Redefining good Christian historical midgrade novels

A while back, oh years and years ago, I worked on a midgrade historical novel for the Christian market. I like to describe the book, One-eyed Jack, as a boy’s Little House on the Prairie with a Christian spiritual base. I mention this book now because it’s an excellent example of what I was talking about yesterday.

When I got the first draft of the book it was a so-so historical fiction with these random moments where the Christianity broke through. The Christianity was so jarring that I couldn’t understand why the author seemed to be just throwing the moments in. So, I got some historical fiction midgrades from a Christian bookstore. To my horror, I discovered that so-so historical fiction with random moments of Christianity (I call them God-quotes) was the norm for the genre. And at that moment I experienced my own epiphany on why Christian historical fiction isn’t more popular with culturally Christian kids. I found that I couldn’t fault the author because if this was all she’d been reading, of course she would produce a similar product.

So, I went back to the author and gave her some recommendations on how to make the book a good, not so-so, historical fiction, and then I wrote her a long bit of my editorial letter on the integration of Christianity into her work. I explained that each of the religious characters needed to be consistently Christian that they couldn’t just have God-quotes thrown in haphazardly.

The author took my advice to heart and produced one of the best midgrade historical Christian fiction novels I’ve ever read. She’s gone through 2 print runs now and has had phenomenal success in the home-school market. I have to say that of all the books I’ve ever edited, this is the one I’m most proud of. The author came the farthest and showed the most growth in her own writing over the course of the rewrites of this novel. Brava Paula on a great book.


PJ Hoover said...

I'll read it! It's here in my bookcase, and I'm glad I read this post first. It will give it a whole new perspective.

David Murdoch said...

As someone who writes christian fiction, I find that to be a very interesting anecdote. I don't know how my own writing would look like from that perspective, because I don't myself actually read christian fiction... strangely enough... the ideal product I think would be if the christian message is consistent to the work and it makes sense with the story to which it is integrated, rather than something that it just being tacked on afterwards.

God Bless,

The Buried Editor said...

I agreed David. It's possible that I just managed to randomly pick up some of the worst examples of the genre, but they all just had the Christianity thrust in. If the goals of those books had been to inspire children to a more Christian faith in their daily lives, I felt they managed to do the opposite.