Workshop 20: Christian Fiction Unplugged
“Come with your questions about the industry, ready for a ‘relaxed’ conversation,” the course description read. And with Allen Arnold’s easy demeanor and approachable style, his ACFW conference workshop Christian Fiction Unplugged had the flavor of an intimate talk between friends. He listened to questions, gave his thoughts, and opened it up for discussion. No question was off-limits.
Arnold, former senior vice president and fiction publisher at Thomas Nelson, now oversees content and resources for Ransomed Heart Ministries in Colorado. He was presented with ACFW’s Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s national conference in Dallas.
A changing industry
Arnold plunged right in with what was on most writers’ and industry professionals’ mind: the tumult of change, ranging from genre shifts to technology and how readers read. “Some things begin to bring fear when you work in isolation,” Arnold said. “Demons start to create doubt. In the end, it’s always about story. Storytellers are always needed.”
Arnold anticipates growth in Biblical fiction and increasing use of peripheral Biblical characters. He asked how many were currently writing in the genre, and when only one hand went up, he said it’s a good time to be writing Biblical fiction.
Arnold discussed writing what you are called to write, versus writing the hot genre. Hot genres, he pointed out, could change before you finish. Jumping on a bandwagon, he said, tends not to be fresh.
Arnold said he feels e-books will ultimately sell more than paper. He encouraged authors to be format agnostic—writers and publishers are not the owner of paper. Readers have the freedom to choose the format they read. “It is threatening for the brick and mortar stores, but for storytellers, the demand is always there.”
“The Wild West of mass advertising on TV and magazines is long gone,” Arnold said. And while digital opens up “discoverability,” if everyone blogged, none would stand out.
With an open, no subject barred conversation, the question where the industry is at with language in Christian fiction was bound to be asked. Arnold responded with aplomb: “You don’t want novels that avoid realism. Christianity has never been about a safe way of life. For adults, safety is not the goal.”
He said too often we look to the general market to set the trend, and then copy it. “We should be leading in the arts; we should be setting the trends. We have a Creator.”
“God cares more about your story (you) than your story (your novel).”
E-book image courtesy of adamr/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Ideas image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net