Monday, August 29, 2011

Is "Christian" a Genre?

A few months back, I was interviewed about The Strange Man and towards the end of the interview the question came up, "So, why did you choose to write in the Christian genre?"

I have to admit, I just sort of sat there for long seconds of stupefied silence. I was confused: Horror is my genre. I wanted to say, "No, no, I write horror. Look, I've got monsters!" I wanted to whip out my pedigree of horror-dom to prove to this person that I was a horror writer! At last, I stumbled and said, "Well, I'm a Christian. It just sort of comes out." The reporter nodded, jotted it down, and I believed I'd come up with a great answer.

But, as time has moved on, I'm not so sure.

There are some who can honestly give that answer. Recently I attended a writer's workshop and Robert Liparulo was in attendance. He relayed an encounter where someone came up to him and asked, "What's Christian about your stories?", to which he replied: "Me." That's a great answer and I think probably fits Bob perfectly. But, in my The Coming Evil books, no one who has read the book will ever have to ask the question: "What's Christian about your stories?" It's everywhere. I write about Christian characters dealing with specific struggles that Christians can relate to--things that "non-believers" don't necessarily understand. Book Two of the trilogy, Enemies of the Cross, has just got a fancy new cover. The book's getting closer to release date. It deals with anger towards God. Doubt--not in God's existence or power, but in His judgment. Does God really know what He's doing in my life? I think that's a unique circumstance to the Christian experience.

Understand, when I started writing these books, I had no idea about markets or target audience. I just had a love for the story and these characters and a desire to communicate my own faith journey. And, as much as I always wanted to believe that this series would be a cross-over success--something that Christians and secular horror audiences would enjoy--it's just not happening that way. Why? I've got monsters all over the place! I wrote this thing from a lifelong love of horror--years of my knowledge, influences, and passions boiled into one cataclysmic event!!

Perhaps the reason is that this isn't a novel in the "horror" genre. Could it be I wrote in the "Christian genre"? If that's so, it's certainly not because I chose to, but rather it's chosen me.

If only Christians read my book, is that a bad thing? It's a smaller audience, yes. A much smaller audience, given the global stage. But if I can challenge them, help them to grow, to excite them about their faith--even just simply entertain them with my story I will always think of as a monster/horror story--I don't see any shame in that.

As Christian writers, whether we're writing in the "Christian genre" or not, ultimately we have to trust this story inside us. We believe God's put it there--or at least blesses the fruits of the imagination He's given us--so we have to trust it will find its audience. That it will serve its purpose, whatever that purpose may be. I'm trying to trust that, to let the story be what it needs to be, regardless of genre or audience.

But it's an interesting question to me: Is "Christian" a genre? Or is it simply a perspective the writer brings to a genre? If it is a genre, is it possible to have a book published by a Christian Fiction publisher and yet not be of the "Christian genre"? Questions abound!


Bruce Hennigan said...

Can any GENRE by Christian? Christian horror? I never dreamed I would see the day and yet this is what I write. Christian science fiction? Christian fantasy? Christian romance? Christian mystery?

You get the picture. Maybe the key word is "Christian" and this is a genre. I hope not. If so, then all of our books will be stuck in that back shelf at Barnes & Noble, you know the one in the opposite corner from the bathroom where NO ONE goes!

Andrea Kuhn Boeshaar said...

Hi, Greg...Love your new cover! I don't like to get scared when I read. I have a lot of stressful things to handle during the day that when I'm done for the evening I want to read something light and interesting. I love history, so historical romances are my favorite. I think there are a lot of readers out there though who will enjoy ENEMIES OF THE CROSS. You may find that you've changed someone's mind about following God!

Andrea Kuhn Boeshaar said...

Re-phrase -- perhaps you will change someone's mind about NOT following God (so that they will follow Him). :)