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Monday, August 06, 2012

Road Less Traveled

Ronie Kendig grew up an Army brat and married a veteran. Life is never dull in her family with four children and two dogs. She has a degree in psychology, speaks to various groups, volunteers with the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), and mentors new writers. Rapid-Fire Fiction, her brand, is exemplified through her novels: Dead Reckoning, Nightshade (Retailer’s Choice Award Finalist), Digitalis, Wolfsbane (Christy Award winner, Carol Award Finalist)Firethorn, and Trinity: Military War Dog, book 1 in the A Breed Apart series, which releases September 2012.

Ronie can be found at, on Facebook (, Twitter (@roniekendig), and GoodReads.

Two years ago as I sat at the table at the American Christian fiction Writers conference, I chatted with my acquisitions editor for the first time—officially—as a Barbour author. Her usual warmth and gentility made me comfortable and confident.
                Until I broached a subject that had been weighing on my heart.
                I’d finished the first book in the Discarded Heroes series, Nightshade, and was well into the second book, Digitalis, but I had a dilemma for the third book, Wolfsbane. I saw my hero and heroine. . .well, I saw their romance arcs. And to put it mildly, it distressed me. I asked her if it would be a problem if my characters went too far in their relationship. My editor calmly answered, “As long as it’s offstage”—I quickly assured it would be—and as long as I showed the consequences of those actions, then she supposed it would be okay.
                Phew. I felt freed! Enabled to write the story the way I kept seeing it, despite my warnings to my characters that it was wrong, that they were breaking some serious cardinal rules. They wouldn’t listen (yes, part of their problem), and the story got written.
                Then I panicked. “I can’t possibly write that. Readers will crucify me.” I’d already had one reviewer call my Christianity into question because of one of my books. I knew that I’d be thrown over some hot coals if I let my characters, Canyon and Dani, go down that dark path. 
                 So, I prayed, told God I couldn’t do this—couldn’t write a story about two characters who sin. He asked me “Why not? You have characters lying and killing other characters.”
                “Yeah, but, God. . .these characters are Christians. . .doing the no-no. I’ll never get another contract because readers will despise me and call me UNChristian and give me horrible reviews.”
                So, I rewrote. Made my story conform into the “likeness” of acceptable Christian fiction, the well-traveled road. Gave it a clean conclusion. There. That should make readers happy. 
                But I hated it. I mean, hated—the same way my husband gags at the slightest taste of black olives (true story—ask me sometime about the six-inch Subway sandwich with a HALF of a black olive that nearly made him vomit!). Sure, it was done. Rewritten. Conformed. But it was flat and bland. Honestly, the ending just fizzled. 
                So, I re-rewrote. Cried. Prayed and prayed. Cried some more.
                Changed it YET AGAIN! Now Canyon and Dani were chaste.
                But it was torturing me. I knew it wasn’t right. But I was terrified of the backlash.(Have you read my post on being a Jelly in a Rhino Industry? Check it out--I'm not confrontational or brave. The article will prove it.).
                And the timing was such that I visited Focus on the Family and a dear friend there got the special privilege (or was it torture?) of hearing me spill my guts about this story. I told her, “I am so afraid. I tried to rewrite it, but it wouldn’t’ work.  But I can’t show them doing that in a Christian novel, even if it’s offstage.”
                My dear friend told me, “Ronie, do it! This issue is avoided in church, it’s not talked about. People need to see this, need to understand why it’s wrong. Do it! Do it, Ronie, and let God have the rest.”
                About that time, I talked with my agent. Told him of my angst. And he pretty much told me the same thing. So, I went back to what I originally saw. Wrote it. Made absolutely sure that I did not “justify” premarital sex, made sure there were consequences.
                Terrified of what would come once it was published, I released that book to my publisher. My editor reassured me I handled it well. And yes, I did get some nasty reviews. I had people call my views into question. Say it wasn’t appropriate for church libraries. But. . .I had peace. Because a far greater number of readers contacted me, thanked me, said it helped them, or helped a loved one.
                Then. . .Wolfsbane finaled for a Christy—the industry award for Excellence in Christian Fiction.
                And it won! 

                Not because my characters had sex but because the story was powerful with raw, authentic characters. Write to that end, but not as an excuse to simply write edgy or confrontational content--readers can smell that a mile off. WRite to honor the story that is in you, that only you can write, even if it means, taking the road less traveled.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost

                *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      * 
This hero's seen combat. So has her handler.

Reeling from the effects of a traumatic brain injury that ripped his military career from his hands, former Green Beret Heath Daniels struggles to find new purpose with his war dog, Trinity. Then he’s called to rescue a beautiful military intelligence officer, but will this—the greatest mission of his life—also be his last?

TRINITY: Military War Dog - lunges onto the scene September 1st!


  1. Thank you so much for your transparency in this post. My pastor/husband has felt the pressure of preaching only what will "tickle the ears" of the listeners, but he must preach the truth. The Bible warns that this will happen in the last days - people will only want to hear a watered-down gospel. God still expects us to tell His truth no matter how we might feel pressured to do otherwise. Keep writing the truth to a world desperate to hear it.

  2. A seriously well-put post. If anyone hassles you, tell them to just look at King David. I bet there are lots of Christians with un-chaste pasts, who will thank you for showing the truth of sin and consequence-- and forgiveness.

  3. i love your novels, and never thought that you were writing UNchristian novels (actually, Martin Whitbread of LBI Inc is quick to point out that people are Christians, not inanimate objects). Please, Please keep up the work!

  4. I see absolutely no problem with presenting real-life scenarios, if we're not rolling around in the grub. The BIBLE itself does this, and I think that should be our standard. Doesn't mean we throw in titillating details or profane/blasphemous language to get our points across. But we stay true to addressing sins in the church that no one wants to discuss. Glad you followed God on that one.

  5. I'm sorry you tormented yourself with the questions about writing reality. Facing the group of Christians who sometimes judge our faith when we expose the world as it is and the genuine struggles we face as flawed human beings of faith is a persecution that shouldn't be leveled. Especially at people like you, Ronie. You have a beautiful heart after God and you write from a place of honesty. It's sad to realize that sometimes the Christians are the first to fire their weapons without realizing who's motivating their attacks.

  6. Well, I read mostly children's books, so I haven't read any of your novels, but this post makes me want to. I'm glad you took the road less traveled.

    Christians sin.

    Characters that are two-dimensional may not, but who wants to read about them?

    1. Read it, Sally. You will LOVE it!

  7. I'm so proud of you, Ronie, for answering the call God put on you. That audience of one is the only one we really need to concern ourselves with.

  8. Thank you, all! I wasn't trying to toot my own horn, but challenge us to follow our hearts. But to do so with discretion and caution--and loads of prayer!

    Ane - you are so right--that's Who I am writing for ultimately! And it's ALWAYS a good reminder.

  9. You wrote that scene with such class that it wasn't dirty at all. It was clearly portrayed that it was sin, and the characters were regretful, repentant, and real! Thanks, Ronie, for writing #1 fiction to read and enjoy :) ♥

  10. I think the "realness" of the characters is one of the things that made this book my favorite. In that moment I was crying and shouting at them. "No! You'll ruin everything." And the consequences were so raw and painful. I was broken with and for them, and then so blessed to see God's redemption in their lives. Thanks for following the Holy Spirit's leading.

  11. Great post. Thanks for broaching the subject and writing what I call "real" life.

    Debbie Malone
    "Death in Dahlonega"

  12. I love this post! I'm sharing it on my FB page because I believe we all should honor what we're called to do, as long as we know we're hearing from God. And I think we do know, but sometimes it doesn't look like Him to others, but then, neither did Jesus. Thanks for forging the way.

  13. Wonderful post. Including these kinds of mistakes helps us connect to the characters..make them more real...and to me, the lessons they learn, more impacting. Thanks for being courageous.


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