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Welcome To SORMAG's Blog

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Panel: Meet the Christian Author

Come Inside and Meet

Marilynn Griffith
Nikki Arana
Michelle Larks
Susan May Warren
Marlo Schalesky
Jill Nelson
Cecelia Dowdy
Linda Beed
Stacy Hawkins Adams
Joanna McGee Bradford

54 comments:

Marlo Schalesky said...

Hello, as one of the authors on this panel, I thought it would helpful to include a short bio. So here's a little bit about me:

Marlo Schalesky is the award winning author of five books, including her latest novel VEIL OF FIRE, which explores the great Minnesota firestorm of 1894 and the mysterious figure who appeared in the hills afterward. She has also had over 500 articles published in various magazines, had her work included in compilations such as Dr. Dobson’s Night Light Devotional for Couples, and is a regular columnist for Power for Living. Marlo recently earned her Masters degree in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary and is currently working on three contemporary novels for Multnomah-Waterbrook Publishers, a division of Random House. She lives in Salinas, California with her husband and four daughters.

So, feel free to ask questions, make comments, and enjoy this panel of the conference. I'm so glad you're here!

--Marlo Schalesky

Didalynn said...

Hello Marlo. I'm glad you could be here to share with us. I was wondering about family life and writing. I guess my question is...How do you find enough time to write, spend time with your family and spend time with the Lord?

Anonymous said...

Hi, my name is Nikki Arana. If you didn’t visit the networking panel, here’s my bio:


Nikki Arana is a multi-published, award-winning author of women’s fiction, essays, poetry, and magazine articles whose work has been published in the United States and Canada. She has won several national awards, including the American Christian Fiction Book of the Year for Women's Fiction, and the Beacon Award. Her book, The Winds of Sonoma was named One of the Top 20 Books of the Year by Christianbook.com. Nikki is also the recipient of the 2007 Excellence in Media Silver Angel Award (www.angelawards.com ), the Jessie Cameron Alison Writer of the Year Award. She is a member of the Idaho Writers League, American Christian Fiction Writers, and Romance Writers of America.

Nikki and her husband of thirty-one years, Antonio, live in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. They have two grown sons, Esteban and Aristo. When she’s not plotting novels or giving workshops, Nikki speaks about her other passion, loving Muslims into the Kingdom of God. You can visit her website at: www.nikkiarana.com

I write novels that weave social, political, and spiritual issues into contemporary stories, illegal immigration, abortion, and children with disabilities for example. Three of my novels were inspired by true events. And I always have at least one main character who would be judged “less than” by the world. A one-legged beggar, a child with Down syndrome, or a poor, illiterate stableman become the catalyst of the story, impacting the other characters in the book in positive, life-changing ways. I do this as a way of breaking stereotypes.

I use a lot of symbols and double meanings in my books. In the novel, The Winds of Sonoma, the wind is a symbol of the Holy Sprit. Every time the wind blows, I mean if a leaf flutters, God is acting in the lives of the characters. Also, things are often not what they seem in my books. The characters find themselves in circumstances that teach them they must learn to discern God’s divine hand at work in their lives, how he wants to use them as a vessel of His love. And in that process, further the kingdom.

Because the subjects are write about were once thought to be taboo for Christian fiction, I might be a good one to ask, if you have a question about novel content. My current work in progress is about the need for safe houses for Muslims who convert to Christianity. You can learn more at www.nikkiarana.com.

Glad to help in any way I can.
Nikki Arana

Jill said...

Hello, everyone. Jill Elizabeth Nelson checking in here.

I write romantic suspense for Waterbrook/Multnomah Publishing Group, a subsidiary of Random House. My current To Catch a Thief series features a smart, sassy museum security expert and a hunky, intense FBI agent pitted against a variety of villains in the area of art and antiquities theft. Every case challenges the characters in their faith and relationships. I'm having a lot of fun writing this series full of adventure, pathos, humor, and romance. Reluctant Burglar and Reluctant Runaway are available in bookstores nationwide, as well as on-line outlets. Reluctant Smuggler releases in January. I just finished the copy edits on that one this week. Next stop--the typsetter! It's an exciting process.

I was bitten by the writing bug in the sixth grade, when I penned—er, penciled—my first novel. Well, it was more of a novella, but I did finish it, and that’s a watershed moment for any writer. However, not a word of the manuscript still exists, and the world is grateful. Since then, I’ve worn the hats of poet, essayist, journalist, and short story-teller, but my favorite chapeau is novelist.

If your interest is piqued, I invite you to drop by my web site at http://www.jillelizabethnelson.com to read excerpts, view a book trailer, check out my blog, and play a fun art matching game for a chance to win an autographed copy of Reluctant Runaway. You can also sign up for my newsletter and email me a personal message from my contact page.

I'm open for questions now and will be checking in periodically all day to respond.

Shoba said...

Hi Everyone,

My name is Shoba Mano. Its so inspiring to listen to your background.

I have a question for Nikki. I come from a country where the population is majority muslim. It is very difficult for muslims to convert out of their faith. In other words the government and the community will give them a very hard time.

My question is when you write novels such as the one you mentioned on a safe house for muslims, is it primarily for Christian readers or would muslims and people from faiths be accepting of the contents?

Shoba said...

I have a general question for the panel members:

The third novel I'm writing has paranormal elements. But rarely do I find inspirational or Christian romances having paranormal elements.

I find this strange as supernatural happenings are just as common in the Christian life as it would be for someone from a New Age background.

Is a discussion of supernatural phenomena accepted at all in Christian romance novels?

Jill said...

Hi, Shoba:

There are many novels in the Christian market that contain supernatural elements. In Christian circles "supernatural" is the term used rather than "paranormal." Check out Creston Mapes' book Dark Star, or pretty much anything by Ted Dekker, or Dark to Moral Eyes by Eric Wilson. These are just a few examples. If the supernatural elements of the story are presented from a scriptural perspective, they can find acceptance in the Christian market.

I'm excited to see someone attending this conference from a Muslim area. We certainly need a deeper understanding of how to reach out to people of that belief system.

Thanks for your good questions.

Jill
http://www.jillelizabethnelson.com

Jill said...

Hi, Didalynn:

I'll jump in and address your question about finding time for all the elements of life, as well as writing. This is a subject that is discussed frequently among writers because it is definitely a challenge. Most of us are not at the point where we can "quit the day job" and make writing our sole pay-earning occupation. Therefore, if we're serious about building a career, we have to find ways to make time for writing without shortchanging our spiritual lives, our families, or our employers.

A key that I find important is consistency. I like to do something in every area every day. Most often the time spent at each activity is not equal. Some days, my day job requires more hours. Like today.

I will be all day in the office, I will go home for an hour or so, visit with my husband (hopefully, we can do our devotions together), and then tonight I'll be back at work for two board meetings in a row. Afterward, I will likely go home and do a few writing tasks. My husband has his own evening plans, so we probably won't connect again until we start getting ready for bed this evening. We started out the morning, as we do every day, by watching a half-hour Christian program on TV while we ate our breakfast together.

Not every day goes this way. Some days, most of my time is spent with my husband or with the kids if one or more are home for a visit. Even then, though, I will likely make time to accomplish one writing task or another.

If I'm approaching deadline on a book, then I'm pretty much buried in the project--to the point that I may have to take a vacation day or two from work. My family is very understanding of these times, and I'm grateful.

Are there ever conflicts and rough patches in figuring out priorities? Sure, but somehow we get through with a lot of prayer and the grace of God!

WELCOME TO MY BLOG said...

Good morning everyone I’m Dr. Linda Beed. Below is a short bio that speaks to my professional accomplishments. By the end of this conference I hope you will come to know Linda Beed, the person.

Bio -- Dr. Linda Beed earned her Master of Theology (Magna Cum Laude) and Doctorate of Religious Education from A. L. Hardy Academy of Theology. Following six years of teaching (Black Church History, Thesis and Dissertation Preparation) Dr. Beed retired from the Academy. The student writing handbook she developed is a valuable tool that continues to be used by the Academy students.

Dr. Beed and her husband reside in Seattle, WA. She is a nineteen year Children’s Minister who currently serves in the capacity of instructor/administrator for the elementary students of New Covenant Christian Center.

Overcoming experiences that told her what she could not achieve, is the inspiration that drives her to help others. Her passion for teaching and writing the Word is what led to the development of On Assignment. Through this publishing company her debut novel Business Unusual released in June, 2007. It is the first in the Covenant Series.

Dr. Beed serves as Co-Chair of the Faith Based Arts Conference. She was the co-coordinator for the African American and Inspirational panels for the Daytona Beach, FL and Houston, Texas Romantic Times Convention. She is also a member of the Seattle chapter of the Professional Women of Color Network, Blacks In Government and American Christian Fiction Writers.

As a workshop developer and facilitator she is sought after to lend her special blend of teaching and motivation to help inspire others. Community, business and faith-based audiences receive uncommonly portrayed truth specifically for the purpose of helping them overcome constraints limiting their potential.

I write the books most initially said the ‘reading’ world is not ready for. What might that be? I write novels that deal with characters using biblical application to deal with modern day problems. The characters are not perfect. They are those you can identify with in that you may have been them at one time or may be striving to become. You may even know someone who is exactly like them. My novels will not superficially touch on subjects. They will engage the reader with uncommonly portrayed truth while entertaining. I invite you to visit me at: www.lindabeed.com www.myspace.com/lindabeed and http://lindabeed.blogspot.com

Looking forward to getting to know you -- Linda!

WELCOME TO MY BLOG said...

Didalynn,

Your question regarding family life and writing is a good one.

I had to learn how to strike a balance. Although I don’t have children at home I do have a husband. I also work outside the home, have grandchildren and a Children’s Ministry. Oh, and did I mention that I’m a writer?

For me, in order to do what I need to do I have to remain connected to the Father. I purpose to spend my first waking moments with Him. I rise early in order to spend quality time with God. Following that I check emails, do a little writing then prepare for work. At the end of my work day I will again check messages, do a bit of writing, a bit of house work then take a nap. The remainder of the evening is devoted to whatever tasks that need my immediate attention.

Now you must understand that the above is the plan, a plan that is not always executed with consistency, but with best intentions.

I am blessed to have a husband who understand the heart of a writer and that a muse has no office hours. If I rise in the middle of the night to write or cold cuts are presented as a home cooked meal, he knows I’m in the zone and does not fuss at me.

Linda!

SusieMay said...

Hey everyone! Susan May Warren here. I'm just checking in here, and I'll be around all day if you have questions or comments...

Here is my "official" blurb: Susan May Warren is the award-winning, best-selling author of novels and novellas with Tyndale, Barbour and Steeple Hill, including Happily Ever After, a Christy award finalist in 2004, and In Sheep’s Clothing in 2006, and Everything’s Coming up Josey, a 2007 Christy Award Finalist. She won the ACRW/ACFW Book of the Year award in the suspense/romance category in 2003 and 2004, and the 2006 Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award. Susan currently has over 500,000 books in print. A seasoned women’s events speaker and writing teacher, she’s taught at the American Christian Fiction Writer’s conference for the past three years on topics ranging from incorporating spiritual threads into story to plotting, to the 2006 ACFW Beginning Writer’s Track. She also runs a fiction editing service, training writers how to tell a great story. After serving for eight years with her husband and four children as missionaries in Khabarovsk, Far East Russia she now writes full-time while her husband runs a hotel on Lake Superior in northern Minnesota.

Okay, the truth is, I'm just a gal who loves a great story, and most often you can find me writing in my pj's, with a piles of research books around me, lost in my own world. My children (I have 4) have long ago learned to cook their own meals, and now pretty much take care of ME. *Grin* I love to write, and to talk about writing, so...(oh, and if you want to know more about me go to: www.susanmaywarren.com. Book excerpts, and a bio, and upcoming projects and even a link to my blog!)

Stacy Hawkins Adams said...

Hi Everyone,

I'm Stacy Hawkins Adams, checking in to say hello and make myself available throughout the day to answer questions.

Here's my bio:

Stacy Hawkins Adams has been a life-long writer whose love of the written word led her to a 13-year career as a professional journalist. Many of the themes she explored during her tenure as a social issues reporter and spirituality columnist for a daily newspaper in Richmond, Va. have weaved their way into her Christian fiction. She is the author of "Speak To My Heart" (Voted 2004 Shades of Romance Magazine's Best New Christian Fiction Book) and "Nothing But the Right Thing," a Black Expressions Book Club Main Selection and nominee for the Library of Virginia Fiction Award. Her third novel, "Watercolored Pearls," will be released on Oct. 1. Stacy regularly freelances for www.Crosswalk.com, Gospel Today, AARP and other national publications. She also writes a syndicated column on motherhood. She lives in suburban Richmond, Va. with her husband and two young children and is currently writing her fourth novel.

I'm looking forward to hearing from you. Send on the questions!

LaShaunda said...

Good morning everyone,

Welcome to our panel, thanks for taking time out of your day to answer questions.

Here's mine.

What’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

Anonymous said...

Hi Shoba,

Nikki here. This is a fabulous question because it applies whether you are writing about Muslims or any subject. An author must do the research so that their book is not only believable but accurate. I am working with a number of resources from the Billy Graham Center’s ministry to Muslims department, to the Center for Ministry to Muslims, to Muslim Background Believers who have converted. I actually flew to Dearborn, Michigan to live among Muslims last March as part of my research. I have given attention to such detail as the fact that they don’t wear shoes in the house. I first wrote a sentence that said, “He heard her footsteps in the hall.” Oops. I realized you wouldn’t hear footsteps the same way if the person didn’t have on shoes as is the custom of Muslims. Only someone very familiar with the Islamic culture of Muslims will notice these kinds of details. It is my desire that anyone who reads my books will find them accurate and thought provoking. They may not be accepting of the character’s position on something, but I believe they will find that the story is not only factually accurate, but also believable. If you have extensive experience with Muslims, I’d love to talk to you further, perhaps when the conference is over.

Regarding your novel that has paranormal elements. You will find plenty of that in my books. My latest release, As I Have Loved You, is about a woman who desires the gifts of the Spirit. There are all kinds of supernatural things that happen. Though it is women’s fiction and not a romance. Jill gave some excellent examples. Yes, supernatural phenomena is accepted in Christian romance as long as it is written from a Biblical worldview.

Blessings,
Nikki Arana

Marlo Schalesky said...

Hi Didalynn,

Great question about writing and family life. I’m in the thick of that, with books due and four little kids (ages 7, 4, and twins at 2), not to mention that I run an construction consulting firm that I own. Soooo, the balance is very important to me.

I find it takes wisdom on a day to day basis. And one thing that helps is knowing that God won’t ask me to do what’s not possible to do. So, if He has called me to be a mom, wife, and writer (as He has done!), then there must be a way to do it all well. So, I find that I need both careful scheduling (of alone writing time, time working with each of my kids individually, hubby time, time with God alone, etc.) and also the flexibility to listen to God’s promptings about how each day needs to go.

As for specifics, I try to set aside three or more chunks of time during the week to focus on first-draft writing (not editing, emails, etc. – those things I squeeze into odd times during the day). For that type of creative writing, I have to be by myself. So, one day a week, I take my 7 year old to school and my 4-year-old to preschool, then go to Starbucks and write until I have to pick up my 4-year-old two hours later. Meanwhile, my husband brings his computer home and watches the twins while trying to work. It’s not ideal, but it gives me some much needed time off to focus on my story. I also try to take a few hours a couple nights a week, where I get off alone and write. I usually go just before the girls’ bedtime so my husband doesn’t have too much time when he’s needing to take care of everyone himself (though he’s quite able, it’s just hard with so many little ones!). Also, when I get close to deadline, I often write on Saturday mornings when my husband can watch and play with the girls. This gives him some time to play with them alone, and is fun for all of them.

One interesting thing is that I find that I’m a better mom if I have some time “off-duty,” time when I’m not responsible for changing diapers, doing laundry, answering questions, being mom-on-call. I need times away to keep me sane. To catch my breath. Other moms go shopping with friends, talk on the phone, maybe go to a movie during those time. I write. For me, it’s rejuvenating.

Marlo Schalesky said...

About Christian romance and the supernatural:

Funny you should ask! My next three novels (the first comes out next May, titled BEYOND THE NIGHT) are billed as "Love Stories with a Twist!" and the twist is supernatural. So, I'm doing exactly what you talked about - combining Christian romance with a supernatural twist. The only thing is that I've had to be sure, and had to give my publisher theological backing, that my supernatural elements square with scripture. Since I have my Masters in Theology with an emphasis in Biblical Studies, it was easy for me to make the theological/Biblical argument for my twist to assure them that I hadn't gone and done something New-Agey or unBiblical. So, I think that publishers just want to be sure that supernatural elements are consistent with Bibical teaching and that they also add to the richness of the story rather than becoming an "easy fix" or something like that.

Shelia said...

Question to all: If you write contemporary romance, would you suggest the writer use a pen name for their Christian fiction works?

Marlo Schalesky said...

About what I wish I'd known earlier:

Don’t write a story just to be a writer. Find the right story that resonates with what God’s doing in you and in your life. Write what moves you and comes out of your seeking of God and his hand on your life. Then, write the story God gives you. Surrender. Follow God. Seek Him. And if He’s called you to this writing thing, then write the best that you can.

Writing is about being faithful to Him, not getting published. I spent way too much time agonizing over rejection. Rather, I needed to give my work and my writing dreams to God and just focus on being faithful. What a lot of heartache I would have saved myself if I had started at that place rather than having to learn it the hard way.

Marlo Schalesky said...

Sheila,

If you mean that you write secular contemporary romance and then also want to the write Christian fiction, then I would suggest a pen name if your romance has elements that would be offensive to your Christian audience (like language or explicit sex scenes).

If not, then a pen name wouldn't be necessary, I wouldn't think.

--Marlo Schalesky

LaShaunda said...

How do you write your story, on the computer, long hand, talk in a tape recorder?

Marlo Schalesky said...

Definitely computer. Though I now have some pages of long hand notes sitting next to me outlining changes I want to make today in a few of my chapters.

I couldn't do the talking thing, even if it was with one of those new computer programs that translate speech directly in a file. It's much harder to get words out of my mouth than out of my fingertips!

:-) Marlo Schalesky

LaShaunda said...

Requests for blurbs, I get asked this a lot. I don’t mind for fellow writer friends, but I get a lot from people I don’t know and they want me to blurb a book I’ve never read. If I’m going to attach my name to a blurb, I want to read the book. How do you handle requests for blurbs or referrals?

Marlo Schalesky said...

One of my pet peeves is publishers/editors asking for blurbs before a book is contracted. Therefore, my policy is to only endorse books that are contracted and ready to be released -- where the advanced reading copy of the book comes from the publisher and the requested endorsement goes back to the publisher. And I always read the book before I write a blurb for endorsement. In general, I'd like publishers/editors to not be interested in blurbs before the book is contracted but rather read the proposal or manuscript on its own merit. That's how it should be - the story and the writing, not who the author knows. To want blurbs up front is so hard for the both the blurbee and blurber! ;-)

--Marlo Schalesky

Patricia W. said...

I'm in reader heaven! I read the majority of you wonderful Christian authors and all the rest were on my TBR list before this conference.

First question: Over the years, I've found that Christian fiction is moving away from inclusion of a conversion story. Not that they're being eliminated, just that the market has realized that not all Christian stories need one. In my opinion, it's important to see people of faith living and struggling with their faith, as much as it is to see people accept the Christ's love. Thoughts?

Second question: When you write Christian novels, do you find that the faith aspect of the story is there from the beginning or do you have to go back and layer it in?

Third question: What advice would you give a new novelist interested in breaking into Christian fiction? Do you have any frame of reference on whether it's harder to do than in secular fiction?

Dyanne said...

Hello all,



Dyanne

Marlo Schalesky said...

Hi Patricia! Glad to see you here. Thanks for your questions.

As for me . . .
1) I'm happy to see the Christian fiction market moving away from always including a conversion scene. I love that we're being more true to the stories God is giving us as fiction authors, rather than some formula that demands a conversion. I find for me that some stories naturally have that event, others don't, but all are equally Christian and pleasing to God as long as I'm sticking close to Him as I write the story. My first book, Cry Freedom, was set during the 1740's, Colonial America, during the Great Awakening religious revival. For that book, a conversion scene during one of George Whitefield's famous sermons fit beautifully and so enhanced the story. For the book I just finished, the characters are Christians but are facing darkness and fear, so conversion isn't appropriate but rather a facing of that fear and a finding of hope. So, all that to say, I love the freedom of following God's particular vision for each story I write.

2) I find that the faith aspect of my stories comes out as I write. As I work with the characters and their challenges, struggles, and doubts, the faith issues flow out of the characters. Sometimes, I do go back and deepen and clarify, but usually the basics are formed in the first draft.

3) I don't know whether breaking in is easier in Christian or secular markets. I do know that attending conferences, such at ACFW (coming up), Mount Hermon, Sandy Cove, Glorietta, or one of the others is immensely helpful in getting started. To attend one or more of those conferences is my best advice for learning how to hone your craft, getting info, meeting editors, and making those important contacts you need in the industry. Information about conferences can be found in Sally Stuart's Christian Writers Market Guide or on the various websites (like www.acfw.com, www.mounthermon.org/writers, and I'm not sure of the other links for the other conferences, but they can be googled).

--Marlo Schalesky

Linda Beed said...

What I Wish I Had Known

LaShaunda your question is one I believe every author could write a dissertation on. For the sake of brevity I will say I wish I had known of the strong opposition to writing novels that are not considered status quo.

Opposition from some secular readers/reviewers was not an expectation, but understandable. Opposition from some within the Christian community caught me off guard.

Linda! – www.lindabeed.com www.myspace.com/lindabeed http://lindabeed.blogspot.com

Linda Beed said...

How Do I Write My Story?

LaShaunda,

I incorporate a few methods.

If I get an idea while away from my computer I dictate into my voice recorder. As a lover of the written word, touching pen to paper is still a pleasure for me. I will often write out thoughts in long hand for transciption at a later time. Other times I sit down and the computer and type away.

Linda! www.lindabeed.com www.myspace.com/lindabeed http://lindabeed.blogspot.com

LaShaunda said...

What was your best fan letter and your worst?

Linda Beed said...

Using A Pen Name

Would I use a pen name if I wrote contemporary romance then opted for Christian fiction?

Shelia, this is a great question and one I have been asked often. My personal response is NO.

There are those who will choose a pen name simply because they believe what they have written in the past will limit their ability to be considered a viable Christian author.

If the choice is made to write in multiple genres I strongly admonish the writer to be true to the genre.

As Christians or one striving for a Christian life, we should never separate who we are from what we do. I have read so-called Christian fiction from 'cross over' authors that was well-written but had no heart connection and was basically smut with a church backdrop. On the other hand I have read books lacking the polish of an experienced writer, but the heart connection compelled me to turn the page.

In conclusion I will say this, writing is hard work. I plan to sign me name to everything God blesses me to publish.

Linda! www.lindabeed.com www.myspace.com/lindabeed http://lindabeed.blogspot.com

Linda Beed said...

Requests For Blurbs

LaShaunda,

This is a part of our career that can become a bit sticky if not handled properly.

When a request is made the first thing I tell the requester is that I have to read the book. Upon completion I will make the decision as to whether I can give a blurb that is favorable for the author.

Favorable does not always mean it will be a stellar promotion, but it will be fair.

Linda! www.lindabeed.com www.myspace.com/lindabeed http://lindabeed.blogspot.com

Marlo Schalesky said...

About fan mail:

I LOVE fan mail! (So, if you want to send me some, go to my website www.marloschalesky.com and use the contact form to send me some - ha! ;-)) My favorite is when someone writes to tell me that they "got" the deeper themes of my stories and those themes touched and changed them, renewed the wonder of what God's done for them. The worst are the ones that nitpick details, especially details that I've carefully researched and got right . . .except the reader thinks they're wrong. So, I love hearing how my story touched a reader. I don't so much love hearing how the reader thought I could have done something differently.

--Marlo Schalesky

Linda Beed said...

In Reader Heaven

Hi Patricia I’m delighted to see you here.

My response to your first question is that our Christian community is one of a variety of cultures with a multiplicity of needs. What is important to one reader may not be at the top of the list for another. Having a variety of authors writing what has been placed in their spirit is a must. Industry imposed limits on the writer, limits the option of choice for the reader, thereby, in my opinion, places a limit on God.

The Faith Aspect

I believe this varies with the writer and their intension for the flow of the story.

Advice

My advice to a new author is something I stated in a previous post – do not separate who you are from what you do. Hard only enters the picture when we take God out of the equation.

Linda! www.lindabeed.com www.myspace.com/lindabeed http://lindabeed.blogspot.com

Fon James said...

Hello everyone,
As a new Christian Fiction author (my book, Back and Forth, is releasing in November), how do you write without trying to sound too preachy? When I was writing "Back and Forth," I tried to make sure that I didn't sound this way because of my target audience, young adults. But I wanted to leave the reader with scriptural references for later on once my book is closed and the GOOD BOOK is open. Is there a way to weave in scripture without flat out saying what the scripture is? I know we can paraphrase, but I wanted to just get your thoughts on not sounding too preachy?

Fon James

Linda Beed said...

Being Preachy

Hello Ms. Fon,

Your question is one that has been debated on many fronts. What I’m about to say may not make me popular, it is however, what I am finding to be true more often than I care to admit. The word preachy is the buzz word used by many to say ‘I don’t appreciate you showing me something I don’t want to deal with.’

Most readers want to be entertained with the story and it is our job to do so, to a degree. Some will appreciate the planted seed through a particular scenario, phrase or scripture. Others will not. Do the best you can and do not be disheartened by those who are not ready to accept what God has given you to write.

Linda! www.lindabeed.com www.myspace.com/lindabeed http://lindabeed.blogspot.com

Jill said...

Hi, Fon. Congratulations on the upcoming release.

I find that if I write true to my characters, the faith elements come out sounding natural. Even secular reviewers have commented on that. The key here is digging deep in your characterization. If your reader senses that your characters' actions, thoughts, and conversations are sincere, they won't feel "preached at" even if the spiritual elements are quite strong. That's the way real life works, too.

As far as weaving in actual scripture references. A light touch is best. How many of us actually go around quoting chapter and verse in our day to day lives? However, a good place to mention your Bible references is in the study questions at the end of the book. Not all publishers include those with fiction, but mine does. I love it! I can write thought-provoking questions based on the story and include whatever scriptures I please. Also, sometimes a book has a page at the beginning with a theme scripture listed.

Good question.

Jill
http://www.jillelizabethnelson.com

Fon James said...

Thanks very much Jill for your response and congrats. I totally get what you are saying. And I actually have that in my book...a theme scripture!
But I do also have some instances where the characters are in church and the preacher takes his text. But I guess in that instance it can't be considered too preachy, because it IS...since it is coming from a pastor. People usually don't call it "being too preacy" when it comes from a preacher (LOL).

Thanks again Jill...this conference is great!

Fon James

Marlo Schalesky said...

Great discussion on including scripture! I agree with what Jill said, and it seems, Fon, that you've done a good job with weaving it in for the church scenes. I find that if it would be natural for a character to quote chapter and verse (as in a pastor for his sermon) then it doesn't come across awkwardly at all. It's only when the reference is forced in and feels as if the author has stepped in to make a point.

--Marlo Schalesky

Cecelia Dowdy said...

Cecelia Dowdy checking in. Here's my bio below:

I spent the first ten years of my life on a military base in Aberdeen Maryland since my dad was in the Army. We moved to North East Maryland when I was about ten. I always remember the joy of opening a book, and reading mesmerizing stories that entertained me for hours! I went to the University of Maryland in College Park, earning my degree in Finance! My freshman English teacher claimed I was a great writer, and recommended that I change my major from Finance to English, but I didn’t heed his wise advice!

Instead of pursuing a literary career, I worked as an accountant for a travel agency for ten years. During that time, I traveled all over the world, including the following places: Germany, France, England, Tahiti, New Zealand, Mexico, Jamaica, Bahamas, Cayman Islands, and Santo Domingo.

In 1994, I began writing for fun, and I kept doing it until I sold my first inspirational romance novel. Before I sold my novel, I wrote sweet romantic short stories regularly for national women’s magazines. So far, I’ve published thirty-seven of these stories and I still write for magazines when time allows. I'm now working on another novel, and look forward to finding a publisher for my next piece of fiction!

I love both secular and Christian fiction. I also love young adult fiction, and I hope to have my own young adult inspirational series someday!

I've been happily married to my husband for three years. We currently reside in Maryland with our son.

Cecelia Dowdy said...

Somebody earlier asked about books with paranormal elements. An excellent CBA novel I read with paranormal elements is Eyes of Elisha by Brandilyn Collins. Elisha is a prophet, and the story also involves a murder. Great book! I recommend the one asking the question to read this one. Peretti and Dekker are good but I found them to be much scarier than Collins.

SusieMay said...

First question: Over the years, I've found that Christian fiction is moving away from inclusion of a conversion story. Not that they're being eliminated, just that the market has realized that not all Christian stories need one. In my opinion, it's important to see people of faith living and struggling with their faith, as much as it is to see people accept the Christ's love. Thoughts?

I agree that we need to address issues that go beyond conversion. There are plenty of Christians out there who, for one reason or another, feel as if they have walked away from God (or God from them), and need the truth of scripture just as much as those who don’t know God. I think it’s important to write the story as it needs to be – for example in one of my books, (In Sheep’s Clothing) I wrote a conversion scene because that is what needed to happen with the character. It depends on the story and on the character.

Second question: When you write Christian novels, do you find that the faith aspect of the story is there from the beginning or do you have to go back and layer it in?

Because of the way I plot and develop characters, the spiritual issue of the character is there at the beginning, as a part of their life, and I address it in tandem with the emotional and plot issues. Ideally, they should all work together in synergy.

Third question: What advice would you give a new novelist interested in breaking into Christian fiction? Do you have any frame of reference on whether it's harder to do than in secular fiction.

Nowadays, I think they are equally as difficult. However, I also believe that, just like in the ABA, the CBA recognizes a good story when they see it. If you want to break in, first – study the craft of books you enjoy, second – take classes, or attend conferences (like this one), and third – start writing, and get honest feedback from fellow writers. Finally, write the story on your heart – God knows what He wants you to say, and He will take care of the rest.

Donna D said...

There seems to be a trend, especially among publishers of African-American fiction, to urbanize everything, meaning adding sex, profanity, drugs, etc.

Is this trend affecting Christian fiction? What are things that should or should not be a part of Christian fiction? Is there anything that crosses the line? What is the distinction between "Christian" and "inspirational" fiction vs. urban?

SusieMay said...

There seems to be a trend, especially among publishers of African-American fiction, to urbanize everything, meaning adding sex, profanity, drugs, etc.

Is this trend affecting Christian fiction? What are things that should or should not be a part of Christian fiction? Is there anything that crosses the line? What is the distinction between "Christian" and "inspirational" fiction vs. urban?


I think if the trend is to add sex scenes, and profanity to the story, then, I think for the CBA, and especially if it is added for gratuitous reasons, it crosses the line. I know my readers expect a good read with quality writing. We all know that people swear, but it doesn’t have to be written into a book to be real. And anything you say with profanity can be said without profanity. But if, per sae, I’m writing about a soldier under fire, and his teammates are swearing, we can say, ie, “he agreed with every word they said, even the ones his mother would flinch at.” Or whatever. Here’s the thing – Christians struggle with the same things that non-Christians struggle with, and if it is an element of the plot, it can be included into a book…in the right way. For example, if there is a character who is living a wild lifestyle, the story demands we write about it – however, we don’t have to go into graphic detail for readers to understand both the situation and how it will affect her (which is really the issue, isn’t it?) I write for people who want a good story – a redemptive story (which means that there are plenty of non-“pristine” characters in my books), that is well-crafted and that tells the story without elements that many Christians would consider offensive. It doesn’t have to be vulgar or borderline pornographic to be gritty and real.

upwords said...

Hey everyone! Great discussion. Here's a short bio for me:

Marilynn Griffith is wife to a deacon, mom to a tribe and proof that God gives second chances. She's served as Vice President of American Christian Fiction Writers and has served on faculty of many writer's conferences. She's written seven novels to date about faith, friendship and forgiveness, including a multicultural series about four fashion designers in New York City and the Sassy Sistahood series, one of the first African American chick lit series in the Christian market. When she's not speaking, writing or chasing her seven children, Marilynn blogs at Faithchick.com, a Christian chick lit blog she founded and retreats to her closet to hear God's voice above the din.

Glad to be here!
Marilynn

http://www.MarilynnGriffith.com
Serious Faith. Serious Fiction. Serious Fun.

Michelle Larks said...

Michelle Larks here,

This is my short bio, and forgive me if I dissapear, we have a test going on at work and I'm on the on-call person for the month. I am a new Christian fiction author. I have self-published four books beginning back in 2003. I contributed to two faith based anthologies last year, in addition to two contemporary fiction/romance novels. My first Christian fiction novel with Urban Christian Books will be released on October 30th and it's titled, Keeping Misery Company.

In addition to writing, I'm a System Programmer and have been in the IT field for over 25 years, I have two adult daughters, who've moved out of the nest, and my husband and I will celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary on Thursday.

upwords said...

Nice to meet you, Michelle! Congrats on the release of your first Christian fiction novel and your wedding anniversary.

May God bless both mightily,
Marilynn Griffith

Shelia said...

Thanks Marlo & Linda for answering my question. It's always good to get different point of views on this. My current stories are mild so writing under my real name shouldn't be an issue.

Marlo Schalesky said...

Hi Sheila,

Yes, if the stories are mild, your real name should be no problem at all. I like using my real name and wouldn't personally consider a pen name for books.

rhondajjoseph said...

Before the evening is over, I just want to tell you all to keep on keeping on. There's definitely more than one way to skin a cat, and writing is one way to minister to those that might not be receptive any other way.

Wishing you continued success!

Linda Beed said...

Publishing Trends

There seems to be a trend, especially among publishers of African-American fiction, to urbanize everything, meaning adding sex, profanity, drugs, etc.

Is this trend affecting Christian fiction? What are things that should or should not be a part of Christian fiction? Is there anything that crosses the line? What is the distinction between "Christian" and "inspirational" fiction vs. urban?

Donna,

The ‘trend’ to add sex, profanity and other illicit acts has been written into books long before African Americans became more than an after thought in the literary industry.

It is sad to say, but in our current state, there are still mindsets that believe there are only certain things African Americans can identify with, will read or are expected to write. Case in point, I had several houses interested in my manuscript. In their opinion, in order to make it a marketable project the following suggestions were made:
1. Make the female protagonist more realistic by having her curse whenever she was angry
2. Minimize the fact that she prays
3. Christians like more spice in their novels so we should have her a bit more provocative in her dress. This would lead to a steamy scene my readers would remember and encourage others to read also
4. Certain words like expunge, assuage and emasculate were circled and suggested to be removed because ‘my’, code for African American readers may be distracted by them
5. The entire passage showing the male protagonist going over his one, three and five year business and personal plans was referred to as unnecessary
6. Rather than the male engaging in intelligent conversation it was suggested he spend his off work hours on the ball court doing his ‘homeboy’ thang!

Is this trend affecting Christian fiction?
I believe that this is affecting the Christian fiction market it a negative way. More so because a majority of what is being promoted in the genre is not, I repeat, is not Christian fiction, but is being marketed as such because it may have a church member or pastor within the cast. There are many great books being written by African American authors in a variety of genres that are not being published simply because of the lack of the ‘urban flavor’ that is expected from us.

What are things that should or should not be a part of Christian fiction? Is there anything that crosses the line?
We live in a time where there are people searching for God, but may or may not attend a church or have ever read a bible. What will reach one sect of people may not be the tool that touches another. That is the beauty of having writers from a variety of cultures, experiences and with various spiritual gifts. There are themes that are central to the story that may be on the dark side of the street. It takes prayer and skill to concisely portray without offense.

What is the distinction between "Christian" and "inspirational" fiction vs. urban?

In terms of the literary, Christian works can encompass a wide realm of writing. Inspirational tends to be more light and often extends pearls of wisdom.

Fiction and Urban can in many cases be used interchangeably. Fiction is a work born from ones imagination and is not necessarily based on fact. Urban is a tag used to identify a more gritty writing. It is also a tag-word often incorrectly applied the works of a majority of African Americans.

Linda!
www.lindabeed.com
www.myspace.com/lindabeed
http://lindabeed.blogspot.com
lindaonassignment@yahoo.com

Marlo Schalesky said...

Just wanted to tell you all thank you for visiting this panel today, for your questions, great answers, and interaction. Blessings to you all!

--Marlo Schalesky

Stacy Hawkins Adams said...

Hi Everyone,

I'll comment on a few posts:

* Re: LaShaunda's question "What's something I wish I'd known earlier about the publishing buiness...":

When my first book was contracted, I didn't realize that not only would I become a published author, I'd also very quickly have to become a marketing guru. The in-house publicist assigned to my novel took a new job three months before my book's release date, which left me scrambling to help the publisher spread the word. Since then, I've worked as closely with my publisher as possible to find out what they're planning in terms of marketing and publicity so I can supplement their efforts with my own.

2. Re: How do I write: Definitely via computer - My brain moves faster than my fingers, so I need all the help I can get to keep up. However, I always have paper handy - near my bed, in my purse, in the car - for when those brilliant ideas, phrases or pieces of dialogue float my way.

3. Re: Should our fiction contain overt conversion stories?
I'm in the camp that believes the conversions are more effective if they are subtle. Yes, many of us have experienced, or know of someone who has had a life-changing experience that led to a powerful connection with God. But often, transformation occurs as God whispers to our souls - in the manner in which He sees us through trials, or showers us with love from an unexpected source, or gives us peace in the midst of turmoil. If we can write stories that convey a character's growth and yearning for God through these kinds of scenes, the overt conversion isn't as necessary.

* Re: Fan Letters:
I love hearing from readers who share with me how one of my books has drawn them closer to God or helped them understand themselves or someone they love better. The most memorable letter I have received so far came from a woman who lived in Georgia and was contemplating suicide when she received "Speak To My Heart" as a gift from her mother. She read it in one sitting and afterward felt led to reconnect with God and return to church. That was an humbling reminder that although I want my books to entertain readers, they are indeed forms of ministry. As far as bad fan mail, hmm, that's a tough one, because I consider most feedback from readers helpful in some way, even if they didn't necessarily "get" my characters or agree with my ending.

Stacy Hawkins Adams

upwords said...

Thanks everyone! Here are all my answers to the questions asked during our panel. They were some great ones.

I guess my question is...How do you find enough time to write, spend time with your family and spend time with the Lord?

To be honest, I don’t find the time. I steal it! The truth is, there’s only so much time and you have to decide what you’re going to do with it. During certain seasons, writing is one of my top priorities. I try to incorporate my Bible study and prayer with my writing. They are a preparation.

Is a discussion of supernatural phenomena accepted at all in Christian romance novels?

As I think Jill said, it’s not really considered paranormal (ghosts, demons, etc) but supernatural (as in more than you see in the natural). That said there are many good books of this type in the Christian market including Frank Peretti’s Present Darkness books, Ted Dekker’s novels and others. In romance specifically, my friend Claudia Mair Burney’s EXORSISTAH series comes to mind. It is scheduled for publication in late 2008 I think.

What’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

Have mercy. The slowness! Publishing is slower than any industry I have EVER seen. If they tell you a month, make it three. (There are those quick jewels in the business though that surprise me all the time. Gotta love that!)

If you write contemporary romance, would you suggest the writer use a pen name for their Christian fiction works?

So you’re saying that you’ll be writing mainstream contemporary romance (with sex scenes) AND Christian fiction? If so, I’d say yes, get a pen name. Christian readers understand when I writer changes from mainstream to Christian fiction but can be quite hurt and confused if they find both kinds of books from the same author recently. Some publishers in the Christian market frown upon it as well. Did I get that wrong? Are you writing in more than one genre? Christian and something else? If not, you’ll want to build your name I’d think.

How do you write your story, on the computer, long hand, talk in a tape recorder?

Believe it or not, I still write in longhand sometimes. I’m often out and about with my kids or at appointments and I can’t always drag my laptop around. It also gives me another draft when I type it in. Most times though, it’s tip-tap away. I’ve tried the voice thing, but it didn’t work for me. There are always quite a few paper-and-pen scenes though.

First question: Over the years, I've found that Christian fiction is moving away from inclusion of a conversion story. Not that they're being eliminated, just that the market has realized that not all Christian stories need one. In my opinion, it's important to see people of faith living and struggling with their faith, as much as it is to see people accept the Christ's love. Thoughts?

Great point. For me, it’s all about what the story requires. Some books end up with more of a subtle spirituality and others have scripture, church scenes and the whole deal. That said, lots of folks get saved in my books. LOL

Second question: When you write Christian novels, do you find that the faith aspect of the story is there from the beginning or do you have to go back and layer it in?

Again, it depends. The faith aspect is always there for me in the sense that I see the character’s struggle. Sometimes it’s quite apparent from the beginning down to the chapter and verse. Other times, I do have to layer that in. Or not. 

Third question: What advice would you give a new novelist interested in breaking into Christian fiction? Do you have any frame of reference on whether it's harder to do than in secular fiction?

I think my advice would be the same to any writer: Read. Read. Read. Write. Write. Write. And then start over. The only difference would be not to try and write Christian fiction to get published necessarily. It has to be a genuine belief of your own or it will show, I think. The market is tight everywhere in publishing but God is still on the throne, so get to writing!

What was your best fan letter and your worst?
Ha! In truth I love the support and mail from my readers. Someone always blesses me with a note when I most need it (which is always). I don’t know that I can pick a best or worst but I do have a funniest from each category. I got a scathing review on one book one month from someone and then a five star plus review on another book from the same person! God used that to remind me that opinions are just that. (Nice notes are still great to get though!)

Is there a way to weave in scripture without flat out saying what the scripture is? I know we can paraphrase, but I wanted to just get your thoughts on not sounding too preachy?

I think it can be done. I’m a strange bird that does actually think in chapter and verse, so sometimes my characters do too! LOL Sometimes it may be the same sentiment but expressed differently. More of a scriptural principle. I love things that point me back to Jesus. Just give me a good story too.

There seems to be a trend, especially among publishers of African-American fiction, to urbanize everything, meaning adding sex, profanity, drugs, etc.

Yep. You should see my books in a sea of booty and breasts. I’m glad to be there though. Sometimes AA Christian fiction can be in the Christian fiction section and/or the AA section, so check both.

Is this trend affecting Christian fiction?
There are urban stories, but I don’t think they all have sex or profanity. There are lots of books with church titles or settings that don’t profess to be Christian fiction. That’s why venues like Sormag, recommendations from friends, church book clubs and Christian fiction events are so important.

What are things that should or should not be a part of Christian fiction?
A few years ago, I would have had a complete list for you. Today, not so much. I think it’s more in the execution than anything. Each day in the Bible I read about sex, murder, sin…but I can read it all to my children. (“Adam knew his wife and she conceived.” A lot happened in that sentence, amen? There is an expectation based on the label “Christian” though and that’s why CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) publishers don’t allow the things you mentioned. Christian bookstores won’t sell them. Unfortunately there aren’t many AA authors in CBA yet. That said, there are great Christian books (even urban ones) to be had. You just have take it book by book and author by author.

Is there anything that crosses the line?
It sounds like you’ve drawn your own lines.  I think that’s best. As I said, the Bible is a good model. It covers just about everything.

What is the distinction between "Christian" and "inspirational" fiction vs. urban?
To me, Christian means inspired by Christ and inspirational means it will inspire me and make me feel hopeful. The word inspirational is often used to mean Christian though because that’s what they call Christian fiction in the Romance Writers of America, so it’s an often used term by booksellers, publishers and authors. As for urban, I think contemporary in the city. My novel PINK is often shelved with the urban books, but it’s definitely Christian.

Sorry for penning a book. I was trying to do it in blogger and the posts didn’t appear so hence the novel of answers.

Thanks for having us LaShaunda! This was great as usual.

Blessings,
Marilynn

http://www.MarilynnGriffith.com
Serious Faith. Serious Fiction. Serious Fun.

Shoba said...

Oh No! I've been having problems with the internet yesterday and this morning. I've tried to post this not below like 10 times. I really hope this works this time.

Jill, thank you so very much for your recommendation. Will look out for those books and yours too Nikki.

Nikki, very glad you are doing something on muslim half way houses. Not the easiest of subjects to tackle but much needed. Here is my email address if you would like to ask me any questions on this issue: shobamano@yahoo.com

So sorry for the late reply. Internet troubles. Jill enjoyed your workshop. God bless you all.

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