Usually when I write a column I am sure of the material, whether it is a work I will reference, or opinions and observations rallied from my own brain. This is neither, and in the beginning here–rather the beginning of the publishing part, for the subject has squeaked about my mind for several days, so this could hardly be called the beginning–I anticipate difficulty in presenting my argument in a cogent and convincing manner. (Hardly a grand opening for such a piece, some would say–I hear you now, and I respond: At least I am aware of the shortfall.)
My argument circles about the genre designation of novels–in particular of a manuscript that is scratching to become such a book, and to which I have a distinct connection, seeing I authored the said, eager manuscript. The manuscript is finished and ready for the market. The work is well-done, likely a cut above the average recently published novel, and, with the assistance of both a compelling agent and a skillful editor may possess the force to become a finely wrought piece of literature. Then, too, because I am honest and practical, I recognize such a scenario may be only “an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato,” words Dickens placed in the mouth of Scrooge for saying to old Marley as Scrooge considered whether or not he was seeing a specter.
By the study of agent and book publishers submission processes I have determined there is one (possibly two) genres into which my novel falls: Christian (overt Christianity allowed), but not the Christian which allows only covert Christian thought, and probably not literary because of the overt Christian content. Crossover? Possibly, except the overt Christian tone may preclude this. Not sure.
Which leads to my biggest question–and frustration. Why is there such a genre as Christian? To be logical, should there not also be genre of agnostic, atheist, Buddhist, Muslim, and every other spiritual thought? If my book is spy thriller, YA, sci-fiction, or slipstream can it not also be Christian? Of more puzzlement to me are houses which take covert Christian themes, but not overt.
A radiant drama with redemption as its theme, Christianity flares an enchanting vision of hope that appeals to the masses, for inherently we sense our need of a savior. The creed is the sensation; the plot confounds us, hinged on a solitary character. From antiquity, Christianity has influenced art, as a walk through any major gallery will reveal. Mythology, too, swarms with redemptive themes, yet much of it has been crafted through dark pagan worship.
The embodiment of Christianity takes in the great themes of repentance, forgiveness, redemption, resurrection, and renewal. Are these not arguments with which moving novels may be constructed? Should not writers have the latitude to fashion literary works with obvious Christian roots and have those same works regarded with such favor as the writing itself demands?
My overtly Christian manuscript is not gorged with light-weight characters who grip the bible as a club to beat about the heads of sinners, nor is it strewn with shabby altar calls or wild-eyed prophets who stand on street corners with doom day signs. Yet, I believe, because the the bible teaches so, of strange prophets, of weeping repentance, and even of The Savior, who incensed by the graft of vendors, plaited a whip and raged through the temple.
My overtly Christian manuscript showcases a godly, successful minister who succumbs to ugly sin. The story shimmers with relevant truth as he claws his way from a pit of almost unimaginable depth. My protagonist Abram reveals Christianity to be cooling water for one parched with thirst.
An excerpt follows, a scene in which Abram considers his sin.
Abram threw back the cover. With quiet steps so as not to wake Sten whose snoring told of sound sleep, Abram went down the stairs, opened the front door and stood on the porch. For long minutes he watched the slash of rain and listened to the beat of its rhythm. The wind shrieked and canted, blowing across his face.
Then, as a crazed man, he took to the yard and stood, head tucked, surrender, a slave on the block, a prisoner for the whip. Prisoner? A shred of book memory called up an iron piece, a bit in human mouth, a chain of finest design that clanked men together and then they must hip-hop into the fields. A master called out Nigger.
Abram recalled the words of David. . .
wash me with hyssop. Cleanse me of mine iniquities.
He tried to say the words. He tried to be David, but he could not. His tongue cleaved to the roof of his mouth. The words lugged in his throat, snagged by the roots of his tongue. They would not come.
A new bolt of lightening careened over the landscape. Thunder cracked near, and yet he stood.
I believe my book has the potential to be a literary crossover. I need feedback. I want to hear from agents and publishers and will appreciate any guidance you may have for me. Thank you.