This is a bit of a different subject for my blog, but I’m interested in hearing what everyone has to say about it. So please comment!
I’ve always dabbled in writing, mostly with the knowledge that I was only writing to put on the page and out of my mind whatever fantastical story is flitting around in my overly active imaginative mind. I haven’t ever written with the thought of it going anywhere, and hence rarely finish anything I write. Most recently, though, a certain story has plagued my thoughts and taken more shape than usual. I’m intent on finishing it and Chris encourages this. Not only does it not cost a dime for me to write in this economic downturn, but he is well aware of the gaping hole where Catholic fiction should be in the market, and he thinks it has potential.
It seems everyone is well aware of this lack of Catholic fiction, even bad Catholic fiction. If you go to a Christian bookstore, you’ll see plenty of what I call “junk novels” or “read once” novels where the storyline seems to draw people more than any kind of mesmerizing writing style (I’m thinking Ray Bradbury) and once the story is known, the novel has no more draw. The shelves are littered with books like the Left Behind series and novels by Karen Kingsbury or Francine Rivers or the like. Where are the rosaries and crucifixes? Why can’t Catholics be unashamed of their faith in book form as well? Are Catholics too good for overtly Catholic novels or Catholic “junk” novels (my writing style is nowhere near as poetic as Bradbury)? Of course there are Catholic writers like Dean Koontz, with elements of philosophy in their stories. Some are more subtle than others. But the pickings are slim.
My story didn’t begin as a search for a Catholic fiction story. It began in reaction to the market flooding with vampire/occult novels. Oh yes, I’ve read Twilight, and I liked it. I’m a big fan of sci-fi, and the supernatural edge to these stories is hard to resist. But like everything else since my conversion, I began to view the occult from a Catholic perspective. I dug up Chris’s copies of The Rite and An Exorcist Tells His Story and was rather shocked by the fantastic nature of actual occurrences. The reality of good and evil, angels and demons, and our under-reaction to them took the form of this story in my mind. Now I have on my hands a couple of ragingly Catholic, flawed characters, and a story permeated with icons and Hail Mary’s and adoration. It’s completely unavoidable unless you want to deny the reality that we live in, the necessity of exorcists, the reaction of demons to the Holy Virgin, the power in the name of Christ, and I don’t want to avoid it. I don’t want to apologize for truth that may offend others. Neither is this story an evangelical tool. Nobody gets “saved” in this story (ha! you know how I feel about that now), nor does anyone become Catholic. It’s more focused on the opposing tenets of Catholicism vs. Satanism. Spelled out, that means the most extreme forms of “deny yourself and take up the cross” vs. “do what you want”.
Now I have a very “Catholic” fiction novel on my hands, maybe categorized as “Christian Inspiration” or “Science Fiction” depending on how overt the Catholicity of the characters become or how unrealistic the fantastic elements may be. Here’s what I’m asking: Besides the obvious two things to avoid–bad writing and preachy piousness–what should I look out for? Is there a market for Catholic fiction? What would put you off in reading it? Should I even be concerned a “mainstream” audience? Or should I let the cards lie where they fall? And exactly how Catholic can I get without being preachy?
It will be several months before the story is finished and probably over a year before it’s “presentable”. I’m hoping to coax it in its current liquid and choppy form into something decent. Although the story is generally complete, it’s moldable now, so any suggestions can be (probably) easily taken into account. I hope more dedicated writers won’t take offense at my “dabbling”, but will help encourage and point me in the right direction.