Top Ten Tuesday: Things I Wish Christian Fiction (and its readers) Did More Often

Posted February 7, 2017 by meezcarrie in Christian, Top Ten Tuesday / 163 Comments

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is books we wish had more/less of something in them. And of course, I’m going to tweak that just a bit πŸ™‚

In June last year, I did a post about Why I Love Christian Fiction. It’s still one of my most-read posts, and every once in a while someone new discovers it and it makes the rounds again. I love it! Because I DO very much love Christian fiction and all its great subgenres.

And while I am perhaps its biggest champion (in body and in spirit!), I am also not blind to the areas where it could improve.Β  The things on my list today are challenges/reminders (not criticisms) for me, as much as they are for the industry and other readers. It’s come a long way, baby, from the earliest days of Christian fiction and I see great days ahead in its future.

There is absolutely still a place for Christian fiction that is written for Christians for whom faith is neat and tidy – or for those who wish it were. But there is also a much-needed place, a craving even, for Christian fiction that isn’t afraid to face the messiness of faith head on. To tackle the sins that no one else writes about. To address the doubts and struggles that we’re sometimes afraid to voice. To expose the grittiness of grace and the marvel of redemption. I’m so thankful for a handful of authors who are already doing this so well – Jennifer Rodewald, Kristen Heitzmann, Katie Ganshert, Cynthia Ruchti, Pepper Basham, and others.Β  Jesus died a messy death for our messy sin… and even though we’ve been covered in His grace, life IS still messy because we live in a messy world. If Christian fiction is going to be relevant to the hurting people who live and breathe and cry and laugh in the mess, we need to show how to find joy and peace in the raw reality of walking in faith despite our struggles.

“Red, brown, yellow, black and white… They are precious in His sight.” True. Yet they don’t show up in Christian fiction all that much πŸ˜‰ This is something I’m just starting to become more aware of, as I don’t really pay attention to the ethnicity of characters when I read. BUT I recognize that it’s an imperative issue in our world today, and as Christians we need to reflect Jesus in our approach to current events as much as our approach to history. I’m privileged to be part of a new blog that just started up – Diversity Between The Pages – and I’m hoping to expand my own understanding of and sensitivity toward ethnic diversity in the process.

Maybe this is one that I’m more sensitive to because of my work with internationals, but y’all. For those of us who live in the United States or Canada or Great Britain, the world has come to our door. And books (of any genre), particularly those set in any large city at home or abroad, that don’t reflect a diversity of religions are not reflecting an authentic view of the world around us. Now please hear what I’m saying and what I’m not saying, because I realize I’m opening a can of worms with this one. lol. I’m not saying that we need stories about converting your Muslim or Buddhist or Hindu or atheist neighbor, in some sort of fiction-driven revival of the crusades πŸ˜‰ I’m also not saying that the main characters in Christian fiction should be people of other faiths. But I am saying that a little diversity – not just of the ethnic kind – in our fictional neighborhoods and communities and cities and schools would better represent the world we live in today. ❀

Like… Canada! (Ok, that was just for Melony Teague lol) But seriously…. not everything has to be set in the US or Great Britain.Β  While I love those settings, I also love learning about places I’m not familiar with and may never get to travel and see. Let’s have some more Christian fiction set in China, Japan, Korea, India, tropical islands, Australia (can I get an amen from my Aussie friends?), New Zealand (love you, Kara Isaac!), South America, Africa, and yes… Canada. πŸ™‚ Let’s not have it all be missionary stories either, please? Those are fine but diversity is on my heart lately, so maybe we could mix up the type of stories we set in other places too? Europe makes for excellent stories (France!!! Sweden!! Italy!! Spain!!) but I’d love some more contemporary ones set there, not just historicals. (I’m not being demanding or anything, am I? LOL)

This one may seem redundant after the previous four, but my heart behind this particular suggestion is really more directed at publishers and agents. I’m part of a Facebook group for Christian publishing industry peeps, and – well, first, they are SUCH a blessing to me every day. But they’ve also inspired a lot of this post, and during one of our discussions, we were talking about wishing that the Christian fiction industry would take a risk. As one author put it, “Leap to where the market hasn’t been.” Ohhhhh yes please!!! Let’s risk a little pushback by daring to break away from the “we’ve always done it that way” mentality.Β  Let’s take a chance on authors who want to write messy faith, subtle faith, diversity, etc. Of course this is an industry like any other, and certain business practices make the most sense. I get that. But sometimes the greatest successes happened because someone took a leap of faith.

Now I want to talk to Christian Fiction READERS!

In preparation for this post, I asked authors on Facebook what they wished Christian Fiction readers would do more often. Here’s what they said:

I’m guilty of not doing this, too. It gets comfy inside our comfort zones (shocking!) and we like our fave genres and authors. But I am discovering that the more I step outside that reading comfort zone, the more fave genres and books and authors I discover.Β  Case in point – I never liked first person POV… until I started reading Dawn Crandall and Varina Denman and several others who have mastered this. Now, a well done first person POV is one of my favorite perspectives to read.

So, my challenge to CF readers is this: Try a new author this month. Try a new genre. Try a new publisher. Try a book that doesn’t have the most professional looking cover. Don’t stay stuck in a rut! You might find some delightful new friends along the way πŸ˜€

There are, thankfully, Christian fiction authors (and Christian authors of fiction) who are writing novels of excellence that take risks – novels that focus on messy faith, novels that look a bit grittier than your mama’s Christian fiction, novels that incorporate less obvious/more subtle nudges of faith, novels that don’t seem to have any faith markings at all.Β  As author Rachel McMillan (Herringford and Watts series) said, “understand that just because a book doesn’t spout overt evangelism, doesn’t mean a christian worldview wasn’t carefully and symbolically interwoven into its fabric.

Lenora Worth, author of the Men of Millbrook Lake series added, “be kind” in the context of leaving reviews (which I’m going to talk about in a moment) but I want to focus on that under this topic too. If you read a book that’s too risky for you (i didn’t say risque… though I guess that applies here too lol) or too gritty or not overtly spiritual enough for you….. if it uses slang you don’t prefer or more PDA than you’re comfy with …. if the author (gasp!) crosses over into the general market …. you are certainly entitled to your opinions but as followers of Jesus we are also called to be KIND to each other. Friends, there’s just no excuse for the hateful reviews I’ve seen for books by some of these dear and brave risk-takers. Reviews that have little to do with the book and are instead full of vitriol about the condition of their souls. There’s no room for that in God’s family. None. Don’t make me break out my “teacher eyes” or my purse-whomping purse, now ❀

This category is one that I might not have included had I not asked the authors themselves for suggestions. Most of the others I’d already roughly sketched in, and their ideas helped me solidify what I wanted to say. But this one – while it seems so obvious now – might have slipped by me unnoticed.

First – follow your fave authors. Follow new-to-you authors. Heck, follow authors you’ve just barely heard of. Follow them on social media, of course, because that often gives you a really fun and personal glimpse at their books and their lives. But there are also many other ways to follow an author, including their newsletters! Heather Gilbert, author ofΒ Forest ChildΒ andΒ Miranda Warning, encouraged, “sign up for the author newsletter so you can stay up with all their latest,Β  follow the author on Amazon, Bookbub (for alerts of deals), Goodreads, and elsewhere.”

Second – reach out to an author whose books have meant a lot to you. Most have contact forms on their websites or an email address listed there. Use it to send an encouraging note, a special Bible verse, or just to tell them how much you loved their book or a certain scene or a certain character or two. If you’re part of a book club, arrange a phone call or Skype chat with an author. Cynthia Ruchti (Song of Silence, Restoring Christmas) said, “Readers sometimes think authors are too busy or aren’t interested in hearing directly from their readers. Most of us LOVE IT! It’s fuel and comfort, encouragement and affirmation, and makes a connection that we long for when we write our stories!”Β Many authors indicated that they keep their favorite emails from readers as encouragement during the tough writing days. Author Sondra Kraak (Such a Hope) also suggested, “Many Christian authors consider writing a ministry. Intercede for them. Ask if they have an influencer team you can be on, which probably doubles as a prayer team. Ask them how you can pray for them. Kingdom building work happens together.”

(A side note: This does not mean that you send the author an email which details everything you don’t like about them or their books. Or every nitpicky detail you found issue with in their latest release. I mean, please. I shouldn’t even have to say this because … BE KIND … but you wouldn’t believe the emails authors have shared with me.)

Third – buy their books! Now, authors totally understand that trade paperbacks aren’t cheap. Neither are some ebooks. They get it. But, as Victoria Bylin (Someone Like You) expressed, Occasionally buy a new copy of a new release. I love libraries and Half-Price Books, but buying a new book is a little like casting a vote with the publisher.” Cynthia Ruchti explained a little bit more about sales and publishers, publishers depend on number of books sold–versus number of books read–when deciding whether or not to offer another contract. So sharing is wonderful, truly wonderful. But sharing a book with six of your friends rather than buying them gift copies or encouraging them to buy a copy may mean the author isn’t given a contract to write more.” And Liz Johnson (Prince Edward Island Dreams series) reiterated buying books as gifts. “We know money can be tight, but if you’re already planning to purchase a gift for someone, consider a new copy of a book that you’ve loved. It’ll support the author and make for a great conversation piece between friends.” If you get the first book in a series free during an Amazon promo, consider buying the following books. As Heather Gilbert said, “This is what pays authors’ bills!”

This suggestion was second only to “leave reviews” (which I’m covering next, I promise) in the answers I received from authors.Β  Most libraries have a suggestion form that you can use when requesting that they carry a certain book. Make sure you follow their rules, though. In my library system, for instance, we can’t request a book that’s newer than a year old. Otherwise, my library is very generous in ordering the books I’ve asked them to carry.

Liz Johnson explained why this is such a big deal – “…asking local libraries to carry the book is a great way to support authors. Especially when the library system is large. Some cities have a system with fifteen or more branches, so when they order a book, they may order 5 or 10 copies, so there’s almost enough for every branch.” And author Sally Bradley (Kept, Homestands) added, “It’s another sale that helps us keep writing, and it helps readers find us too.

Amazon is fabulous. I love Amazon. Last year, Amazon Prime saved me $250 in shipping alone. But, Susie Finkbeiner – the author of A Cup of Dust – said when you’re considering where to make a book purchase, “Amazon is all right but a brick and mortar store is better.” This is particularly in relation to bestseller lists’ which help with exposure which then leads to more sales which then leads to publishing contracts.

Overwhelmingly, the single most popular answer I received from the authors who responded was “LEAVE REVIEWS“. I mean… it got rather humorous after a while lol. But this. Y’all. You don’t have to review like I do. In fact, if you don’t have a blog with white space to fill, don’t review like I do.

DO leave a short, sweet, to-the-point sentence or two saying if you liked the book or not. Maybe even mention a favorite quote or favorite character. DON’T copy or paraphrase the book summary. People can read that for themselves (Picture Will Smith teaching Kevin James how to dance in Hitch – “They don’t need pizza, they got their own food.”) DON’T give away spoilers!!! Closely related to that – DON’T summarize the entire plot, including the ending.Β  And more than anything, DO be kind. As Lenora Worth said, “Accept that writers are human. We sometimes make mistakes or take the story in a direction you might not like. Forgive us, please. This is a great job but it’s very taxing mentally at times. It’s an emotional job and we try to get it right. Be kind, please.”

But reviews aren’t the only way you can talk about your fave book or author. Heather Gilbert had some awesome ideas – “…put the book on the correct Listopia lists on Goodreads (like a card catalogue for books), ask about becoming an influencer for that author … nominate the books you love for reader contests (like the INSPYs)… I’m sure you all know this, but many don’t think of Listopia or contests and those are nice boosts for an author. Liz Johnson also elaborated on something that a lot of authors agreed about – “I love when readers share pictures of my books out in the wild. Sometimes it’s on a bookstore shelf. Even better when they spot someone reading a book in public. Most authors I know have never seen anyone they don’t know reading one of their books, but it’s a bit of a dream. If you see someone reading one of your favorite author’s books, ask if you can take a pic and send it to the author. It’ll make the author’s day!” Courtney Walsh (Paper Hearts, Change of Heart) encouraged readers to share about the books on social media, and Kathleen Fuller (Amish of Birch Creek series) said, “Recommend, recommend, recommend. Word of mouth is the number one way people find out about books.

In closing, I think Heather Gilbert really summed it up best:

What about you? Is there an author whose books have especially touched you? I’m making it easy on you right now – use the comments today to write them a quick note of thanks! I’ll let them know it’s there πŸ™‚

Tags: ,

163 responses to “Top Ten Tuesday: Things I Wish Christian Fiction (and its readers) Did More Often

  1. Terrific post, my friend…and here’s my AMEN from one of your Aussie friends, and not just for stories from contries other than the USA ?? or GB ??, but for everything you’ve touched on here πŸ™‚

    As for your question…gosh, you really don’t want to get me started on listing authors whose books have touched me! It’s way too long.

    Thanks for the time and effort you have put into this post!

  2. Fabulous post, Carrie! My oldest son, his wife and my twin granddaughters currently live in Tunis, Tunisia, where he’s posted as Foreign Service Officer. Their experience has been so rich, that I’d love to use that ancient city for a setting someday. I can just imagine editors raising their eyebrows, both with interest and trepidation.

    About supporting risk takers . . . Yes! If don’t branch out as readers and buy / check out from the library books outside the Christian sweet spot, we’re going to end up with a very generic genre (that probably needs an edit!).

    Diversity . . . I personally think the challenge here is live it so that we can write it authentically.

    As for risky faith . . . you know how I feel about that one!

    Wonderful post!!!

  3. Melony Teague

    Fantastic post, and yes, yes, yes for all of the above.
    And especially yes for more exotic destinations. I want to travel through books.
    And most of all…., be Kind. Love that ❀️

  4. Debra E. Marvin

    I’ve been having a BTS scenes chat about what Christian fiction readers will tolerate in their characters. I know there will always be extremes and I absolutely agree that we have to focus on real challenges. The ‘perfect Christian’ in fiction has become much less common (thankfully) but we’ve got a long way to go in diversity of culture, backgrounds, and expressions of faith. Publishers know what sells to a certain audience, but it’s the small presses and indie publishers that are stepping up to produce books for the rest of the audience. (and that target market is shrinking fast!) I honestly don’t write my story with a Christian reader in mind. Thank you so much, Carrie! What a great idea for a post!

    • Carrie

      Yes – we’ve come a long way but still a long way to go. But that’s so true of our own personal walks with Jesus too, isn’t it? I’m not who I was (thank God) but He still has so much work to do in me <3 And I'm so thankful for the indie publishers and small presses who are stepping up - and for the bigger houses who are starting to take those risks.

  5. Thank you for this inspiring, insightful and truly wonderful post!! I am going to share it. Thank you for your continued support, we so appreciate you, my friend.
    With Love,
    One of The Risk Takers.

  6. I wish there was a Love button! Absolutely loved this post and everything you listed. Now you have me thinking of exotic locales. πŸ™‚

    As for authors who have touched me with their writing, I’ll give a shout out to Pepper Basham, Jennifer Rodewald, and Joanne Bischof for tackling messy subjects with the grace of Christ.

  7. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head here with some exact thoughts I’ve had lately. I was looking at my TBR pile the other day and thinking to myself, wow I’m really playing it safe. One of my goals this year is to expand my horizons and get some new genres on my review list. Pray for me!! I know it’ll be a struggle.

    I also love your thoughts on Christian fiction. I would love to read about messy faith because I feel that I struggle with that at times, as we all do I’m sure. It will allow a way for me to connect with the storyline more and really dive into the book. And who knows, by authors stepping out and writing about this May minister to a whole new group of people they never would have been able to reach before!

    Thanks you ma’am for putting into words what many of us were already thinking πŸ™‚

    • Carrie

      Thank you so much for your encouragement, Jessica!!! And I’m happy to help with recommendations when you’re ready to branch out into some new genres/authors πŸ˜€ Trying that first new one is always a little iffy. lol.

      Try those authors I mentioned in the messy faith category too, if you haven’t already. They are doing a fantastic job. Also, Victoria Bylin, Joanne Bischof, Carla Laureano, Dawn Crandall, Varina Denman, Catherine West… they ARE out there! πŸ˜€

  8. AMEN! From another of your Aussie friends ? This is a fantastic post! And I’m so thankful for authors who are stepping outside the lines that have been drawn around Christian fiction for so many years. YES to everything you have said ❀️

    Okay. In danger of babbling. Must go to bed…

  9. Thanks for listening to authors and readers, Carrie! Christian readers have been saying for years that they want more locales, more issues, more time periods, more diversity. This is where indie authors have been able to step in and make great strides, I believe. But I do see Christian publishers changing and trying to integrate these things, as well. And yes, there are the tangible ways of helping authors, but the not-so-tangible things like personal emails of encouragement or seeing your readers go out of their way to promote your books truly humble and boost authors in some of their lower moments! Every little bit helps. I remind myself that there are readers who might love my books but never review. I run into them sometimes, and it’s nice to remember that our value as authors doesn’t lie in the number of reviews we have–it’s in the number of readers we touch, and only God knows that number.

  10. I LOVED this post, today. I think part of it is because I feel like because there aren’t a bunch of swear words in my books, that some people don’t think of them as real. Also, in my first middle grades fiction novel, FINDING ATTICUS, I purposely referenced the fact that the heroine’s family goes to church regularly, because I wanted readers to understand that going to church every weekend IS the norm in many families.
    My all time favorite author is LaVyrle Spencer, because I have always felt that behind most of her stories is her faith and belief system. The crisis of character usually centers around “faith”. It might not be “God faith”, but I always feel like for her it’s a metaphor for her underlying Christian faith. I think that’s why I write the way I do. I want those subliminal messages out there.

    • Carrie

      that’s an interesting point, Laurie. For many of us, not using swear words IS the norm. While for some, it’s such an integrated part of their vocabulary (sadly). But, the most important thing is – you keep writing exactly the way you feel called to write because it’s “real” for someone!!

  11. Andrea Stephens

    I love how you fill your “white space” Carrie! You are so great at reviews and author interviews. Thanks to you, I have been introduced to many new authors and genres. I have read out of my comfort zone. I will always love my historicals, though.
    I cannot even to begin to thank all the authors that have touched me with their books, there are too many.
    I will thank you, and your book blogger friends, for sharing your enthusiastic support of authors and books with us β™‘

  12. Carrie Turansky

    Thank you, Carrie! It was great to read those ideas for authors and readers. Very helpful! I appreciate the way you help bring us together!

  13. Great post, Carrie! There’s so much here, I’m not sure what to comment on, so I’ll just say I’m for more “messy faith” and “edgy” issues with more character diversity and answer your question – Tammy Gray and Nicole Deese’s books are some of the first that touched me.

    And as an author, thanks for encouraging our care and nurturing!I’ll go out on a limb and say we all appreciate both reviews AND kindness.

  14. Fabulous!! thank you so much–especially for this: “Reviews that have little to do with the book and are instead full of vitriol about the condition of their souls…” Thanks for having our backs, Carrie! YOU. ARE. AWESOME!!!

  15. The care and thought you put into this post is VERY evident, Carrie. Thank you!

    p.s. When you’re ready to add a new vocation to your bio, I suggest you consider ‘Preacher’. πŸ˜‰

  16. Fantastic post! Yes to all the things about Christian fiction. Diversity is definitely one.

    For readers, I’d add these to it too:

    1. Suggests books to your local bookstores when you don’t see the ones you want. They can order it for you or if they don’t have an account with the publisher, they may be willing to change that. More books by the publishers to be exposed at a store. (That has happened to me.)

    2. Author signings at bookstores help sales too. Buy books then as well or suggest an author (local) to the bookstore.

  17. Hi Carrie!

    I LOVED this post! I’m a new writer myself, having written my first Inspy Romance this past summer. I WANT to write Christian Fiction but the constraints are not always easy for me to adhere to. Your first and fourth points especially resonated with me. Both of my books take place (in part or entirely) in QuΓ©bec, Canada and my heroines’ faith would best be summed up as “Complicated.”

    It was disheartening to read one judge’s comments telling me that it was a “No-no” mentioning my protagonist had had her tubes tied. This is contemporary fiction, people.

    My church-going friends had no idea what I was writing. “Oh, like Elin Hilderbrand? Daniel Steel? Kristan Higgans?”

    They don’t read “Inspy Romance.” Most of them have read something by Francine Rivers though.

    I could go on and on! Thanks for putting this out there!

  18. Kav

    Amen to all of this. Especially excited about the Diversity in Christian Fiction blog. That’s something I am constantly looking for. Hoping to get some great new reading recommends from that blog.

    And yes — let’s get ourselves out of North America. Funny how publishers think readers won’t pick up a book if it’s set outside the states (with historical Britain an exception.) Even Canada plays a backseat way too often. I just don’t get that at all.

    And writing about messy lives. I love it when an author takes a character I can’t relate to, am sure I won’t like and then blows me away with how moved I am by their story. Cathleen Armstrong did that in At Home in Last Chance — a story about a young mother who actually abandoned her daughter for six months. I was convicted anew about grace and forgiveness and particularly about accepting people for who they are — children of God, just like me.

    • Carrie

      Yes!! Another great example!!! Dawn Crandall did that with Vance Everstone & Pepper Basham did that with Catherine too.

  19. I’m visiting after seeing Heather Gilbert’s link to this article on Facebook. As a one time Christian fiction author (my first two books were published by a Christian publisher, I frequent Christian writing circles, and teach at Christian writing conferences), now having aimed at the general market (6 indie titles), this topic has always interested me.

    It’s fascinating how the inclusion and mention of male authors is conspicuously ignored in this post. (Not trying to be combative, just wanting to highlight what the author and others might be missing.) The unspoken assumption is that Christian fiction is a genre just for women. This has always puzzled me. Even the look of the text (red flowing script) says “women reader.” While I applaud the author for mentioning the need for more racial and religious diversity, it’s interesting how the lack of gender diversity is almost completely missed.

    Again, I hope I’m not coming off as mean-spirited. I love the intention behind this post to broaden the boundaries of our storytelling. However, I think the tilt towards a predominantly female audience is so intrinsic to the industry that it’s difficult to step back and really evalute things objectively.

    • Carrie

      Good thoughts. However, the reason the only authors I mentioned are female is because only female authors answered my question πŸ™‚ And the flowy script … well, it’s my blog and I am female and so are 99% of my readers LOL. So the flowy script is here to stay πŸ™‚ I think there’s a great need for more male authors who are active in the industry. I love books by Jim Rubart, Dr. Mabry, Rick Acker, etc – but the selection is slim, certainly.

  20. Rebecca Maney

    Such a great post, gives me lots of ideas and encourages me to keep doing some of the things that I already do . . . . . I have been “book pushing” (translated recommending) “Luther and Katharina” and “Newton and Polly” just this morning.

    I definitely need to strengthen my ties to my local library system and to risk reading outside my “comfort zones”.

  21. Fantastic post, Carrie. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and for spurring authors and readers alike into action. Great points about diversity and locales. I admit that I’ve had ideas for stories set in places/time periods that aren’t particularly popular, so I’ve filed them away in the “someday” part of my brain. Who knows?

    Thanks! Have a fabulous day.

    • My first series was set in Toronto — where I live– and my agent and I did come up against editors thinking it was too “exotic”

      Luckily, Harvest House was happy to take a chance on Canada—- after all, Janette Oke is one of the pioneers of the genre and she is from here ( and writes about here) and we are just next door πŸ˜€

      • Carrie

        I’m so happy they took a chance on Canada. I think … from what I see from readers, etc. … that we in America get a little tired of reading only about America. At least my circle of readers enjoy branching out to exotic Canada and other places πŸ˜‰

  22. Stephanie

    I know that my faith is not mentioned in other Christian books. For a long time I stayed strictly in authors of my faith to make sure I did not get any of those not so pleasing books.
    When I found Becky Wade’s books I knew that if I looked for certain Publishers I would be safe in what I read about.
    I have enjoyed so many authors now. Where I live you can not get a hard copy of books in stores. Our library is always willing to buy more books when I have shown them some wonderful authors that I know our community would enjoy.
    I have finally broken down and ordered Books off of Amazon. I always try to support local bookstores.
    Stepping away from my religions authors and enjoying new ones have given me a new appreciation of others strong belief in Christ.
    I say do not be afraid of other publishers who have a strong moral high ground. You would enjoy many more books.

    • Carrie

      That’s a great point! Along with that (and this isn’t something I would recommend to everyone), I read books by several authors who don’t share my faith. Whether they simply practice a different faith or they don’t espouse a particular one at all, it has helped me see how the world perceives me as a follower of Jesus and has made me more sensitive to people who don’t follow Him yet.

  23. Great post Carrie! My romantic suspense novels are both slightly edgy and set in Canada, both of which made it extremely difficult to get them published. So thankful for small publishing houses that tend to be more willing to take risks! Appreciate your advice on diversity. I know I approach writing settings I don’t know well or from ethnic backgrounds not my own out of a mix of respect and fear that I won’t get it right. So a small note of caution to authors willing to try that, to make sure you get to know the setting and, even more, people of the ethnic background you wish to write from or portray, well to avoid representing them poorly,resorting to cliches, offending or generally doing more harm than good. Climbing off my soap box now. Maybe we could go to “preacher school” together Carrie ?

    • Carrie

      I think that’s another reason that authors stay away from diversity, Sara – excellent point. We’re afraid of getting it wrong. And we’re wise to be cautious. Uber-cautious in this day and age lol. I still think it’s absolutely worth the effort. BUT if we’re going to do it – like you said – we need to make sure we’re doing it right!

  24. Great post, Carrie!! As a newbie writer who is publishing her first book in APRIL (squee!), I’m trying to gather all the pointers and tips I can!
    I’m also a library director, so for some reason our Christian Fiction section has grown by leaps and bounds in the 12 years I’ve been here! πŸ˜‰
    I love the encouragement to write about exotic locales. When I was a teen, I inhaled all of my grandmother’s 1960’s and 70’s Harlequin Romances. My favorite author at the time was Essie Summers, who was a pastor’s wife in New Zealand, so most of her books took place there or in Australia. I absolutely loved them. Tricia Goyer’s “Swiss Courier” and “Chasing Mona Lisa” were set in WWII Europe, and were utterly fascinating.
    Thank you so much for encouraging Christian readers AND writers! You are amazing!

  25. Good thoughts, Carrie. Thanks for supporting the risk-takers!

    (The flowing script is fine. Blogs should fit your personality. πŸ˜‰ )

  26. Rachael Merritt

    Last year was a different year for me in reading. I branched out a bit by reading James Rubart…a new author, and a genre I had never read which I totally loved. Pepper and Dawn both do a great job of dealing with broken characters and messy situations, yet writing a book that challenges and teaches the reader.

    I absolutely love the idea of diversity in characters, type of characters, and places. I’m disabled..Jody Hedlund added some great characters who with God’s help became content with their limitations. I really can relate to those kinds of characters. I can’t go places so I’d love to in books. A book I read by Elizabeth Musser , The Long Highway Home, had a different setting and a totally different feel to it.

    In looking back, Christian fiction has come a long way…as for men. Interestingly, I find I love their books! Davis Bunn, Creston Mapes, Michael Phillips, Thoene, Robert Whitlow, Donn Taylor, Mabry, Ace Collins,etc. However, I don’t know any men that read Christian Fiction.

    I do try very hard to support the authors I love. I tend to try harder for small publishing houses and indie writers.

    Thanks for such a great blog post.

    • Carrie

      I am getting ready to read The Long Highway Home by Musser – now I’m looking forward to it even more!!

      And yes!! Let’s read more about people with disabilities, chronic illness, etc (Not just cancer) who are living day in and day out with struggles and finding their faith footing in the midst of a new normal. Love your heart for these topics and for Christian fiction!

      • Rachael Merritt

        In reading the book, I thought of you. I think it will does right to your heart about people you love. It has a lot of characters so my brain had a hard time following it. However, the setting is SO different! I think you will enjoy it.

  27. Karen

    Thanks to your blog, I’ve become a risk-taker over the past few years by trying authors that are new to me. I never would have tried them without that recommendation. It’s been wonderful (and bad, since I never have enough time to read!) to add to my favorite author list and follow them. This is a great post, you covered everything really well, and I’m so happy you wrote it.

  28. To steal a line from you, my sweet friend, “Yes. All my yeses.” to this post. <3 And whoa. I can't believe the women you just listed me with. Mind. Blown.

    I love the personal email comment in this. It never fails, when I'm preparing for a launch and I'm crazy nervous because I know my books are risky, (and contrary to what many think of me, I battle fear every single day, especially when I'm about to release something that I know has the potential for crossfire) God sends encouragement straight to my heart via an email from a reader. Seriously, every time. I'm so very thankful. I want readers to know that sometimes your reaching out to us is seriously God's touch to our hearts, and that is completely amazing!

    Thank you so much for this post, Carrie! And your Why I Love Christian Fiction post is still one of my favorites of all time. <3 Just so you know.

    • Carrie

      Yes. All my yeses. πŸ˜‰ <3 Love you, my friend! Keep on keeping on, as my grandma used to say. I'm cheering you on all the way!

  29. Thanks for this post, Carrie! Such great thoughts and ideas. You inspire me to reach out of my comfort zone, contact more authors, and (of course) read read read more πŸ™‚

  30. What a great post! I loved all of your suggestions at the top. I think all of those things would increase the amount of readers. Sometimes I also wish there were more sexy times in religious fiction. That probably sounds a little weird.

    My TTT.

    • Carrie

      haha!!!! No, i totally get that, Deanna!! And there are some “steamier” books out there – I’m always happy to give you some suggestions πŸ˜€

  31. I love messy faith. It is probably one of my favorite parts of Christian fiction. I don’t mind a curse word here or there to be authentic. I have noticed authors saying “he cursed” instead of using the word. I am doing some reading out of my comfort zone which is challenging because I enjoy certain genre’s and authors.

    • Carrie

      Curse words (as long as they stay mild and infrequent) don’t bother me one way or the other, but I do like it best when they just avoid the whole issue altogether while still getting the point across with “he cursed”, like you said πŸ™‚

  32. Kathy Kexel

    Well, since you said you are dedicating this comment section to plug favorite authors…Cynthia Ruchti is just the best. What’s even more remarkable is that her non-fiction is just as terrific and compelling as her fiction.

  33. What a great post! Thank you from another risk-taking author (exotic locale, subtle faith, ethnic diversity) who appreciates the encouragement so much.

  34. Carrie, one word about this post. TERRIFIC. Seriously. LOVED IT.

    I appreciated you giving a shout out to Katie Ganshert and Jennifer Rodewald. They are some of my new favorite authors and I have been impressed with the messy faith approach in their novels. I felt that was the most important part for me because it’s more than relatable, but much more personal and deeper. Maybe that’s why with my own books I’ve been having such a hard time writing them. It’s nice to have novels with a less messy faith approach, but it’s NOT everyone under the sun. I want mine to be messier and flawed. That’s how you have impact.

    Again, TERRIFIC. Gonna tweet this out to my followers on Twitter!

  35. Great post, Carrie. I keep hearing more and more about readers wanting diversity. Which I think is needed. For me I think it’s also important as a writer to stay true to our own message. We each bring a unique Christian perspective to our work. Mine is coming from an upstate NY upbringing, in a close knit, church going community surrounded by a large extended family. If I were to write outside of that, the story might not ring true to my readers. I love Laurie Adam’s comment about Lavyrle Spencer’s books. I read them for the exact same reason. The message of family and faith being at the center of the book. I hope that’s what I convey in my stories.

  36. Great post, Carrie. I keep hearing more and more about readers wanting diversity. Which I think is needed. For me I think it’s also important as a writer to stay true to our own message. We each bring a unique Christian perspective to our work. Mine is coming from an upstate NY upbringing, in a close knit, church going community surrounded by a large extended family. If I were to write outside of that, the story might not ring true to my readers. I love Laurie Adam’s comment about Lavyrle Spencer’s books. I read them for the exact same reason. The message of family and faith being at the center of the book. I hope that’s what I convey in my stories.

  37. Melody B

    I really enjoyed your blog post. Thanks to Catherine West for sharing it!
    I especially agree with your messy faith idea. And I’m going to “Recommend, recommend, recommend” an author I discovered this fall: Angela D. Meyer. I highly recommend Where Hope Starts and Where Healing Starts (the two first book in a series… I’m awaiting the third!) if you’re looking for “messy faith” Christian Fiction. The characters are going through some tough times, and the books are not always easy to read, but the stories are amazing and filled with hope.

  38. Carrie, thank you so much for this article. I’m amazed over and over how you stand up for us writers and support us. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing all of this today. So very appreciated!

  39. Fantastic post, Carrie! So much to respond to and consider so I’m saving this one to reread and refer back to – along with all of these responses.

    I was trying to decide how to send a brief message to an author that someone (ahem) pushed me to read. I follow Catherine West everywhere I find her on the internet (even YouTube as of today), but now I think I might just send her an email after work…

    This was also a great reminder to continue asking my library to add more, newer Christian authors. I was really pleased when they added Dawn Crandall’s series – I like to think it was from my suggestion – and even more pleased with the continual holds on her books πŸ˜€

  40. Winnie Thomas

    Awww, Carrie, you’ve done it again–written such an amazing blog post! I love all the ideas and suggestions from authors on how we can help and support Christian authors and how Christian fiction can be improved and expanded upon. There were so many great ideas from authors. I loved hearing them.

    Thanks, Carrie, from the bottom of my heart for your commitment to Christian fiction. You’re an awesome lady! Hugs, my BFFF!

  41. Loved reading through all these fabulous comments. You have articulated what many readers and authors think about the current state of play in CBA fiction.

    Regarding messy faith, those looking for it should get their hands on Kristen Heitzmann’s Told you So and Told You Twice. I know you’ve mentioned her, Carrie, but those books are stand outs to me on that particular topic πŸ™‚

  42. Elizabeth

    Thanks for all of the ideas of ways to support authors. I never would have thought to ask one to call or Skype for a book club!

    • Hey Elizabeth – I’ve been Skyping authors (and before that conference calls!) for years now for my book club and it’s been amazing. Most authors are delighted to do it and it is as encouraging to them as it is to those in the book clubs!

  43. Go Carrie! That’s all.

    (ok, maybe not all. I love this. Especially your nudges to “be kind” and read out of your comfort zone. And for Christian fiction to tackle *more* as it grows and addresses the real world. Diversity. Tough subjects. Real messy faith. Go Carrie!)

  44. This is absolutely the reason why I love Melody Carlson. She tackles some of the more difficult subjects in such a beautiful way. She has characters who are atheist, or super strong Christians that are struggling, and her adult novels deal with mental health. As a teenager, I loved her books because they showed me that it was OK that I wasn’t this perfect person that every one around me seemed to be.

    Anyway, thank you so much for this post! This is great advice for both authors and readers!

    • Carrie

      “…they showed me that it was OK that I wasn’t this perfect person that every one around me seemed to be.” YES!!!

  45. Haley Resseguie

    Carrie, once again, you have written a wonderful post! I had no idea that authors enjoy feedback from readers so much until hearing it repeatedly at last year’s CFRR. And now seeing it on this post reminds me that I still haven’t followed through! But that is about to change, my friend. I just wrote my first review on Amazon (A Note Yet Unsung by Tamera Alexander which is absolutely wonderful) and I dare say that it won’t be my last! Thanks for reminding us as readers that we can take an active part in supporting and encouraging our favorite authors. As for reading a wider variety of authors and genres, the CFRR and your blog have introduced me to so many new authors that have become faves that I never would have discovered on my own (Kristi Hunter, Becky Wade, Kara Isaac, Sarah Monzon, Pepper Basham to name a few)! Thank you!

  46. marlene

    Love this post. So true. I’m still working on remembering to leave a review thing but reminder, they never have to be long at least an aknowlegement that you read the book. The diversity in reading I have down pat (some might think it’s having an identity crisis). I read and buy most anything both Christian and secular. As far as buying, I buy lots cheap to keep up my reading addiction and so that I can afford to buy new on some of my currents that I don’t want to wait to read. Perfect balance of shopping. If one is on facebook, there are a fair number of book “parties” going on. I went from one or two a month 3 1/2 months ago to multiple ones in a day/week. It’s a great way to connect with new authors, maybe win a new book and/or a gift card to put toward the purchase that coveted new book you want but can’t justify buying.

  47. The wisdom oozing out of this post is just unreal. Seriously, how did you get so smart? Wonderful, wonderful post and I know it’s going to bless our author friends (and then our reader friends too!) So much love for you, dear Carrie!

  48. Nancy M

    Well done my friend! All great points! So many authors have touched me and encouraged me. I love that reading is a way I can escape for a short time to another place. But also because it is Christian Fiction I can learn, be encouraged, hopefully grow and not just be entertained.
    I also love the thought of more characters having the chronic issues that aren’t just a cancer related illness and how they deal with it Day to day. So many readers out there who could relate and be encouraged by those books!

  49. Carmina Edwards

    I wrote my first book, which is mostly set in Sweden and the second one, mostly in France…..though they are not fiction. They’re both true stories of an English girl, raised by a totally atheist family. She broke away years after keeping her discovery of God, a secret, to pursue the calling she knew came from God, yet would destroy her relationship with her earthly family.The two books reveal God’s hand and protection over the girl. The third book will incorporate England, Sweden and France. In the face of adversity, God’s gift of faith enabled her to continue her journey. I love to read books set in other countries too.

  50. Yes! To all of the above. As a writer working on a story about the messiness of faith, I’m all for this idea that we need to read about the truth of living the Life.

    I love Cynthia Ruchti’s books a much. I’ll have to check out the other authors mentioned. Thanks for the post!

  51. Love you too, Carrie!!

    I’ve spent my summer trying to diversify my reading outside of my comfort zone. I’ve read some YA and dystopian, neither of which are my usual go-to genres, and have loved them!

    P.S. My June release is set in Australia πŸ™‚

  52. As an author, I feel like I should be able to come up with a more compelling comment, but all I want to say is, “Preach it, sister.” πŸ™‚

    Seriously, thank you for taking the time to address the ‘state of the union’ regarding Christian fiction, as well as offer a gently worded yet concise call to action for both readers and writers.

    Shout out to the risk-takers!

  53. Mary McCauley

    Love cynthia ruchti books! She came and spoke at our church. I highly recommend her as a speak and author. So looking forward to her next release. I gave all my sister in laws her books for Christmas. I follow several autho3on Facebook and through their newsletter.

  54. Michelle Connell

    This is partly what I struggle with…being a Christian writer but wanting my book(s) to be realistic and appealing to those who don’t shop in Christian bookstores. Thus, the self-publishing route (and not as squeaky clean).

    And, I’ve run into readers who bought my book but I didn’t know they liked it because they did not leave a review. This is the only way I know they did unless they contact me otherwise. Yes, reviews are very important–they are part of the conversation between author and reader.

    I would love to write about other places also, but Google and Pinterest can only take you so far. For me, I would have to immerse myself in the place before I could begin to get it right.

    Great post, Carrie!

  55. This is my first introduction to your blog. I really enjoyed it. Would I be able to ‘share’ this on my blog with some introductory comments and proper attribution?

    I find much of Christian fiction boring and if someone else writes about another Lord so and so, I will go crazy. Didn’t ordinary people have any lives?!

  56. Love this article Carrie. Wish it was written 12 years ago. I had started writing Christian fiction with Asians and Asian settings and characters and publishers, I’m guessing didn’t know what to make of it. Still, I managed to get two traditional publishers who would take a chance but still they didn’t know how to market it with genres and categories becoming an issue. Today it is so much easier with Amazon and many other avenues where people are more accepting of diversity and exotic locations. Speaking of exotic locations, I actually do remember a handful of Mills and Boons novel with settings in Tunisia or Arabia with some very exotic looking Sheikh. Hahaha. But really, they just came across as contrived stereotypes to me. I’ve found very few books that can weave the setting into the story so effortlessly that you don’t feel like you’re reading a tourist brochure, but instead feel like you’re actually there. Yet it is so subtle in the background that it does not interfere with the story. I have a great respect for those books.

      • Hahaha. Well, so much for diversity. By the way, I love the way you relate your advice on NOT to write reviews that simply paraphrase the story with the scene from Hitch with Will Smith teaching Kevin James how to dance. Hahaha. “They don’t need pizza, they got their own food.” Lol

  57. Applause, Carrie! Good points all!

    And I really appreciate you championing the messy-faith writer (my go-to reads) — Ginny Yttrup and Stacy Monson are two of my favorites! Personally, I love watching God work through broken lives, so I’m always on the look-out for books that take risks. Unfortunately, too many authors who took risks in the past (like Lisa Samson and Athol Dickson) no longer write because their sales were low. πŸ™ I’m thankful for the growth in indie-publishing as that’s broken down some barriers for the risk-taking writer, and it has broadened the diversity. The difficulty is in making the public aware that those books are out there.

  58. Dami

    Great suggestions and insights on how to support authors.
    I definitely agree with seeing more diversity in Christian fiction. I’m a Nigerian married to an American and we currently live in the US. Our lives are a mix of cultures and people. I would love to see more of that, you can’t imagine my glee when I read Ronie Kendig’s tox files with a character from Nigeria AND scenes in Nigeria (yay!)

    Another thing I want to see in Christian fiction is a deeper discussion of intimacy. Christian fiction sometimes makes it seem like you fall in love and everything just works together and well after marriage. Kristi Ann Hunter’s Uncommon Courtship and Dee Henderson’s Unspoken are the only ones I know that touch on the fact that though we may do everything right, physical intimacy may not be easy. Or messy faith stories that deal with struggles of women finding love after abuse (too deep maybe?)

Leave a Reply