Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Gathering Information

Well, it won't be long until I can start posting my own reviews about the book choices that I've agreed to read! I'm so excited for November to get here to see how all of this develops! I've been reading, talking, investigating and asking hard questions to offer you the best information I possibly can about the books that will show up here on my blog.

While I realize that everyone has their own opinion, there seems to be a lot of debate among readers as to what constitutes good, Christian fiction. Is it the publisher's name on the spine? Is it content? Is it style? There are as many opinions as there are published books it seems. However, yesterday I was given the opportunity to have a conversation with the Vice President of the Fiction Division at Thomas Nelson Publishing, Allen Arnold. He gave me a lot of insight from the publishers point of view about how a book is chosen by their house. (To let you know, the man personally answered a complaint I had emailed to their company! Talk about first-class customer service!)

Apparently, Thomas Nelson has decided that if you are a Christian (agree with the basic tenants of the faith, the basic content of the Nicaean Creed, and proclaim to be a born again Christian) and they deem you to be a good story-teller, they will let you tell your story without a whole lot of restraint. Oh, they read the manuscript several times and go over it carefully, but in spite of that, I've found some things within the pages of their chosen works of fiction alarming and disturbing. While I understand that there is no way to please everyone (why would you even try?), it does seem that when you see the name of a Christian publisher on the spine you should expect a minimum amount of Christian content. I personally think it's a cop out to bury the message so deep that even an English Major with a vivid imagination can't find it! Yet overt Christianity doesn't win the dollars of the 40-something crowd that watches late-night television. It seems the all-mighty dollar is working some wicked scheme in the world of Christian publishing.

Anyway, I'm exploring these philosophies and asking some tough questions of the books I'm reviewing. Edgy fiction is one thing, but plain old non-Christian fiction is something else entirely. Hence the separate markets. However, they are competing for the same dollars it seems. Reeks of compromise to me.

I haven't fully decided which way to carry this thought-pattern, but I just thought it fair to let you know what I'm finding beneath some of the corporate rocks I'm looking under. It sure is an interesting world out there in the land of fiction!

More to come! Stay tuned!!


Dayle James Arceneaux said...

I understand your point, Kim. I'm a little torn myself. There is nothing Christian about Dekker's Thr3e or Liparulo's books.

I think as long as Thomas Nelson continues to publish Christian fiction as well as Fiction by Christians, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.

If someone reads Thr3e, they may then read the Circle Trilogy, which is overtly Christian.

I like the idea of CBA remaining overtly Christian, because, as you say, the readers will know what to expect. But, I'm also glad they published Liparulo because I probably wouldn't have read him if they didn't. I would have never known he is Christian.

Something good I've noticed: Robert Liparulo's books are not shelved in the Christian fiction section at my local B.A.M.

My real fear is that some ABA authors having a hard time getting published will "clean" up their novels and claim they are Christian just to get published. I don't want a watered down CBA.

Kim said...

Thanks for your thoughtful comments. It was actually Robert Liparulo's most recent book that caused me to contact Thomas Nelson!

In my daily scripture reading today, I came across 1 Timothy 4L 13-16, and I was given pause yet again on this subject. I just think Christians are called to a higher standard than others. The VP at Thomas Nelson asked me what I'd think if I saw the movie of the book not knowing who published it. Hmmm? I'm sorry, but I have different standards for a hollywood movie and the books I purchase at my local bookstore with a Christian publisher's name on the spine!

I truly am trying to be fair and honest in my opinions, but it is eye-opening to delve a little deeper in the the CBA market and learn what their motives are. While I'm comforted that they listen to their readers, I will be very sad indeed if they exchange their message for money.

I'm still exploring this! Thanks for joining me!

Kim said...

Oops! That was 1 Timothy 4: 13-16!