Faith-based Paranormal … A Contradiction in Terms?
Two years ago, I shopped a manuscript I'd written called, _The First Seal: Year of the White Horse_. It was to be Book One of a seven book series I was creating called "The Saga of The Seven Seals." As you might have noticed, the series is based on the Biblical time of Revelation. I intended to write seven books – one book for each of the seven seals, as they represent consecutive time periods.
The first thing that a writer should decide very early on is genre. I'm not saying that writers should limit their creativity here, but I do believe a writer should have a general idea of what the macro-genre of the work he/she is writing before beginning to write. This was my first completed, full-length novel and I made the mistake of not defining the genre in my head from the onset. What I ended up writing was an adventure/fantasy written in the style of a geopolitical thriller. Yikes! If you could picture in your mind a storyline like _Lord of The Rings_ written in the form of a Tom Clancy novel, you would taste the flavor of that first manuscript I penned.
Despite that dilemma, my manuscript was getting noticed and liked by people … but this is where the story gets even weirder. You see, when you shop a novel to agents and publishers, you need to target the ones that represent the genre of the work you're shopping. The more defined you can be, via sub-genre, the more chance you have of selling your work.
I'd decided that because I wrote a story dealing with the Biblical end-times that I should shop it within the Christian genre, specifically the Christian Speculative Fiction sub-genre. Yikes again! Wow, did I find out a bunch of things … all wacky!
First, the Christian Spec Fiction genre was virtually destroyed, at that time, by the LEFT BEHIND Apocalyptic fiction series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. I was told that right after the success of LEFT BEHIND, every Tom, Dick & Harriet started flooding publishers with knockoffs. That caused a flood of novels to be dumped on the public with basically the same storylines. Readers became tired of reading the same story written by a myriad of authors and voila … dead sub-genre.
Did I know any of this when I set out to write _The First Seal_? No.
Did I even read the LEFT BEHIND series? No.
It didn't matter though, the "Christians" told me that I should try my hand at writing romance novels about pilgrim women. (You read that correctly)
Yep … romance novels about puritan women apparently were selling like hotcakes within the Christian genre. A few things here … one … what I know about "romance" could fit in a thimble. Heck, I only got married when I was 33! Two … and this question is out of sheer ignorance … do puritan women even have romances?
I'm digressing …
So, I was stuck in a quandary. I'd written a story that mixed genres in a gnarly way and then shopped it into another genre and sub-genre market that had NO interest in it. Yeah … not exactly the way I'd suggest starting YOUR writing career.
What to do now?
After getting rejected by the Christian genre community, I decided to send the manuscript out to several non-Christian beta readers. They were just people I knew from the net that showed interest in my novel's summary. Key point here: They were almost all avid PARANORMAL lovers! Guess what? They all, to a person loved it!
So, I tried to write an adventure/fantasy novel, but for some unknown reason used a geopolitical thriller format – then tried to sell it into the Christian/Christian Spec Fiction market only to be utterly rejected by all of them … and the folks who like to read stories about women attracted to studly vampires or vice versa (that was my general idea about paranormal back then) were stoked over it!
You can't make that up … and I make things up for a living!
Even with growing affection for it, I decided to shelve _The First Seal_. I intend on re-writing it, perhaps as early as next year.
In the meantime, I started work on my debut novel, _The Watchman of Ephraim_ a month later and yes, I got my genre correct with this one … it's a geopolitical thriller.
I learned an interesting lesson though, through that whole experience. I'm a devout Judeo-Christian, which means I follow the teachings of the Bible very closely, but I'm also the former guitarist for a heavy metal band … so I'm not exactly your archetypical poster boy for a Bible-thumping, nape-of-the-neck exposed, white bread-eating choir boy. I'm the other guy sitting all back of the bus. Yet, I still thought that my fellow "Christians" would accept me with open arms in the book community. I was wrong. Now, in fairness, all the folks I dealt with were very nice – and I don't mean piss-down-my-leg-and-tell-me-its-raining nice, I mean genuinely nice. But that was it. They had no interest in my novel or me.
The paranormal community, on the other hand, accepted me with open arms (and claws extended). They gave my novel a fair read, not carrying any biases going in and just judged the story on its merits … and they weren't afraid to say they liked it, despite its religious overtones (trust me, I don't preach in my stories, I just write from a Judeo-Christian worldview).
After thinking on the whole experience, it makes sense to me now, if in a weird way. Think about it – people who like to read Paranormal are already accepting of some pretty odd things. When they read my story about a character who had taken the ancient vow of a Nazarite (the same vow Samson took that gave him his great strength), they weren't "weirded out" by it. To them that aspect didn't make the character odd, it made the character interesting.
Ironically, the Christians-in-traditional-publishing weren't so open-minded.
Well, they would have been, if I'd only changed the lead character to a Puritan woman who fell in love with the son of a non-believer, on one of her carriage trips into "town," who then has a baby out of wedlock … but then the woman's dad, who was an "elder" who turns to drink and picks up his wood-choppin' axe and heads into town to cut the Oscar Meyer off of the non-believer boy … well, you get the idea.
To me … it doesn't get any weirder than that!
Gerard de Marigny is the author of the geopolitical thriller, _The Watchman of Ephraim_, Book 1 of THE WATCHMAN OF EPHRAIM series. The sequel, _Signs of War_ is scheduled for release in September 2011.
Gerard de Marigny resides in the beautiful foothills of Las Vegas, NV with his wife Lisa and his four sons. When not bending an arm with friends at the local pub, he's putting to paper the stories and characters that are alive in his mind.
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