Would You Read (or Write) a Christian Novel?

I sometimes get asked why I went with a Christian publisher for my first two novels and my answer is that 1) my book’s characters were searching for faith (among other things), 2) my agent at the time (who had strong ties to Christian publishing) thought it could go in either market, but that the Christian market would be the most receptive, and 3) I happen to be a Christian myself and I felt that a Christian publisher wouldn’t attempt to tone down a character’s Christian faith journey just to be politically correct. All three points have turned out to be true, my readers have been super encouraging, and I’ve still found a bit of an audience among general market readers who have been receptive to my stories, which I feel don’t have any hidden agendas.

I am not against writing or reading general market novels at all, but I found the publisher of my first two books to be supportive when it came to writing true-to-life stories about real, flawed people, the same as an author would do in writing general market fiction. So, I found this article over at STET! to be very interesting. Susan Schoenberger is a mainstream novelist who found a home with a Christian publisher. Read her article Here.  I think you’ll be interested in what she has to say and you might want to read her book, A Watershed Year.

The editor of STET! (a general market blog), Amy Sue Nathan, wrote another intriguing post about a Jewish girl’s discovery of a Christian fiction novel that she liked (I am humbled that the book was my own). In the end, her take was that we can discover good stories when we look outside our ordinary boundaries. The post sparked a good conversation in the comments section and was even reposted by my current awesome agent who found it insightful. You can read Amy’s post at STET! Here.

I agree with Amy that it’s good to look outside our comfort zones when choosing books to read. I don’t know why people run away from reading a book with a Christian faith element any more than I would run away from reading a general market novel. Take a look at the bestseller lists and you’ll notice that a good amount of general market books on it have strong faith elements. I strongly suspect that the Christian label is misleading to readers who already associate it with the type of wacko extremists the media loves to cover.  Believe me when I say that most of us cringe as much as non-Christians do when we hear the news about idiots claiming to be Christians who burn holy books of other faiths or television preachers who come across as blaming victims for the tragedies they experience. We know we will be wrongly associated with them and as writers, our fiction probably will be too.

Other potential readers might avoid Christian Fiction because they see it as trite, poorly written, and preachy. Sometimes those points are true, but there are just as many poorly written books with not-so-hidden agendas in the general market, as well. Another point to consider, if you are considering reading a Christian author, is that Christian authors write for different audiences and themes in mind, so different authors are coming from different angles even thought they share  a similar world view. As a result, not every Christian fiction novel will suit a general market audience, but general market readers and authors might be surprised at what they find from many authors published in Christian fiction.

If you are worried about quality, consider that Christian publishing has been around long enough that even traditional publishers respect the Christian fiction that is being produced. Many traditional publishers now own and operate Christian publishers. For example, the publisher of my first two novels, Waterbrook Press, is owned by Random House. Authors also care about quality. Thankfully, there are many Christians interested in creating excellent art and not in forcing hidden agendas and condemnations in our creative works no matter what type of publisher we choose. We simply are not afraid to write about our faith. I think that most of us appreciate when general market readers and writers show an interest in our fiction.

What about you, the reader? Do you read Christian fiction and/or General market fiction? What’s your take? If you are a writer, would you write for a Christian publisher? Do you? Why or why not?

Tina Ann Forkner is the author of the novels Ruby Among Us and Rose House, from Waterbrook Press, a Division of Random House.

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