The problem: I was just learning the importance and beauty of diversity and wanted to reflect this in my novel, but if you blinked and missed it, I don’t blame you. I had very little exposure to people of color growing up in small town PNW and even less knowledge of Black culture. I also had the mistaken idea that any mention of skin color automatically meant racism, so I did a pretty poor job giving my characters full-bodied experiences and identities.
What I changed: While I felt it was too late at this point to give Destiny and Niyanna what I now know they deserve and was worried doing so could feed into some stereotypes (i.e. Destiny’s family), I made sure that any mentions of their race were inoffensive and used some more accurate/specific terms for their hairstyles than just “braids”.
In the future: Before I attempt to write characters of a different culture from mine again, I’m spending some time listening and soaking in. If you have any recommendations for resources (fiction or otherwise), please share them down in the comments.
2. Child Raising
The problem: In the original edition, I included a scene where Kiera physically disciplines Jade. I had her do it with patience and calmness, which to me was somewhat countercultural to what I was surrounded with. A little while after publication, I heard from a reader or two that they would not be reading the book due to the triggering nature of this scene as it reminded them of child abuse they had witnessed. This really grieved me and got me thinking that maybe this wasn’t the best or only way to raise children.
What I changed: I ended up removing this scene completely as it served no other purpose in the story and detracted from my main message of love.
In the future: I would like to focus on the positive, nurturing but still honest and hard aspects of raising children with gentleness and grace.
3. LGBT+ Portrayal
The problem: This last one makes me a little bit sad, and I hope my readers will be forgiving. I needed a divisive political issue, something that would wreck the church in this book, so I chose LGBT+ issues, a.k.a. the current “boogeyman” of my church experience. I won’t go into the storyline, but I soon realized this decision and the way I wrote it could be unintentionally villainizing and very hurtful, especially to young readers who may be seeking God on what He says about their sexual orientation.
What I changed: I decided that this book, with very little plot space for nuanced, empathetic discussion and a storyline focused on love not controversy was not the place for me to talk about this. I removed the storyline completely.
In the future: I will not be writing any more stories with LGBT+ identities painted as a divisive issue, as I believe it is much more human than political, personal than dogmatic.
Whether or not you agree with these changes, please know that I felt God’s calling to implement them and did so in good faith with very little meaningful change to the story. I hope to continue to grow in my empathy and knowledge and write more stories showing the love of God. 💙
I’ve known for a couple years now that I’ve wanted to make some changes to Kiera.
I wrote my heart on the pages of this book. I wrote about God and His love for us–something I’ve fought to find and hold on to. I wrote about sacrificial love that blossoms into more. I wrote about friendship and fear and loss and laughter.
And sometimes hearts change.
We get to grow up a little, find out what’s important, change our mind on things, realize some things are a big deal but not as big as we thought they were.
Mine has changed a bit through continued distance and healing from a heart-draining culture and more empathy, truth, and emotional honesty in my life.
I started to have qualms about a couple non-essential elements of the story, and early this year I felt God calling me to make these changes.
All through the project, I have felt Him near in a very big way. He provided an odd job with exactly the right amount of pay to cover new designs. He gave me strength and words to write a brand new short story.
When I was hit with the worst dose of imposter syndrome, He brought me a favorable review and an early, perfectly printed proof copy. And this week I feel Him giving me energy and enthusiasm for this release.
I can feel His delight to bless me in these ways, and I can’t wait to write my next book with Him. 💙