I wrote my first novel, a romantic saga, in 1981. It was published by Leisure Books in 1984. Little did I realize, as I launched into this career, that God had something else in mind for me beyond writing romance novels for the general mass market.
In the fall of 1991, I read REDEEMING LOVE by Francine Rivers, and suddenly I saw the real power fiction could have. It went beyond merely entertaining readers (although entertainment is something I always seek to provide). It was the power of stories to change lives for the better and for eternity. It was then I also realized how many compromises I’d made in my career, seeking to please men (publishers, editors, readers, self) rather than God.
Slowly but surely, God began to place in my heart a desire to write for Him. Still, I had a hard time believing that my talents were good enough — or that I personally was good enough — for Him to use. But God uses who He will, even flawed, imperfect me, and His grace is sufficient.
In 1997, the idea for THE FORGIVING HOUR came to me in a dream. I knew this was a novel that could only be published in the Christian market (CBA). I had already experienced references to faith and prayer being edited out of my novels by my general market (ABA) publisher because, as one former editor put it, “we don’t want to offend any of our readers.” Therefore, I believed THE FORGIVING HOUR would never remain true to the vision God gave me if it was published outside the CBA.
I did a great deal of praying over many months, seeking God’s will regarding this change in career direction. He answered my prayers one Sunday morning, using a word from Ephesians 2:10. He told me He had already prepared the work beforehand and that He was going to do things that I could not even hope for, dream of, or imagine. And then He told me what He wanted from me: To be sold out to Him, 100%.
I’m so grateful for the patience of my Lord as He drew me into a closer walk with Him and into a life of more service to Him. I’m so thankful that He demanded my all and didn’t let me settle for less.
What Is “Christian” Fiction?
So often, when people ask me what I write and I answer “Christian fiction,” I get a blank or puzzled stare. Many readers simply don’t understand what makes my women’s fiction or romances different from other women’s fiction or romances written by someone else.
The Christy Awards web site explained it this way:
Christian fiction is a category of stories written by novelists whose Christian world view is woven into the fabric of the plot and character development. Although this definition might seem either simplistic on the one hand or overly broad on the other, this grouping of novels is as comprehensive and as varied in age, interest, and spiritual depth as its readership. C.S. Lewis resisted the label “Christian” for his novels, contending that he was simply creating a story. But whether overtly or subtly, Lewis’ fiction came out of his understanding of God and of the universe He created, out of the knowledge that God cares deeply about His creation that has been damaged by sin, and He joined the human race to build a bridge back to himself. This bridge between God and humanity will in some way inform and characterize every Christian novel.
Good fiction, whether or not it is identified as Christian, will provide a memorable reading experience that captures the imagination, inspires, challenges, and educates. Fiction published for the Christian book market does not include the gratuitous demonstration of sin—whether language, violence, sexual situations, or the more hidden sins of idolatry and self-worship. Credible characters in a fallen world, of course, will sin. But the Christian novel’s presentation of the grit and grime of human circumstance will not be done for its own sake or to titillate, but to point the reader toward hope, toward God.
Because the essence of Christianity is a relationship with God, a Christian novelists’ well-conceived story will in some way, whether directly or indirectly, add insight to the reader’s understanding of life, of faith, of the Creator’s yearning over His creation.