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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

On Faith and Writing: Crossing Over

By Tina Ann Forkner

Many years ago I listened to a popular author say, “A Christian author should not try to cross from the Christian market into the general market. They will not be successful in doing so, unless God makes it happen.”

As an author who wouldn’t have minded being a crossover novelist, I was perplexed by the author’s statement. I could have misinterpreted what this person said, but it sounded to me a lot like the author was saying we had to be appointed or blessed in some way to cross over, and that most of us weren’t worthy. Basically, I received the message that it was wrong to aspire to be in any other market.

Well, many of us are blessed and appointed in different ways, and time has shown that each author’s journey is different. It was soon after that statement was spoken that I became published in the inspirational market by a Christian publisher. I was thrilled and still love my publisher and still promote those books (Ruby Among Us and Rose House are still available!), but it was obvious that I was having a hard time connecting with the majority of Christian readers who loved historical romance fiction. I loved historical romance fiction too, but I wrote Women’s Fiction. I didn’t even know if I was a Christian author.

My books did okay, and riding on the heels of such great Literary Women’s Fiction authors as Mary DeMuth, Susan Meissner, and Lisa Samson I did find an audience, but sadly they were the kind of readers who don’t usually shop in the aisles my books were shelved in. In my opinion, Literary Women’s Fiction really took a hit the next few years in the inspirational market, and so I quietly took that break I’ve blogged about before, and started pursuing the general market where I knew my readers, Christian and otherwise, shopped.

It’s true that I don’t call myself a Christian writer anymore because it would be misleading to readers who are expecting something different, but it doesn’t mean I am not a Christian. Crossing over wasn’t the result of some divine appointment (I’m still not a NYT Bestseller!), but I do think it was part of my calling.

Over the last decade, much has changed in the industry. Most Christian professionals would not ding anyone for “trying” to pursue general market publication. Many would say, and have said, go for it! And I love that. I have kept my membership in American Christian Fiction Writers because I am a Christian and I love the fellowship with its members and long-time friendships I’ve formed. I mostly read general market Women’s Fiction because that is what I write, but I still read Christian fiction from my favorite authors (pointing at you, Courtney Walsh and Carla Stewart!).

The lessons I’ve learned from watching the changes in the inspirational market over the years are that we shouldn’t assume we know God’s plans for others, and more importantly, I’ve learned that the term Christian Author might not be the label for everyone, and that it’s okay. Some of us are just authors who are Christians, and even though my last two novels have been released in the general market by a small traditional publisher, I still need the fellowship.

I haven’t talked much about this aspect of my journey before, because I don’t like to rock the boat, but I wanted to say something now because there are authors out there who are Christians who think they only have one choice, but it’s not true. God’s plan for them is only for them. I sometimes wonder what that author I quoted in the beginning of this piece would say now. I hope they changed their mind.

That’s the beautiful thing about being a Christian. We can change and allow others to change. We can be there to support each other in a special way that a shared faith makes possible, and that’s why I didn’t make a clean break from my Christian writing family. I guess in that sense, I never really crossed over.


Tina Ann Forkner is a substitute teacher and award-winning author of multiple novels including Ruby Among Us, Rose House, and her newest release The Real Thing. Her novel, Waking Up Joy, is a recipient of the Virginia Romance Writers HOLT Medallion Award of Merit for Romantic Elements. Tina is also a proud member of Tall Poppy Writers, American Christian Fiction Writers, and American Fiction Writers Association. Learn More: www.tinaannforkner.com


8 comments:

Jebraun Clifford said...

Thanks so much for this honest and refreshing post. I'm pursuing publication in a few months and have a YA fantasy that could go either way. I've wondered if I should make the spiritual content more obvious and label it 'Christian' or tone it down a wee bit and go for the general market. Nice to know that there are other authors like yourself who provide a supportive community no matter which way I choose!

writerjan said...

Very nicely worded, Tina. The part that resonates the most with me is: "we shouldn’t assume we know God’s plans for others..." Although I belong to a number of online Christian writing organizations, and write what would be labeled Christian fiction, I am also part of a secular local writing group, and I find it much more open and welcoming of whatever I write. Refreshing is a better word. Our great God works in many ways.

Linda Truesdell said...

Thank you so much! I am a Christian who reads in both the secular and the Christian market. I try to write from my Christian world view. In fact I can't write any other way, just like I can't live my life any other way. My hope is that what I write will simply be a good story, no matter the audience. In the world I have non Christian friends. I don't hide my Christianity from them but at the same time I don't follow the same things they do. In the end, in my writing I hope simply to tell a good story to anyone who wants to hear. I like you belong to both Christian and secular writing groups and find them both beneficial and encouraging.

Southern-fried Fiction said...

I also read in both markets. I love women's fiction and have found a few great authors in the secular market. I've thought about crossing over, but so far, my stories haven't lent themselves to that. But who knows what the future holds? I may find myself there. I think we could be in both markets.

Michael Ehret said...

I'm right there with you, too. In fact, just posted mere minutes ago on my FB page a favorite quote from C.S. Lewis: "The world does not need more Christian literature. What it needs is more Christians writing good literature."

I might modify that a bit, because I do think we need more Christian literature for a specific audience, but the idea behind it is sound. Just because one is a Christian doesn't mean one has to write in the Christian market.

Iola Goulton said...

Can I challenge you on one thing?

If you are a Christian and you write, then you are a Christian author no matter what market you are writing for, because whatever you write will reflect your Christian beliefs whether overtly or covertly.

In fact, writing for the general market gives you opportunities those of us who are "writing for the choir" don't have, like portraying Christ and Christians in a positive manner (not the super-spiritual or hypocrite stereotypes which seem to be all too common).

Tina Ann Forkner said...

I love all the comments from everyone. So encouraging that we can trade ideas on this topic. Iola, I do understand what you're saying and it's probably a different blog post. After two books in the CBA (Random House/Waterbrook), I do get that point, but not all Christians who write will want to call themselves Christian Authors because it would not help readers find their books or help bookstores know where to place their books. The title Christian Author is a marketing label used to describe an author who writes in the Christian market for Christians. I don't do that. I'm just writing stories now in the same way that my friend just builds houses, not to save souls, but just because he loves building houses. The reason I wanted to write this post was just to encourage other writers to follow their calling, whatever it is, and to stay in fellowship even if they are not writing Christian books.

Southern-fried Fiction said...

That is so well said, Tina. I feel the same way, too. I believe we should write the story God whispers to our hearts. He alone knows who that story will reach. And if marketed one way, that person may never find it. I think we should all write our stories and leave the rest to God and our publishers. :o)