Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Against the Tides or Surfing the Wave?

Five years ago when I began dabbling with the idea of a fantasy novel that had the tone of a contemporary women's fiction, I immediately was confronted with the harsh reality that certain genres are more difficult to place with a CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) publisher (and that was the target audience of these stories).

I understood the market realities, but the story wouldn't let me go. So I wrote the first three novels in the series. I kept praying, talking about the book with editors, and watching for an open door. Still, I often felt like a gawky junior high girl in a home-made dress sitting alone at school lunch and staring longingly at the table of "cool kids," knowing I didn't fit in.

Imagine my surprise and delight when I got my latest Writer's Digest and read something I've suspected for quite awhile now. In an article about "Fantastic Fiction," Jordan Rosenfeld wrote, "Recently, readers have been eager to read contemporary fantastic literature--and publishers are taking note."

She quotes agent Simon Lipskar as saying, "Anybody being honest about the current market will acknowledge that fiction that's not entirely of this world is red-hot."

Indeed, my market proposal for The Restorer included mention of the many bestsellers in the general market that are written with a contemporary voice and include fantastical elements.

So far, the ripple of this trend has been felt in Young Adult Fiction (with fantasy authors Wayne Batson and Bryan Davis hitting the CBA best-seller lists in those categories) and perhaps the effect will build in the adult fiction readership of CBA as well.

I'm no longer sure if my stories are going against the tides or surfing the wave of a new hunger for imagination, metaphor, and the hero's journey in fiction. I do believe that for the pure joy of being lost in a story, and for the inspiration that comes from vicariously experiencing epic struggles and courageous choices, the fantasy genre has a lot to offer. Happily, my adult contemporary fiction fantasy series found a home at NavPress and the first book releases on May 15, 2007.

Will it be a fantasy that gets invited to sit at the table with other genres? I'm not sure. I do know that I've run into MANY authors recently who've whispered to me, as if it's a frightening secret, "I really want to write a fantasy novel one day." These are successful novelists in other genres - but they are also hoping that doors will open for more speculative ficiton. Whether this change is driven by the authors who stubbornly keep creating these wonderful stories, or by courageous editors, marketing teams, sales staff, and store buyers, or by the public who search out and request these titles, I believe the tide is turning. In the meantime, here's to all the great authors who are swimming against the tide, writing the books of their heart, and waiting to catch a wave.

Sharon Hinck


Becky said...

Great minds run in the same channel. ;-)


Ruth said...

Sharon, just wanted to say I am SO looking forward to reading this book! Can't wait!
Ruth (http://www.xanga.com/christianfictionqueen)

Sally Bradley said...

Hm. I do NOT want to write a fantasy novel.

But I do want to read this one! Can't wait to get a hold of it, Sharon.

Sharon Hinck said...

Becky, I LOVED your article about this!

Ruth, thanks so much! Can you tell I'm excited for it to come out? :-)

Sally, that's okay. Some of us need to write the slightly-closer-to-normal stuff (although I'm not sure ANY fiction writer is completely normal - LOL!)

Jordan E. Rosenfeld said...

Sharon, thanks for the link...I'm sorry WD doesn't make the articles availble on line! I'll look for your work.

Jordan E. Rosenfeld

Galactic Overlord-In-Chief said...

Normal? Egad! What a foreign word to me! Heehee.

I've had many of the same thoughts about riding this whole wave thing. My current project is in science fiction, which is probably even less understood than fantasy. I hope that the trail blazed by Wayne, Bryan, and yourself will help me along when it comes time for me to shop my humble offering around the publishing powers-that-be.

- Jason


Sharon Hinck said...

Jordan, I hope everyone will run out and buy the latest WD so they can read your article! Thanks for stopping by.

Jason, yes, you've chosen a genre that's even a wee bit tougher than fantasy in the CBA market. :-) Hooray for you!

I firmly believe we need every art form to communicate about the wonders of God - and a variety of styles and genres within each art form. :-)

WayneThomasBatson said...

Sharon, I am convinced that we are riding the wave, but…as of now, this wave is a massive swell out in the open ocean, invisible because of its size but felt by those at sea. Just wait until this baby makes landfall!

Deena said...

I tell ya, Christians might be up in arms about Harry Potter...but he has opened up a new realm of possibilities for the publishing industry...
Finding clean, readable fantasy is a goal of mine...I love the stuff, but can't handle what I call the "ick" factor found in most popular titles...
So I'm eager to try Christian fantasy...I'm excited about some new authors and titles I'm finding...especially YOURS!!!