“Please Choose the Genre that Best Fits Your Book.”
Publishers, agents, editors, promoters—virtually everyone in the publishing industry—always want to know what genre label to past onto an author’s books. I would tell them mine are Contemporary Historical Romantic Sci-fi Christian Mysteries but that is never one of the available categories.
I used to feel guilty that my books didn’t fit neatly into a single genre. But now I mostly concentrate on just writing a good story. That seems to be what readers care most about, but still, they need to know what kind of critters they are, so I came up with the subtitle History Mystery for my original Time and Again trilogy. And then with my new follow-up Rewinding Time Series I give each book the long but self-explanatory subtitle: Inspirational Novels of History, Mystery & Romance. It seems to be helping, but still, reviewers often scratch their heads. Here’s a recent review for Time and Again:
If you like history, you will enjoy reading this book. If you like contemporary fiction, you will enjoy reading this book. I found it intriguing to observe how smoothly she connected the contemporary story with the historical. And even though this was book was hard to categorize (age group of readers), I thought it would easily fit in the young adult category, however it is a great fit for any age reader. I would recommend this for older teenagers, young adults, teachers/tutors, and those who love suspense, time travel and history.
She’s right. My books don’t fit neatly into a single category in terms of audience age either. Even though I aimed the Time and Again trilogy at young adults, most of my readers have turned out to be adults—many are even senior citizens. I think that is because I didn’t talk down to the teens I imagined would be reading them. I wouldn’t dare. They’re a smart, savvy bunch. Other reviewers posted these:
“It was such a good book from start to finish. I’m not sure how to classify the book. historical, Christian, science fiction, or young love but it is everything and more.”
“This is so much more than your standard time travel story, and the book spans so many genres that I think it will appeal to a wide variety of readers.”
Perhaps you’re thinking I should just settle for the general category of Christian Fiction and be done with it. It came as a surprise to me that some readers don’t think my books qualify as Christian fiction because of the whole time-travel thing. One blogger labeled the concept occult, as if fantasy is somehow unchristian. I could understand her concern if my characters actually had the power to change history, but they don’t. They are only able to view it via Merrideth’s amazing computer software. And I agree with Brother Greenfield who says in Every Hill and Mountain, “Our God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. If he wants to give us a gift like that he can.” And for some reason, God has seen fit to give this gift to Merrideth and her friends. Time and again as they watch people’s lives unfold on their computer screen they see God working out his plan amidst the pain and suffering of this sinful world.
If what is required to be labeled Christian fiction is a Pie-in-the-sky world where life is always rosy, or at least one where you can always count on God to step in and deliver a happy ending, my books don’t qualify. In my stories bad things often happen to good people. Sometimes they never even get to know why. And the main characters are not Super Christians who have all of life’s questions already figured out, ready to spout Bible verses or prayers at a moment’s notice for the edification of everyone they encounter. Personally, I find books like that annoying. I’m always thinking, hey, get on with the story already. Perhaps you’re thinking I’m not a very good Christian to think such a thing. You’re right. I’m not. I’m a fallen, imperfect person, and that’s the way I make my characters.
Which is why one of my favorite reviews to date is this one: “This is neither sci-fi nor the usual syrup of Christian fiction.”
I want my stories to resonate with real people living in their real worlds where life is not always nice, or even understandable. I believe for Christian authors to portray anything but a realistic view of life is unhelpful to readers hungry for the truth. Actually, it is downright cruel.
In the Time and Again trilogy, Abby and John don’t spend a lot of time quoting Scriptures or remembering to pray (which of course they should) but they do face what I think are realistic challenges as they struggle to fulfill the biblical command to “love thy neighbor” even though the Old Dears’ frailties and foibles are driving them a little crazy. They struggle to maintain sexual purity in a world where that is rare (and their attraction for each other is driving them a little crazy, too). Some readers have been nervous about the fact that Abby and John experience actual sexual desire and temptation. One person was horrified that the word “sexy” appeared in one of the books. I think these readers are confusing temptation with sin and missing the whole point that my characters are struggling to live godly lives in spite of the pressures the world puts on them.
And the Old Dears struggle too, as they attempt to understand what family means in view of the skeletons in their closet. And Franny’s friend lives in a dysfunctional home where her worst enemy is the man who is supposed to love, cherish, and protect her. And poor Reuben faces the injustice of…well you’ll just have to read Unclaimed Legacy to find out what.
And then in my new Rewinding Time Series, which is a fifteen-year-later follow up to the Time and Again trilogy, the main character Merrideth isn’t (shock of shock) even a Christian at all. She not only doesn’t spout Bible verses, she doesn’t even have a very accurate world view. But as she interacts with her Christian friends and experiences the lives of Christians from earlier centuries she begins to understand the Gospel’s message.
My books might not fit in a publisher’s standard genre, but I hope you will find room for them in your To-Be-Read-Stack. And then when you’ve had the chance to read them, I hope you find that they fit your definition of quality Christian fiction.
How Sweet the Sound: an inspirational novel of history, mystery & romance is coming soon! Read a complete description of it here.
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