with guest Richard L. Mabry, MD.
I first heard the words, “I stand today on the shoulders of giants,” when a new president of a major medical society of which I was a member took office. He then went on to list the people who had gone before, each accomplishing a great deal in our specialty of medicine, all of them well-known names in the medical community. These were truly giants in our field.
I was curious, so I researched the words and discovered that most authorities attribute the phrase to Sir Isaac Newton, who said, “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Most of us think of Newton’s accomplishments in physics and mathematics, but there was more to him than that. Interestingly enough, Newton was said to be a devout Christian, although somewhat unorthodox in some of his views on doctrine. His witness was carried out through his professional activities and his daily life. And that’s how I think it should be in the area of Christian fiction.
I believe it’s safe to say that each person who writes novels that can be considered Christian fiction wants to sell books. It’s a simple assumption. First, book sales indicate people reached with whatever message the novel carries. And the money is nice, although (and I speak from experience here) very few novelists make enough money from their writing to quit their day jobs. But how does one go about becoming a “giant” in the field? Frankly, I’m not sure there are many individuals who have attained this status. A few names come to mind, but in my opinion, the aggregate of all our efforts is more important than individual numbers attributed to any specific authors. In that sense, all of us who write can be giants.
There are many authors who seek to convey the Christian message through their novels, and they do it in different ways. I’ve only been involved in the world of Christian fiction for a decade, yet I can see a great variation in the way messages are presented. In some books, the plan of salvation is laid out boldly. In others, the witness of the author is portrayed in the way characters handle various situations. Each serves a purpose, and there’s room for all. Or, as we say in Texas, “That’s why they make Fords and Chevrolets.”
Some Christian novelists publish in the general market, but most of us seek distribution through publishers aligned to the Christian Booksellers Association (CBA). There are many reasons for this. Some wish to include overt Christianity in their novels, and editors in the American Booksellers Association (ABA) have a strong sense that these things don’t sell. But I can attest from personal experience that, even in the absence of such things as conversion experiences and altar calls, the way our characters react speaks to Christianity or its absence, and readers notice it. How often does it cause a change in their lives? No one knows. But this is what keeps me writing.
When I finally found my writing voice, it presented a subtler Christian message than some of the others, but it seemed to work. I’ve been told by people who are Jewish, agnostic, or atheist that they enjoy reading my work. How much of the message comes through to them? There’s no way to tell…but the seed has been planted. I especially prize the endorsement from a fellow writer, a practicing Jew, whose novels were best sellers in the general market: “The Christian message is intriguing.” That and the nice words of my non-Christian friends who enjoy my books are the kinds of thing that encourage me.
It is notable that a book of fiction, The Pilgrim’s Progress, is second only to the Bible in sales throughout the world. The author, John Bunyan, wrote the book, of course, while in Bedford County Jail. He could have been released at any time during his twelve years’ imprisonment if he only promised he’d cease preaching. His family suffered, as did he, but his faith never wavered. He was a giant for Christ, and I am proud to stand on his shoulders.
So do Christian novels make a difference? I think so, although some have more influence than others. Yet if even a single person who reads one of these books is changed by it, the effort necessary for its production will have been well expended. Does that mean that my novels qualify me for the designation, “Giant?” I don’t think so. Yet, together with others, we accomplish God’s purpose. Maybe, if we stand on the shoulders of others, together we can be giants as well.
What writer, either fiction or non-fiction, do you consider a “giant” in writing? Why do you say that? Can a single writer accomplish more than a number of lesser ones? Why? Let us know.
Richard Mabry is a retired physician, now an award-winning, best selling author of “medical suspense with heart.” His latest novel is Medical Judgment.
Someone is after Dr. Sarah Gordon. They’ve stalked her, then set a fire at her home, and she has no idea what will come next. Her late husband’s best friend and a recovering alcoholic detective are trying to solve the mystery before it’s too late, but both appear to be vying for her affection as well. Sarah finds herself in constant fear as the process plays out. The questions keep mounting. Who is doing this? Why are they after her? What will they do to her? Will it mean her death? And, meanwhile, whom can she trust?
Today is release day for Medical Judgement. Leave a comment for an opportunity to win your own copy. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.