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Guest Blogger Nike Chillemi


What are you to do if you’re a Christian author who is about to take the plunge and write for the general market? First of all, write a really good novel. Write a novel with compelling characters that readers will care about. Make the reader laugh, or cry, as the case might be.

A number of Christian writers feel they’re called to reach nonbelievers who only purchase general market novels. So, a fair question would be how does the Christian author reach that reader? Well, first of all, a novel that delights the folks in the pews is most likely not going to do much for the general market reader.

The Christian author who intends to reach the nonbeliever with the message of hope that is the Lord Jesus Christ might want to think of their novel as seed. If they intend for their novel to be read, they might have to write one that functions in terms of seed planting. The novel that speaks to the nonbeliever will probably introduce the notion that God is something the reader needs in his/her life.

When I was a child, American society was at the tail end of the period where the nation could be said to have a heavily Christian culture. Now there are only remnants of that Christian culture and those are being eradicated quite quickly. What I’m trying to get at is that years ago, Christian symbolism in a general market novel was not verboten. Most Americans were comfortable with Christian symbols and understood the basic tenets of the faith. This is no longer the case. So, the cross-over writer will have to explain some of the most rudimentary elements of the faith to readers, but not seem to.

No, I’m not suggesting trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the reader. Not at all. I’m suggesting that this explanation of the Christian faith should not take away from the story. First of all, the plotline should be riveting. The reader should want to turn the pages. The characters should be fascinating. The reader should be so enthralled with the heroine and hero that he/she doesn’t want the book to end. And in addition to all this, without showing the heavy hand of the author, seeds of faith can be planted.

When gardeners go to a nursery they might purchase a small tomatoes plant in a plastic cup to give them a head start on the growing process. This is not a seed. In my opinion, a Christian writer who chooses the general market intending to write for nonbelievers must pray and ask the Lord to show them how to reach the nonbeliever who has absolutely no idea who our God is and what He’s about. When I did that, the Lord reminded me that a mustard seed is very small indeed.


Nike Chillemi, author of Burning Hearts, the first book in the crime wave that is sweeping the south shore of Long Island in The Sanctuary Point series, has been called a crime fictionista due to her passion for crime fiction and was an Inspy Awards 2010 judge in the Suspense/Thriller/Mystery category.


14 comments on “Guest Blogger Nike Chillemi

  1. Lisa Lickel
    April 16, 2012

    Right on, Nike! And good books are just good books, no matter what. I didn’t even know there was a difference in markets when I first started writing,.

    • NikeChillemi
      April 18, 2012

      Lisa, Exactly! If the author doesn’t have a good novel, what’s the point. If the message is more important than the story (and I’m not saying that’s bad)…then perhaps the author should be writing nonfiction. Something in theology, or a devotional. But if they have a story in them, if they’re a storyteller…then make it the best the story can be.

  2. Terri
    April 17, 2012

    My novel DARK SIDE OF THE MOON is published by a secular firm. Yet, it features Christian characters and they struggle with spiritual issues, but those are the subplots and not the main plot. My main plot is a simple murder mystery. The fact that they are Christian is just part of their character description like hair color or political background.

    The problem I see with writing for a *Christian* market is that too often the novels end up sounding like sermons wrapped in a story. Even within the Christian market that is a sign of a bad story. Like someone said, “If you want to send a message call Western Union.”

    I call my writing Christian influence. The plot doesn’t turn on a spiritual issue or dilemma, but is basically secular story. However, since the characters are Christian they respond differently. My sleuth for instance, won’t lie to a suspect during interrogation.

    Anyway, just my thoughts on this subject. I don’t think Christian writers should feel themselves locked into a “Christian” box. It’s not a choice between writing material that will compromise their morals vs writing sermons in story form. You can be a Christian, a writer and write for secular companies.

    • NikeChillemi
      April 18, 2012

      Terri, I think we have to write the story that God gave us. My first novels (The Sanctuary Point series) could be classified as Christian novels. The murder mystery is the main story. However there are strong Christian subplots.

      My contemporary that is coming out later this year, NETWORK THEN DIE, could be called “faith touched.” The murder is the main thing and the main characters are not Christians and won’t become Christians by the end of the story. Both of them have issues with Christianity that will extend beyond the end of the story into book #2, #3, etc. There are Christian secondary characters who live out their walk in the story.

  3. debraemarvin
    April 18, 2012

    This is a fascinating subject and I hope to see the conversation continue. Nice job, NIke

    • NikeChillemi
      April 21, 2012

      Debra, I agree there’s a lot to talk about here. I’d like to see the day when Christian authors can simply be Writers, considered top notch writers who happen to have Christian characters and themes.

  4. Kathy Bruins
    April 22, 2012

    Wonderful discussion! No matter what market the book is for, it needs to have a good story line. God can work through any market.

    • NikeChillemi
      April 22, 2012

      I agree. The story line has to be great. The characters have to be well crafted. God can indeed work through any market. It’s up to us to give Him a top notch product to work with.

  5. sunflower05
    April 22, 2012

    Excellent job, Nike, and this is the intention I first started with. The nonbelievers need reaching more; the others are already saved.

    • NikeChillemi
      April 22, 2012

      Barbara, I know that I know that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt these are the readers I’m supposed to be reaching.

  6. elainemcooper
    April 22, 2012

    Sorry to be so late in this interesting discussion. You are VERY correct that the story should always be the main focus. Without a good story, I have stopped reading many a novel (often a “Christian” one). Well developed characters, well written premise, believable dialogue—it should always be a part of the draw, whether inspirational or non. We are asking folks to spend money on our books. We need to offer more than a predictable plot with boring dialogue. And yes, I think it’s quite important to reach a non-Christian audience and we writers truly need to pray that God will guide our pen in how to introduce Christian principles. The Holy Spirit should be our greatest inspiration.

    • NikeChillemi
      April 22, 2012

      Elaine, That’s right. We’re asking them to part with their money. We have to offer them a quality product. Also we’re offereing in His name. The novel should be the best it can be.

  7. Carole Brown
    April 23, 2012

    Great post, Nike, and I agree w/your sentiments completely. Many times–not always–I find christian books are lacking something that turns me off, and I consider myself a christian, and write as a christian. Hmmm. . .

    • NikeChillemi
      April 23, 2012

      I sometimes think Christian novels are too uniform. Many of us take the same writing classes and then all the novels start sounding the way the classes say they should. Or a certain thing is favored by a group of editors and everyone starts writing that way.

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This entry was posted on April 12, 2012 by in Guest Bloggers and tagged .

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