I cannot properly express how EXCITED I am for All That is Secret by Patricia Raybon, so I’m beyond thrilled to have Patricia here on the blog today to share some things she learned about Christian fiction while writing it!
ALL THAT IS SECRET
SERIES: Annalee Spain Mystery #1
GENRE: Inspirational Historical Mystery
PUBLISHER: Tyndale House
RELEASE DATE: October 5, 2021
From award-winning author Patricia Raybon comes a compelling new historical mystery series, a riveting puzzle confronting the hidden secrets of class, race, family, and love.
Can an amateur detective solve the cold case mystery of her lost father’s murder?
In the winter of 1923, Professor Annalee Spain—a daring but overworked theologian at a small Chicago Bible college—receives a cryptic telegram calling her home to Denver to solve the mystery of the murder of her beloved but estranged father.
For a young Black woman, searching for answers in a city ruled by the KKK could mean real danger. Still, with her literary hero Sherlock Holmes as inspiration, Annalee launches her hunt for clues, attracting two surprising allies: Eddie, a relentless young white boy searching for his missing father, and Jack, a handsome Black pastor who loves nightclub dancing and rides in his sporty car, awakening Annalee’s heart to the surprising highs and lows of romantic love.
With their help, Annalee follows clues that land her among Denver’s powerful elite. But when their sleuthing unravels sinister motives and deep secrets, Annalee confronts the dangerous truths and beliefs that could make her a victim too.
What I Learned About Christian Fiction by Writing It
by Patricia Raybon, author of All That is Secret
I knew Francine Rivers, of course. Her books had become beloved favorites. Redeeming Love opened the door for me to Christian fiction. I walked in farther with Rivers’s A Lineage of Grace, her compelling biblical fiction. I also read and enjoyed more than one of Rivers’s contemporary novels.
I knew, meantime, of Christian fiction’s many other bestselling authors. From Beverly Lewis to Karen Kingsbury, Wanda E. Brunstetter to Lisa Wingate, and more. I knew their names, if not their books—which I’d often heard about, even if I hadn’t read them.
Part of the problem was me. I’m Black and Christian, and when I looked at the book jackets, I didn’t see images that reminded me of me. I grew up out West in Colorado, in a little Black Denver church, going to school with the descendants of pre-America Mexican settlers and children of recent Mexican immigrants and Japanese Americans imprisoned in a Colorado internment camp during World War II.
After the war, with nothing to return home to in California, many stayed here in Colorado. But our stories seemed missing from Christian fiction. Or maybe I didn’t look hard enough. Then life happened. Then decades came and went.
Then during the pandemic summer of 2020, I found myself writing my own Christian fiction—a historical detective mystery, All That Is Secret, [which just released] from Tyndale House. Suddenly I was a Christian fiction author and others didn’t know of me.
As one woman told me on Facebook, “I’m not Black, but I’m excited to read your mystery.” Reading her comment, I struggled to find a way to respond. Finally I simply said what mattered most: “I’m excited for you to read it!”
Indeed, when it came to Christian fiction, what other simple and wonderful things did I need to know and learn? On humble reflection, here are my top three:
Christian fiction is an author-reader lovefest. And that’s good. After writing nonfiction for my entire professional life—first as a journalist, then a teacher of journalists, then as a nonfiction author—I’d never known or witnessed such love between authors and readers.
Watching Christian fiction authors on social media, however, I witnessed effusive respect between writers and readers. It contrasted with what I heard when I announced I’d sold a historical mystery novel. Friends cheered. But I also heard scoffing, questioning, even bragging by people proudly noting they don’t read fiction—and can’t imagine why anyone would.
Not long after, I took part in a panel on Formational Fiction hosted by Renovaré, the spiritual formational ministry. The conversation was fun, informative, and fully invested in exploring the wonders of fiction that shapes our souls. I came away, again, with a heightened appreciation for people who love fiction and often read it.
That turned me from trying to attract fiction skeptics. Instead, I leaned into the work of connecting with my readers—essentially “church ladies” like me, who love the Lord but historical mystery novels, too. Loving on them helped me love better in general. A win-win that I didn’t see coming.
Christian fiction is thrilling because it’s clean. When I humbly signed a three-book contract with Tyndale—pinching myself—I knew they’d expect me to honor their readers with a clean read. No sex. No cursing. Maybe a kiss. Or two.
So why was the writing so exciting? I finally discovered there was something inherently and wonderfully and amazingly intense about restraint in a Christian historical love story. Then when that kiss finally arrived, wasn’t it a beautiful gift that it was such a stunner?
The same was true about not using profanity or cursing in my historical novel. As the apostle Paul wrote: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29).
I loved this challenge. Thus, when my young protagonist and her young man are in the heat of a white-hot argument, not one cussword is exchanged. They’re forced, instead, to find the exact words for what they’re truly saying to each other.
This works in Christian fiction and in real life. If Christian fiction teaches this to all of us, we all win, indeed.
Christian fiction is gutsy when it matters. Author Michelle Shocklee researched the slave narratives of the Federal Writers’ Project to write her bestselling novel Under the Tulip Tree. T. I. Lowe wrote a coming-of-age story that’s capturing readers’ imaginations in her 2021 novel, Under the Magnolias. (Notice a tree theme here?)
I’ve long wanted Christian fiction to go boldly into America’s greatest tragedy, its racial history. More authors are opening wide these and other doors and inviting in willing readers.
What do we learn from such writing? If we read bravely, Jesus redeems. This is the work of Christian fiction. It’s a ministry with bookmarks. God, help me to keep turning out pages.
Note from Carrie: Oh man, Patricia, I love that post so much! Those last two paragraphs brought tears to my eyes. ♥ Yes & amen.
Patricia Raybon is an award-winning author and essayist whose books include My First White Friend, a Christopher Award–winning memoir about racial forgiveness, and I Told the Mountain to Move, a prayer memoir that was a Christianity Today Book of the Year finalist. Patricia’s other books include The One Year God’s Great Blessings Devotional and Undivided: A Muslim Daughter, Her Christian Mother, Their Path to Peace, coauthored with her younger daughter, Alana Raybon. Patricia’s essays on faith, race, and grace have been published in the New York Times, Newsweek, USA Today, Guideposts, Christianity Today, and other national publications and blogs. She lives with her husband, Dan, in her beloved home state of Colorado.
Tyndale is offering a print copy of All That is Secret by Patricia Raybon to one of my readers! (US only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.) This giveaway is subject to Reading Is My SuperPower’s giveaway policies which can be found here. Enter via the Rafflecopter form below.
What about you? What makes you want to read All That is Secret by Patricia Raybon? What do YOU love about Christian fiction?