The Power of the Written Word: Charles Martin Books

If you love a good story, get ready for a treat! Today’s post is about a modern author whose work is so good, we’ve read every one of his books–multiple times. I don’t recommend every book I have read much less every book by a specific author, so why am I giving Charles Martin this credit?

Martin is a talented author, but it is the presence of God and the anointing he invites into his books that make me return to them as a resource.

(Part of a response I posted to a question on Charles Martin’s Facebook fan page.)

Criticism about Faith

Charles Martin is not overtly honest about his faith in his fiction writing.

Though Charles Martin is open about his Christian faith on his website, his books focus on story content and people–not religion. Some readers have strong reactions when they discover Martin is a Christian author. One threw his book in the trash and wrote to Martin that he needed to “quit all the Christian crap to get more popular”. This is how Martin responded:

First, can I just say that I’m sorry.  It sounds like some Christian somewhere wounded you.  Please forgive us.  We don’t always get it right.  Loving people like Jesus is not easy.  I fail here often.  But that book you threw in the trash is not one of those failures.  My books have a tendency to pick at scabs and that can be difficult for the reader.  I’m not saying I know you or what made you hurt, but the story in my story may speak to and bring healing to the wound you feel.  I wrote it for that purpose: because it’s only the love of The Father that can get past the tough, calloused places in us and touch our hearts where they’re still tender….

Charles Martin, Response to an Angry Reader

Martin’s Writing Process

Charles Martin maintains a strict writing structure of 500-1000 words a day–most days. Though he doesn’t go into great detail about how the magic happens, Martin does acknowledge the Source. In September, after completing his second book in the Murphy Shepherd series, Martin posted the following on social media:

Last Thursday I clicked ‘send’ on the third installment of the Keeper series…I have a whole new respect for authors who write series…this book challenged me in ways I don’t think I’ve ever experienced…I can’t tell you the number of days I doubted me, my craft, everything. 

To all you aspiring writers or artists or anyone who creates – when it gets tough, and you can’t see around the corner, and have no idea what to do next, I have 2 thoughts:

1 – just show up.  Put your butt in the seat.  Sweat it out.  Don’t quit. If it were easy everyone would be doing it. Writing is quite possibly one of the most humbling things on the planet  – Books don’t write themselves. Regardless of yesterday – and whether it was awesome or not – we show up to a blank page.  The book doesn’t care – You get no credit for what you’ve done.  So, sit down and get to work.  AND

2- most importantly, remember that the first verb in scripture is ‘create.’  It’s the first description we get of God’s nature.  It’s who He is.  What He does.  So, everyday I sit in this chair I remember where my strength comes from. The well for the words and usually before I write a word, my conversation with Him sounds something like, “Lord, it’s me. I’m back. Help. Please sit here with me today. Help me create something, which at the end of the day, whether it’s accepted, praised, thrashed or whatever, is a Roadsign to Jerusalem. That it sounds like your heart for us. That it reflects you and points people to you.”

Charles Martin, September 14, 2021 Facebook Post

Publication Schedule

Though no official schedule is posted for Martin books, all the fiction titles tend to come out once annually in June. Non-fiction titles and blog posts have no set schedule. They seem to follow the writer’s inspiration and availability.

The Books (and How To Use Them)

A Life Intercepted

A college football star headed to NFL fame has his life (and marriage) derailed when he is falsely accused of a crime and sent to prison. Can he right the wrongs dealt him and clear his name or will he be doomed to live in the shadows? This book is a sobering read for athletes and anyone at the top of their game with fame and fortune. It is a good reminder of what is important in life.

Chasing Fireflies

He survives a horrible train accident and is eventually adopted, but the shadows of Chase’s identity still haunt him as an adult. When a new journalism assignment reminds him of old questions, he will have to go on a quest to discover the truth. This story is inspiring for anyone in the adoption/foster care system. It is also a good read for writers and those wanting to make a difference in the life of an orphan.

Long Way Gone

The son of a preacher with big dreams to be a famous musician steals from his father and runs away to Nashville. Struggling on the streets, will he make it to the stage or will he find the courage to go home? This book is an award-winning modern Prodigal Son story. It’s an excellent read for musicians and especially healing for estranged loved ones.

The Dead Don’t Dance & Maggie

When Dylan’s wife goes into labor and hemorrhages, his son is stillborn and his wife goes into a coma. He takes a job teaching to pay the medical bills and connects with his students but he wrestles with God. If tragedy leaves you questioning God, this book and its sequel are for you. These books are also inspiring for teachers, gardeners, and those believing God for a miracle.

Send Down the Rain

A Vietnam veteran, a single mother with two kids fleeing an abusive relationship, an old flame, and a 45-year old secret converge on the Florida coast. This book is good for military readers, truckers, and travelers. It is also a good read for those who carry guilt over and haven’t made peace with their pasts.

The Mountain Between Us

When bad winter weather causes their last flight out of Salt Lake City to be canceled, two strangers charter a plane to get to their destination only to crash in one of the largest wildernesses in the United States. This story was made into a movie but, unfortunately, Hollywood altered the story significantly. The book is a thrilling survival story and a good read for those who like the great outdoors.

The Water Keeper & The Letter Keeper (A Murphy Shepherd Novel, Books 1 & 2)

When a young woman is suckered into a human trafficking ring, a man with a boat and spy-like connections sets out on an adventure to find her and save her before she is lost forever. This first Martin series follows the unfolding mysteries of the people affected by human trafficking. This series is good for anyone wanting to better understand how human trafficking works. It is also a good read for those who have been victimized, survived, and struggle with the trauma of their past.

They Turned The World Upside Down

This second non-fiction title uses Martin’s storytelling charm to tell the story of the first-century church in the Book of Acts. This book is good for an approachable Bible study about the apostles, evangelism, and the early church. It is also a good opportunity to discuss Christian theology and why we believe what we do.

Thunder and Rain

A modern-day cowboy and Texas Ranger has survived by developing a tough skin to life, but all that changes when a woman and her young daughter arrive in town needing his help and protection. Capturing the grit of life in the West, this book is a good read for Western lovers and tough guys. It is also good for those who thought love wasn’t in the cards for them.

Unwritten

An actress miserable in her fame, the priest who knows her secrets, and a Boatman with secrets of his own pair up to make the ultimate disappearing act. In leaving the rest of the world, they just may find what is really important. This book is a good read for those with a taste for international travel as well as those who love a good mystery. It is also good for those who live busy lives and long to get out of the rat race.

Water for my Heart

A young street-smart man finds his way through Harvard and into a lucrative business in Miami–in the illegal drug trade. He gets the chance to right his wrongs by going to Central America, but he finds more than he bargained for. This book is a good read for those who love Latin cultural influences as well as travel. It is a story of hope and redemption for even the most unlovable characters.

What If It’s True?

This first non-fiction title uses Martin’s storytelling charm to tell the story of the Gospel and Jesus Christ himself. This book is good for an approachable Bible study about Jesus Christ and why Christianity worships him as the son of the one, true God.

When Crickets Cry

A seven-year-old girl with a vivid scar on her chest sells lemonade to a stranger in a small Southern town. Her kindness sparks a friendship that leads them both toward healing. This book is an inspiring read for those in the medical field or those with a heart for sick children. It is also inspiring for anyone needing a miracle or a touch of healing.

Where The River Ends

When two star-crossed lovers marry against their families’ wishes, they know they have an uphill battle. They build a stronger marriage in their commitment to each other, but that commitment is tested when one of them receives a life-threatening illness. They can take it lying in a hospital bed, but they choose to take it on a 130 mile trip down the river. For anyone battling incredible odds or feeling defeated by sickness, this book is for you.

Wrapped in Rain

When one man’s brother escapes a mental facility, he is forced to face the demons in his past to find him. Along with bringing his brother to safety, he will have to find a way to make peace with the past if he wants to truly move forward. For all those struggling with mental health issues or trying to forgive things in the past, this book is for you.

How to share the books to build community

A Martin book is a great way to talk about issues in small groups. They open the door to discussion of often difficult topics as you discuss the fictional stories organically. They are also really good ways to approach discussions of faith with people strongly opposed to them in any other direct context. You can share life together with a Martin book.

My favorite person to share life with through a Martin book is my dad. He became blind and could only read through audio books. We discovered Martin after this interview.

We started reading his work, and haven’t stopped since. We read the books independently, discuss the characters, and awe over his writing together. We have both reread the books, but dad has read them at least 3x as much as I.

A message to Charles Martin

Thank you for writing such well-crafted stories. You inspire us to take writing seriously and tell our own stories in a similar fashion. We marvel at your talent and hope to write like you.

Thank you for the gift of your faith made real on the page. Thank you for your vulnerability to show how each day is a collaboration with God and, at times, a humble struggle.

Thank you for creating a safe space to talk about hard issues. Whether intended or not, your books have become tools of evangelism on the market today.

Charles Martin’s “What If It’s True?”

After reading Educated, I found myself really wrestling with some issues. Not only had the book wrecked me to see a child so mistreated, but it also upset me to see her worldview so warped against God.

After reading her book, I craved something happy, but not just anything good…I needed something true about Jesus. Enter Charles Martin’s book, What If It’s True?

‘What If It’s True’ — An Explanation from Author Charles Martin on Vimeo.

What we often lose in translation when we read the Bible is the why of what was done. We don’t understand why David cut off a corner piece of Saul’s robe or why a sick woman would be an outcast in society. We miss the implied meaning in the actions of the Bible because we no longer live in a culture saturated with meaning the way our ancestors did.

In the past, cultures lived with constant reminders of where they came from. These reminders were in monuments and walls you passed by every day. They were talked about in stories in school and reinforced in lessons at home. They were mentioned in required prayers prayed throughout the day. They were even echoed in the choices made concerning clothing. You might forget the details, but you couldn’t escaping the lessons of the past.

Today, we live our lives in perpetual motion. We protest reminders of the past and treat each day like it isn’t moving forward fast enough. We don’t care to look backwards at the tracks we are leaving. If something happened twenty years ago, we think it is old school or vintage. We don’t dare to dig back any further than that, so we lose the power of knowing where we came from and what, exactly, is influencing our world.

In this book, Martin writes like a millennial who has taken his face out of a phone long enough to speak plainly about the Bible. Yes, I realize as I am saying this that Martin is older than me and probably more of the Gen-X generation, but he doesn’t write like one. His words are fresh and modern; they reveal the humanity of the moment in translation to a language that can be relevantly read today.

Martin says this book is, in short, for broken people to find freedom. After reading Educated, I desperately wanted Tara to have this book. I wanted her to have this book because no matter how much we may free ourselves from the tyranny of others, we cannot free ourselves of the scars it leaves on our hearts. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ can heal those kinds of wounds.

I hope that someone tells Tara about the true Jesus Christ–not the lies she was told. If you found yourself identifying with Tara’s story, I hope you will read this book too and start the journey of getting to know Jesus. This book is not a substitute for the raw material of God’s Word, the Bible, but it does do a fair job of bridging the gap of understanding between us and it. I hope you will read it.