Perhaps I should back up a little bit, though, and define what I mean by Christian fiction. A lot of people get bent out of shape with the label (I say, get over it. The label exists and it’s not going away.) Some of that agitation stems from the definition. Am I a Christian (comma) fiction writer or am I a Christian (hyphen) fiction author? And what does the term Christian-fiction mean? That the stories I create are a Christian product or that the books are geared toward the Christian market?
Just to be straight, when I use the term Christian fiction, I’m speaking of books that are marketed to Christians. Not that I wouldn’t LOVE non-Christians to read my books, but I’m also a realist. My stories tend to be too religious for general market readers. And, honestly, I don’t see anything wrong with preaching to the choir–says this choir member.
But my stories also tend to be a little too gritty for Christian readers. In my writing journey I’ve had some interesting rejections. One editor told me my characters were too messed up, they should never get together, and that I should take out all the issues and write a sweet love story. Uh … no.
An agent in a prominent literary agency passed on me because I wouldn’t change my heroine’s addiction. You see, my heroine is a closet smoker, and that plays a integral role in her characterization (in a book dealing with heart disease). The agent suggested I give my heroine a different addiction, one Christians could identify with, such as eating greasy foods. I even considered making the change, just so I could sign with the agent. But it wasn’t worth it. I couldn’t sanitize this story. Sorry, I’m just not a sweet fiction writer.*
No, I don’t use course language, and I don’t go beyond the bedroom door, yet my stories aren’t saccharine enough.
I tell stories that include:
- men dealing with abortion
- homeless teens
- heart disease
- parents struggling with their baby’s Down syndrome diagnosis
Well, you get the idea. Not sweet, easy stuff. So, if my stories are too gritty for the CBA and too *preachy* for the general market, why do I bother?
Because these are the stories I long to write, the stories I’m passionate about, and, I believe, they’re the stories God places on my heart. I love how we can see God’s light shining in the dark places–that light isn’t so visible when it’s sunny. I couldn’t tell these stories without an overt faith element–I’m not that gifted.
So, I keep writing gritty stories. After all, God is far bigger than any label we put on our novels. He won’t be hemmed in.
And my perseverance paid off. I’m so very thankful that Winslet Press is taking a chance on me. While Winslet isn’t a Christian-book publisher, it is a company owned by Christians. Love that! Even though signing with them means I won’t qualify for ACFW’s Carol Award or have my books sold at Christianbook.com or … well, I could go on … but maybe my books will be noticed by a broader readership.
Regardless, it’s all in God’s hands. All I can do is be obedient to His calling, and right now that means writing Christian fiction.
All Glory to God!
*I don’t mean to imply that all Christian fiction is sweet. It definitely isn’t–there are many authors who pen meatier works. Still, they are the exception, not the norm, and it is far more difficult (not impossible) to break into Christian fiction if you don’t write sweet.