Get Set
Nancy Linquist

N. J. Lindquist is a Canadian author, speaker, entrepreneur, and visionary who is delighted to see change coming to the publishing industry. Last year, she edited and published Hot Apple Cider: Words to Stir the Heart and Warm the Soul, an anthology featuring 30 Canadian authors who are Christian. It’s now a Canadian bestseller. In addition, N. J. is the author of ten books, including two mainstream whodunits that have been compared to the best of Agatha Christie’s; five “edgy” coming-of age novels teenage boys actually read; three one-to-one discipleship manuals for teens; a Christmas play, and numerous columns and articles. N. J. is the visionary behind The Word Guild, a Canadian association of more than 350 writer and editors who are Christian, and since 2002 she has co-directed the Write! Canada conference, which celebrates its 25th anniversary in June. In partnership with her husband of 38 years (a change management consultant), N. J. speaks across Canada and in the US on creativity, leadership, discipleship and writing. They have four adult sons, all of whom were homeschooled, and four grandchildren. Come see Nancy at

Finding My Place in God’s Plan

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 culture.

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 bookstores.

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 publishing.

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 Christian worldview.

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 and American

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 the 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 Him.

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 value.

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.