Agendas in Fiction. Really? always enjoy receiving email or letters from my readers. But a recent email really made me stop and think. Not so much because the questions were particularly disturbing, but because of the message behind them.

Here’s how the email ended: Does your publishing company encourage a certain style of writing? A certain viewpoint? Do most of your writings express liberal views or conservative views?

The email also talked about the “liberal agendas” of publishers, not to mention all entertainment media, and asked, essentially, if my publisher required me to follow a certain party line.

I’m still shaking my head over this, although I’m sure this reader meant no harm. I’m not even sure where to start. But start I must, because these are the issues we have to talk about before we can talk together.

One, nobody has ever, ever told me what to write. Nobody has ever, ever, told me what political or spiritual slant to follow in my writing.

Two, despite years and years of communication and friendship with a variety of writers, I have never heard anyone say that a publisher asked him or her to lean in a certain political or spiritual direction in their novels. Yes, if you have decided to write inspirational fiction, there must be inspiration in your books, most commonly a Christian message, or you will need a different kind of publisher. But that’s it. And inspirational publishers really want people who agree with their viewpoint. They would never ask someone who clearly didn’t believe what they do to follow the “party line.” They simply would reject their manuscripts.

Three, even if somebody did tell me what I had to write, what are the chances I would listen? Were my parents alive today they would testify that telling me what to do was always an uphill battle. Telling  me what to do when I don’t believe it’s the right thing to do was then and is now a complete waste of time.

As for the second question?  Do my writings express conservative or liberal views?

I like to think I write to tell a good story.  Along the way my personal values show through.  I believe in bringing people together.  I believe in compassion.  I believe in people reaching out to help each other.  I believe that words like “agenda” were invented by politicians to keep us apart, both liberal and conservative.  I believe that good people need to listen carefully to other good people and try to find common ground.  I believe this is not happening in Washington today and our inability to compromise and find solutions that most of us can live with is tearing our nation apart and adding to the escalating divide between the rich and the poor.

Does that make me a conservative or a liberal?  You tell me.  But does it matter if I’m telling a good story with values you share whether I vote Democratic or Republican or not at all?

No, it does not.

Do we now have to pass a political litmus test before you can say, “Gosh, I really enjoyed that book?”  I sincerely hope not.

Let’s stop talking about agendas.  Let’s stop assuming we must all agree or some of us are bad people.  And let’s stop assuming that publishers want anything more than a riveting novel from the authors who write for them.

Because that’s what they want, and that’s what we always hope we’ve given them.  I hope that’s what my readers want, as well.


  1. Marna on July 30, 2013 at 8:30 am

    I wonder if that letter writer has read any of your books. I can’t think of any that have a political slant. The issues you deal with aren’t Republican or Democrat, but human issues. I’ve only just started reading Somewhere Between Luck and Trust, but know that it deals with illiteracy. You can’t vote red or blue if you can’t read a ballot. A couple other issues I can remember in your books: breast cancer, loss of a child, estrangement from family. All know nothing of party lines.

    I know you and your politics, but they don’t come through in your books. Just like this blog post, your books are about bringing people together.

    • Emilie Richards on July 30, 2013 at 8:47 am

      Thank you, Marna. And I am so glad you found that support network, but they were lucky (are lucky) to know you.

  2. Lynn Ross on July 30, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    Excellent, Emilie, just excellent! You nailed it. Personally, I always feel that your books carry a message, but I have never felt that your personal philosophy or that of anyone else was being pushed. You make a social statement along with all the human issues, and you do a great job. There are so many different kinds of fiction out there, I’m amazed that anyone would think that your publisher would have an agenda.

    Still your biggest fan,
    Lynn Ross

  3. SueAnn Beer on July 30, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    Well, I don’t know you, or your politics..and it does not matter to me. What I DO know, is you are able to tell a GREAT story…..keep it focused, it has a beginning a middle and an end….what my English teacher always told us to strive to attain…without getting lost ……And you do conversations REALLY REALLY well, with your characters. Many authors have great stories, and can tell them well enough, but it is the conversations, that they fail sometimes..and YOU can talk!!! and your characters talk to each other, in a very normal pattern- Agenda?! That is just dumb, to me…..Yes, you have one, SELL YOUR BOOKS!!!!! This reader, most likely has not read most of your books….I would ask that reader, what books of mine have you read? Maybe one book was confusing to them? You present yourself, as exactly who you your books, and out of them……I have’nt heard anyone talking in whispers behind your back, so don’t sweat it! My grandma would say, are you being a good person? Then don’t worry….

    • Emilie Richards on July 30, 2013 at 4:33 pm

      Thanks so much. Every time we try to pigeonhole each other, we lose the possibility of learning from each other. Love your grandma.

  4. SueAnn Beer on July 30, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    You talk about learning from each other…you are an excellent teacher with your words…and of all your books, and I have read them all…..The Parting Glass stays with me…and I sent it to my son to read…..and even tho he considered it a “chick book”-he is 23….HE LOVED it…..and will only admit it to me!! LOL!! But it struck him too. I saw NO agenda in that book…just your heart.

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