciples. Why not evangelize/minister through our writing? To do this, our books need to reach non-believers and deliver the message of Truth OR it should encourage Christians in their spiritual walk. Whatever we do, we must do for the glory of God.

    One of the reasons I love to read Francine Rivers (even though she’s not a Spec writer) is because her books challenge me. I want to have faith like Hadassah’s in Voice in the Wind, I gain insight on Hosea by reading Redeeming Love, I appreciate the way she delves into abortion and generational cursing in The Atonement Child.

    We need to strive to be culturally relevant in creative ways. That’s why I think a story about ghosts, vampires, witches, mummies, other worlds, or whatever you can imagine are needed, as long as the theological message of the book brings honor to God.

    It’s a bit of a different view that what you guys are saying, although I think we mostly agree. Non-believers need the gospel message presented in a creative way, believers need to be challenged in spiritual growth. I’ve recently been reminded that the key is to pray before you write. 🙂

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    1. Lisa, I do agree that we should definitely let out faith seep into our writing. I don’t think we can *not* do it if we tried, really. I’m sure even some of my purely-secular-just-for-fun stories may have some hidden, underlying stuff in them.

      The only thing we have to be careful of is forgetting the importance of the story. Some authors, however, put the message so strongly in their stories it becomes a turn-off. It backfires. I saw in an email recently something to the effect that if our writing and story-telling isn’t a priority, then the message behind it won’t reach very far because our readers won’t be interested.

      I also think we can set an example but just writing well even if there is no message in the writing itself. if we’re good writers, our readers will find us–online, in interviews, etc.–and we can speak openly about our faith in those places.

      I think we need multiple ways of reaching readers. Some authors are called to be more overt, some subtle, and some leave their faith mostly out of their writing but set an example through their lives. Different readers have different, I don’t know, receptors(?) when it comes to message and need to be reached in different ways.

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  3. Yes – we’re both Kats! Such a good name has to be shared. 😉

    I agree with both of you. As Christians, I think it’s important to let our perspective and worldview color or influence fiction. Fantasy & Sci-fi had always been an excellent medium for broaching more difficult, touchy topics so I think it’s a perfect way to share God’s truth cushioned in a less-preachy manner that makes it more palatable to a lot of society.

    I’m guessing preference in fiction is probably similar to preference in real life. If the goal is evangelism then which is best – a Christian vibe in books (like lifestyle evangelism) or in-your-face preaching? I have seen reviews on Amazon and Goodreads and such by non-Christians who are very angry because they picked up a book that sounded good and then halfway through got beat over the head with the “come to God” stick. Though I’m sure the Lord has used those same books to speak to others. And are most Christians reading every one of those lines or thinking “Yup, true. Been there, done that” and skimming to when the story picks up again?

    I want my writing to speak to and minister to both those who are already Christians & those who are not. And to entice readers who aren’t Christian to exams their perspectives.

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