I used to assume there simply
weren’t many Canadian writers who were Christian. But early in May
1992, just after my first novel was released by Moody Press, my
paradigm changed. It began when the manager of my local Christian
bookstore told me they’d carry my book only “if it becomes a best
seller or goes on sale.” And here I was expecting a huge display with a
sign that read CANADIAN AUTHOR.
In shock, I investigated the
Christian publishing industry and discovered that 98 to 99.9 percent of
the books sold in Canadian Christian bookstores were brought in by
Canadian distributors whose sole purpose is to import books from the
United States. One distributor told me that the hardest thing for a
Canadian Christian publisher is getting its titles distributed in
Canada. I also learned that few Christians—including those working in
bookstores—could name more than a couple of Canadian authors who were
Christian (and those they knew were all published in the U.S.).
Our Three Choices
1. Find a U.S. Christian
publisher. This often means setting your book in the United States, or
if you set your story in Canada, use American spelling, terminology,
and concepts. The result is that few books show the Canadian Christian
2. Find a mainstream Canadian
publisher. Taking this route means writing historical fiction or
fiction with little Christian content. Few people have managed to do
this successfully, and those who have aren’t often carried in Christian
3. Self-publish. While
moderately popular, this hasn’t been a good option for most people
because of their lack of experience in marketing, distribution, and
Like the majority of Canadian
Christian writers, I looked for an American Christian publisher, and
five of my books were successfully published in the U.S. I’ve
appreciated support and encouragement from American Christian and
mainstream editors, writers, reviewers, readers. I’ve been to ICRS a
number of times, taught workshops on writing, been on panels at mystery
conventions, signed books, and done interviews.
Ultimately, that didn’t satisfy
me. I felt like someone without a country. But what really got my
attention was the thought that if our best books are being published by
American publishers, we’ll never have a Canadian publishing industry.
And more to the point, future generations of Canadians are being robbed
of their heritage because so few books will be written from a Canadian
Change Is Coming
Over the past six or seven
years, the publishing industry as a whole has been in a state of flux.
I believe God is using this to allow Canadian writers who are Christian
to thrive in coming years. What’s needed is a team effort with Canadian
Christians working together to
develop a new publishing model that will foster the development of not
only Canadian Christian publishing, but also indigenous publishing in
other countries around the world. The best way to strengthen the
worldwide church is to help each nation develop its own Christian
culture and work together as equal members of the body of Christ.
Four Key Needs
1. Christian Canadian writers
need to work with other Canadians to create awareness in Canada. The
danger is that if your only focus is on getting an American publisher,
it’s easy to forget you are
Canadian. Canadians involved in
Christian publishing industry (writing, publishing, marketing, etc.)
need to work together to initiate change in Canada. There is a great
deal of strength in numbers.
2. We need to be innovative as
we develop more ways to get our work out there, including having more
and stronger Canadian royalty publishers releasing work by Canadian
Christians—to both Christian and mainstream audiences.
3. Perhaps the biggest change we
need is for Canadian Christian readers to realize that our own authors
are just as capable as any other authors. It’s ridiculous that we have
to become best sellers in the United States before we’re taken
seriously in Canada. One of the reasons for this feeling is that most
speakers and Christian TV guests are American. Nothing at all against
the U.S.—some of my closest friends are Americans—but should Canadians
not support one another? This is especially strange, since it’s only a
Christian phenomena. Mainstream Canadian authors are respected and
sought after both in Canada and throughout the world.
4. As I alluded to above, I’d
love to see American writers and publishers help us develop our
industry, perhaps even co-publishing our work in the U.S. The real goal
for all of us is to glorify God. That means encouraging and empowering
each individual and each nation to use their gifts and talents to serve
God could just as easily have
put me in the United States. But he didn’t. So I’m going to continue to
work hard to ensure that the voices of Canadian Christian writers are
heard both in Canada and beyond.
What fiction do
Canadian Christians write?
Back in the late 1990s, my
American agent told me my mysteries were “too sophisticated for the
Christian market and too Christian for the secular market.” Since
judging the Best New Canadian Christian Author competitions for 2008
and 2009, I believe I’m not alone in this. The Canadian Christian
culture isn’t highly influenced by the religious right. We have a lot
of people who would say they believe in God but are not upset by a few
swear words, alcohol consumption, or a bit of sex or violence. But they
also relate to stories involving faith.
Canada’s literary heritage is
actually very strong. The encouragement is to write the book that’s in
you and worry about the market later. That’s what I’m planning on doing
for the next while—writing the books that are in me. I hope they get
published one day—in Canada and wherever else God thinks they’ll be of
Oh yes, in case you were
wondering, the bookstore that treated me so badly no longer exists. In
its place is a brand-new store that supports Canadian authors and has
all my books on its shelves. Change can be good.