Lisa McKay is a mother (she is also a psychologist and an author, but during these foggy days of early parenthood those other identities sometimes seem remote indeed). When she is not busy preventing her baby from drinking out of the dog’s water bowl, she is busy releasing her second book, Love At The Speed Of Email. She lives in Laos.
Writing in between: Too much God for the general market, not enough for the Christian market
My second book, Love At The Speed Of Email, tells the story of how I met the man I would marry while I was living in Los Angeles and he was living in Papua New Guinea. He was a humanitarian worker, I was a trauma psychologist, and we got to know each other entirely via email.
We wrote to each other for months before we ever met – about our childhoods, our work, and the highs and lows of our days. We wrote about purpose and passion. We wrote about ways our faith had been challenged by some of what we’d encountered during our careers.
The zealous, assured faith of our teens and early twenties had broken in profound ways when it collided with the realities of refugee camps, acute suffering, and our own shortcomings. Like Humpty Dumpty, this faith could not be put back together again; not in its original form, anyway. When we met we were both still in the process of figuring out what faith meant, then.
The book captures both of us mid-journey – in a season of questions and uncertainties and glimmers of a new, less orthodox and quieter faith.
This turned out to be a major stumbling block for prospective publishers.
In general, editors loved the story and the writing but balked at some of the faith-related content. Some of the Christian publishers ended up rejecting the book because it didn’t deliver “the spiritual take-away” they were looking for. Some general market publishers thought there was too much talk of God.
On one level this didn’t entirely surprise me. Publishing companies are businesses. Businesses survive by carving out a niche for themselves and then serving that particular audience. When it comes to a topic as personal and potentially incendiary as faith, it’s perhaps not surprising that most Christian and secular publishing companies cater to clearly defined “end zones”.
On another level, however, I did find it surprising. I know so many people who are grappling with faith-related issues similar to the ones I wrote about in this book – people who are questioning the black and white faith of their childhood and wondering about purpose and passion. There are some traditionally published books out there that speak to these issues. There are also publishing companies that are starting to actively tap this market that falls somewhere in between the self-assurance of traditional evangelical Christianity and the complete omission of any reference to God. But overall I still think there are fewer opportunities to write honestly about questions, doubts, and unfinished faith journeys than what the market could support.
In my case, after so much positive feedback from editors, my agent suggested that we explore self-publishing. I’m delighted to announce that Love At The Speed Of Email is now available through Amazon and other booksellers. Although some are sure to feel it talks too much of God and others not enough, some, I hope, will find it just right.
What do you think? Do traditional publishers really publish to the “end zones”? Why? Is that changing? What has been your experience?
Lisa looks as if she has it made. She has turned her nomadic childhood and forensic psychology training into a successful career as a stress management trainer for humanitarian aid workers. She lives in Los Angeles, travels the world, and her first novel has just been published to some acclaim. But as she turns 31, Lisa realizes that she is still single, constantly on airplanes, and increasingly wondering where home is and what it really means to commit to a person, place, or career. When an intriguing stranger living on the other side of the world emails her out of the blue, she must decide whether she will risk trying to answer those questions. Her decision will change her life.