I’ve had a lot of fun at book store signings asking people as they walk by, “What are you reading these days?” As you can imagine, I get a lot of different answers.
Some will stop with an expression that lights up their face. They’ll mention a book title or an author. Usually that’s enough to strike up a conversation that is mutually satisfying.
When I asked one man what he was reading, he looked at me as though with x-ray eyes, searching for my thoughts behind my words. He countered my question without looking at the books or display.
“What are you writing?”
His brow clouded. “What does that mean?”
“It means my faith is central to how I understand life, people, things that happen. I build a story around that, offering it to folks for entertainment, and maybe more. Maybe someone will find encouragement or hope through my faith perspective.”
“Ah, that’s not for me. I’m an agnostic.” He waved his hand as he started turning away.
I shrugged. “That’s your faith perspective.”
He turned back toward me. “No, I don’t have a faith. I don’t believe in a god or any of that. I’ve tried, but it just doesn’t work for me.”
“Then your faith perspective is that life is hopelessly confusing and without purpose. It’s all pure chance, or maybe unknowable. I don’t believe that, so I write from a different perspective.”
He picked up a copy of A Change of Heart and thumbed through it. “Nah, that’s not for me.” He put it back on the table.
I reached to shake his hand. “Maybe not. Maybe it will be later. Have a blessed day.”
As he walked away he said over his shoulder, “You, too.”
That was a surprise, perhaps to both of us. It’s one of the fascinating conversations when I asked “What are you reading these days?” There have been responses quite the opposite. Some people have answered very quickly, without even pausing, “The Bible! That’s all I need!”
If given a chance I might mention that each of my books is built around a Bible passage. Sometimes in conversation I reveal that I’m a retired pastor and an artist. I write from the worlds I know from my own experience.
I believe a book is always a form of conversation. I write fiction because it gives me the freedom to structure interaction with people around situations, personalities, circumstances, and often decisions that are deeply personal. All my life I have found in fiction a pathway for validation of my own experiences and reflections in life. I hope I can help that happen for others.
“What are you reading these days?” I think I’ll keep asking the question. There’s nothing like sharing a good read to open a conversational door. Oh, and often the conversation sells a book or two!