Tuesday, July 22, 2008


I promised I'd write more about ICRS, and here I am forgetting about it already. It feels like Florida is months away, not mere days. And I haven't even been home a week! If I have mommy-brain this bad after two kids, can you imagine me after more? I once thought I was destined to be the mother of six. Six. I must have been insane in another life.

Anyway, on to the show. I could tell you about people I met, food I ate, and things I did, but what kept me up at night was the whole concept of a Christian market and my place in it. More to the point: I was struck by the discrepency between what seemed to be two camps of thinking. I'm not really sure how to classify them, but they felt distinct to me. Maybe the line is drawn between products that are inward-directed (books, music, etc. by Christians and specifically for Christians) and outward-directed (books, music, etc. by Christians for a larger audience). Maybe it comes down to a generational divide: Boomers vs. Gen-Xers (Gen-Y? I think I'm Gen-Y...). Whatever the distinction, it got me wondering: Am I meant to be a CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) author? Do I even fit in this market?

I don't want to imply that Christian fiction is prescriptive--though it may have been at one time, there are so many authors out there right now who are writing honest, edgy (I hate that word but can't think of a better one) books that blur the lines between secular and traditionally Christian fiction. But I'm not necessarily convinced that the Christian market is totally ready for it...

Case in point: I have received several emails from people saying that After the Leaves Fall and Summer Snow were not hopeful enough. They wanted a happier ending, a more dramatic (and complete) conversion, and more resolution to issues that I intentionally left unfinished. The tenor of my writing makes sense to me--the kind of books that I read are Amy Bloom's Away (breathtaking, by the way, in spite of being bleak), Kiran Desai's The Inheritance of Loss (didn't like that one as much, even though the title clued me in to exactly what the book would be), and Carol Sheild's Unless (yet another self-disclosing title). And they think my books aren't hopeful enough?!? :) But honestly, I can see where these readers are coming from. If you pick up one of my books expecting to encounter the same happily-ever-after ending that most CBA fiction is known for, your not going to find it. So... Am I a disappointment to CBA readers? Are my books a let-down because my readers want everything to be peachy in the end?

Of course, on the other hand I have also received numerous emails from people saying that my books were a breath of fresh air, something they could totally relate to because their own lives aren't the proverbial "bowl of cherries."

Who's right? Both? Neither? I guess the bottom line for me is, I felt like a bit of a stranger in a strange land at times during the convention. Almost apologetic: Here's my book, but I'm not sure you'll like it as I can see you're clutching an armload of homespun romances that lean more towards the escapist side of literature... Maybe I'd be a better fit in a secular market. But then again, I'm sure they'd think I was too Christian.

Maybe we need a new market altogether. A sort of evolving genre that captures the postmodern movement of our generation while embracing the hope and beauty of an unmistakably grace-filled life. An emergent-genre maybe, like the emergent church. Hmmm. I could get into that, I think. But since I'm not going to start my own publishing house, I guess the best I can do is keep writing what I write and hope that the people who were meant to read my stuff will find it--even if it's not quite Christian fiction, not quite Women's, not quite Literary, not quite Secular... I just hope it makes sense to somebody.


  1. Ah, Nicole, my dear friend, press on with the mission God has given you, knowing that it is He who has given you this talent and He who will use it for His purposes!

  2. Thanks, Miriam. You are such an encouragement to me. :)

  3. Thank you for your honesty. In my experience I have not found that "happily ever after", but I remain hopeful and faithful to God. When I read stories about a perfectly happy ending it makes me feel unsure about my own life like maybe I'm missing out on something (and I don't think I am).

  4. Nicole, The Christian writing marketplace has changed a lot in the last 10 years (which you know much about). As a reader, writer and librarian of a large Church library, I have seen Christians search for (hunger for) "Christian fiction" that is more 'reality-based' than it has been in the past. 'Happy-clappy' saccharine-sweet endings just don't cut it anymore for most readers (thank goodness)!

    It is great that Tyndale is publishing your books! But I don;t think you would have any problem being picked up by a secular publishing company either.

    Remember that there have been many writers over the years, who are Christians, that have had books published by secular companies. Look at Rudy Wiebe, Flannery O'Connor, Anita Horrocks and even John Grisham. These authors have written excellent books with a startling amount of "Christian" content that has been accepted by the general marketplace.

    In a sense, the books you are writing are forming a bridge between these two 'camps' you mention. They are a breath of fresh air rather than a blast of halitosis!

    So keep writing what you are writing! Be true to yourself at all costs and don't be afraid to let the world see who you are. It will be a better place because of what you do.


  5. Thank you all so much for your responses and encouragement. I can't help thinking that the light shines brighter because of the darkness around it... And there is something in that darkness that makes the startling contradiction of light so much more breathtaking. Why do I love paradoxes??? Anyway, I truly appreciate the dialogue. Thank you.


  6. I would have to agree--go with it girl and let God write through you. Your books are reaching people who would not pick up "Christian" fiction and touching their hearts in a way that only God knows how to get through.
    Annie (in CT)