Friday, January 26, 2007

Ask the Authors: Friday

What concerns you the most about the future of Christian fiction?

I think we're on a good course, but we're at a point that we have to ask ourselves some tough questions and trust writers to be cautious and diligently seeking the Holy Spirit. My fear is that we're so immersed in the idea of "crossing over" that we're forgetting we're set apart. I hear a lot of people complain that Christian fiction doesn't get the respect it deserves. That's true, but we'll never be accepted by the world, either. We've come to the place where our quality matches that of our secular counterparts, so now we have to come to an understanding about what "crosses the line" and what we're willing to sacrifice to be treated as equals by the world. My opinion is that there will be some who are called to go into the world and write in a secular format, but that those individuals are called by God to do that very thing. I believe there will be much temptation to compromise our values in order to get our books positioned better. However, I also think there will be much judgment on writers who are called to write novels that are meant to crossover. I don't believe there is a checklist of do's and don't's that we can go by. I think it will ultimately be the conviction of the writer and the motive behind the content. Still, I think we need to be in continuous dialogue about it and keep ourselves accountable. Ultimately, it's between the writer, the publisher and God as to where the book should go and what it should have in it. There may be a point where Christian fiction must be redefined in order to encompass the visions of all Christian writers. I truly don't know if that's the answer or not. I hope what the world sees is not a lot of bickering behind the scenes in the Christian writing community, but rather love and respect, even when there is disagreement. That being said, we cannot enter into this lightly and must continually seek God and be in prayer. Christian fiction is being used by God and I think it will continue to be as long as we are seeking to glorify Him in all that we do.-- Rene Gutteridge

That some of the primary decision makers in the industry have bought into the idea that we don't need to speak the name of Jesus in our books. I'm not at all against telling a great story, but there are a lot of great stories out there already. What we have to offer that's different is truth and hope. And not just any truth and hope, but the eternal truth and hope that comes only through Christ. If we're not bringing that into our stories, then what's the point? I'm not advocating preaching, simply that we need to ensure we continue to make the faith element as much a part of the story as any other element. --Karen Ball

I am concerned that, as Christian fiction becomes more popular, we may be poisoning the garden that grew it: the little Christian bookstores that were started and nurtured by people who saw such work as a God-given mission. Sometimes today, the mega-chains and online bookstores can sell a title at retail for less than what the little Mom-and-Pop Christian bookstore can buy it at wholesale. That’s why so many Christian stores now devote more than 75% of their floor space to what is known in the trade as “Jesus junk” – the hats, T-shirts, action Bible figures, scripture candy, bad art prints and all the rest of it. There are other ways to thrive despite the secular competition: one is to regularly hold events (readings, concerts, clubs, etc.) that make the bookstore such a congregation space that the store can profit from the foot traffic. And another is to have a store so large that people can find things on-shelf there that they cannot readily obtain elsewhere. But those things often take resources and marketing-know-how that is beyond the reach of the traditional, missionally called proprietor. And it breaks my heart to think that these good people might be driven out of business by the success of a genre that they helped in large part to create. – Tom Morrisey

I don’t know how the whole thing looks from the business side of things, but as a writer I don’t spend much time worrying about the future of Christian fiction. Just consider how much we’ve grown in the past 25 years or so--with God’s blessing, we’ve made great progress. I firmly believe God is doing something grand in the field of literature. Christian fiction is just going to keep getting bigger and better. -Ann Tatlock

I'm not sure I am concerned. I think there are so many talented authors in the industry today, and the ones whom I know personally are dedicated to God and to serving Him. As long as those are the people writing Christian fiction, it will thrive. I do hope that writers won't push the envelope for the sake of pushing the envelope, but that they will listen to the Holy Spirit and be guided by Him. If we write with truth for Truth, we will do well. -- Robin Lee Hatcher

I have high hopes for Christian fiction. There are so many different kinds of writers with so much to say, so much to share. We are reaching more and more people all the time with the truth of God's love. As Christian fiction moves away from our traditional "gatekeepers," who are our Christian publishers and booksellers, more and more books will be called "Christian" that teach truths counter to teachings from the Bible. Readers could be misled. My only control over this is to make sure I'm not one of those who mislead. --Hannah Alexander

The ten foot pole it would take for me to confess such things. --Patricia Hickman

The distribution and marketing. Not the content. I see Christian fiction changing. We're putting out books that speak to more issues, and that speak to the younger generations, for example. I know Zondervan has hired an editor specifically to acquire for the 18-35 age market. However, that age of consumer typically doesn't shop for fiction in Christian bookstores. Meanwhile, in the general stores such as B&N, our fiction is stuck in the "religious" or "inspirational" section, along with nonfiction Christian books--far from the other fiction. I don't mind being broken out into our own genre--frankly, I think that's a plus. But I do wish secular stores would put our fiction in the FICTION areas. So the question remaining for me--as Christian fiction expands, how will the marketing expand with it to bring in the targeted consumer, who right now doesn't even know to look for us? --Brandilyn Collins

I'm not concerned. The future seems bright. There are more talented writers and editors out there than ever before. - James Scott Bell

My greatest fear is that Christian fiction, in an effort to appeal to the masses, will become too much like every other genre, with the message of hope in Christ being hidden to the point of not being recognized by the very souls who need to understand it most. Along with that, I fear the elusive “envelope” being pushed to the point that there are no longer books available for my teenage daughter, my aging mother, and others who prefer to read only “whatsoever things are pure...right...noble...lovely...admirable” and who don’t wish to visit the gritty “real world” via fiction. –Deborah Raney

Actually, I have the same concerns about Christian nonfiction, and that's too many books being published but not supported, and backlist being all but forgotten. I'd love to see publishers reduce their lists and pour more time and resources into both their current titles and their backlist. (Just to be clear, my own publisher, WaterBrook Press, does a fabulous job on both counts!) -- Liz Curtis Higgs

Absolutely nothing. The future isn't my call. God has it covered. -BJ Hoff


At 9:18 AM, Blogger C.J. Darlington said...

Thanks for these great answers. I connected with something every one of you said.

At 10:37 AM, Blogger Kristy Dykes said...

Thought-provoking answers. Thanks. It's a lot to think about. From your comments, it seems the consensus is, that the envelope won't be pushed too much. I appreciate your wisdom. Thanks again.

At 11:58 AM, Anonymous Nicole said...

Amen, KB. Absolutely, RG. Good point, TM. Prices for the multiple books I buy has sent me to the online markets. So, I try to support my local stores when they have great book sales.
Jesus is the answer, so why do we think we have to hide Him?
Thanks to all of you for your thoughts.

At 12:21 PM, Blogger Heather said...

But, but, Tom, without my testamints, how on earth am i supposed to evangelize?

At 12:29 PM, Blogger Suzan Robertson said...

If a writer is a true follower of Christ, their fiction will be "Christian fiction" whether they publish in CBA or ABA.

At 12:15 PM, Blogger Scriptorius Rex said...

A lot of people are making the comparison with Christian music and where it was twenty years ago. Now we have top notch quality but we have a divergence of 'Christianism'. We have Jars of Clay and Newsboys who are very outspoken and evangelistic in their concerts and recordings and we also have Switchfoot and Hawk Nelson who, to my knowledge, don't even mention God, let alone Jesus. It's all good music but one type is different than the other. I don't think it's a bad thing.

At 3:48 AM, Blogger SolShine7 said...

Karen Ball, you're like the Steve Nash of Christian Fiction, somehow you know just when to get the ball in the right hands. What you did with Francine Rivers' books was as magical as watching Nash throw a no-look bounce pass to Amare Stoudemire in the paint--with Shaq guarding him. You deserve an MVP, like two or three.

Redeeming Love was as breath-taking as the Pistons vs. the Spurs in Game 7. As dangerously beautiful as Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen in a play-off game. As fun as watching Rachael Ray on 30-Minute Meals. And way more inspirational than Oprah giving away cars. And yes--it's my fav Christian fiction book.

Overall, great answers and insights from everyone. I have to stop by this place more often.

By the way, Brandilyn writes a total kick-butt blog! I'm a Faith and Forensics junkie, but in a feel-good-wholesome-kind-of-way.


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