View Full Version : From a guy who probably has no business on this board.

10-22-2006, 07:22 PM
The last specifically Christian book I read was years ago. Weak on plot, its saccharine sentimentality seemed aimed at little old ladies who keep kittens in knitting baskets.

But I see the genre has come a long way since those days, and Iím betting that now those kind of books rarely get into print. Iím kinda looking for suggestions for titles of Christian fiction that push the edge of raw reality just to see what publisherís current standards are like.

Actually, Iíve written a novel--not intending it for a Christian publisher--but now that itís finished I can see that its underlying theme just might help it find a home in that market. However, itís defiantly adult. Not erotic by todayís standards, but pretty open about the social, not procreative, side of sex. A few years ago that would have been unacceptable, but now Iím not so sure. Am I being way off base here? Any opinions?

10-22-2006, 10:12 PM
John: for "edgy" (gads, I'm growing to loathe that term) CBA books, you might want to look at mine. But fair warning, as a Christian, I purposely leave out the sex stuff. If your book really, truly needs it, rest assured the CBA won't touch it. ABA will, though. Your call.

Lyra Jean
10-22-2006, 10:17 PM
The saccarine sweet stuff is still out there unfortunately. I thought I was getting an edgy science-fiction about gene/DNA manipulation but alas it was not.

A very good book but did not meet my expectations.

10-22-2006, 10:22 PM
John, this might help-- we had a visiting editor from a Christian publisher a few weeks back, and she talked about what's acceptable and what's not in the Christian market these days: http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=41620

My own experience: I just finished working on a Christian memoir for Thomas Nelson, and they toned it down considerably. All the bad language, *poof* (even though we felt it was necessary. I think they wound up letting us keep one instance of 'b!tch'). The talk about one-night stands and what strippers do, gone. It was all pared down very much to a "need to know" basis, nothing that could possibly be considered titillating or gratuitous (even though I didn't think there was any of that in the first place). But, end result, it's still a book about a woman who was a drug user and a stripper and horribly abused in her youth, so it doesn't ignore the "edgier" side of life, either.

My gut feeling? The Christian market is going to change. I think it needs to change, to more accurately reflect life. But it's still pretty conservative at this point. Christian bookstores have strict standards about what they will and won't stock.

10-23-2006, 03:27 AM
I appreciate the opinions. I think you confirmed my suspicion that Iím not going to make it in the CBA. On the bright side, now I donít need to go bothering any of the agents that specialize in it. Kinda too bad, I think my writing has a lot of spirituality, but itís realistic stuff and I donít see any way to turn it down. That interview with a Christian Editor said a lot, thanks for the link.

Someday we should have discussion about why certain topics are such a taboo in this culture. (Or why define people by their ability to publicly reject them.) Iím all for protecting children, but adults should be able to see the world as it really is.

10-27-2006, 10:16 PM

Hey, and just a quick thought on this, if it's not too late.

I'm not so sure reference to the seamier side of life is necessarily taboo, but rather the way it's depicted. On the fiction side, there are successful contemporary Christian authors who don't shy away from the reality (T. Davis Bunn, for one), but it's not in your face. Expletives and explicit passages aren't really necessary to get the image across, I believe, if it's well written. I've got a historical novel (or what is essentially the prologue to a series) ready to hit the streets from Tate Publishing that centers on the life of the minor prophet Jonah. His era had its raw side in both violence and sensuality and I don't ignore them in my book, nor do I intend to ignore them in the series to follow.

For what it's worth...

Cheers! Bruce J.

10-30-2006, 08:03 AM
It depends on what you mean by edgy--sexual or violence?? Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers got the sexual points across without being crass. Have you read Brandilyn Collins most recent book Violet Dawn? Excellent. I'm not sure how much is taboo in the way of topics, it's how it's handled. CBA fiction has covered rape, abortion, murder, etc. It's ALL about how it's written.

10-30-2006, 05:54 PM
If it's written with dialogue such as "Golly Gosh" or "Darn Goodness" from the tough guys, or if there is no 'language' at all from them, then it is sappy crap and will never prepare anyone for true witnessing. If a book offends you that easily, you'll never be able to listen to the true sufferers in this world. If you can't listen to them, you can't reach them.

The Christian Marketing industry and the 'Church People' who insist on Utopian values for all need to loosen up and remember that the souls needing to be saved don't live in a biosphere of Happy Thoughts. If they pick up one of those books, they'll read three pages into it say "Are these chumps for real?"

In order for Christian books to reach anyone, they have to get real in life. Toughen up. Some people talk like that. They certainly won't learn not to from people that are too sensitive to accept them as they are now first. We must approach unbelievers in their world, then guide them to Christ by our example. Christian Publishers could make a difference for Jesus by easing up on their 'Little House on the Prairie' restrictions.

And, for the record, I don't write Christian fiction, so this is my humble opinion with no agenda other than reaching the lost.

10-30-2006, 07:33 PM
I recommend Frank Peretti.

11-03-2006, 05:54 AM
Agreed, mrsrgm. The "Golly Gosh" doesn't fall into the category of 'well written' any more than crass expletives do. The answer to one extreme is rarely the other extreme.

I'm not sure, though, that avoiding harsh street language necessarily impedes your ability to witness. I work around this kind of language all day. The last thing I want to do is shell out $7 for a movie ticket or $16.95 for a book to hear/read the same thing. I still know it's out there and I've long ceased to flinch when I run into it; however, I find no compelling reason to participate in it or select it for my discretionary reading time. While it's necessary to meet the lost where they are, it's also necessary to show them there's a difference between where they are and where they could be--that is, where you are. (After all, isn't that what witnessing is all about?) If they pick up a 'Christian' novel that's peppered with the stuff they're being encouraged to shed, where's the consistency? Where's the relief? Why bother if the standards aren't raised?

There's a balance between the extremes. Just a thought...

11-03-2006, 05:59 AM
IrishScribbler (what a great name!).

Agreed on Peretti.

Ted Dekker can push the envelope, too, on rough imagery. No question on what he's depicting, but he avoids throwing it in your face.

11-03-2006, 05:58 PM
Hi, Bruce. I think that when the novels show 'real' people fighting 'real' hardships, then the readers can learn that there's another way to live and it is encouraging for those with no faith. Most unbelievers have probably never witnessed true Christians deeply in love with God and living different lives, getting different outcomes than they themselves encounter on a daily basis. We want them to say to themselves "Hey, I want that to be me."

But if there is no one for the unbelievers to connect with in a novel because everyone is sugary sweet and even the bad guys are clean and decent, then most lost souls living with the nitty gritty of life's trials will throw the book down in disgust and walk away. I don't blame them. I don't even like the saccharined characters in Christian novels and I won't read them for that reason. Give me Tom Clancy or John Sandford any day. The unbelievers I know shy away from 'all things Christian' because they expect to get Ned Flanders from the Simpsons or the minister from the movie Footloose and who wants that?

I'd rather hold the unbelievers attention with realism and hopefully get a subtle message across than only witness to the super sensitive Christians, who seem to have the Word already. I'm not saying a book should be 'peppered' with foul language, but I'm saying an occassional '****' or 'damn' shouldn't cause the Christian side to feel faint.

Just my take.

11-03-2006, 06:28 PM

Well spoken...er, well written! I agree with you wholeheartedly on the need for reality. Sugar coating dissolves pretty quickly. I have no problem with telling it like it is, I guess it just boils down to style preference and what is really needed to deliver reality without getting so much on your shoes you can't wipe it off. It's that balance thing. There is a responsibility, I think, to deliver meaningful messages, but also teach the perhaps reforming unbeliever how to deliver meaningful messages. Paul didn't shy away from street talk, but when the translators decided to render skubalon as "refuse" or "rubbish" rather than "s---" (Phil. 3:8) I don't think they did a disservice to realism.

Your points and well taken and I encourage you in your witnessing.

Cheers! Bruce

Roger J Carlson
11-03-2006, 07:12 PM
I think it's important to remember that Christian publishers are publishers who need to worry about book sales. Many people buy books by CBA publishers because they know these books won't offend them. This is a market that they simply can't ignore, and frankly, people who only want sugar-coated fiction should be able to get it.

On the other hand, there are Christians who don't want this type of fiction and rarely buy CBA books as a result. CBA publishers are responding to these people by starting to offer edgier books. Still, this is a balancing act because they don't want to lose their core market.

11-04-2006, 12:40 AM
I agree with both Bruce and Roger! The sugar coating isn't for me, but I understand that the Christian Market is growing, so someone is comfortable with it.

Does anyone know if the market is growing in fiction, nonfiction or both??

11-04-2006, 03:59 AM
In order for Christian books to reach anyone, they have to get real in life. Toughen up. Some people talk like that.

If my understanding is correct, Christian fiction is marketed to Christian readers. I don't think the primary goal is to convert people, but to entertain the already converted. Not that I'm against language stronger than "golly gosh." LOL.


11-04-2006, 09:29 PM
Agree, too, ltd. Although allegories like Lewis' The Great Divorce and The Chronicles of Narnia are good witnessing tools--how many unbelievers saw the film version of the latter? I full agree, though, that the primary readership is the Christian commuity.

As far as 'hot' genre, my publisher accepted my book proposal with only an excerpt of the manuscript with the note that his marketing folks advised accelerating the publication process because historical Christian fiction is very much in demand. They said if I'd written yet another book on eschatology (ala Left Behind) or a family/marriage help book in the non-fiction realm they wouldn't have touched it because there's already a glut on the market in these areas. This was last January, though, and I don't know how dynamic the market forces are in the industry, so things may have changed somewhat.

Whatcha workin' on, if you don't mind me asking?

11-06-2006, 08:51 AM
I really like this thread. It's refreshing to hear the thoughtful and earnest discussion about winning people with words in the context of writing fiction! Two of my great loves = writing and letting people see the goodness of God in my life.

But on the one hand, you have the way it should be, and on the other hand you have the way it is. Jesus Christ dined with "sinners" and Paul used strong language, but as Roger pointed out, Christian publishers are (rightfully and understandably) concerned about not offending their core market. I think there's room in the secular market for fiction that is positive, inspiring and moral, more than there's room in the Christian market for material that is "edgy." But this could be changing I guess.

But would the "edgy" books end up becoming nothing more than secular stories with the Christian label? I mean, would the characters be allowed to pray and go to God when they face a crisis, or would that not be considered edgy enough then?

I guess the ideal for me would be a fictional character who could say "S*** God, help me out here!" LOL. Kind of like my real life. ;)

And now I'm worrying that I've already offended somebody by saying that.

Whatcha workin' on, if you don't mind me asking?

Who were you asking, Bruce?


11-06-2006, 05:26 PM
LOL, Limited. I've said those words a time or two :]]

Bruce, I'm working on a non-fiction Christian book for women which hits on getting real for Christ (getting real meaning - be a real person and not a Stepford Wife!). I was simply curious about the Christian fiction because every time I pick up one of those books I end up tossing it because it is so mundane and I find that so very disappointing.

11-08-2006, 09:55 PM

Good points. The question you ask regarding whether "edgy" Christian fiction can become nothing more than secular stories with a Christian label is a good one. I'm reminded of two collateral quotes that dance around the same issue: (1) An episode of the Simpsons had a Christian rock group decide to go mainstream because with most contemporary Christian music, "All you have to do is change 'Jesus' to 'baby' and you're there.", and (2) on a little more of a stretch, Dr. Francis Schaeffer quoted Edward Gibbons' Fall of the Roman Empire in one of the five main points Gibbons' cited for the crumbling of that civilization as being "pretentiousness in the arts masquerading as originality." Gee...I mean, Golly Gosh, we could step off on those two comments for whole new threads! :-)

And my question regarding what you're working on was directed to you, although...


...I'm glad you responded to the question. Sounds interesting and I applaud your effort. Have you ever read any of Ted Dekker's stuff? He does a pretty good job at laying out some pretty graphic scenes, but apparently without violating too many 'Christian sensibilities' because he's still getting published.

And Limited: I, for one, am not offended... ;-)

11-09-2006, 03:45 AM

...And my question regarding what you're working on was directed to you, although...

...And Limited: I, for one, am not offended... ;-)

Whew! That's a good thing! :D

What I'm working on is my first ever attempt at fiction, novel length. I have many freelance, nonfiction articles, but for NaNo, I'm trying to write a novel that has elements of suspense and humor. I think it will be secular, but wholesome. But as I said, I've never done it before, so I don't know if I'll stick to nonfic in the future! ;)

11-10-2006, 07:23 AM

All the best on your attempt! I'm being a bit more foolish in my first effort. I've written what amounts to the prelude to a trilogy based on the minor prophet Jonah, Ben Amittai: First Call (fairly short--only 144 pages). It's based solely on 2 Kings 14:25 (better :23-:27). It was just released this week (tatepublishing.com, amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and walmart.com). If the Lord blesses the effort and the paying public responds well, there will be the follow-on series. If not, there's gonna be a naked prelude hanging out there. :-)

Maybe Biblical fiction is the coward's way out of having to decide how to have the rougher elements express themselves (ref prior discussion on edginess). Probably not too many contemporary curse words were used in the 8-9th centuries BC, eh? And what was their counterpart to the curse words of our day aren't preserved very well in the Biblical record. (That's one of the reasons I like period movies because it's fairly safe bet you won't be drowned in profanity for two hours.) But now I'm starting to drivel...

11-11-2006, 02:12 AM
Drivel on! This is one of the best threads I've seen in a while.

An atheist friend of mine said she read the Narnia books to her kids for years and saw the movie -- and never knew there was a Christian theme in it. I say to that, yay! You never know how God is going to work in someone's life -- why limit it in any way?

I thought my book was "edgy" until my crit partners (not of my faith) held my feet to the fire. They basically said "either say what you mean clearly (in this case, did the unredeemed MC have sex with his sweetheart, or no?). I thought I had said it, but no...

Whew. Gets precarious out there!

11-11-2006, 02:13 AM
BruceJ, congrats on your novel. Gee (goodness oh my) you are out there already!

11-11-2006, 03:20 AM
Thanks, Bree.

And I covet your location "Near Rockies". I'm a frustrated mountaineer stuck in the flatlands of south Texas... :-)

11-11-2006, 09:22 PM

Maybe Biblical fiction is the coward's way out of having to decide how to have the rougher elements express themselves...

Well, it certainly takes some kind of courage! I've often thought that Biblical records would make great movies (duh, 10 Commandments, Passion, etc.), but the risk of skewing a detail here and there holds me back. When I've watched movies like this, the (sometimes subtle - sometimes not) bias makes me wince. Same for some Bible storybooks. On the other hand, it's great to see the records in living color.

It's just a great responsibility to write something like that, because once we get an image in our minds, it's tough to read the Bible without inserting that mind-picture whether it's accurate or not. :) But I'm not saying it isn't doable - just that it would take a lot of research! I would like to write children's stories, just for my own children. You pretty much have to do that anyway when they start asking questions - stop and think about it, then go back and explain a detail or a word, then move on in the story.

But you know, I've actually discovered that some records are just perfectly readable for kids straight from King James or other version. One of my kids favorite stories is right out of the Bible as is.


11-13-2006, 08:40 AM

You mention "skewing a detail here and there" inhibits you from engaging. Gee, I sure hope not and I would encourage you to dive in. Research is a really important part of any novel based in this age or the past (I know, duh!) and a Biblical novel of course requires a thorough review of the Biblical setting, story, teaching, whatever that you're tackling as part of that research (Duh, again...I'm not lecturing, honest!). The research is valuable in its own right because you're spending time in the Word and gaining a better understanding of it. I bounced my transcript off two pastors for Biblical/historical accuracy in addition to asking others to read it for literary criticism. That helps keep you honest, too. What's fun about the Biblical record (especially the prophets--and especially Jonah,which is why I chose him to write on) is that there's so much that can be filled in for plot and so many fictional characters that can be created to advance the plot and still stay true to the Biblical record. ("Creative non-fiction").

I applaud your attention to children's stories. There's a need for honest teaching that doesn't insult their intelligence (we expect so little from our youth...) and yet is engaging and entertaining at the same time. Press on!

11-16-2006, 05:54 PM
Wow, your book sounds interesting, too, Bruce. Jonah is a favorite character of mine. Have fun with that!!

11-17-2006, 11:04 PM
Thanks, mrsrgm. It's been fun to write. If you're interested in seeing the cover and a synopsis (plus a couple page excerpts), it's on Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/Ben-Amittai-Bruce-Judisch/dp/1598865439/sr=8-2/qid=1163790020/ref=sr_1_2/002-3004924-4268045?ie=UTF8&s=books

11-18-2006, 05:42 AM
From one Texan to another, Good Job!!

11-20-2006, 12:10 AM
Thank, y'all.


Sean D. Schaffer
11-20-2006, 01:24 AM

Actually, Iíve written a novel--not intending it for a Christian publisher--but now that itís finished I can see that its underlying theme just might help it find a home in that market. However, itís defiantly adult. Not erotic by todayís standards, but pretty open about the social, not procreative, side of sex. A few years ago that would have been unacceptable, but now Iím not so sure. Am I being way off base here? Any opinions?

Bolding Mine.

I think the answer lies in the part of your quote that I bolded. I don't know much about Christian publishers, but I do know that many Christians hold to certain standards concerning sex and other such things, that secular companies would have no qualms about publishing.

I myself am a Christian who writes secular Fantasy. I do use Christian ideas within my works, but I also have some highly charged sexual scenes that I do not believe would be acceptable by some Christian publishers, simply because of the standards I mentioned above.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, if it's intended for a Christian publisher, you might very well have a problem getting it placed with a good house. However, if you want it to go to a secular house, you might have an easier time convincing them that your work is worthy of publication.

I hope this helps you out. Good luck with your submissions!