Religion in Indie Publishing
Guest post by Brian Holers
We all know the basic structure of fiction is conflict which leads to crisis and, ultimately, a resolution. Those are the macronutrients, in a sense, of fiction. But much like plant and animal life, fiction also requires its micronutrients, without which the fictive body would wither and die.
A crucial element in fiction is yearning. A character must want something he doesn’t currently have. Be it fame, money, power. A feeling of contentment he sorely lacks. What makes us care about an imaginary person in a novel is her yearning. We find out what she wants, we begin to see her side of things. We know what she has, what she doesn’t have, and what she may have had, and then lost. We start to see she is just like us. That’s why we care.
The search for God, a desire for something greater than the day-to-day, is a common yearning. Most of us carry what may seem like conflicting desires—a need to transcend our earthly experience, with all its limitations, and at the same time a need to be part of something greater.
Traditionally published religious fiction has the disadvantage of being drawn through multiple filters. One, content must be consistent with the doctrines and mores of the religion portrayed. Two, where there are multiple views on those doctrines and mores, traditional publishers tend not to take risks. While the market for Christian fiction, representing the world’s largest religion, is potentially huge, the body of work out there seems narrow. In this realm, independent publishing creates an opportunity to expand the market.
Most readers aren’t moved by another person’s religious experiences. Some are, sure, or claim to be. More often, readers want to read stories. We live life in stories, and we relate to one another through stories. Whether religious or not, whether a person is saved or protected from the shortcomings of this world by his religion or not, she still has to live here. She still has to go to work and to the grocery store, eat, sleep, get along (or not) with others. And, at times, he gets to enjoy a summer drive down an endless road on a cool evening, watching pink-and-darkening striations in the sunset sky. With his arm out the window, marveling at all the bounty around him, and feeling grateful toward its source.
Fiction portrays yearning, and plays out conflict. Most importantly, a story has greater potential to make an impact, and for its characters to live on in the minds of readers, when the writer takes risks. When characters do and say things that may not seem consistent with religious mores, but clearly are consistent with human behavior. As independent writers, and independent publishers, we can choose not to sanitize our characters. Sanitized characters are dull, and readers don’t care about them. Fully human characters, when clearly drawn, matter. And make life better.
In my youth I knew a man in rural Louisiana who bought an old building in the country when he decided to break off from his old one, and start a new church. His efforts were met with fervor in the beginning, when quite a few of his former congregants broke off with him, began to show up at his building on Sundays, and looked to him as their spiritual leader. But, as it turned out, Mr. Bobby wasn’t that good of a preacher. He was a magnetic man, but he had no education in the Scriptures, and after a handful of Sundays, his gig was played out. People went back to their old church, and the money ran out. Mr. Bobby lost all hope.
Then, he made a choice. Despite all his church tradition had to say about the evils of alcohol, he turned his country church into a bar. Now, he was in business. He made a change in his life because he wanted people to come into his presence and be filled with a spirit. Only when he turned his church into an enemy of his church, did he find what he was looking for. Mr. Bobby learned what we all as independent publishers learn. When you’re on your own, you can do whatever you want.
Doxology by Brian Holers
Fathers, sons and brothers reconnect over tragedy in this blue-collar Southern tale of love, loss and the healing power of community and family.
Vernon Davidson is an angry man. After a lifetime of abuse and loss the 61-year-old is ready to get back at God, his co-workers, and everyone else is in his north Louisiana hometown. He drinks too much to numb the pain, shuns his friends and embarrasses himself in the community. The once-cautious Vernon spirals into a reckless mess.
Only when he is reunited with his estranged nephew Jody is he forced to confront his situation. Jody is struggling in equal parts after inflicting a self-imposed exile upon himself by fleeing the family, and thereby himself, for a new life thousands of miles away. Now his father, Vernon’s brother, is dying and Vernon agrees to retrieve him for his brother’s sake.
Jody embarks on a reluctant journey back to his Louisiana home and the two men together embark on a journey that will ultimately change their lives.
Brian Holers’s Doxology examines an impossibly difficult question: how does a man go about forgiving a God he has grown to despise after the tragedies and endless disappointments he has faced?
About the author:
An arborist by day and a novelist in every moment he can steal, Brian’s head is filled with stories which can’t be contained. Be it writing, blogging or ranting to friends, his voice is passionate and compelling.
Brian’s fiction is inhabited by characters who, like people everywhere, search for resolution and connection. Characters of faith appear to show God meeting people wherever they are, whether celebrating victory or learning to live with loss. Ultimately they must, in keeping with the words of the prayer, gain the serenity to accept the things they can’t change, and the courage to change the things they can.
Raised Christian, Brian now lives in a Jewish home in Seattle, Washington with his wife and son. The family spent 2006 traveling through East Africa, Southeast Asia, Israel and New Zealand. His experiences have given Brian a lifetime of stories to tell.
Find out more at BrianHolers.com.