Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What Do You Want to Read in Christian Fiction?

Crystal, Age 7, whose first dream was to be a Christian book influencer/missionary
I used to be a kid. (I know, hard to believe.) But when I was growing up one of the things I wanted to be(of a whole list of things) was a colporter. I don't even know if I'm spelling that right! I only heard the name as a child--never saw it in writing. But every single day in my little 4-grades-in-a-room Christian school, we prayed for these people. From what I could understand, they were missionary book sellers and influencers. They went around trying to sell religious books and Bibles to people, and sometimes they even left free books and pamphlets with people. (Some of you may recall seeing large blue Bible story books in doctors' and dentists' offices. This was a result of a colporter.)

I thought this must be the best job in the world--even better than being a librarian. As one of these book missionaries, you basically influenced the reader into reading about Jesus or His followers. I prayed as fervently for these people as I did for my missionary aunt, uncle and 3 cousins in Nigeria. I prayed that God would let me be one of these people! And of all the stories my uncle told of being a missionary in Africa (Nigeria during the Biafran war and Ghana)I thought the most amazing one was smuggling Bibles into Communist Russia (before the Iron Curtain fell) to the Christians there. How exciting to get the story of our Savior to people who were persecuted.

Well, in a way, God answered that childish prayer in many details tailored just to me. For one, I was a primary grade teacher in Christian schools for many years. I taught kids to read and to pick out books to read, and I taught the Bible.I was the department head to the children's Sunday school and ministry department in my church for years. I taught and ran Vacation Bible School and sent books to children any chance I could. I read tons of books to my own kids. I have given away tons of books and money for books. 

Then, I learned to write for publication, and while I never realized my dream to write for children (yet,) I have published many articles and columns and over 1000 published book reviews. (I lost track of how many now.) I have worked on many (other authors') fiction manuscripts in the pre-published stage as a book doctor for both editors and agents, and as a professional reader. I've also been doing a blog feaure called, When I Was Just a Kid. Also, many book recommendations and interviews are on my blog, Chat 'n' Chew Cafe', as well as when I speak. I have influenced for the Christian market for years. I love Christian fiction and respect the whole team who publishes books.

Books have been a part of my life since I was very small, (just as many writers tell me is true about themselves.) I've been so pleased to see how the Christian market, and particularly the Christian fiction market has grown and become influential. 

Recently on another writers' loop, there was a discussion about how substandard someone thought the Christian fiction books are. She expressed disgust that Christian fiction writers were "watering down" the Gospel in their stories. She based this on a couple books she read. I couldn't disagree more and I base my opinion on thousands of books (both general market and Christian market) that I've read. Yes, maybe not every Christian fiction book has the Gospel of Christ presented in the story, then a conversion takes place. That's unrealistic, and there are many stories with a Christian worldview for various reasons. Not everyone wants to read this genre. There is a mission and theme for each story, and each author and if you think otherwise, then you don't know how Christian authors work.

In my opinion there are more good stories than poor, or substandard, in the Christian market. But you have to know what you are looking for and what genre, and for that matter, which publishing company. And yes, each publishing company has a very specific type of author and stories for their company. There for awhile in my heyday of reviewing, I could tell you which company published the story I was reading without looking at the imprint. 

I’ve worked for several publishing companies and some agents—from conservative to not-so-conservative. With demanding guidelines authors have to not only adhere to a high Christian standard in almost every case, but even certain words cannot be used in respect for the audience. I admire the author's tenacity to what his Christian audience demands

Readers have great influence on Christian fiction. Just remember that a whole team has gone into the publication of a book, so do approach them with respect, and you'll find a much more attentive author and publishing company to what you want to say. It's never good to go at an author with accusations or attacks on their personal faith. You are not the judge of this aspect--God is. But you can express what kind of story you'd like to read.

And there is a variety in the type of fiction offered. Go to at the American Christian Fiction Writers' site and you'll find biblical fiction, conversion stories, "real life" stories, Christian romances, historical stories and speculative fiction or teen fiction, and what you find is a good story with a Christian worldview. These authors are a dedicated bunch.

Do check out the Hoosier Ink authors, too.(See either the Members tab or the Store tab above.) I think we have some of the best storytellers in Christian fiction. 

If you love to read Christian fiction, what is your favorite genre, or author or type of story to read? If you're a writer, what do you like to write? (And if you're a Christian fiction writer, you should be reading a lot of Christian fiction.)

May your reading bless you and make you want to live a better life,


  1. My favorite Christian fiction are those books whose characters do not talk about God or evangelize anyone, but who simply live their faith, that is, make their decisions and frame their actions based on biblical mandates. They go to church and behave honorably in relationships without making a big deal about it. They may even be shown praying, but mostly they just put one foot in front of the other like anyone else, but they do it in God's direction because it is the only direction they seriously consider as viable. These people are probably not going to be considered authors of Christian fiction, just good fiction. Michael D. OBrien (Island of the World) comes to mind.

  2. My heart is in historical fiction and inspirational historical romance. I love to read it, and I love to write it.

  3. Mrs. P., I need to check that author out!

    Loree, me, too. I, too, love historical and historical romance. Christian fiction has such good authors and I could list them all night. My favorites, but I've read all genres.

  4. What do I look for in Christian fiction? Really, a good question that I'm not sure I know the answer to. I guess for me it is likeable characters. My favorite authors include Randy Singer (legal thrillers), Amy Wallace (romantic FBI suspense), Alistair MacLean (secular, adventure/suspense), John R. Cooper (youth baseball stories) and Frank Peretti (speculative). I'm surprising myself that one novel I'm critiquing that I really enjoy is a regency romance. But the characters are the reason I enjoy each of those stories.

    However, I am different from Mrs. P. I do like seeing creative ways of characters sharing their faith, not just by actions but verbally as well. I guess it's because I believe being a faithful Christian includes the great commission which is evangelism not just by deed but also by word.

    Some Christian authors feel a calling to a broader audience. To be honest, I want to aim for a more overtly Christian market. I want to avoid preachy but I also feel the need to be straight-forward and direct about Christian faith. Let me take one step further, though -- I do feel my books are to encourage Christians to be bold with their faith; I'm not really aiming for the unbeliever.


  5. I'm not sure I could limit my favorite Christian authors to just one genre. I read them all! However, I tend to read a lot of historical and mystery/suspense more heavily than the rest if I had to pin it down to two categories. I like feeling like I am discovering with the main character a moral lesson - not one that is preachy - but one that unravels smoothly throughout the story and seems naturally revealed to both the main character and the reader alike.

  6. Wow, that's like asking me my favorite food! So far, I've enjoyed writing contemporary and historical romance and women's fiction, especially with a humorous twist. When I read, above all, I look for unique, compelling characters, people I'd like to know.