Ahh… Little Golden Books. They might not have been the first books my mother ever read to me, but they probably were. My first mystery. Nancy Drew. My first “western”? Well, I consider Little House on the Prairie to fit that bill!
But remembering all the books I’ve read over the years, and there’ve been thousands upon thousands, I thought about my own primary genre as an author—Christian fiction. I wonderd about Christian fiction introductions–who. How? Why?
You know, Christian fiction as a genre is rather new. That said, although not a unique genre in its own right at first, Christian fiction goes all the way back to books like Pilgrim’s Progress.
Through the centuries, “religious” fiction highlighting Christian faith and principles has always been there. In the 1800s, “Pansy” (Isabella Alden) wrote encouraging stories to encourage fellow Christians to live godly, faith-filled lives.
Later, her niece, Grace Livingston Hill took up the beacon. I remember reading an article about how for a time, Grace Livingston Hill allowed her publishers to dictate the content of her work, removing much of the faith and adding a great deal more of the romance. Later, she decided that she cared more about the content of her work than the popularity and chose to return to her more faith-filled roots. I wish I could remember where I found the article and if could prove it to be true or not.
And she’s not the only author to do something similar. If I recall correctly, author Terri Blackstock purchased some of her backlist from her publishers and rewrote them.
But as a specific genre, I don’t remember anyone using the term “Christian Fiction” until 1985 when a friend gave me a book to read, Not My Will by Francena Arnold. That made me wonder what other book lovers recall their first Christian fiction introductions, so I asked a few! I’ve linked their names to blog posts that might interest you.
Note: links may be affiliate links that provide me with a small commission at no extra expense to you. 🙂
Let’s get with the Christian fiction introductions
15 Bloggers Share How They Fell in Love with Christian Fiction
You introduced me to Christian Fiction via Past Forward, then through your blogs and talking back and forth about books and life in general. And as I read more of your novels and learned more ways to connect to other Christian authors and eventually to Celebrate Lit, I started reading more and blogging more. (Note: Alicia’s link takes you to a post just about this topic.)
Years ago, can’t think of how many exactly, maybe 14??? My husband bought me a couple of Karen Kingsbury books for Christmas because he thought they sounded interesting. I was hooked.
From there, I branched out little by little. I started reading Amish fiction because we have tons of Amish communities around us and I was curious. Then I actually made friends with an Amish woman and we started sharing books with each other. Over the past three years, I have really started to add to the genre list through reviewing opportunities. Have loved every moment.
Growing up, all I knew of Christian fiction was Grace Livingston Hill. I thought that it was all about love and winning the unsaved “Partner” to the Lord. But I began to seek out other Christian authors. (There are too many to mention right now). They were good, no, they were great! I had such fun reading them. But something happened.
I wanted to read a certain historical fiction series “The North and South.” I remember sitting at a picnic table and getting to so sexually graphic part. I quickly closed the book and prayed. What exactly I prayed I can’t remember, but the Lord told me to put that book where it belonged. I turned and saw a trash can and commenced to obey. When I returned to my seat and remember thinking, “There just HAS to be some good Christian writers. I recalled the Christian fiction I had read before, and the Lord directed me back. I then began to diligently seek out all genres of Christian fiction and found that they actually, in my opinion, exceeded the secular authors. I haven’t looked back since.
I don’t know who introduced me Just remember liking books since I was a baby! My grandma said I would read books in my crib and not tear them up or chew on them or anything, but I remember liking Helen Steiner Rice (poetry ) and Grace Livingston Hill.
My aunt actually introduced me to Christian fiction when I was a teenager because she would give me the books that she would read after she was done with them. What really hooked me was when my grandmother let me read her Love Comes Softly series. I have branched out a lot in the last three years because I started reviewing. I have found a ton of amazing authors that way.
My mom read the Narnia books to me when I was a kid, and I started reading the Mandie books at age 6 or 7, but I clearly remember my introduction to adult Christian fiction: I was in the 6th grade and had been begging my mom to let me check books out of the adult section of our public library. She finally agreed, provided I only checked out Christian books. (At that time, all Christian fiction was marked with a green sticker on the spine.) I started with Janette Oke and Gilbert Morris, and the rest is history!
I honestly don’t know who lead me to Christian Fiction. I guess the first that I can remember reading was Ernest Angley’s Raptured.
I’ve been reading for pretty much my whole life. 2nd grade is when I remember reading more. But by 6th grade, I spent all my free time reading. I used to walk up & down the aisles of the library looking for books. (Chautona’s note: Can you imagine Christian fiction your whole life. WOW!)
I grew up on the mission field. Not much Christian fiction available there, so we read and re-read and borrowed and shared with other missionaries. I was also homeschooled and we had no TV so reading was the pastime. I could not go anywhere without taking a book. I was a regular bookworm!
Then as I got older, married, working, I pretty much quit reading, but about seven years ago, I was going through a very trying time and a friend of mine sort of re-introduced me to Christian fiction and encouraged me to pick up a book and read! I did, started blogging, and haven’t quit since! Now, I really need to lay off a bit. ?:-)
I can’t remember what drew me to reading Christian fiction. I just know I wanted to try something different than young adults and children’s books
(From her linked blog post) “When I was growing up, my mother had a closet full of books. One series in particular always caught my attention, and I finally worked up the idea to ask my mother if I could read these books. She made me promise to take care of them, but pulled out the first book in the series and handed it to me. It was titled When Calls the Heart by Janette Oke, the first book in her ridiculously popular series Canadian West. (Now the books have these insanely gorgeous covers, but when I was a kid, they had these cheesy illustrated covers. And I adored them.)”
My grandmother introduced me through the Elizabeth Gail series by Hilda Stahl
My mom introduced me to Janette Oke when I was in high school. Then a year or so later, I went to a Christian bookstore looking for a study bible and discovered there was a whole other world of Christian fiction I had never known about.
I think one of my first Christian authors was Beverly Lewis.
I think my first Christian fiction book was either Roses for Mama or Nana’s Gift. I was a teenager who wanted to be grown up, so I read anything my mom would let me get away with. As a teen, you’re trying to relate to something a little deeper than the whimsical kid stuff you’d been reading, you want more of it. So, that was a big part of my “why” as a teen.
Sophie’s Heart probably grabbed me more than anything else. That’s when I fell in love with the genre for its own sake.
As for me… You know, I think I’ve told people that Michael Phillips’ “Secret of the Rose” series was my introduction to Christian fiction, but I was wrong. First came the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis when I was seven.
Then, at fourteen, that book by Francena Arnold—and a few more by her as well. And then I read a Grace Livingston Hill book in 1987—The Angel of His Presence. That book is exactly why I didn’t read anything else by her for a very long time.
Fortunately, friends introduced me to her better works like The Obsession of Victoria Gracen, Cloudy Jewel, Aunt Crete’s Emancipation, and our family’ personal favorite, Found Treasure. My eldest granddaughter was named after the heroine.