When I wrote Butterflies in the Belfry, I thought it could be the first step in a long series of thoughtful books from a Christian perspective. I had mentioned in other places I already had titles in my mind such as the A Christian View of Nature. I also wanted to write a series on the dark gifts. I only use the word dark because others would assume that they are dark, but they are not. For example, The Gift of Fear, The Gift of Doubt, The Gift of Anger, and The Gift of Grief. However, I was a bit naive about Christian writing.
People who know theology and I respect (such as some people that I personally know plus the likes of N.T. Wright) read the manuscript and seemed to indicate that it was well-written and important. However, I had a very hard time promoting it. Most Christian bookstores didn’t want it (fear that it could be unorthodox) and the secular bookstores didn’t see the point. While I sold hundreds, I didn’t sell thousands or tens of thousands. I had sold thousands of a previous book, A Kernel in the Pod. Those who read Butterflies in the Belfry, liked it. But so many were fearful to read it, fearful that it would challenge what they consider “Biblical” or orthodox beliefs. Then, while the book should be an interesting read for all people, the non-Christian crowd, including my own non-Christian friends, saw the book as weird or reading it would be like inviting the Jehovah Witnesses into your house.
The other thing that I did not consider is that Christian writers are a dime a dozen. You have 500,000 thousand pastors and 200,000 Christian professors in America and many of them are writers or writers wanna-bes. So the field is crowded. For all of these reasons, I am putting my Christian writing ambitions on the back burner.
My novel, Waters of Bimini, is a new direction. I’ve always enjoyed writing fiction. I enjoy it more than nonfiction. With Butterflies in the Belfry, I had to go through layers of fact checking, including lawyers fact checking, before a publisher would send it to print. Not so with fiction. I can imagine any world that I want.
I have been asked if my novel would then fall into the genre of “Christian Fiction.” Not in a heartbeat. I detest , so-called Christian Fiction. It is like the Hallmark Channel. It is a world that is woven of only positive things, lollipops and sweetness.
I tried to present a novel manuscript to Christian publishers back in the 1990s (a children’s book). I was sent a list of standards by each publishing house. Those standards included the rules (for acceptance). These rules included that the story has no “bad words,” no reference to sex, no alcohol, no smoking, and the list went on and on. The worst point was the story had to have a happy ending. I did challenge an editor at one of the big Christian publishing houses. I made the point that C.S. Lewis, the archetype of Christian fiction writers, used drinking, smoking , and the lack of happy endings, at least on this earth. That editor wrote back that the problem was in their market. If they published books that did not follow these rules, the evangelical community would not buy the book and Christian bookstores would not carry it.
However, the problem with Christian books is that they do not live in the real world. If you do not live in the real world, then you cannot see the face of God clearly. If God is there, He dwells in the real world.
So, while I consider myself a Christian and therefore anything I write or do has to be defined by that, my fiction writing is not “Christian” as in the American genre, by any measure of the term. Waters of Bimini, and future books, will reflect reality as best as I can, including the darkness that does occur within the real world.