Interview with Susie Finkbeiner, Christian Author

Susie Finkbeiner – Living the Story

Box Office Revolution: “What inspired you to first write Christian books?”

Susie Finkbeiner: “Honestly, it was never my intention to write books specifically for the Christian market. I just wanted to write stories. My world view as a Christian just became part of the novel. As with anything in my life, I’m hard pressed to divorce who I am in Christ from what I do.”
BOR: “What do you feel is your underlying philosophy of writing?”

SF: “I guess it all comes down to writing the very best story of hope that I can manage. Everything else — the plot, characters, themes — come together out of that.”
BOR: “What do you think is the hardest part of writing a good Christian book?”

SF: “From my experience, it’s hard to write a book for a Christian readership that avoids being preachy. But it’s so important that we, as writers, produce a story in which the art isn’t drowned out by a message. A sunset speaks to the glory of God without a big sign that declares,
US!”. The sunset is message enough. It’s the same for books that are written from a Christian worldview (as well as movies, fine art, etc.). The art is message enough on its own.”

BOR: What do you think we need to see more of in Christian novels?

SF: “You know, I would love to see more character driven novels on the shelves of the Christian bookstore. The past few years have brought a few, but I’d love even more!”

BOR: What do you think needs to be improved about Christian books as a whole?

SF: “We need to make room at the table for authors of color. These writers have much to say, incredible talent, and hearts for Jesus. It’s well past time for their stories to be shared!”
BOR: How do you feel about Christian novel writing as being a collaborative effort rather than a ‘lone ranger’ creation?

SF: “I don’t know a single writer who thrives in the ‘lone ranger’
mode of writing. We all need community in order to create our best work. I’ve been so fortunate to have many friends in all different aspects of the publishing world and I’ve worked with some incredible people. When we go at it together we have support, lots of fun, and can share in the good work God has for us to do.”

BOR: “How have Christian books improved during the time you’ve been involved in writing?”

SF: “When I started writing novels I was often disheartened when I visited the fiction section of Christian bookstores. It seemed that most of the books on the shelf were romance. That’s not to say that the romance genre is bad, its just isn’t what I choose to write. Back then I worried that there wouldn’t be a place in Inspirational fiction for me either as a writer or reader. Now I see much more diversity of genre when I peruse the shelves. This
is exciting!”

BOR: “Is working with Christian publishing companies any better or worse than working with ‘secular’ publishing companies?”

SF: “I can’t say from personal experience. However, I have
friends who have worked in both Christian and General Market houses and have had fantastic experiences in both. I’ve not heard a horror story from either side of the coin, which is great! I think that publishing houses are peopled by those who love good books and are enthusiastic about helping authors grow as writers.”

BOR: “What are your future plans for new novels?  Can you tease any specific upcoming projects?”

SF: “I have a novel releasing next year that I’m very excited about. It revolves around the events after the Vietnam War, particularly the adoption of 3,000 Vietnamese children by American, Canadian, and Australian families.”

Thank you for your input Mrs. Finkbeiner! We look forward to reading you new novel when it releases!

Stories That Bind Us by Susie Finkbeiner Stories That Bind Us: A Novel (9780800735708 ...

Author’s Note: We were provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Plot & Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

Finkbeiner’s latest novel, Stories That Bind Us, is a great depiction of the struggles we all face in the everyday. While the novel is imperfect, Finkbeiner continues to set what should be the standard in Christian fiction. Betty Sweet loves her simple life with her husband Norman. When Norman dies suddenly of heart failure, Betty is thrown for a loop. For the first few weeks after his death, she shuts everyone and everything out, determined to hide from the world until it makes sense again. Shortly after her sister-in-law Marvel intervenes by forcing her out of the house, Betty’s estranged sister Clara and her son Hugo show up on the doorstep one rainy evening. Betty finds a new purpose in caring for the two of them, but soon notices that all is not well. Clara is extremely moody and often spends long hours in bed, and Hugo shows signs of abuse. Clara’s mental state takes Betty back to her difficult childhood with a mother who struggled with the same difficulties. Even though she has the support of her husband’s exceptional family, Betty struggles with loving her sister, caring for Hugo, and dealing with her husband’s death. This leaves her feeling a bit frayed at the edges. In order to go forward, Betty must trust in Jesus, come to peace with the difficult parts of her childhood, and learn to accept the ways her life has changed. What will happen to Clara? Will Betty weather the storm? To answer these questions, read the book!;) The plot and storyline in this novel are well above average. Among the novel’s strengths are excellent dialogue, great continuity, and a strong storyline. Additionally, the poignant messages about perseverance and the healing power of love give the story meaning. In comparison, the weaknesses are minor. First, the plot could have had added depth if we heard a first-person perspective from Clara as well as Betty. Lastly, the first quarter of the book doesn’t always hold the attention, and the ending is a bit rushed. In spite of these errors, Finkbeiner has turned out another great novel that has the potential to be an excellent Christian series. Because of this, she earns an above average score for her plot and storyline.

Character Development (3.5 points)

Similarly, the character development in this novel is also above average. Betty is a realistic and relatable protagonist who has believable responses to life crises. Clara is also an above average character, but as we mentioned earlier, her character could have been even better if she had told the reader her side of the story. Comparatively, Hugo is one of the best characters in the novel. It is refreshing to see a child character who is portrayed as intelligent and fully aware of all the goings-on in his life. There is simply not enough good to say here. The minor and secondary characters are very strong and their subplots make significant contributions to the plot. Other than the minor error with Clara, there are no other flaws to note in this section. For this reason, Finkbeiner earns just shy of a perfect score for her strong character development.

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

Lastly, it was a very original idea to portray a widow who has to deal with her husband’s death, her difficult childhood, and troubled sister without further complicating things by starting a new romantic relationship. Too many Christian novels make this mistake, as we’ve said before, it is just not a good idea to encourage people to start new relationships during the grieving process. Any-who, we’re very glad Finkbeiner did not do this, and award her a full point in originality for this and other reasons. Likewise, we believe Stories That Bind us would make a great Christian series. The screenwriter(s), one of which should be Finkbeiner, would have very little difficulty adapting this novel for the big screen. The dialogue, character depth, and storyline concept are already there. If the screenwriter made Clara a protagonist alongside Betty and included flashbacks to the girl’s childhood, this content could change American Christian culture for the better. In summary, we commend Finkbeiner on another job well done and recommend this book for filmmakers who want to bring exceptional Christian books to the big screen.

Wish List Rating: 7 out of 10 points

All Manner of Things by Susie Finkbeiner

Author’s Note: We were provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Plot and Storyline Quality (3.5 points)

Susie Finkbeiner’s latest novel has a great multi-dimensional storyline that uses many threads to create a uniquely beautiful tapestry. All Manner of Things portrays the main moral and social issues of the late 60’s and early 70’s in a realistic and non-patronizing way. Instead of using the jump-scare method of issue-based storytelling, Finkbeiner provides a realistic backdrop and a subtle, yet powerful central message. Annie Jacobson is is not your average American high school student. Others may assume that she lives a normal life because she goes to school, works at the local diner, and has late-night conversations with her best friend through their bedroom windows – but appearances can be deceiving. What makes Annie different is this; in the midst of a surface-over-substance culture, she has depth and a life purpose outside of her own interests. This is partly her nature, and partly because she has been forced to grow up without a father. One day while Annie and her older brother Mike are performing their usual tasks at the diner, he confesses that he has secretly enlisted in the U.S. Army because he knew the draft was coming anyway. Annie and her family are shocked, but manage to pull together as they always have to give him a good send-off. Shortly after Mike leaves, Annie’s paternal grandfather dies, which in turn causes Annie’s long-estranged father to show up in town for the funeral. As one event leads to another, the Jacobson family is torn between cautious hope and desparate faith. Will they be able to weather this attack on their lives and their hearts? To answer this question, read the book!:) Throughout the novel, Finkbeiner avoids giving too much information and uses the subtle placement of letters at poignant moments in the story to deepen the characters and the overall message. Additionally, her excellent portrayal of American family dynamics is rarely seen in Christian fiction. The only flaw to point out here is that a few of the minor characters in the story seem to fade away near the end. However, as people do move in and out of one’s life in a seemingly random fashion at times, Finkbeiner earns just shy of a perfect score for her dedication to plot and storyline development.

Character Development (4 points)

Likewise, Finkbeiner crafts excellent and realistic dialogue between her characters, and possesses the rare talent of crafting fictional people who leave the page to become reality…for just a moment. Annie’s first-person perspective on the story drives the plot, and her decisions reflect a perfect balance of strength and weakness, thus making her a perfect character. (spoiler) Frank’s (her father’s) realistic struggle with PTSD, and the long-lasting effects of the same on his life, are never seen in fiction. (spoiler) Additionally, Annie’s realization that Frank has maintained his relationship with God during their estrangement saves him from being a stereotype. Furthermore, the reactions of the rest of the Jacobson family to the issues at hand are realistically varied depending on personality, etc., and add even more depth to the story. In short, there is not enough good to say here. The Jacobsons are a family with a lot of emotional baggage who are doing their best to honor God, love one another, and share His love with others in the midst of it all. For all the reasons listed above (and even more), Finkbeiner earns a perfect score in character development.

Creativity & Originality (1.5 points)

Finally, Finkbeiner’s core message is this: In our lives we will experience periods of light and darkness, and although we assume God has left us in the darkness, it is on the other side of the same that we will realize He was there all along, working for our good. The author does not try to convince the reader that her worldview is correct, rather, she questions many societal norms of the past and speculates as to their impact on the present. In the end, she leaves the reader to make their own decision(s). This fact earns her the rarely awarded x-factor point in originality. Finkbeiner also earns a half point in creativity for her big-picture portrayal of the everyday and creative writing style that avoids many common errors in new ways. Additionally, we here at BOR feel that this novel would make an excellent Christian series based on the content in the same. Excellent job Ms. Finkbeiner! The Christian writing world needs more novels like yours.

Wish List Rating: 9 out of 10 points