Category: Bookish Question

What's your favourite Christian Fiction genre?

Bookish Question #29 | What’s your favourite Christian Fiction genre?

Christian fiction comes in a range of genres

I suspect there are Christian versions of most of the genres found in general market fiction (with the exception of erotica and gay romance, for obvious reasons).

Romance readers are especially well catered for in Christian fiction. The Christian fiction industry is dominated by romance and the endless variations thereof: Amish romance, contemporary romance, historical romance (especially western romance and mail order bride romance ), and romantic suspense. Romance also creeps in to other genres such as women’s fiction, mystery, thrillers, and speculative fiction.

Romance is my favourite genre.

Not Amish romance—I don’t see anything romantic in having a house full of children producing endless dirty laundry, and no hot water. Yes, I suffer from #FirstWorldProblems and #SuburbanMomProblems (I think I see a future blog post there). But most other genres of romance, contemporary or historical, first person or third person. Especially if they have a touch of humour.

I like romance because I like the happy-ever-after ending romance guarantees. It reminds me of the gospel: no matter what bad things happen, we know we’ll get our happy-ever-after in Jesus.

We have hope.

I also see Christian romance novels as an allegory of our relationship with Christ. We are His bride, so surely this is the ultimate romance?

Yes, my favourite genre is romance, but I read most genres of Christian fiction—it shares that underlying message of hope. And it’s why I tend not to like stories without a happy ending. They often have no hope, and that doesn’t reflect the Truth of the Bible.

What’s your favourite Christian fiction genre? Why?

What Christian novel do you recommend

Bookish Question #28 | What Christian novel do you recommend?

What Christian novel or author would you recommend to a non-Christian reader?

I’m finding an increasing number of the novels I’m reviewing from Christian fiction publishers are “Christian lite”. They have little or no mention of God or Jesus, none of the main characters are overtly Christian, and there is no faith journey. I know this bugs a lot of faithful Christian fiction readers.

Many of us read Christian fiction not just because we want a “clean” read, but because we want to vicariously experience the faith journey of a fictional character. So when a “Christian” novel isn’t, we can feel a little cheated. But I’ve been involved in many online discussions over the years that have shown me we need these novels.

Christian fiction can’t just preach to the choir.

Sometimes we have to crawl out of our comfortable pews and do our bit in fulfilling the Great Commission. We have to write books that will lead people closer to God.

This can come through the most unlikely of titles. One of my online friends has an Asian family in his church who became Christians after the father read The Da Vinci Code. The man had never heard of Jesus, and Dan Brown’s much maligned book prompted him to look into who Jesus was.

I’m not a betting woman, but I’m sure that leading people to Christ wasn’t on Dan Brown’s list of things to achieve with his story.

Closer to home, I recently read a Goodreads review of The Secret to Hummingbird Cake by Celeste Fletcher McHale. I haven’t read the book, and the reviewer was disappointed that it wasn’t overtly Christian. Another lady joined the discussion, saying she’d become a Christian as a result of reading the book.

Hallelujah!

The commenter went on to say she’d been loaned the book by a Christian neighbour, and she never would have agreed to read it if it had been overtly Christian. In fact, she’d written to the author to share her conversion story, and the author was suitably thrilled and humbled.

Isn’t that what it’s about? Drawing people closer to Jesus—Christian and non-Christian?

Last week, I was listening to the Smart Podcast, Trashy Books, and the reviewers were talking about which romance books they recommend to non-romance readers. One—who isn’t a Christian, as far as I know—said she often recommends books by Deeanne Gist to readers she doesn’t know well, because she knows there won’t be any rauchy content in them that might offend some people.

Yet Deeanne Gist is a Christian author—one who has switched from traditional Christian fiction for a CBA publisher to “Christian lite” romances for a general market publisher. Gist’s newer books are still written from a Christian world view, but don’t have an overt faith element. Yet here they are, being recommended on one of the biggest general market romance review sites.

That’s not preaching to the choir.

So here’s the tough question. If you were in the position to loan your non-Christian neighbour a Christian novel, what novel or author would you suggest they read?

Why do you read (or not read) Christian fiction?

Bookish Question #27: Why do you read (or not read) Christian fiction?

Last week, I asked if you read Christian fiction. This post broke one of the so-called major rules of blogging: it asked a yes/no question. Apparently, blog posts are supposed to ask open-ended questions.

I’m now wondering about that rule, because when I shared the question and the post link on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, I got more responses than usual. That’s probably because it was an easy question … yes, or no (although some people said both, and some expanded on their answers).

So what did people say?

Most of my Facebook followers are Christians, and I know most are interested in and read Christian fiction.

One of my Facebook pages is called Iola’s Christian Reads, so that’s pretty much asking for followers to be Christian fiction readers. My other Facebook page is my author page, and my tagline is ‘Contemporary Christian Romance with a Kiwi twist’. That’s not something that’s going to appeal to general market fantasy readers.

Instagram is similar.

Most of my followers are people I follow, and most of the people I follow are Christian fiction writers, reviewers, or readers. So it’s no surprise that my Facebook and Instagram followers report that they do read Christian fiction.

Twitter was a little different.

My Twitter followers tend to be writers, and (while I haven’t asked) I expect that’s a mix of Christians and non-Christians. Generally, the people who answered my question on Twitter didn’t read Christian fiction, even though many of them said they were Christians.

The next obvious question is, why?

Why do you read Christian fiction?

While I mostly read and review Christian fiction, I also read some general market fiction. These tend to be bestsellers or novels that have been recommended to me as excellent.

But, given the choice, I’d rather read Christian fiction. Why? Several reasons …

General market fiction often has too much swearing, violence, or sex for my taste. Or all three. I read for entertainment, and I don’t find it entertaining to read about a character being raped or beaten up. It can linger in my brain for months or years (oddly enough, I’m a lot less sensitive when it comes to TV or movies—perhaps because they move on so fast that I’m not left to linger on the violence).

I like reading fiction that reflects my faith. I’m sure many non-Christians don’t read Christian fiction for the same reason—they also want to read fiction which reflects their values and beliefs.

I don’t like reading fiction where the characters spend their time angsting (that’s a word, right?) about #FirstWorldProblems that would be solved if they met Jesus.

I like reading fiction where something about God or about how we relate to God is woven into the story (I don’t like preachy fiction, where the author hits me over the head with his or her answers).

If you’re a Christian and you don’t read Christian fiction, why not?

This isn’t meant to be a challenge. It’s an honest enquiry. There are no wrong answers.

Is there an actual reason why you don’t read Christian fiction? Is it that you’re like my husband, who reads an average of one novel a year? Perhaps because you’re a diehard science fiction fan and there doesn’t seem to be any Christian sci-fi? Is it that you read some bestselling Christian novels years ago and didn’t enjoy them?

Or is it just that you don’t know it exists?

So why do you read (or why don’t you read) fiction?

Do You Read Christian Fiction?

Bookish Question #26: Do You Read Christian Fiction?

Do you read Christian fiction, general market fiction, or both?

A lot of people who read general market fiction (including Christians) don’t realise Christian fiction is a thing. If that’s you, let me assure you Christian fiction is a thing. Here in New Zealand, it’s mostly sold in Christian bookshops, but I do sometimes see it in the big box stores.

Can't Help Falling by Kara Isaac, spotted in The Warehouse Tauranga.
Can’t Help Falling by Kara Isaac, spotted in The Warehouse Tauranga.

In the US, it’s often found in major stores such as Walmart, Target, and in the religious section of Barnes & Noble (if you can find one). And you can find it online—Amazon has a huge selection.

I read both, but if you follow this blog or follow me on Goodreads, you’ll know I mostly read Christian fiction. But I do read some general market fiction as well … but the writing has to be good.

I prefer Christian fiction because it reflects my faith and values, and means I’m less likely to end up yelling at the characters for doing dumb things. I know Christians sometimes do dumb things, but not the same kind of dumb. I do have some issues with some Christian fiction … but I think that might be a different question.

Do you read Christian fiction?

Do you read tear-jerker novels?

Bookish Question #24: Do you read tear-jerker novels?

Today’s question comes from a recent question on the Avid Readers of Christian Fiction Facebook group. A reader was asking for recommendations for a “three-tissue tear-jerker”. There were over 100 comments on the post. Most were recommending books—some I’ve read, some I haven’t, and some that are on my to-read or to review pile.

But one commenter said she doesn’t read tear-jerker novels.

I can relate! I’m not a fan, in that while I sometimes read tear-jerker novelss, I don’t go deliberately out of my way to find them.

I think one of the reasons I tend to steer away from tear-jerker novels is because I like happy endings … and tear-jerker novels don’t always have happy endings. They’re often emotional and even emotionally satisfying, but happy? Not always.

When I do read a tear-jerker novel, it’s often because I’ve been taken by surprise.

It might be that I offered to review the book without realising it was going to be a tearjerker. For example, I’ve agreed to review Hold the Light by April McGovern … which one Avid Reader recommended as a three-tissue tearjerker. (I guess now I’m prepared.)

Less often, I choose a tearjerker because someone—or many someones—have recommended the book for the great story or great writing. Great writing often hits at the emotions, and that often means tearjerkers. I suspect The Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Bischof will fall into this category (I’ve bought it … but I haven’t read it yet even though *everyone* tells me I must).

When I actually read a tearjerker I usually enjoy it—especially if it’s one of those books that’s been recommended to me because of the writing.

It’s hard to write strong emotion well.

Some authors fall back on the emotional equivalent of kicking a kitten to incite emotion. That incites emotion in me—frustration because the author is obviously trying to manipulate me.

I prefer my emotional manipulation to be more subtle, for the writing to draw me into the characters and the plot so deeply that I don’t realise when the tears start. That’s great writing. And that’s why these tearjerkers are often the novels that win awards.

What about you? Do you read tear-jerker novels?

How many books are on your Mt TBR

Bookish Question #23: How Many Books are on Your To-Read Pile?

How many books are on your to-read list? What does your TBR (to be read) pile look like? How high is your Mt TBR?

If you’re anything like me, you have a never-ending pile of books to read. I think I have five. Five piles, not five books!

My piles (and lists) are:

1. Review Copies

I get most of my review copies through NetGalley, which provides free ebooks for review (for more information, click here to read my post at Australasian Christian Writers). I review one or two books a week, and there are currently 28 books in the To Review folder on my Kindle.

2. Ebooks I’ve Bought

Another folder on my Kindle is my 207 To Read folder. This is for books I’ve bought off Amazon since I got my Paperwhite in January this year. When I say “bought”, I mean “paid money for”. Yes, it would appear I buy more than one Kindle book a week … and don’t read them fast enough. There are currently 44 books in this folder.

3. Free Ebooks I’ve Downloaded

When I first got my Kindle I did what many new Kindle owners do: I downloaded dozens—okay, hundreds—of free ebooks. Most of them I’ve never read. There are 30 books in my 2017 Free Books folder on my Paperwhite, and I think there are over 1,000 on my previous Kindle Keyboard. Go on. Judge me. I have no impulse control.

4. Writing Craft Books

I buy and read a lot of writing craft books for my own writing and editing. Some are reference books I’ll never read from cover to cover (like dictionaries and style manuals). Others are books I do want to read. I’ve probably got ten physical books, plus a similar number of ebooks.

5. Physical novels I’ve bought and haven’t yet read.

This is the only physical stack of books—the rest are virtual. I never had unread book before I got my Kindle, and I wondered how people had stacks of unread books. Now know. I think I’ve got about 30 unread paperbacks. I think.

Some of these are books I’ve been given, and others are books I bought (often with my Koorong vouchers—for those of you who live in Australia or New Zealand, Koorong.com.au gives you a $10 voucher for every four reviews you write on their site, or every two video reviews. You can earn a maximum of $10 a month, and the vouchers are valid for three months. They can be used in store, or online.

What about you? How many unread books do you have? In how many stacks or piles or folders?

Bookish Question 21

Bookish Question #21: Do you skip to the end?

This question came up in one of the Facebook groups I’m a member of.

Do you ever skip to the end of a book and read the final pages?

Some readers in the Facebook discussion were happy to admit they did. Others consider even the thought to be anathema.

I think I’m somewhere in the middle.

Many genres are designed for dipping and skipping. Non-fiction is one–many non-fiction books are designed to be dipped in to, depending on what topic you’re interested in. We often read poetry one poem at a time, and not necessarily in the order they appear in the book—even though that was (presumably) the in which order the poet intended us to read them.

And the Bible—even if we are using a sequential Bible reading plan, we probably dip in and out of other books as we look for guidance on specific subjects, or as we listen to Sunday’s preacher.

But novels are written to be read from beginning to end. It can feel like cheating to jump ahead.

But I have done it on occasion. Have you?

Sometimes I’ll skip to the end when I’m worried the story won’t end like I want it to. For instance, the hero and heroine have to end up together in a romance novel. We know that when we begin. We’re not reading for the ending, but for the journey. But there have been times when the author has got me worried and I want to be reassured the characters will get their happy ever after.

Other times I’ll check the ending when I’m not enjoying the novel. Then I’m skipping because I want to know the end, to decide if I’m going to make the effort to finish the book.

I do skip less often since getting my Kindle—perhaps because it makes a conscious effort to tell the machine to go to the last page. It’s not a simple flick the way it is with a paperback.

Do you ever skip to the end of a novel? Why? Or why not?

Do you have a favourite novel

Bookish Question #20: Do you have a favourite novel?

Last week we talked about the novel we’ve read and reread. This week I’m taking a slightly different spin:

What’s your favourite novel?

This is a hard question. I have a free download available from this website—my fifty favourite authors. Yes, that’s favourite authors, not favourite novels. And I need to update it, to add in new authors I’ve discovered since I originally compiled it.

It will have to be an expansion. There is no way I can cut any of those authors off my list of favourites.

If you’d like a copy, sign up for my email list in the box on the right of this page.

I also had a Friday Fifteen feature on my previous blog, Iola’s Christian Reads, where authors share their fifteen favourite books or authors. Most offer to contribute thinking it will be easy … but find it more difficult than they’d anticipated.

And narrowing that list down to one favourite novel? Hard. Very hard. (A favourite book would be easier for most Christians. We’d say the Bible. But that’s kind of cheating.)

Can you do it? Do you have a favourite novel? What is it?

Bookish Question 19

Bookish Question #19: What’s the best Christian Romance Novel?

This is another fact-finding post in preparation for my upcoming presentation at the 2017 Romance Writers of New Zealand Conference. In case you missed it, I’m presenting on Christian Romance: the biggest genre you’ve never heard of.

Last week we discussed the (not easy) question of how you define Christian fiction in general, and Christian romance in particular. Well, it’s a romance writer’s conference. That’s what they want to read.

As part of my presentation, I’d like to be able to recommend some excellent examples of Christian romance novels.

What’s the novel you’ve read over and over because you love it so much? What novel do you loan out to friends over and over again? What novel do you recommend to people who ask you what they should read?

More importantly, why?

Do you love and recommend that novel because of the plot? The subplot? The characters? The writing? The way it shows the Christian faith? The setting? The author? The emotion? The theme? The message?

What’s the best Christian romance novel?

Bookish Question 18

Bookish Question #18: How do you define Christian Fiction?

This is a cross-post with Australasian Christian Writers. Click here to add to the discussion.

I have an ulterior motive in asking this question.

I’m presenting at the 2017 Romance Writers of New Zealand conference later this month. My topic is Christian Romance: the biggest romance genre you’ve never heard of.

I’ve been to two previous Romance Writers of New Zealand conferences, and met many authors writing all kinds of romance, from sweet to erotica. Some of these writers are Christians, who confess their worry at breaking in to the writing world when they don’t want to include sex scenes in their novels. They’ve barely heard of “clean” or sweet romance, let alone Christian romance.

That’s what prompted me to pitch the topic to the RWNZ Conference organisers last year (among others). And I guess it intrigued them as well, because this is the topic they asked me to speak on.

Here’s what I pitched to RWNZ:

Romance is one of the most popular genres in the US-driven Christian fiction market, but many New Zealand authors—even Christian authors—don’t know it exists. This session will:

  • Introduce authors to the Christian fiction genre and the CBA market.
  • Highlight the main Christian fiction imprints and publishers.
  • Consider how Christian fiction (and especially Christian romance) differs from general market fiction.
  • Discuss Christian vs. inspirational vs. crossover fiction, and the emerging trends for ‘clean reads’ and ‘edgy Christian fiction.’

Parts of the presentation will be easy. Who publishes Christian fiction? Easy—check the free download available from my website, www.christianediting.co.nz.

Which agents represent Christian authors? Also easy, thanks to a free download compiled by Michael Hyatt, the ex-CEO of Thomas Nelson.

And where can you buy Christian books? At Christian book stores—like Koorong.com in Australia, or Manna Christian Books and Sonshine Books here in New Zealand. And at Amazon. Of course.

But this leaves one big question. How do we define Christian fiction?

It sounds easy, but it isn’t. I’ve written several blog posts on defining Christian fiction and Christian romance. There is no easy answer.

What do you think, either as a reader or as a writer (or both)? How do you define Christian fiction? Specifically, Christian romance?

I’d love to know what you think!