First, it's independently published. That's not so much by design . . . both Glen and I approached traditional publishers with our "not quite mainstream" but definitely Christian books. I could speculate on why publishers are unwilling to try something in this field: hard to market a new niche, uncomfortable with the level of honesty, unwilling to back something that could offend people. I don't know. And it doesn't really matter now. Independent publishing has allowed books that don't fit other people's predetermined categories to enter the market. If you like to read, and you 're not excited about that, check your pulse because you might be dead.
I feel that an even more important aspect of the "Indie" definition has to do with the type of content I think it includes. In the art world in general, "Indie" inherently means "different, creative, non-conformist, original, avant garde." And that is an intrinsic part of the "Indie" definition. Because "Indie" doesn't fit a standard mold it must be published independently--at least for now. So the two definitions are opposite sides of the same coin.
I've asked Glen to help me introduce you to the "Indie Christian" genre since he started it. Plus, I kind of credit Glen with helping me launch my career in the first place. He took a chance on my fiction when he was the Associate Editor of Listen Magazine, and I was trying to get published. Now, on the brink of beginning a new phase in my writing, I thought it was only fitting that he weigh in. Here, then, is my interview with Glen:
Your Champion trilogy is outside the usual Christian genre. What was your impetus for veering away from the usual, safe format for a Christian novel?
Several years ago, my friend and fellow editor Tim Lale challenged me to make my writing more “honest,” and I struggled for quite a while to determine what that is. (Oddly enough, I kind of remember Tim saying something of the sort to me at some point. Obviously, I didn't jump on it as quickly as Glen. Still, I think we have our instigator . . . CPW) I came to the conclusion that traditional Christian writing often veers on the side of “safe” and “predictable,” and I decided that not only did I not want my writing to be “safe” and “predictable,” but that true Christianity isn’t either one of those things. Jesus wasn’t interested in affirming the status quo, and we shouldn’t be either. Our writing should challenge readers with real Christian issues and concepts, but do it in a manner that is understandable to the world.
During the writing process, were you at all afraid of criticism by Christian readers for giving them something a little edgier than they might have expected?
When I decided that I was going to follow this path, I submitted my proposed manuscripts to a couple of traditional publishers. One saw what I considered action in my story as “too violent,” although it wasn’t any more violent than what one would see on network TV. Another considered it for a long while, but in the end rejecting it on the recommendation from the marketing department. I suspect they weren’t sure how to sell something this out of the ordinary.
In what ways do you feel the Champion trilogy addresses important Christian topics in a way that a more traditional Christian book couldn’t?
It deals with the issues of surrender, commitment and sacrifice, just like many other Christian stories. But my intention was to appeal to (1) Christians who don’t usually buy Christian books for the reasons cited above; and (2) secular readers who get caught up in the action and don’t care if there is a spiritual message as long as they enjoy the story. I learned this approach from my end-time novel, If Tomorrow Comes, which continues to sell to people I never would have expected.
Do you feel that Champion is in any way a more honest novel because of its disregard of convention? In what way?
I am dead-set against using “stained-glass” language in our stories, our sermons and our interaction with each other. I think it is exclusive, rather than inclusive, and we end up talking to ourselves rather than the world. We need to use the language and the methods that the world uses (within the limits of our own comfort and conscience). That’s how I interpret honesty. When I allude to a married pastor and his wife going to bed together because they are trying to get pregnant, one editor expressed some hesitation, but that’s real world, and so we shouldn’t have to avoid it.
Would you say that “Indie Christian” is an appropriate designation for a genre that is not quite what readers of Christian fiction typically expect? Why or why not?
To me, Indie applies more to method rather than content, but it definitely separates the intent of this kind of story from the traditional Christian stories. This kind of story probably wouldn’t have been considered 20 years ago, or even 10, but the changing landscape of publishing makes all kinds of new approaches possible.
As a reader, what sorts of books would you expect to see in the genre “Indie Christian”?
Definitely nontraditional. Indie books have been fighting an uphill battle against a lack of quality by many indie authors, but I think there have been some masterful indie books that have come out in the past few years that will help overturn this perception. I would think “Indie Christian” would mean books that were done in new, exciting, innovative, challenging ways.
Do you think you’ll write more novels in this genre?
Absolutely. But my interpretation of “indie” might not be everybody’s. I am currently working on a novel based on the Biblical character Jonathan, but it is definitely non-traditional. Much of the Bible is at least PG-13 rated, but we tend to sanitize it to make it “safe.” Christianity isn’t safe. I am in the process of developing my own writing manifesto, and when it is done, I plan on following it and inspiration to determine future projects.
And there you have it. What the Indie Christian genre means to the people who sorta, kinda created it and who hope that many other Christian authors will join us. A big "thank you" to Glen for submitting to a bunch of nosy questions. If you'd like a list of his other published work, go here. I expect to finish The Shaking this week (ahead of schedule) and hopefully add it to the list of published "Indie Christian" work out there the week after if all goes well. Stay tuned...
If you have a recommendation for a book you consider to be "Indie Christian," please share it in the comments section.