A post the thoughtful and smart Chila Woychick made on her blog this spring has had me thinking hard ever since.
Who should we blame that the general market finds Christian fiction to be banal and bland? Where does the responsibility lie that quality is not the first thing that comes to a reader's mind when thinking over our work?
You guessed it. Ours. The writers.
We cannot blame the publishers for this. What, exactly, could they do if suddenly all the Christian novelists decided not to submit the junk-food-for-the-believer's-brain that has passed for good C-fic all these years? What if they decided, say, to submit only novels that push the envelope a little? Only those stories that ask tough questions? Only those stories set in eras or places that are not completely and immediately recognizable by a 21st century audience with the attention span of a gnat?
Now, of course, this isn't possible. There will always be those writers who will simply shovel into the maw of the larger publishers any type of stories "they want." This translates to, "This will sell well for us with minimal work of any kind on our part. Keep the bland stuff coming--we love it!"
There are writers thinking outside this paradigm, which in my usual shorthand, I call The Box. There are quality Christian publishers who don't care to publish Box Stories. There are writers who've been told "no, we can only publish fiction set in the 18th or 19th century, which has a certain type of heroine and a setpiece hero, and you'd better not mention denominations, or dancing, or alcohol, or sin, or, or, or..." Some of these authors are frustrated, and rightly so. Some of the best of these writers are taking their work direct to their readers, or "indie" publishing.
I celebrate the freedom of self-expression, and the expression of truth for Christ, that the new electronic world gives us. I hope the banal, the easy, the repetitive, the non-challenging will soon be a footnote to Christian writing history, much as the monks' work on medieval vellum is now.
That said -- I'm striking my own blow for realism in Christian fiction. With ample and expert help from my publisher, that is. Desert Breeze Publishing will release the first book in the "Faith Box" trilogy on September 21, in print and digital formats. Take a gander at the cover and tell me if you think this is a "usual" book!