Next Tuesday, September 17, Clear Winter Nights, Trevin Wax's first fiction book, will hit the shelves of bookstores and ship from online retailers.
Trevin has been writing theologically for years, including two non-fiction books already published and one to be released next month.
He writes for a high trafficked Christian blog, Kingdom People, and serves as the general editor for The Gospel Project, one of the most well-received small group curriculums released in years.
No one could question his literary wares, but fiction writing is different. It communicates in a different way and requires its own nuance. Because of these factors, it is a legitimate question to ask whether Trevin's acumen could extend outside of the non-fiction realm.
With Clear Winter Nights, Trevin indicates that he is up to the needed task of communicating the Gospel through fiction.
The cover explains the basis for the novella - "theology in story." The discussions between the two leads are vehicles to explore theological issues, questions and doubts that resonate with the reality of a post-modern, and post-Christian, culture.
That is not to say that the reader does not become emotionally invested or the characters become bland caricatures. Anyone who has been involved with a Christian going through the college years knows Chris. Most of us, in some way or another, were Chris.
The same with Gil. We all have someone in our lives that speaks with the wisdom of years of following "King Jesus," as Gil is fond of saying.
Clear Winter Nights does not attempt to follow The Lord of the Rings path and merely use Christian principles and theological truth as the ever-present, but background foundation. It is not The Chronicles of Narnia with symbolism and allegories that point back to Christ.
But neither is it like much of the bad Christian fiction that so often dominates the shelves on church libraries. Chris and Gil are real people in the real world with real problems. They do not reach a sit-com solution that ties it all up neatly in a bow.
Limiting the setting and the narrative allowed Trevin to stay more in his comfort zone of conversations about theology. I see this theology in story as a stepping stone for him to push himself further in the future.
While The Pilgrim's Regress does not have all of the charm of Narnia, it was pivotal in C.S. Lewis' exploration of his faith told through the lens of fiction. It is a good read on it's own, but the real value lies in how it allowed Lewis to grow and develop as an author. I think Clear Winter Nights can do the same for Trevin.
He clearly has a gift for creating likable characters that appeal to your emotions. The next step will be to go even further, developing conflicted or cruel antagonists within an even more compelling story complete with what J.R.R. Tolkein called a "eucatastrophe" - that moment when everything seems lost, but victory emerges at the last moment.
That may or may not come for Trevin as a writer. If so, Christianity and culture will be much better for it. If not, Clear Winter Nights can stand on its own as an interesting exploration of faith and doubt through a fiction framework.
The subtitle is "a journey into truth, doubt, and what comes after." While "what comes after" is perhaps the most intriguing thing for me when considering what's next for Trevin as a writer, the journey of Chris' doubt confronting Gil's truth within Clear Winter Nights is a journey that's worth taking by itself.
You can pre-order Clear Winter Nights now. Read an interview with Trevin on the writing process, how fiction was different and why we felt it was needed.