Coming Clean

So I’ve been blogging about labels, and though I love the topic and the conversations it has sparked, I have to come clean: I had an ulterior motive in bringing it up.

I’m comfortable with my labels (for the most part), and I love the freedom that I have been able to embrace simply by shifting my perspective. I really do think of my “corners” as convex — outward facing and full of potential instead of stifling and repressive. Thank goodness I can claim that (and mean it!) because it just so happens that I’m experiencing a little label confusion these days.

(Photo Credit)

For the past four years I have been labeled a Christian Fiction Author. I’m sure there are lots of different definitions for Christian fiction, but the one that sounds most accurate to me is: a book written by a Christian, for Christians, and about Christians. That doesn’t mean that non-religious people can’t read Christian fiction (and some do) or that all of the characters in a CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) book have to be devout. Christian fiction can run the gamut from “edgy” (think Ted Dekker) to evangelical, and varies in quality of prose and story just like general market books. There is some spectacular Christian fiction out there — books that could easily go head-to-head with the classics of our era and hold their own admirably. And, just like any other genre, there’s some Christian fiction that’s… well, meh, to put it gently.

In my career as an author, I have both embraced and chafed at the “Christian fiction” label. Apparently, so have my readers. I’ve been told that my books are “too preachy” and I have also been chastised for “watering down the gospel.” In truth, I have never approached a single one of my books with the intent to preach about or hide my beliefs. My goal in writing? To write beautiful, hope-filled stories that resound with truth and resonate deep in the hearts of my readers. If God is beauty and truth and love (and I believe that he is) then my books overflow with him — even if his name is never mentioned.

So. I have a new label.

As of February 2012, I will be a General Market, Women’s Fiction Author. My upcoming book, Far From Here, will be released by a division of Simon & Schuster, and you will not find it on the shelves of your local Christian bookstore.

*Deep breath.* Can I just tell you that I am both thrilled and terrified? Thrilled because after publishing four books, I have finally written the book of my heart — a story that is both the best thing I’ve ever written and the most honest. But I’m terrified, too, because what if I find myself in limbo-land, a place where readers who loved my CBA books will be disappointed in the subtleties of my new release, and new readers will never find me because I’ll get lost in the giant general market shuffle? Scary stuff…

But even more than that, this is exciting stuff. I love this book. Like, love, love, crazy-love this book. I’m not much into self-promotion, but I would carry copies of this book in a backpack and hand them out to random strangers on the street. I’m so proud of Far From Here, and I’m so humbled by the response it has gotten so far… From rave reviews by editors and freelancers to glowing endorsements from some of my heros in the industry. (I can’t wait to tell you more about those! I’m still pinching myself!)

Anyway, in the coming weeks and months you’ll watch me wear this new label a lot more. It doesn’t mean that I’m not still a Christian fiction author (the four books I have already written have hopefully earned me a place in the CBA), or that I’m not proud of the books that I’ve already written (they’re my babies!). It also doesn’t mean that I’ve abandoned my faith or anything silly like that. This is just another step on my own personal journey, and I’m standing on a new corner for a while now… Hoping that you’ll be willing to join me there.

Much, much more to come… For now, Far From Here is available for pre-order. I’d love it if you’d take a moment to check it out.

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