Eagle Designs
Ronie Kendig

Ronie has been married since 1990 to a man who can easily be defined in classic terms as a hero. She has four beautiful children. Her eldest daughter is 16 this year, her second daughter will be 13, and her twin boys are 10. After having four children, she finally finished her degree in December 2006. She now has a B.S. in Psychology through Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. Getting her degree is a huge triumph for both her and her family--they survived!! This degree has also given her a fabulous perspective on her characters and how to not only make them deeper, stronger, but to make them realistic and know how they'll respond to each situation. Her debut novel, Dead Reckoning released March 2010 from Abingdon Press. And her Discarded Heroes series begins in July from Barbour with the first book entitled Nightshade. Visit her at http://roniekendig.com/

My Heroes Wear Kevlar

My heroes wear Kevlar.

When Bob Hamer wrote that in an e-mail to me, I had to laugh. It was such a classic statement, and so indicative of what he writes. You see, Bob is a former Marine and undercover FBI agent who has been there, done that. In his book, Enemies Among Us, he brings a level of expertise and authenticity to the story that evokes the reader to believe...to trust the author. This authenticity inspires and draws a certain caliber of reader who would not otherwise pick up a romantic suspense/thriller novel.

In writing my Discarded Heroes series, I worked very hard and did a tremendous amount of research to make sure the details were as accurate as possible. I had the great benefit of author/editor Chuck Holton (a former Ranger and editor for several Oliver North books) reading Nightshade and giving me advice and feedback. To say Chuck was hard on me is putting it mildly. Despite several hundred miles separating us, I could feel his hot breath skating down my neck to “get it right” so the story would pass muster with military folk. (BTW: Any mistakes in Nightshade are purely mine.)

In fact, in seeking endorsements for Nightshade, I ran aground, so to speak, because I did not have the been there, done that (BTDT) factor. Ironically, the wives of these men may be my real readership because the stories resonated with these woman.

So, perhaps my audience is not the same the audience that Bob Hamer or Chuck Holton or Oliver North reach. Yet, their books might not be the audience that mine reach. This really got me thinking about audience, about how each genre in Christian fiction has its own, specific audience.

As a result, I contacted some authors and asked them about their audiences. When I asked thriller writer Robert Liparulo about whom he considers his audience, he had this to say: “Readers who like action, adventure, gunplay, espionage, intrigue . . . I first thought of my novels as ‘guy stories’ because I liked them and liked reading books similar to them. But I learned fast that women love this stuff too. It helps that I have strong female characters—and of course hunky guys.”

Right he is! Women (me included!) love that stuff. So his answer, complete with the promise of hunky guys, forces us to ask: Who wouldn’t like a Liparulo book? His reply: “People who stay off of roller coasters and prefer cozy romances. I don’t pull any punches: Kids get kidnapped, people die, evil gets dragged kicking and screaming into the light. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate subtlety, but when you join me on an adventure, there’s no closing your eyes.”

Whew. I think my palms are clammy now.

The point? Diversity. Without it, we would be a bland, boring industry. The worst result is that only one type of reader would be served. Because as sure as there are different types of people, there are different types of readers. To serve the various needs of the readers, we have many publishers, many genres, and many subgenres.

In my spy thriller, Dead Reckoning, there are some intense action scenes. I have innocent people getting killed (that’s what terrorists do)—and since I write action, some violence is included. This story would not be appropriate, despite its overt Christian themes and message, for someone who would prefer a “softer” romantic suspense novel.

Even among military suspense novels, a vast diversity exists, from wonderful romance like Cheryl Wyatt’s Wings of Refuge Series (Steeple Hill Love Inspired) to my suspense/thriller series, The Discarded Heroes, to the work of experienced, combat-hardened veterans like Oliver North and Major Jeff Struecker: all with unique audiences, all with fabulous stories.

When asked about what type of reader usually picks up his novel, Brandt Dodson (former Navy guy, former FBI guy, and now a surgeon—impressive, huh?) said his readers “seem to prefer fiction that is plot driven, with strong elements of suspense.” However, on the opposite end, those “who prefer character-driven novels or novels with heavy doses of personal angst and romance tend not to read my work.”

MaryLu Tyndall, well-known for her high seas adventure novels, said her audience is “[a]nyone who’s been burned by life and by sin, who has a heart for adventure, and who loves a story that takes them on a wild ride with flawed characters who, by the end of the book, learn to see God for who He really is.”

Definitely my type of read!

You see, fiction employs many branches and subbranches of genres, each designed to meet the interest and desire of readers. There’s supernatural suspense/thriller, romantic suspense, contemporary suspense, mystery suspense, historical suspense...the list goes on. For example, if Marie likes mysteries but with lots of action and suspense, she is going to enjoy Robin Caroll’s Deliver Us from Evil. But if her friend prefers a cozy mystery, then Chris Well’s Nursing a Grudge would be a better fit.

Does this mean an author violates some unwritten code because one has more/less action, or one’s spiritual thread isn’t as overt? No! It means just as our Lord ministered in different ways to different people, we authors, who are vessels to be used by God to pour out His love and blessings, are used in a way and manner that fits our callings and styles.

Sometime in early June, FamilyFiction, a group on Facebook and Twitter that focuses on Christian fiction, asked readers to list their favorite books read so far this year. The responses highlighted a vast array of fiction. Authors mentioned included Karen Kingsbury, Terri Blackstock, Jan Karon, Ted Dekker, Francine Rivers, Kim Vogel Sawyer, Robert Liparulo, Colleen Coble, and more.

Wow, do you see it? Such beautiful diversity! It’s so clear that readers who soak up a Francine Rivers novel might not be the right readers for a thrilling Ted Dekker novel. They are both amazing writers. They both have unique, specific audiences. Could you imagine if we only had books by Ted Dekker? Or Jan Karon books? Yikes! Look at all the readers who would be lost!

God made us all unique, and I believe He wants our stories unique as well!