Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Writing for the Christian Fiction Market
by Guest Blogger, Author Teresa Slack

For the Christian fiction author, the fast-growing Christian market has been an answer to prayer. Now Christian writers can tell the stories on their hearts without compromising their faith.

As the Christian market continues to explode in size, publishers still find it difficult to discover new talent. One of the reasons for this is many hopeful writers believe the Christian market is easier to break into than the mainstream market. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you are aspiring to write for the Christian market, not only must you write gripping, compelling prose that keeps a reader turning pages, you also must write within the parameters of the Christian Booksellers Association. Certain rules and mandates apply.

Christian readers want the same subject matter as non-Christian readers, only without a bombardment of ill language, gratuitous violence, and adult situations. A Christian mother does not want to bring a book into her home that would cause an awkward situation should her child open it up.

Writing to suit a certain market isn’t difficult when you understand the mindset of people buying these books. Ask yourself what you like to read. Would the book appeal to your mother or best friend? If your character or situation would offend a reader, you can assume it will also offend a Christian publisher.

That is not to say Christian publishers are not interested in formerly taboo subjects such as spousal abuse, divorce, abortion, and alternative lifestyles. What the Christian publisher does want is a Christian overview on how these topics are addressed. Publishers are getting more savvy every year in providing what the Christian reading public wants to read. Chick lit, thrillers, sassy heroines, and flawed heroes are immensely popular.

As a writer for the Christian market, nearly any subject is open to you. It is how you handle the subject that matters. Are your characters real? Can your reader identify with them and their problems? Would the reader handle the situation the same way, or can they at least empathize with the character’s choices? If your character acts in an unethical manner, regardless of the circumstances, the reader will not identify, thus is not likely to finish your book. Not only is that the last thing you want as a writer, many times you have lost that reader for every future work you produce. When you offend the readers you are trying hardest to reach, you have dug yourself into a pit you may never climb out of.

It is a necessary component in Christian fiction that your characters learn something through the course of the book. Not everyone must be born again within your pages, but they must have had an epiphany of some kind, a growing experience. In my book Streams of Mercy, the heroine needed to find out if her father was responsible for the disappearance and possible murder of an old girlfriend. The heroine had plenty of reasons to suspect him. In order to move on with her life, she needed to forgive her dad for the rotten way he treated her mom. In mainstream fiction, she may have exacted revenge on her father or learned to accept the fact that they could never have a relationship.

Not so in Christian fiction. Christianity is based on love and forgiveness. Jamie needed to forgive her father, whether he ever admitted any wrongdoing or not.

Finally, and I cannot emphasize this enough, do not preach to your audience. Readers of Christian literature want to be entertained, taught, and inspired as much as any other reader. But no one appreciates having a writer’s philosophies and doctrines rammed down his or her throat. Lectures are not an effective means of touching hearts and changing lives. Stories are.

Thanks to Karen for letting me post my thoughts on writing for the Christian fiction market here on her blog, and to her readers for bearing with me. Have a blessed and productive week, everyone.

Teresa Slack
Look for Evidence of Grace, Book 3 in the Jenna's Creek series by Teresa Slack in bookstores June 15th.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


What is your new book about?
Evidence of Grace is the third book in the Jenna’s Creek Novels Series. I don’t want to give too much away for readers just starting books one and two. Suffice it to say, new evidence surfaces in the murder of Sally Blake. The guilty party may be hiding more secrets about that night or may not have acted alone in the murder. Christy Blackwood has vowed never to speak to her mother again after finding out the secrets of her past. But now Christy is home and hiding some secrets of her own.

What were some of the challenges in writing the book?
Evidence of Grace is probably the hardest book to write so far in my career. I had so many story lines going on at one time, I had to make sure I gave each one ample billing. I also wanted to make sure the reader cared strongly about each story line. It was a challenging book to write, but also a lot of fun. I really enjoyed it. Of course, I always say that after a book is finished. While I’m writing it, it’s a pain and I wonder why I ever started it in the first place.

Have you ever started a book you haven’t been able to finish? Not since I started writing full time. You put too much of yourself into a project to walk away from it when it gets tough. No one would do that in any other line of work. If you did, you would lose all your clients.

How many more books do you see in the Jenna’s Creek Series? At least five. I think that’s a nice round number. But it all depends on how well the folks of Jenna’s Creek, Ohio deal with me intruding on their lives every so often.

What are the challenges in writing a series and a stand-alone book?
The challenge in writing a series is keeping each new installment fresh and interesting. I have to be careful too, about giving too much back story. I don’t want to lose readers who haven’t read the previous books, but I can’t bore readers who’ve been with me since the beginning. A stand-alone book is fun because I can write the story and then walk away. That’s also the downfall. I don’t know how many people told me they are anxious to read the sequel to A Tender Reed.

Are you planning a sequel to that book?
No, that story is finished. But I’m flattered that readers were reluctant to let the story go. I’m happy the characters had such a hold on them.

Are there any more series’ in your writing future?
I am currently working on a short romance that will be paired in a book with a romance by award winning novelist Molly Noble Bull.

What’s the most exciting thing that’s happened to you since you became a published author?
Oh, no, I don’t think I could narrow it down to one event. I have had the opportunity to meet other Christian writers, either in person at the International Christian Retailers Show in Denver, Colorado last summer, or in my online writers’ groups. But the greatest thing has been meeting with readers. I’ve done a lot of traveling to get the word out about the books, and everyone has been great. It’s wonderful to hear that the books are having a positive impact in people’s lives. That’s the most gratifying thing for a writer.

I know writing is a very isolating experience. How do you deal with being your own boss?
That is a very difficult task. I probably waste a lot more time than I would if I had a boss breathing down my neck. I’m dedicated about getting up at 6:15 every morning. I start my day with prayer and an exercise routine. If I don’t, it seems like the whole day gets frittered away with very little to show for it.

How much understanding and encouragement do you get from the people in your life?
More than I ever imagined. My husband is wonderful. He works nights, so he gets up about nine o’clock in the evening to get ready for work. If he wakes up to a tearful wife, he knows it’s been a bad writing day. If he wakes up to frozen pizza for dinner or no dinner at all, he knows it’s been a good writing day.

What would you do if you weren’t writing?
That’s a question I don’t really have an answer for since I truly feel called to write and blessed that I’m able to pursue it full time. I am naturally good with small children, so I suppose I would enjoy teaching at an early grade level. Or maybe I could become a nuclear physicist. I wonder if you need any special training for that.
Do you have any words of encouragement for people who dream of writing for publication?
Everywhere I go, someone asks me the formula for getting published. It’s like losing weight. I’m sorry to say there isn’t a twelve step program to success. We all know what to do; it’s just having the discipline to stick with it. Dedicate yourself to sitting in the chair and writing your story. Then polish and make it absolutely perfect. That includes typos and coffee stains. No editor wants to see a messy manuscript on her desk. Last but not least, don’t give up. I am living proof that an unagented, first-time novelist can find a traditional publisher. It isn’t easy or fast. But it is possible. Just keep writing.


Nearly thirty years have passed since Sally Blake disappeared from a party. Her remains were found twenty-five years later and her killer brought to justice. Or so everyone in Jenna’s Creek believes. A mysterious phone call from a potential eyewitness leads authorities to believe an innocent person may have pled guilty to her murder. Noel Wyatt enlists the help of a young attorney and David Davis, a retired judge who once prosecuted the case, to find out why.

Thus begins Evidence of Grace, the third installment of author Teresa Slack’s Jenna’s Creek series. Twists and surprises await the reader as more and more details leading up to the night of Sally’s disappearance are revealed. Did Noreen Trimble act alone in Sally’s murder? Why is she willing to sacrifice her own freedom in order to protect someone else?

Several new characters, only briefly mentioned in previous books, are introduced to keep the series fresh and moving forward. Ms. Slack’s down to earth writing style and her community of flawed and endearing characters will keep readers coming back to Jenna’s Creek for many books to come.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007


Gazing upward at the jelly-bean-colored assortment of balloons, a group of fifteen to twenty of us watched them soar into the crystal blue. We stood entranced for twenty minutes, until the bright orbs became specks of confetti high above us. The 292 balloons--black, red, yellow, blue, white--represented families in our North Georgia county whose lives felt the impact of abuse or neglect during 2006. On that flawless spring evening, April 30, 2007, something so heinous seemed impossible.

Kim, the organizer of this event, directs our county's Family and Children's Services. The statistics she shared startled us from our complacency. More children, Kim told us, die from neglect than from abuse. Eighty-five children from our county affected by abuse or neglect last year were under the age of one. Statewide, this number leaped to 8,461 infants. One hundred six children of various ages were investigated last year in our county for an alleged repeat episode of maltreatment.

Just as the participants released those commemorative balloons, we often want to let go of an issue too painful to comprehend. We think, "I'm one person; what can I do to change what's happening here?" Paul and Silas were only two men, yet the religious leaders of Thessalonica accused them of turning the world upside down. Did these two followers of Christ hesitate to speak truth and right wrongs?

May we take that one small but bold step today to "right-side up" the world.

Make a difference; pray for our nation, Thursday, May 3, and every day!
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