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