(CCWF Quarterly Meeting)
Are you a writer who desires to serve God yet also wants to write a novel that’s down-to-earth, edgy, racy, raw…REAL? But are you concerned that it may not fit in either the Christian or secular worlds? Have you been told (as I was by my literary agent) that this type of “duel market” fiction doesn’t sell and usually gets stuck in an in-between no man’s land?
Don’t despair…there’s hope for us yet!
There was a turning point for me that made me believe this when I attended the 2018 International Christian Film Festival in Orlando, Florida, thanks to fellow author, Pastor Chris Whaley, who wrote the novel, “The Masked Saint” which was made into a major motion picture that won Best Picture in 2015, and who was presenting and had invited me to come as his guest. It was fun to walk the red carpet and mingle with Christian movie stars Kevin Sorbo and David A.R. White and producers like the Kendrick Brothers and Cindy Bond.
I pitched my books to a few producers (along with many other authors) but I was still feeling discouraged, despite my fan base, that the world just wasn’t fully embracing my books yet. I write contemporary suspense/romance novels that “re-imagine” Old Testament stories in the Bible…those of Job, Jonah, David, Cain and Abel thus far. And while my readers love them and usually become instant fans, I was finding it hard to market them; should I go after the Christian market even though they were too “edgy” for distributors like Lifeway? Should I cast a wider net to reach more readers in the universal world…or would they be turned off if I even mentioned they were Bible-based?
Don’t just preach to the choir.
And then I was sitting in an audience of about four hundred people at the Film Festival at a panel workshop titled, “Why I don’t like Christian films,” when I heard my name…from the stage in front. Producer Isaac Hernandez with Parable TV was holding up my books and saying, “THIS is what we need! More books that bridge the gap…that aren’t boring or sappy but edgy and real.”
“You don’t want to just preach to the choir,” Isaac told the crowd, saying we need to reach the larger world outside of our safe Christian bubble with works that are entertaining, exciting, and yes, edgy. Like my novels. Like yours perhaps. I was feeling such discouragement before this that I actually considered writing something other than my modern-day Bible stories. But when my literary agent told me it was going to be difficult to shop my upcoming novel, The Jealous Son, because it did fall in this apparent “dark hole,” and that I may want to consider writing something else, I told him “no,” that this is what I’m called to do.
DO follow your heart.
St. Paul told us in his writings to be “bold” in our ministries. “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” (Timothy 1:7) “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4:31) The disciples didn’t “preach to the choir” but went out into many foreign lands, risking everything, to carry the good news to all the people. Indeed, why preach to the choir when there are so many who need your story or message but may not pick up your book to read it if you are afraid to write it?
I know there’s a way to write fiction that’s still clean and Christian but passionate, not pablum, that comes close to the line without going over it because my books are selling to both Christian and secular readers now, have become Amazon bestsellers and won several awards and have gotten rave reviews. I’m proud to join the ranks of the handful of writers who are “bridging the gap” like Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye and William Paul Young. Do we have a long way to go before this genre of “edgy inspirational” catches fire? Maybe. Should we keep plugging away in the book and film industries meanwhile, creating more works that bridge the gap? Absolutely!
DO still write for God.
When I originally wrote my contemporary suspense/romance novel The Faithful One based on the Book of Job, I actually thought I needed graphic sex scenes and strong language (ok, profanity) to make it “real” or relatable for readers. After all, I had a scene where Job’s wife and the gardener were intimate in a hot tub, and another set in a jail yard in which an inmate is jumped and stabbed by a prison gang. It was first published in 2009 (before self-publishing was a ‘thing’ on Amazon or Ingram Sparks) by an assisted self-publisher.
But then when I got offered a contract by a traditional Christian publisher, a really good editor helped me to re-write it for the Christian world and you know what? The scenes stayed in the book minus the graphic and profane language…and it became a better book for it. The bottom line is that you can write a really great, entertaining and edgy Christian novel for the universal market with scenes that are real and relatable…it’s all in the words you use to convey those scenes. And after all, we are still writing for the Christian market as well as the universal, we are still writing for God.
Bestselling Author, Speaker, Book Coach
Michele Chynoweth is the best-selling author of contemporary novels that bring Old Testament stories in the Bible to life for today’s readers so they can better relate to God’s messages. Michele’s fast-paced novels are filled with suspense, mystery and romance. In addition to being an author, Michele is an award-winning inspirational speaker, book editor and writing coach and a college instructor for Cecil College’s Continuing Education program where she teaches book writing, publishing and marketing.