I’m writing my first non-fiction Christian growth book (GULP). I’m in no way an expert at what I’m writing, which is why I think God’s encouraging me to write it. I’m learning how to do it, I've been researching and practicing, and now God's telling me it's time to tell others... and it’s humbling.
As I’ve been working on this book [WORKING TITLE: Living Victimized VICTORIOUS - winning the battle against sexual trauma, PTSD and mental illness] I’ve been considering writing it with a pseudonym.
'Samantha Means' is the Christian novelist akin to Francine Rivers. The Non-fiction Christian growth writer needs a different name so readers will know exactly what to expect when they pick up her book. Similar to the difference between Nora Roberts and JD Robb - Nora is the woman behind both authors, but JD Robb is the name behind the futuristic murder mystery novel series. Samantha is the woman behind both authors, but ________ is the name behind the non-fiction work.
I can’t write a novel without leaving a piece of myself behind in every character. I can’t put words on a page without feeling like I’ve just gutted my very self onto the pros. When you read my writing, you’re not only getting a nice story, advice, or perspective, you’re getting pieces of who I am.
I’ve told people if they really want to know my heart, read what I write. I’m not sure if this is true for every author or not, but words are only the tools I use to share my soul with the world. As a painter uses brushes, paints, and other clever instruments, you don’t notice any of that when you look at the final work of art. You see the soul of the painter.
As a writer, the plot and pros are my tools, but when you finish the book (whether fiction or non-fiction) my hope is for the reader to have been touched somewhere deep inside in a way that only God can do through me. Not because I’m so great, but because He is, and I’m just that right kind of different he wants in order to speak to the reader - you.
I know who I am: Sometimes brutally honest and unapologetic, and yet my heart is more tender than I'd like to admit. I’m also intense, transparent, passionate, and adventurous to the point of dangerous. I’m compassionate, sincere, hopeful and strong. I cry easily, get bored easily, and would save the world if Jesus hadn’t done it already. I’m a daughter of the King, an heir to a heavenly kingdom, ambassador for Christ, and beloved friend and bride to Jesus. I know who I am.
To create a pseudonym for the books that will declare the truth of Jesus Christ in a non-fiction genre isn't easy. Such a task feels like giving birth to a whole new extension of me. What does that even look like?
While driving to work one day I was chatting with God about it, tossing names into the spiritual realm and listening for His feedback. I soon realized that no name could describe me better than the name I already have. Rather than try to come up with another name that describes me, and rather than simply picking a name I like, I decided to choose a name that would call me higher in my writing. A name that would remind me of the purpose of my writing, the heart I need to have behind it, and to never lose sight of who gets the glory.
My non-fiction Christian growth books will therefore be written as J.P Stephens.
John Paul Stephens. A reminder to write with an uncompromising balance of truth and love like the apostle John, the same boldness for the people and fear of God as the apostle Paul, and the surrender and humility of Stephen the martyr. This is in no way who I claim to be, but it’s what I will strive for, and the name will be a type of accountability. Before I put my writing out there for the public with the name J.P Stephens attached to it, can I honestly say I’ve done the best I can to live up to the example of those three men whose names I’m using for my work?
Words are powerful. The world was created in 7 days with nothing more than words out of the mouth of God. It’s by our words and the faith we have behind them that saves us from eternal damnation and a life wrecked by sin and shame. It’s our words that build one another up to keep going, or stop us dead in our tracks in hopelessness. Words inspire us to do the impossible and can just as easily convince us that what’s possible is impossible.
We will be held accountable to God for every word we speak (Matthew 12:36). If that doesn’t make you cringe you might need to take a look in the mirror. As a writer who seeks to put my words permanently on the page, I feel an even greater responsibility to this scripture as my words will be read over and over again. One careless statement, one half-truth, one minimization of scripture or the power of God from my tongue or written on the page for the world to read will be something I’ll have to own when I face the Lord on that final day. Truthfully, we all share this responsibility - believer and unbeliever alike.
I love my Lord, and even those words fail to hold the weight of truth in such a statement. In that love, I fear and experience the vast range of emotions toward and with Him. I know I’ll make mistakes, but I also know that to keep the truth of who He is and what He’s done for all mankind, not just me, is something I simply cannot keep inside.
Whether I tell that story through novels or true stories, I can’t keep quiet about Jesus. In the words of the prophet Jeremiah, “If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot” (Jeremiah 20:9, ESV). I can’t.
For those who continue to read my blogs and have explored my books, links to which are on my website, keep an eye out for a new non-fiction book by J.P Stephens coming out in late 2017 or early 2018!