To Writers of Christian fiction…

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Last week at ICRS, an author told me something I probably should have realized a long time ago, which is that I’ve built myself a reputation as the guy who hates CBA. And another friend gently suggested that there are even some authors who apparently consider themselves the brunt of my negativity about the safe boundaries CBA has built around Christian fiction. Both of these misconceptions concern me, but especially the idea that I’m picking on writers. Apparently, while I’ve been commenting on the generally deplorable state of Christian fiction (and all Christian arts for that matter), I’ve been drawing a bead on myself and alienating some of the most respected names in the business.

Well, I suppose I should just accept it, but I’m not willing to do anything so rational. Not after all this cock-eyed hullabaloo I’ve been making. Anyway, you’ll be no doubt relieved to know that I resisted the urge to laugh it off, and took the words in, and felt genuinely apologetic for any misconceptions I’ve contributed to. These authors (you authors) are people I respect, and writing Christian fiction for as many years as they have, I can’t help but wonder why they’d think my opinions were of any consequence, let alone debatable. I confess I’m all puffed up with inappropriate pride at the attention.

But let me stop right there and also confess that I do not hate CBA, have never spoken negatively about an author’s work (with the exception of maybe Jerry Jenkins who can take it, Mr. Cookies-on-the-bottom-shelf), nor have I ever said the problems in CBA are the result of bad writers getting away with writing shoddy books. Because I’m dedicated to changing the reputation of Christian books from one of safety to one of excellence in content, I sometimes rail against the realities I’m faced with as an editor to keep fickle book-buyers happy, self-absorbed, and insulated from the world. But we’re agreed about that, or so I’ve thought.

If there are problems with the quality of Christian fiction, it is not a result of poor writing—or I should say, not of poor writing alone. Certainly, there are battles to be won for raising the level of excellence in the writer’s original vision—I suspect some are assuming this is my point—but the fact is, there are bigger problems all the way up and down the publishing neighborhood. Fiction authors who have carved out a spot in CBA receive my praise and admiration for all they’ve contributed—and put up with.

And while I had intended tonight to give a little insider info on some scandalous discoveries I’ve recently made about the Christian publishing industry, I first felt I needed to dispel some of these notions that I’m anti-CBA, or anti-Christian-authors. I could not waste my time to bad-mouth CBA if I didn’t sincerely want to see things change for the better. I’m excited by many of the changes I see happening around the block, and I’m enjoying the strategizing that’s happening on a larger scale than before.

I hope we can join together to work toward a more excellent Christian fiction market, and a more diverse CBA, stories that encompass the truth about light and dark, and narrative that inspires us to break through our assumptions and isolation.

Peace, friends.

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9 thoughts on “To Writers of Christian fiction…”

  1. “I’ve built myself a reputation as the guy who hates CBA.”
    Wha’? You, a hater? That’s not what I heard. If I remember correctly, it was “cool” and . . . what’s that s-word?
    I admire your desire to reconcile, Mick. I hope those who’ve been offended accept your olive branch offer.
    Enjoyed Jana Riess’s piece. Thanks for the link.
    Peace back atcha.

  2. i loved this line:
    Mr. Cookies-on-the-bottom-shelf
    the problem is not only fiction. i just got a copy of a nf book from a dear friend whom you and i both know and love. there are still editing comments IN THE TEXT. hello? who are the people actually getting paid to do the editing in these houses?
    it is not just fiction. there is a whole lack of attention to detail. granted, some of the reading is boring and tedious, but damn, don’t be a copy editor if you can’t pay attention.
    sorry you’re getting a bad rap mick. you are just a lone voice crying out in the wilderness, or something (and those of us stuck out in this damned desert are glad to hear some echoes of sanity).

  3. I hear you, Mick. Myself, I feel I’ve gone beyond “pushing the envelope” with my CBA novels into full-on “balls to the wall” mode. I’m still amazed I’m published at all. So soldier on, bro. We’re all in this together.

  4. Can’t we all just get along????
    Great post, and for what it’s worth, it’s always been pretty obvious to me that you wouldn’t spend so much time bemoaning the sorry state of something that you hate. Why would you care? There’s a lotta love there.
    Thanks for the link to Jana’s blog. That’s good stuff. Now tell us about the scandalous discoveries already.

  5. Mick, to change Christian fiction, we have to change more than the quality for writing, don’t you think?
    I’ve heard writer friends discuss the lack of editing they recieve, some feel abandoned by the publishing process.
    Though after talking with many of my ABA writer friends, we are still way ahead of the curve on editing and quality.
    Our biggest challenge is how to weave in God without being preachy or condemning. Constant challenge to me is weaving in the spiritual thread.
    Blessings! Rachel

  6. Oh, thank you all. I feel much better about my hobby.
    Now on with the self-important potificating about all things CBA…

  7. Keep raising the bar, Mick! Don’t let some silly author who wants only to provoke you get in your way. Besides she probably reads your blog regularly and even agrees with everything you say. ;)

  8. Hi, Mick, you say “Because I’m dedicated to changing the reputation of Christian books from one of safety to one of excellence in content….” and I have to ask, why can’t we have both? To me, that’s the true ideal.

  9. Let’s say we could revolutionize the CBA overnight and suddenly all Christian fiction was on a par with Tolstoy… Still, why would a Christian want to publish with CBA? I wrestle with this all the time as a writer who happens to be a devout believer. My well-meaning mother seems to run into famous Christian writers every other week and nudges me to seek publication with a Christian publishing house. But if my purpose is truly to be salt and light, wouldn’t I want to write for the masses of people in darkness? People who don’t shop at Lemstone? I would so love some input on this.