Biblical Fiction: Dead or Alive?

At the writers conference I attended in March, I had an opportunity to meet with someone who is the head of a Christian agency and well known in Christian publishing. I didn’t go with the plan of talking with him, so was pretty proud of myself for taking the plunge. I knew it would be a good experience, both to speak with him and to hear his thoughts on the book I’m writing. Now, I was not expecting much–no, I really didn’t think I would tell him about my story, he would respond with delight, and hand me a contract on the spot. The dream is there but I was feeling pretty realistic. However, I have spent a bit of time thinking over some of the things he said, and I have to admit, I am still puzzled by his attitude.

His first response to my pitch of “I’ve written an historical novel about Solomon growing up in King David’s palace,” was “People aren’t reading Biblical fiction. That just doesn’t sell, and no one is publishing it.”

I was stunned and, yes, I’m a bit of a slow thinker, so it wasn’t until I was back in my hotel room that I thought: “What about Tessa Afshar? Ginger Garrett? Connilyn Cossette? Francine Rivers? Jill Eileen Smith? Stephanie Landsem? Mesu Andrews? These writers may not be on the New York Times bestseller list, but they are all publishing Biblical fiction and doing reasonably well. I am currently reading Tessa Afshar’s Land of Silence, am enjoying it, and believe it is very well written. 

Did I misunderstand him? No, the conversation went on from there as he explained the ups and downs of Biblical fiction and told me why no one was interested in that any more. Of course, I tried to tell him that my book was special and many people would be interested in it and love to read it. Well, I didn’t exactly say all that, but I did spend more time telling him of my story, but I did not leave with a positive impression.

Looking through the authors I mentioned above, I found they were published by six different publishers, so there seems to be quite a few publishers still interested in these books.

So, am I wrong, and is he right? Are people not interested in reading Biblical fiction? What about you? Have you read any of these authors lately? Have you any others to add and recommend?

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My Takeaways from the Writing Conference

It’s already been a week since I attended my first Writers Conference. I’ve been busy correcting my manuscript (more on that shortly), and writing some flash fiction for a contest. But I want to take a few minutes to give you some highlights of my takeaway from the conference. First, it was exciting, disappointing, and fun. Exciting just to be there; disappointing to receive my critiqued manuscript full of red marks; and fun meeting and hearing from other writers.

I attended several workshops, heard from the faculty during two panel discussions, and listened to the main speaker, Torry Martin.

At one workshop led by Larry Leech, I learned about the importance of having an “adorable antagonist.” A villain is needed for conflict but should not be used just as a scapegoat. A villain should be likable in some way and the bigger (s)he is, the greater the victory for the protagonist.

From DiAnn Mills, I heard about creating good dialogue. A writer needs to know what motivates their characters, to understand their top emotions and what type of body language they would use to express themselves. Gestures and body language help to “show and not tell.”

During a panel discussion, the members of the faculty were asked to give and explain some of their pet peeves concerning writing. Among these were: exclamation points, misuse of pronouns, using the passive voice, run-on sentences, indefinite “it” beginning a sentence, and the overuse of being verbs. When I heard this last discussed, it struck home with me, and I had to wonder if my writing was guilty of this. I didn’t have to wonder long. When I received my critique the next day, the use of many “be” verbs was heavily marked.

The main speaker for the conference, Torry Martin, spoke on the importance of networking. He stated that we don’t need to be a “bon vivant” to network. (Always good to learn new words and how to use them). Since most writers (including myself) are introverts, this was good to know!  Torry had a lot of good advice on networking, and if you ever have a chance to hear him, I highly recommend taking the opportunity.  I particularly appreciated his way of looking at networking from a spiritual perspective. He quoted Philippians 2:3 (“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves”) several times during his lecture, stating that all networking by Christians should be done with this verse in mind as we want to do all things under Christ’s leadership.

In all, I enjoyed hearing from different writers and having a chance to mingle for a couple of days. I know I have a great deal of work to do, but I left inspired and encouraged to keep at it.

Any conferences or workshops that you have attended lately? Or plan to in the near future? I hope this has encouraged you to check some out.