Why do we like to read?
I know, it’s a pretty basic question for a group of super-readers like us. But if you were to throw out an answer, I imagine it would be a combination of these reasons: it’s relaxing. It’s peaceful. It’s entertaining. It lets me travel to places I may not make it to in person. It allows me to live new adventures.
All valid reasons and I’m sure you could come up with more. But isn’t it cool when stories accomplish more than entertainment? Before I began my career writing inspirational romance, I wrote stories that didn’t include a faith element. The main reason I moved to writing Christian contemporary romance is because I wanted my stories to be memorable long after turning the last page. I wanted my stories to make a difference, to help people. Because each of my books contains a faith message as well as a journey to find love, they are my testimony of God’s love to the world. His message is shared with the readers of my love stories.
Taking it a step further, I also love when fiction books help bring light to a certain cause or charity through the storyline. In my book Roadtrip to Redemption, Leslie Malone faces an empty summer. Her husband divorces her, her job as a teacher is on summer break and her daughter accepts a fashion internship far away in Paris. What an empty, miserable, lonely summer, right?
Wrong! Leslie decides to jump in the car and take a roadtrip with no destination in mind. Along the way, she prays for God’s guidance and asks Him to use her to help others that she finds along her path. It makes for a very adventurous trip! She meets Evelyn, who leads the knitting ministry group at her church. Their project is to knit a dozen blankets and a dozen preemie baby caps and deliver them to Levine’s Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina every month. While writing the book, I didn’t know that I’d feature this real-life hospital in my story, but as I was researching the route Leslie would take on her trip, I knew that her encounter with Evelyn and the knitters would take place right about there. With a simple Google search I discovered that Levine’s is a big presence in that community, and so the storyline of the knitters creating for the babies took shape. From there, it grew. A friend of mine, Diana Atkinson, an avid knitter, had opened her own online store, Heartfelt Creative, where she features knitted goods and original patterns for knitters. I asked her to create a pattern for the preemie caps which I included in the back of the book for readers to use.
About two months after the book’s launch, I ran a special promotion. For a week, I partnered with Levine’s Children’s Hospital to promote the book, both on my end and theirs, and all proceeds that came in from sales for that week, I donated to their hospital preemie ward. It was a fun project, a heartwarming one. We raised a little money for the babies, we sold a few more books and it left us all with a great feeling in our hearts.
In my book Sanctuary, Nora Ramsey inherits a dilapidated southern plantation home in the Lowcountry of South Carolina from her beloved aunt. A high-powered Philadelphia attorney who for a number of reasons, decides to push the Reset button on her crazy busy life, Nora settles into a new, slow-paced routine of savoring God’s beauty of the ocean and the marsh, and renovating her aunt’s treasure to its former majesty. After some soul-searching she decides that she can use her long business experience to mentor young women who need a “leg up” into the professional world. Helping other women gain their education, write their resume and prepare for interviews in business would be something she’d be good at and would enjoy spending her days doing.
Once my story started evolving, I recognized that I could once again use my fiction for a mission to help others. After some research, I discovered the nonprofit, Dress For Success, a global organization with local affiliates all over the US. Dress for Success provides professional attire for low-income women, to help support their job-search and interview process. Buoyed by the success of my previous promotion partnering with Levine’s, I contacted Dress For Success and ran a similar one-week special event.
Other InspyRomance authors have incorporated real-life charitable organizations in their books with the intent to help others. In Raindrops on Radishes, author Valerie Comer’s characters help out at Blessings Under the Bridge, a program in Spokane, Washington, that serves dinners to the homeless. She contacted the coordinators of the real program, and they were delighted with the mention.
In A Pinch of Promise, author Elizabeth Maddrey writes about a fictional mission that she modeled after the Central Union Mission in Washington DC. She donates a portion of the proceeds from that series to support the mission.
Author Deb Kastner donated a portion of royalties from The Cowgirl’s Christmas Gift to real-life animal rescue Happy Haven Farm and Sanctuary, which among other things takes in animals that can’t be adopted back out. They recently had a pig with a bag of food dumped on their front porch…guess the owners’ potbellied pig grew up!
Author Stephanie Martin auctioned off rights to a character in her book A Date for Daisy. She included a one-page info sheet about the auction and the organization it supported at the end of the book. It went to Project Hope, which is a Christian ministry in Southwest Missouri that does local and international mission work. What a fun event!
It shouldn’t surprise us that Christian authors have come up with creative ways to include a mission in our fiction. Do you have any others to add? Have you read books recently that included an element of helping others in need?
If you would like further information on any of the charitable organizations mentioned in this blog post, here you go!