Author Interview ~ Diana Gabaldon

Diana Gabaldon is the author of the award-winning, NYT-bestselling OUTLANDER novels, described by Salon magazine as “the smartest historical sci-fi adventure-romance story ever written by a science Ph.D. with a background in scripting “Scrooge McDuck” comics.”
The adventure began in 1991 with the classic OUTLANDER (“historical fiction with a Moebius twist”), continued through five more New York Times-bestselling novels–DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, VOYAGER, DRUMS OF AUTUMN, THE FIERY CROSS, and A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES–and a nonfiction (well, relatively) companion volume, THE OUTLANDISH COMPANION, which provides copious details on the settings, background, characters, research, and writing of the novels. Dr. Gabaldon has also written a historical mystery, LORD JOHN AND THE PRIVATE MATTER, and several novellas featuring Lord John Grey.

The most recent OUTLANDER novel, A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES, won the 2006 Corine prize for Fiction, and the 2006 Quill Award for “best science-fiction/fantasy/horror”
What new book or project do you have coming out?

Well, LORD JOHN AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE will be released in September (this year—2007),
followed immediately by LORD JOHN AND THE HAND OF DEVILS in December. BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE is either the second Lord John historical mystery—or the first, depending how you want to look at it. LORD JOHN AND THE PRIVATE MATTER, published in 2004, was technically the “first” Lord John novel—but I was under the impression that it was a short story when I wrote it . I knew BROTHERHOOD was a novel when I began it (and it’s nearly twice as long as PRIVATE MATTER).

HAND OF DEVILS is a collection of three “Lord John” novellas: “Lord John and the Hellfire Club,” “Lord John and the Succubus,” and “Lord John and the Haunted Soldier.” (The first two novellas have appeared in print, in a mystery anthology (PAST POISONS) and a fantasy anthology (LEGENDS II), but “Haunted Soldier”—which follows BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE chronologically—is brand new.)

I should add that there is a “Book Seven” in the OUTLANDER series, to follow A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES. These massive books take me 2-3 years to write, but I am working on it, as well as on RED ANT’S HEAD, a contemporary mystery.

How did you come up with this story? Was there a specific ‘what if’ moment?

Not at all. I just wanted to write a novel, in order to learn how. Having decided that for me, an historical novel would likely be the easiest thing to do (no genre constraints—as such—and I was a research professor; I knew what to do with a library), I chose eighteenth-century Scotland on a whim, having seen a minor Scottish character from 1745 (in his kilt ) on an ancient “Dr. Who” rerun.

(Despite the “Dr. Who” connection, I should note that this had nothing to do with the time-travel aspects of the book.) It was a perfectly straightforward historical novel for about three days. At that point, I decided that, while I needed a lot of Scotsmen because of the kilt factor, it would be a good idea to have a female character to play off them and create sexual tension—and since I’d already decided to use the Jacobite Rising as a backdrop, if I made her an Englishwoman, we’d have lots of tension.

Mind, I knew nothing else about her, save that she was an Englishwoman. So, on the third day, I loosed her into a cottage full of Scotsmen, to see what she’d do. Whereupon she refused to talk like an eighteenth-century person; just kept making smart-ass modern remarks about everything she saw—and she also took over and started telling the story herself.

“Fine,” I said. “I’m not going to fight with you all the way through this book. Nobody’s ever going to see this; it doesn’t matter what bizarre thing I do. Go ahead and be modern; I’ll figure out how you got there later.” So it’s all her fault that there’s time-travel in these books.)

Tell us about your publishing journey. How long had you been writing before you got a contract? How did you find out and what went through your mind?

Well…I got a literary agent before I finished the manuscript (not common; I was very lucky). When I did finish, he sent the ms. to five editors…and within four days, three of them had called with offers to buy it.

My agent called to tell me this. As I recall, my response was, “Oh” . “That’s…good, isn’t it?” “Very good!” he assured me.

Your first series was the Outlander, a time travel series. My husband and I both read them all and loved them. Was it a tough sell to publishers? If so, what kept you motivated to continue writing a genre that might not have seen the light of publishing day?

See above.

The OUTLANDER series is not finished, btw. I don’t yet have a working title for Book Seven (which is what I’m calling it, by default), but there is one. Or maybe two. I won’t know until I’m a lot farther into it.

Discuss how you approach the issue of the time-traveler and the time-resident realizing they’re not from the same time period.

I just wrote it as I saw it happening. It doesn’t happen often, and when it does, I just take into account the personalities on both sides.

Today, time travel stories are a tough sell. Why do you think publishers and/or readers are hesitant about them?

Possibly because so many of them are Just Awful, would be my guess.

Do you ever struggle with writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?

No. I realized a long time ago that the only way past a writer’s block was the obvious: you write. It doesn’t matter if what you’re writing is difficult, bad, frustrating, whatever. If you keep doing it, it gets easier, better, more satisfying, whatever. If you don’t, it doesn’t. Ergo, you gotta writer’s block, you write. QED.

What is the most difficult part of writing for you (or was when you first started on your writing journey), i.e. plot, POV, characterization, etc?

Nothing in particular. Just the constant necessity of finding words—the best words—and putting them on the page.

(I should maybe add that I can’t—as many people seem to—regard writing as an assemblage of separate pieces: plot, character, POV, grammar, etc., that all have to be dealt with separately and then somehow coordinated. It’s just… writing.)

Where do you write? Do you have a dedicated office or a corner or nook in a room?

Well, I do have an office. But I can—and do—work almost anywhere. When I’m writing, I’m not actually where my body is, so it really doesn’t matter.

Do you have a word or page goal you set for each day?

Depends where I am in the book. In the early stages of a book, when I don’t know anything about it, and am doing a lot of research, I may only be writing half a page or so each day—but I do write every day. That’s important; if you don’t, the inertia builds up on you, and the prospect of beginning gets more and more daunting. If you’re writing even a little bit each day, it kind of keeps the gears oiled.

As I move into the book, though, and begin to have some idea of what’s going on here and there, my “walking pace,” as I put it, is about a thousand words a day. I maintain that through the greater part of the book. Then, as I approach the final phase—what I call The Final Frenzy—where I know everything, then it’s just a matter of how long I can sit at the keyboard without falling over. I may be working 12-15 hours a day, barely pausing to eat or sleep. Luckily, this phase only lasts a few weeks, or I’d die.

What does a typical day look like for you?

This would be assuming that there is such a thing. Well, there sort of is. If I’m not having to go run around the world, make commencement speeches at universities (I’m doing one next week; the university in question is awarding me an honorary degree: Doctor of Humane Letters (yeah, I did ask them what an inhumane letter might be. You’d think people who deal with undergraduates would have more of a sense of humor)), or drop everything to copy-edit a manuscript or rewrite the catalogue copy…

I get up around 9 AM (ideally), get a Diet Coke, and stagger upstairs, where I spend an hour or two answering email, doing interview questions, making a to-do list for the day, and possibly carving a little wood. Around 11, I become sufficiently compos mentis to work, and start writing, just to get a foothold on the day’s work.

Then my husband comes home for lunch, we hang around or run an errand or two—go get the car washed on our way home from Burger King, for instance–then I go up and work for another hour; maybe more, if the words are rolling.

If not, I may do research—go down to the university library or paw through my vast reference collection—or more business stuff (just saying “No,” politely takes a lot of time. Saying “Yes,” takes even more, because then the people who have invited you to do something next year start peppering you with requests for photos, bios, descriptions of what you’re going to do, hotel preferences (non-smoking and 24-hour Room Service. For some reason, the hosts never believe me about the 24-hour Room Service.

If you do evening events—which I normally do—though, chances are good that you’ll get back to your hotel after 10 PM. This means you eat out of the vending machine, or you call the nearest Domino’s and hope they stay open after 10 PM).

Mid-afternoon, I go run the household errands: dry-cleaning, dog to vet, grocery-shopping, Thuricide ™ for the grape-vines (yes, I am an organic gardener. Despite the name, Thuricide ™ is a biological agent—it’s actually a bacterium that, when ingested by grape-vine skeletonizers, causes them to starve to death. So much more humane than zapping them with Raid or DDT), etc. Then I work in my garden for awhile (herbs, vegetables, and flowers), exercise (I try to walk five miles a day, whether inside or out, depending on the weather), and fix dinner (love to cook).

Hang around with my husband for awhile. He likes to go to bed early, so I tuck him in around 10, then go lie down on the couch with a book—research or recreation—and if no one needs me for anything, I’ll fall asleep in 15-20 minutes. Then I wake up automatically around midnight or 1 AM, and go upstairs to work. My main work-time is between midnight and 4 AM. Then I go back to bed.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve heard?

I don’t know. I do hang around with writers, and every now and then someone will say something that causes me to nod and go, “Yeah! What you said!” Don’t keep track of them, though; there’s a lot of good advice around—the only thing that matters is whether it’s what you need at the time.

What do you wish you’d known early in your career that might have saved you some time and/or frustration in writing? In publishing?

Well…nothing, really. I didn’t waste much time. I should perhaps point out that while OUTLANDER was indeed my first novel, I was in fact a very experienced writer at the time I decided to try writing a novel. I was 36, a professional scientist, a university professor—and in addition to all the things one has to write in process of getting advanced degrees and pursuing that sort of career, I’d also been writing freelance (everything from Walt Disney comics to software reviews for BYTE magazine, computer documentation and tutorials, and articles on how to clean a long-horn cow’s skull to use as home decoration—basically, anything anyone would pay me for) for several years. I knew one end of a sentence from the other, and I knew how to write query letters, read contracts, and deal with editors.

And I was a research professor. I knew how to find things out, and I did—in terms of how publishing works (or worked; it’s changed quite a bit over the last fifteen years), finding a literary agent, etc. As I said above, I had an agent some months before I finished the book, and he sold it (and the next two books) pretty much immediately.

As for saving time in writing….kind of not the point. I know what you’re asking—did I spend months tangled up in my underwear and finally discover The Joy of Outlining—but no. I write in a very idiosyncratic way that depends in part on the way my mind works, and in part on the fact that I began writing fiction while having two full-time jobs and three small children. I.e., I write in bits and pieces, non-linearly, and gradually, the pieces begin to stick together; as I work, each book evolves into an n-dimensional geometrical “shape” in my head, and new pieces fit into it. I don’t suppose that this is the height of efficiency—but as I said, saving time and being efficient aren’t the point of writing a novel; the point is to write a good book. However you do that is the right way to have done it.

How much marketing do you do? What have you found that particularly works well for you?

For the most part, Internet stuff: my website, and assorted interviews like this one. For my last book, the publisher suggested doing a series of podcasts, which were remarkably popular, judging from the comments I received. I don’t know whether the podcasts attracted any new readers, or just made the old ones happy , but it was a good idea, either way; I’d certainly do it again.

I don’t do a lot of marketing, save when a new book is about to come out. Then I’ll go do book-tours and the like. Otherwise, I have to pick and choose what I’ll do in the way of personal appearances, because after a certain point in a writing career, that stuff will just eat you alive, and you have no time for writing books, personal life, or anything else.

I try to keep it down to two or three big jaunts (I just came back from one of these; a three-week, six-city hop that encompassed a National Library Week gig in Virginia Beach, a visit with my eldest daughter in Charlottesville, a dinner with my sister in Washington, DC, a Spanish book-tour in Madrid and Barcelona, and a rendezvous with my husband in New York, during which I also had nonstop business meetings with assorted editors, agents, etc.) a year, plus one or two one-day events that don’t require a lot of travel—i.e., a day at the Arizona Book Festival, or a day at one of the sf/f cons in-state, or a public library appearance in California, Arizona, or New Mexico (anyplace I can reach and return from within a day).—a month. This means developing the capacity to say, “No,” several times a week—which is regrettable, because I really enjoy talking to readers—but it’s a matter of self-preservation.

For the new “Lord John” books, the publisher has asked me to do a “Long Pen” signing at this year’s BEA (BookExpo). Rather than flying me to New York (where the BookExpo is this year) to sign galleys in person, which would take three days of my time, they’ll instead have a technician come to my house and set up equipment that (theoretically) will allow me to chat with readers for an hour via a video-conferencing screen and physically sign their galleys. We’ll see how this works, but it sounds interesting.

Do you have any parting words of advice?

Sure. Gabaldon’s Three Rules on Becoming a Writer:
1. Read.
2. Write.
And (most important)—
3. Don’t Stop!!

Good luck!

Author Interview ~ Debby Giusti

Always busy with church, school and community activities, when Debby Giusti and her family moved to Atlanta, GA, she knew it was time to settle down and write her first book. Despite occasional moments of wanderlust, she spends most of her time writing inspirational romantic suspense for Steeple Hill. Debby has written magazine articles for Southern Lady, Woman’s World, Our Sunday Visitor, Army and Family. She serves on the editorial advisory board of ADVANCE for Administrators of the Laboratory, and stories about her family’s outreach are featured in CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE VOLUNTEER’S SOUL and CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE CHRISTIAN SOUL 2.

What new book or project do you have coming out?

Thanks for inviting me to chat on Novel Journey. Your site is phenomenal, and I’m a frequent visitor. Keep up the great work.

Nowhere to Hide, my debut inspirational romantic suspense from Steeple Hill, was an April release so I’ve spent the last month traveling around Georgia and Alabama telling folks about my book. That’s been fun! Whenever I talk to readers, I always remind them that they’re the reason I write.

My second novel, Scared to Death, will be out in August. Book three—MIA: Missing in Atlanta—will be released in March 2008.

How did you come up with this story? Was there a specific ‘what if’ moment?

Inspiration for Nowhere to Hide hit one day shortly after my family and I moved into a new home that had a security alarm. Inadvertently, one of us tripped the silent alarm that alerts the police department of a problem. When I looked out the window and saw two police officers running toward my house, hands on their guns, I knew I had a great opening for my book.

Tell us about your publishing journey. How long had you been writing before you got a contract? How did you find out and what went through your mind?

I’m a medical technologist and started writing for medical magazines, then added some ladies’ publications as I increased my freelancing. Eventually, I turned to writing full-length fiction. Steeple Hill Senior Editor Krista Stroever called me on August 3, 2005, and said she wanted to offer me a contract for Nowhere to Hide. Luckily Krista prompted me to write down everything she said because, when I got off the phone, I was in shock and couldn’t remember anything except she wanted to publish my book.

Do you ever struggle with writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?

My problem is more writer’s procrastination! I can always find something around the house that needs to be done instead of sitting at the computer, especially at the beginning of a story when I’m trying to get that first draft written. Now, I use my Alpha Smart–a keyboard with a small screen—for the first draft. It forces me to push forward to the end. Then I enter the text into my computer and start rewriting, which is my favorite part of the process.

What is the most difficult part of writing for you (or was when you first started on your writing journey), i.e. plot, POV, characterization, etc?

Hmmm? I’d have to say characterization. At first I created perfect characters who had no flaws and were very dull people. Now I like to pile on the problems and see how the hero and heroine work their way out of the mess.

Where do you write? Do you have a dedicated office or a corner or nook in a room?

I’m lucky to have an office, but since I’m an extrovert, I sometimes tire of being alone. That’s when I grab my laptop and head to the local Starbucks. Being surrounded by a coffeehouse full of people makes the work much more fun.

Do you have a word or page goal you set for each day?

I should have a page count, but I don’t. Right now, I just spend a good portion of each day at the computer. Eventually the book gets done.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I usually write from mid-morning to late afternoon when it’s time to start dinner. In the evening, I’ll return to the computer to check my emails or do marketing work.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve heard?

There’s a line I love from Art & Fear, by David Bayles and Ted Orland: Those who succeed have learned how not to quit. That says it all. Believe in yourself and your work and keep moving forward. Eventually your dream will come true!

What do you wish you’d known early in your career that might have saved you some time and/or frustration in writing? In publishing?

Oh, there’s so much I wish I’d known earlier. But perhaps one of the most important gems of truth came from Stephanie Bond, a wonderful writer and fellow member of Georgia Romance Writers. She always tells new GRW folks to remember that writing is a business and the book is their product. Had I taken her words to heart earlier I would have realized all those rejections weren’t personal. The editors weren’t rejecting Debby Giusti–they were rejecting my product that needed more work.

How much marketing do you do? What have you found that particularly works well for you?

Since Nowhere to Hide is my debut book, I’ve put a lot of emphasis on getting to know readers by speaking at writers groups and community events. I’m not sure if that has led to more sales, but I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to meet so many interesting people. I also like to make up goodies bags with an excerpt from my book, a bookmark and some chocolate. That way folks get a “taste” of what my story is about.

Do you have any parting words of advice?

Often writers hit a plateau before they make their first sale. Seems they’re doing everything right, but their manuscripts are still rejected. Unfortunately, that’s when many folks stop writing, which is a shame because hitting the plateau means they’re so close. My advice? Consider making a slight shift in style or technique. Often that can move a story from rejection to sale.

Author Interview ~ Geoffrey Wood

Geoffrey Wood has been working in both coffee and theater for nearly twentyyears —acting and directing, roasting and sipping. He holds a BFA inTheater from the University of Memphis, an MA in Theater from the Universityof New Mexico, and has worked in theater professionally, educationally andliturgically for the last fifteen years. Leaper is his first novel, but heloves it just the same. Geoffrey lives in the Cooper/Young neighborhood ofMemphis which he calls home.

What book or project is coming out or has come out that you’d like to tell us about?
My first novel releases June 19th, 2007, with WaterBrook Press a subsidiary of Random House. Leaper: The Misadventures of a Not-Necessarily-Super Hero follows three days in the life of a coffee shop barista who one day develops a superpower –if he focuses intently on a glare, say, from his watch, and thinks of a place who truly desires to be, he transports across space without the use of time. He leaps. Good news? Well, super-things don’t work out as super-smoothly as one might believe.
Tell us about your journey to publication. How long had you been writing before you got the call you had a contract, how you heard and what went through your head.

I’ve worked in theater all my life: writing, acting, adapting, directing. But a few years ago I decided to try my hand at novels. I took six months off from the world and wrote two books, one of which I sold at a conference to WaterBrook. (I went to that conference for just such a purpose and had researched who would be there and their book lines.) The initial meeting was positive and my editor contacted me about a month later with the offer. Neurotic thoughts typically go through my head so mine has been a journey of doing the next step but remaining wary of all that could go amiss.
Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work?

Often.
No, frequently.
No, daily, final answer.
What mistakes have you made while seeking publication?

I have been blessed. WaterBrook has been wonderful, my editor’s a dream. I often wonder what more I should do for them –I guess I write the books. But they’ve taken care of me very well.
What’s the best advice you’ve heard on writing/publication?

Work on a project as daily as possible, spend the hours each day and trust that those hours are progress even if there aren’t many pages in hand at the close of a day. If you do that, for two, three, four days, the next will be breakthrough, almost always.
What’s the worst piece of writing advice you’ve heard?
Write for yourself. (I enjoy writing, I can be indulgent in my vision, but ultimately I’m hoping to engage others, that’s the fun part, so audience cannot be obliterated from consideration.)
Is there a particularly difficult set back that you’ve gone through in your writing career you are willing to share?

I’m hoping just to have a writing career so I’ll let you know if and when I pull that off.
What are a few of your favorite books? (Not written by you.)

As I Lay Dying by Faulkner. Mystery and Manners by Flannery O’Connor. The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving. A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby. The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy.
What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why?

I wrote a short piece –more memory than short story– about my grandmother. I like that one.
Take us through your process of writing a novel briefly—from conception to revision.
John Irving once said something to the effect that he will never begin to write until he’s fully imagined. I like that guy. I usually take months scribbling on napkins, notepads, walls, arms and letting things stew. When I’ve got enough napkins I’ll start to outline the book. Then I keep taking notes, blah, blah –till one day they start talking to me. At that point I write down what they tell me.
Then I over-write. I write everything they tell me and then I write what I see them do, then I make them tell me more. Once I have enough material then I go back and read it, try to shape it, make it better. That’s all for draft one. Then my editor and I wrangle happily from there.
Do you have a dream for the future of your writing, something you would love to accomplish?

I would like to write three novels in the style I’m working now, hopefully improving that style with each effort. The I’d like to try something different, maybe something more southern. (I’m from Memphis.)
Was there ever a time in your writing career you thought of quitting?
I quit thinking about quitting back when a dear friend told me, “Look, you’re not ever going to not do this ‘creating things’ in some capacity. So stop worrying about it and do whatever you have to do.”
What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer?

Re-writes are hardest for me because I primarily hear my characters. When I hear them one way, it’s hard for me to hear it differently, regardless of how needful the re-write may be. I think my favorite part is the imagining.
How much marketing/publicity do you do? Any advice in this area?
I have done what I can locally, and have not done as much as I probably should otherwise. However, I have no idea nor advice what else I could do myself. The folks at Random House have done much and I’m trusting things to them.
Have you received a particularly memorable reader response?

I just read the in-book-cover endorsements the other day. Somebody used the word “romp” I’m a big fan of that word. Somebody else called the dialogue “delicious.” I liked that guy.

Bambi vs. Godzilla

Mike Duran’s stories have appeared in Relief Journal, Forgotten Worlds, Alienskin, and Dragons, Knights and Angels, with articles in The Matthew’s House Project and Relevant Magazine. He was also one of ten authors picked for Infuze Magazine’s Best of 2005 print anthology. Mike is an ordained minister, has led numerous small groups and developed discipleship-training curriculum for several churches. He and his wife Lisa live in Southern California , where they have raised four children. Mike has written an unpublished novel entitled What Faith Awakes and is currently at work on a second. You can visit him at www.mikeduran.com.


It’s the title of David Mamet’s latest book. Subtitled On the Nature, Purpose, and Practice of the Movie Business, the book takes its name from a 1969 short animated film entitled Bambi Meets Godzilla. It was voted #38 of the 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time by members of the animation field. The cartoon is just under two minutes, most of the time spent on credits. It begins with a fawn munching clover and ends with the critter plastered under a massive, reptilian foot. The battle lasts approximately the blink of an eye.

While Mamet is hardly at the bottom of the industry food chain, he speaks often as an outsider, eloquently ranting against the powers that be and the corruption of those powers. And in that, Mamet gives hope to all us bambis.

The publishing industry, much like Hollywood, can appear monstrous — a lumbering, impersonal behemoth that leaves aspiring authors stomped in its wake. We clamber after the creature only to find ourselves flattened by naysayers, rejections, deadlines, sluggish sales, tough critiques, or just plain lack of genius. It’s the nature of the beast.

But occasionally, some greenhorn will rise up in protestation, arm their sling, and challenge the brute. It may not be the best career move, but boy is it gutsy.

Recently, I visited a team writers’ blog and stumbled upon a courageous little stone slinger. Oftentimes, the comment sections of our websites are just echo chambers, platforms for atta-boys, amens and self-promotional snippets. Nevertheless, on this particular post, the aspiring author was challenging the assumptions of some industry luminaries. After the blast, you could hear a pin drop in cyberspace. And then the big reptilian foot came down… or at least, a curt, defensive rebuttal from the team members. I’ve unleashed my share of harsh, ill-timed, stupid comments upon unsuspecting webmasters. But in this particular case, I felt the “little” commentator had a good point.

Question: Should a wannabe novelist dare challenge the industry she is seeking publication in? Isn’t it smarter to heed those who’ve “arrived,” rather than question them? Aren’t we better off rowing instead of rocking the boat?

There’s a fine line between being a rabble rouser and an agent of change. Perhaps they are the same. Of course, under Taliban rule, agents of change are usually left limbless. Thankfully, CBA authors and publishers are a lot more civil. “Speak the truth in love,” the apostle Paul said, and elsewhere, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition…” Of course, how this translates into the “business” side of things is another story. If anything, it means the tone of our discussions and in-house debates should be different, less hostile, less ad hominem. Nevertheless, many of these exchanges still result in flattened fawns.

After several years hanging around religious writer-types, I’m beginning to see a growing divide. On the one hand are those who enjoy “faith fiction” — inspirational stories aimed at Christian audiences with explicit biblical themes, minus the unwholesome elements (like sex, liquor, cussing and buckets of blood). On the other hand are those who aim for a broader audience. They tend to tolerate profanity, do not require a clear-cut inspirational resolution (i.e., the protagonist gets saved, baptized and quits smoking) and feel boxed in by the “Christian Fiction” label. Oftentimes, the disagreements between these two camps can become — how shall I say it — nasty. As a result, many authors, willingly or unwillingly, end up outside the CBA fold.

But is it an either/or? Either you play by the rules, or you play elsewhere? Either you row the boat, or you get out? Shouldn’t there be a middle ground where writers like me — people that have a stake, at least an interest, in the future of “Christian literature” — can voice contrary opinions or express concerns without feeling shunned, frowned upon, or driven outside the camp?

Almost a year ago, a team blog was launched that I’ve watched with interest. Speculative Faith exists to mobilize what they believe is “a diverse and sizable audience hungry for Christian speculative literature.” In their mission statement, Mirtika Schultz writes:

~~We want to mobilize a reading and writing community that will impact the future editorial acquisitional decisions of CBA publishing houses. Right now, they are not favorably inclined toward speculative fiction.

~~We want better and more varied and just plain MORE novels from CBA publishing houses in our genre.

As such, Spec Faith exists to fill a hole in the CBA, to bring attention to what they perceive as an industry deficiency, or at least, oversight. Their tone is cordial, upbeat, Christian. But there is a fair share of banter. Most recently, the absence of a Visionary category in the Christy Awards has got them all abuzz.

I’m guessing that voices like this, though contrary, discordant — even potentially annoying to some — play an essential role in the Christian book industry.

Recently, CCM changed its name to “Christ. Community. Music.” It’s part of an effort to broaden its appreciation of “Christian music,” to embrace believing artists outside the mainstream religious music industry. And this after 29 years of publication! In a recent interview, Jay Swartzendruber, editor of CCM Magazine, described this evolution:

Initially, the name CCM stood for “contemporary Christian music,” and we just assumed everyone just knew it. But by the late 90s, CCM was doing surveys, different things with readers and discovered that the name of the genre Contemporary Christian Music kind of had a smaller box than what the magazine wanted to cover.

According to Swartzendruber, many Christian artists “…started to quietly distance themselves from the term ‘contemporary Christian music’…” Bands like Sixpence None the Richer, P.O.D., Switchfoot and Jars of Clay were blazing trails into previously uncharted territory, getting airplay on secular stations and winning over non-believing fans. CCM was in danger of placing its artists and target market into a “smaller box.” The fact that after almost 30 years CCM would recast itself and rethink its objectives, says a lot about the group. Could a similar reevaluation be needed for the CBA?

Change, especially institutional change, starts slow, often occurring at the grassroots level before the executive. Kingdoms turn as much on peasants as potentates. But the bigger the kingdom, the slower the steering. While discussions about CBA boundaries, blind spots, and shortcoming can appear seditious, it may also be an important, much needed reformation cry. That these cries are issued from the peasantry should not lessen their urgency.

So here I am. Bambi. I love the Lord and His Church. Yet I’ve also got gripes about the state of Christian fiction. What do I do? Sure, throwing rocks at Godzilla may get him to look my way. But, it could also get me stomped. Oh well, maybe it’s better to shut up and keep rowing.