Ah, To Be Shelved With My Own Kind…

Barnes & Noble was one of the places we went during our courtship too. :D Fun times.

Barnes & Noble was one of the places we went during our courtship too; this picture was taken shortly after my high school graduation when I had lots of bookstore gift cards to spend and a long list of books to buy. Fun times. 😀

Yesterday morning my husband surprised me with a breakfast-and-lunch date, and a trip to Barnes & Noble sandwiched in between.  (He’s pretty awesome, if you ask me!)

Rambling around the bookstore, I was struck by something I’d never thought about before.

There is, of course, the science-fiction and fantasy section – packed to the gills with geeky goodness.  I recognized many titles there, including some that I know are from Christian authors or Christian publishing imprints, such as Curio by Evangeline Denmark, and Storm Siren by Mary Weber.  It was neat to see those pretty covers among all the others on the shelf.

I also realized how many of these big name titles have risen during my time.  I remember when The Maze Runner first came out, for example.  I’ve never read it, but in my “lifetime” of being in the spec-fic world, it’s gone from a new release to a bestseller, a movie, and a whole bestselling series.

For the first time I was in a bookstore and actually felt like I was a part of the speculative fiction world; the YA speculative fiction section in particular was full of familiar titles and authors I’d heard of, not a sea of strange names.  I felt “with it.” 😛

And I picked up Steelheart, by Brandon Sanderson, because I’ve been dying to read one of his books. 😀

And then my husband and I meandered into the religion section.

Tucked alongside the religious and inspirational books, there was a tiny “Christian fiction” area – roughly one shelf packed with End Times apocalyptic fiction, romance, and clean, historical-style fairy tales.  Mostly romance, really.  I hadn’t realized before that the Christian fiction had its own separate spot in B&N.

I looked at this one shelf, and my heart sank.

What if this is where The Kraesinia Trilogy ends up?  What if the overt Christian content means it will not have a home in the aisle of other worlds, superheroes, magic, and fantastical kingdoms and creatures, where I always figured it might be? (Worse still is the thought of it never hitting actual store shelves at all…but let me keep holding on to that lifelong dream while I can, please. 😛 )

I want my book to live with its own kind.

I stood there in the Christian aisle, feeling torn between two worlds myself, simmering with something like rebellion.

Really, this area is “my own kind” too.  Christians.  Probably my first loyalty should be to this area, not the other one…  But I don’t want my book to be here.  I want it to be over there, where I always pictured it!

What if I stripped it of all overt Christian content again?  I could quietly downplay my characters’ spiritual arcs, erase their prayers down to unobjectionable nubs, hide away their spiritual musings and epiphanies.  It could be more marketable.  It could take off like wildfire.

Am I shooting myself in the foot by displaying obvious Christian themes?  Am I killing my own potential?  Or would concealing these themes be selling myself and my book out?

Ultimately I don’t think I would be wrong to do either thing, Christianly speaking.

But The Kraesinia Trilogy knows what it wants to be.

I have gone back and forth on this issue over the years, and as the book is honed it only becomes clearer – this story is crippled without the threads of trust and hope that run through it, and trust and hope are nothing without the foundation of Christ on which they stand.

The Kraesinia Trilogy is not for the general market.  It just isn’t.  It’s for Christian youth, who have grown up loving fictional spec-fic heroes and would love to find some who share their faith.  That is where my heart has always been for this story.

Other books I write may cross over into the general market.  And maybe the Christian content wouldn’t actually be the kiss of death for shelving, and TKT would somehow work its way into the Gorgeous Aisle of Geekiness regardless.

Or, maybe it will languish as a self-published e-book…the buzz around it dying down as quickly as it hits Amazon…purchased only by kindhearted friends and family…and slowly declining until it is forgotten.  Ten plus years of my life, poured out to the sleepy sound of crickets.

…But I don’t really believe that. 😉

I believe in this story.  I believe it will find readers, and that it will be loved by them.  I just don’t know where or who.

Like the characters themselves who are living between two worlds, TKT belongs in two places.  It belongs with the science-fiction and fantasy, but it also belongs among books of faith.  My protagonist feels torn in two…well, so do I.

I cannot determine where my work will end up.  I just know that God has given it to me, the way that it is, for a reason.  I have to write the story that it is and that it is meant to be – and leave the shelf it belongs on, and the readers it will find, in His hands.

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22 Comments

  1. Loved this post! (And love all that hair!). It is a bit of a quandary, isn’t it?! I’ve had the same oscillating thoughts!

    Reply
    • Thank you, Heather! (Haha, I miss having hair that long! It’s not quite that long right now.) Ultimately I’d like to bridge across and be a part of both worlds. 🙂 Not all of my fiction concepts are as overtly Christian as TKT.

      Reply
  2. Great post! I think most Christian artists feel this “pull” between two worlds. After all, we are not of this world, yet we still struggle with the battle against sin and the desire for earthly things. And besides that, we want our message to reach as many people as possible–both Christians for their encouragement and non-Christians as a means of sharing Gospel truth. It’s difficult to reach the latter if your work is “labeled” as Christian. Added to this is the desire for personal glory/accomplishment that tends to loom in the back of our minds. In the end, I’m grateful that it is all in the control of a gracious, faithful, just God and not in our own feeble abilities. 🙂 Thanks for sharing this very thought-provoking post!

    Reply
    • Thank you, GatheringFire! I’ve known for a long time that I might limit my audience by being overtly Christian, but being at the actual bookstore and seeing that tiny shelf compared to the big aisle my genre shares…it was just such a clear picture to me. Thankfully when it comes to the e-book world, there isn’t that strict divide so much. But since I DO hope my book ends up in brick-and-mortar stores someday, it was a bit discouraging to realize even if it does, it probably won’t be where I wished for it to be! But that’s all in God’s hands. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by; I’m glad you enjoyed the post. 🙂

      Reply
  3. I look forward to seeing your books on the shelves. And I sympathize with feeling that strength of desire to write them and tell them to the best of our ability. All the best to you!

    Reply
  4. Kessie

     /  February 16, 2016

    I know this is hard to believe, but these three books aren’t the only thing you’ll ever write. So what if they wind up in the Christian section? You have other books that might be more suited to the general market.

    Reply
    • Exactly! I agree. I have a lot of stuff, especially fantasy, that won’t be overtly Christian. So I’m hoping to bridge the gap and end up with a little in each world, and maybe draw secular readers into the Christian market to look for more of my stuff, hehe. 😀

      Reply
  5. Excellent post! I have the same thoughts and struggles. Do I write the story of my heart, and have people accuse me of “thinly-veiled Christianity” and leanings toward “monotheistic deity”? Or do I trim out any reference to God and have moral characters who overcome evil with sheer strength of character?

    I continue to come back to the same answer you gave above: you write the story the way the story is telling you it needs to be told. Some of my books will be a bit more overt (although that doesn’t mean preachy), and some will be more covert.

    As far as shelving, Amazon is different. Even though my books are labeled “Christian fantasy”, I have had many people from many different walks of life read my books. I have been accused of the above labels, but I have also been told by others that they enjoyed the books because they were not preachy. In other words, I’m shelved alongside everyone else. Yeah, that means that not everyone is going to get my books, but at least they are reading them, and that is all I want.

    Reply
    • That is the nice thing about e-books…you’re not stuck on one particular aisle versus another. You can be in multiple categories at once! It’s good to hear you’re being read by people on “both sides of the fence,” so to speak.

      Thank you for stopping by, Morgan. 🙂

      Reply
  6. Barnes and Noble has historically been pretty choosy about which authors they put into their stores. This being said… if they like your work (or if you have a high enough following to convince them to place it on a shelf) they will FIND a spot for you 😉

    another thought… just because it is overtly christian doesn’t mean it won’t be popular or mainstream… remember the Left Behind series books? 🙂

    I think it would be very interesting to see whether there are overtly christian books in the spec fic section…

    After all (another random thought) Narnia had religious undertones too…

    Reply
    • Yes, there are a lot of classic books with Christian overtones, like the Narnia books. It would definitely be interesting to see if there are any overtly Christian contemporary works shelved in the SFF area.

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  7. Oh man, I’m so right there with you in so many ways! Almost every time I’m in a book store I go to the fantasy section and look to see where my book would be. lol. My current WIP has more overtly “Christian” themes than my previous work and I’ve struggled with the same fears and come to the same conclusions. 🙂 Thanks for sharing and reminding us that we’re not alone! 🙂

    Reply
  8. We have a Booksamillion and there are two Christian sections – a “sale” area and then the main “faith” section. While neither is quite as large as the YA Fantasy, it’s pretty close. So don’t despair. Plus there are Christian bookstores but no “YA Fantasy” stores. 😉 I agree with the other comments about Amazon, too – the book scene is still changing and those types of things are mattering less and less.

    Reply
  9. How funny. I’ve been going through this in my head this week as well–about whether to take out the Christian content to make my stories more marketable or not. I agree with you- I don’t think it’s wrong or right to do one way or the other, but for my story and my character’s arc, I kind of need God in there. And I feel like my purpose as a writer is to bring, not just entertainment, but hope to my readers. And I’m sure many Christian authors feel the same way. It’s hard to bring hope when we’re not open about where this Hope comes from. Thanks for sharing! Always good to know we’re not alone. 🙂

    Reply
    • Agreed! 🙂 I think purpose varies among Christian authors…we are each called by God to a unique sphere and to reach certain readers in a certain way. 🙂 I want to bring entertainment firstly, but I also want there to be an extra layer there for Christian readers, something to make them think on Christ or the Christian life in a new way. 🙂

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  10. I’ve written some of both – moralistic and Christian.

    My heart and love are always with my more overtly Christian books, as you know.

    As for languishing self-published ebooks, that’s not how it has to be. We have millionaires in our circles, and most of our authors do very well for themselves. Just depends on how much you want to spend on advertising and how much time you put into it. Plus, speculative fictional trilogies sell best of all in our group. 🙂

    Reply
  11. Great post and I WANT YOUR HAIR. Hair goals over here! I totally relate to this as I plan books I want to write. It’s so hard to think about just how Christian to go :/

    Reply

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