Well, we -- Bonnie, Debbie, Katy, Patti, Sharon and I -- often discuss the discussions in a flurry of emails. And after the "Keeper" discussion, Sharon noted the high percentage of non-CBA novels in the overall list that you readers provided.
Why is that, Sharon wondered.
I spent several years as a book reviewer for the CBA market with my own column in a publication called Release, as well as freelancing for America Online, A Closer Look, and other publications. One point of pride was that I read, cover to cover, every book I reviewed (except for two Bible reference books.) I tried to find good fiction to review because I love mystery and suspense and literary fiction.
It was an uphill battle. The Christian novel, overall, was not a keeper. In fact, looking over my library now, 15 years later, I can say that most of them were tossers. There were notable exceptions -- the Buechners and Blackstocks and Paul Maier-- but most of them I gave away.
Fast forward to now. A new generation of excellence in Christian fiction is hitting its stride. But even we, the tuned-in and sympathetic who want Christian fiction to be known for that excellence, still see ABA fiction often in a class above.
I have some suspicions about why we see things that way. Here are some of those suspicions.
1) Both secular and Christian readers are sensitized to any story that even smells like it has religion tacked onto it without being an inherent element in the story.
2) We have been infected by the secular world's images of religious people (for instance, most evangelical-types are depicted as intolerant and often oppressive on network television.)
3) If the sales figures are accurate, we are not as comfortable with contemporary Christian fiction set in the present among "regular" people. That's why Amish novels are so hot right now. We can read about being a courageous Christian woman during the first century or World War I. Or in a rural setting or among an ethnic group of which we are not members.
4) Much Christian fiction isn't well-written? (Yes, the font size was intentional.)
Now, I may be WAY off base in what I'm thinking. Maybe it's all statistical -- there are a bazillion secular writers compared to published Christian writers.
What do you think? Are there other factors afoot?