“So… you write Christian fiction. I didn’t know that was a thing. Is there a market for that?”
I tried not to laugh. No, really. I did. I mean, is there a Christian fiction readership?
Thankfully, the gal didn’t notice that I’d choked back a laugh that morphed into what was probably a maniacal grin. “Um… yeah. A big one.”
It was her turn to grin. “I take it you’re rather successful.”
What do you say about that? To Bill Gates? Not hardly. But many authors would love to be where I am right now. I went with the obnoxious, “I can’t complain.” For the record, I felt pompous and condescending.
“Christian fiction…” You could see wheels churning. “So where do you find out what books are good? Are they on Goodreads or…?”
This time, I didn’t bother trying not to laugh. She wouldn’t be offended. “Um, yeah. But really, if you want good advice, check out Avid Readers of Christian Fiction on Facebook. They’re even doing cool giveaways right now in honor of hitting over 10K members.”
“Ten thousand people reading Christian fiction?”
I just nodded. “A drop in the bucket. I have a third of that on my mailing list. And mine isn’t huge.”
That caught her attention. We talked about the types of sub-genres until she said, “So what you’re saying is that basically, take any main genre, add a Christian faith element, and there’s a book for that?”
Then she hit me with a question I hadn’t expected. “So… do other authors like you get recommendations for books to read there?”
“Have they ever given you a bad recommendation?”
I’m just sayin’. If it was this easy to sell people on essential oils, leggings, wax melts, kitchen gadgets, or Amway, there would be some seriously happy direct sales people out there.
“No. But,” I felt like I needed to qualify my answer, “I also know what I like. I know the authors I don’t enjoy. So if someone recommends Francine Rivers, I know I’m not going to take that advice. If someone else always recommends Amish fiction, I’ll probably ignore that, too. But usually, I word the question specifically enough that I’ll get stuff closer to what I like. I mean, sometimes people will ask, ‘Do you know of any books that take place in Okinawa in the 4th century and are about silk traders?’ They get really specific sometimes.”
“Cool. I’m going to check that out.”
I went away from the conversation (which I modified a tiny bit to include the current giveaway information for your benefit) feeling rather pleased. It is a great group of interesting people who know their books.
I can’t recall what I asked for, but I am pretty sure it was something along the lines of, “What book that people are raving about did you love, too.”
Publisher’s Synopsis: Becoming a Christian is the best and worst thing that has ever happened to Sarah Hollenbeck.
Best because, well, that’s obvious. Worst because, up to this point, she’s made her very comfortable living as a well-known, bestselling author of steamy romance novels that would leave the members of her new church blushing.
Now Sarah is trying to reconcile her past with the future she’s chosen. She’s still under contract with her publisher and on the hook with her enormous fan base for the kind of book she’s not sure she can write anymore.
She’s beginning to think that the church might frown on her tithing on royalties from a “scandalous” book. And the fact that she’s falling in love with her pastor doesn’t make things any easier.
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The Secret Confessions of a Disappointed Reader
By chapter six, I was done. Seriously. I did not like the character, I didn’t like the plot, I didn’t like any of it. I couldn’t see where it was going. And usually, if you don’t get me by the end of the fourth chapter, I’m not going to finish. Why? Because I get precious little reading time in my life. I don’t want to waste it on a ho-hum or worse, unenjoyable book.
I went and looked at reviews.
Because, for the first time in a long time, I actively disliked a book rather than “didn’t like” it. There’s a difference, you know. When you “don’t like,” it can mean that you don’t care, either. You just don’t like it. But when you dislike, you actively don’t enjoy… you don’t care for it. You are done.
That’s where I was.
And it didn’t make sense.
I read a few things that said what I thought. But some of the good reviews hinted that I might like it better later. I kept reading because I really wanted to love this book.
Here’s what I discovered (minor spoilers).
This really is kind of a modern telling of Sense and Sensibility. Sarah Hollenbeck is Marianne Dashwood. Her practical friend who says it like it is (my favorite character), is Elinor. Sarah’s ex-husband would be Willoughby, and Ben (the hunky pastor who has the same insta-love for her that she has for him) is Colonel Brandon.
Except in this book, I don’t get what Colonel Ben sees in Sarah Marianne.
This is what the publisher says about the book.
With a powerful voice, penetrating insight, and plenty of wit, Bethany Turner explodes onto the scene with a debut that isn’t afraid to deal with the thorny realities of living the Christian life.
I agree with the first and last comments. This book, written in the first person, has a very authentic voice that helps you get to know the character well and quickly. And no, she does not shy away from the grittier areas of living in this fallen world through that character.
I just don’t like Sarah Hollenbeck. Trust me, I want to. I feel like there’s an interesting person behind that insecurity. Instead, however, I am glad she’s fictional so I don’t feel guilty about knowing that I’d have to fight avoiding her if she became a part of my life.
For the record, I like flawed, unlikeable characters.
I really do. Usually. I just don’t like this one. And it’s not because she wrote erotica novels before she became a Christian at the end of chapter 5 ish (Don’t have the book with me). We all know what I prude I am, but I hope people know that I am not afraid of dealing with the ugly stuff.
And I’ve been planning a book with an erotica writer for a couple of years now. I just haven’t figured out how to make it work to show what I want to show while leaving the erotica off the page. I do not want to go there. And trust me, you don’t want me to, either. I’d never make it in that genre, thank you, Jesus! So, until that happens, that book’ll just languish somewhere.
But in this book, the second half of the book is dripping with sex.
Not played out on the page, but it’s still there in every one of Sarah’s thoughts. Every. Single. One. I’m sure of it.
Look, Ms. Turner made an important point. Christian men and women are not immune to attraction and desire simply because the Holy Spirit dwells within them. Sometimes, Christian fiction acts like marriage turns on a switch that is otherwise completely shut off. I’ve been guilty of that, okay?
Choosing to address that was brilliant—important. But honestly, when did she address the lust? Because there was a whole lotta lusting going on, too.
Somewhere around the three-quarter mark, I thought I might like it better.
I didn’t. Instead, I ended the book feeling like a deflated balloon and walked away one disappointed reader.
What SLOSH has going for it:
Great writing. Seriously, the author has a brilliant, authentic voice that gets you into the head of the character right away.
And while it does have “insta-love,” it addresses it! What a novel idea! I soooooo appreciated that. Because it does happen. And when you act like it’s normal, that’s annoying. Ms. Turner didn’t do that. She acknowledged that it was an anomaly. Thank you.
Ms. Turner addresses real problems not only in the church today but in Christian fiction. She makes her characters be sexual creatures—as we were created to be!!! And she does have some good humor in it. I laughed out loud in a few places. Honestly, the funny bits, if I could have liked other parts a bit more, might have made me bump my star rating up. Unfortunately, two stars were the best I could do.
And I feel guilty about that.
Lesson learned. Don’t ask open-ended questions like that again. 😉