Friday, June 11, 2010

What is Edgy Christian Fiction?

Ask me what an edgy hair cut is, and I'll tell you it's something with lots of color and spikes. A style that would cause most people on the street to do a double take because it is so very unique.

Ask me what an edgy dog is, and I'll explain it's a very nervous canine that either licks compulsively, barks a ton, or jumps on you. Or all three.

Now ask me what an edgy Christian fiction book is and I'll give you a blank stare. Not sure. I have my guesses, but I can't be certain. Is it a book that the author would classify as Christian but with subject matter that pushes the envelope? Because I've read Christian fiction with pretty heavy subject matter and I don't know that Francine Rivers would call her books 'edgy'. She doesn't use strong cuss words, or vulgar explanations when writing about abortion, prostitution, etc. So, is she not 'edgy' because she chooses to respect her readers by not graphically explaining sinful actions in great detail? Or is she considered 'edgy' and I just don't know?

Tell me, what is 'edgy' to you when it concerns Christian fiction? I have my pre-concieved ideas, but nothing in cement. Is it that a book discusses the more difficult subjects that aren't all love and sunshine? Or is it when a book closely resembles secular fiction in the language used, with a Christian over-all theme?


  1. Thought provoking post!! I've wrestled with this because I've had some describe my book as edgy Christian, because it deals with stem cell research I suppose, but it's a clean book as far as language and sex and violence, so I never considered it edgy at all.

    I tend to think of edgy as being those books that push the boundary between what is secularly acceptable and what it acceptable in Christian fiction. Not necessarily story-wise but in terms of the language, etc.

    On that definition, I have problems with edgy Christian fiction. Either be respectful of the community of readers who choose Christian fiction because they are clean, or go secular.

    The problem many have, I suspect, is the problem I had: secular, mainstream agents and publishers do not want books with characters of Christian faith, even if those character struggle with their faith. And many authors want to accurately reflect people without faith in their books, which might offend Christian publishers.

    It's an interesting question. I hope you get some good feedback because I'll be interested to hear what others say!

  2. btw - the photo is beautiful! Did you take it?

  3. Thank you Heidi. Yes, I did take the pictures. Wait, the ones of the woman and dog or of the leaf at the top? :)

    Woman and dog, no. Leaf at the top? Yes. While hiking in Washington.

    And I agree with your problem with edgy Christian fiction. That's why I wonder what it means exactly because if it means more foul language then don't like it. I have a friend who is blind. He can't watch TV for entertainment so he listens to books on CD. Because he is blind he has a wonderful ability to see in his mind what the author is explaining in the story. He tells me that he loves books but has a hard time listening to secular fiction because they are getting more graphic and difficult for him to want to envision. How sad if Christian books took the same turn.

  4. Hi, Rachel. I think you will find that the definition of edgy is going to be different for different people. It could be difficult subject matter, the amount of evil shown in a book and the way it is depicted, the level of intimacy shown in a romance, etc. Everyone has their own level of what they find comfortable.

    There are some Christian authors who have been called edgy, yet when I read their work, I don't find myself uncomfortable at all despite my conservative leanings. There are others that I choose not to read because I am the darkness they depict in their stories takes me to a place I don't want to go. Yet I hear powerful testimonies of how these same stories bring healing to people who have suffered in these dark ways.

    I don't think Christian authors should push the boundaries just for the sake of being edgy. That's not the right motivation. However, there are powerful ways that God can work through an unconventional style or plot.

    My personal preference is to write stories that touch people's hearts and make them smile without worrying that when they turn the page, they might find something offensive. And so far, the readers who have contacted me have nearly all said how happy they were to find an author with page-turning stories that are completely clean, and they begged me not to change with any future books. I respect their feedback and plan to write accordingly.

    I doubt I'll ever be labeled as edgy - and that is just fine with me.

  5. Yes, the term "edgy" will be different for each individual. Though the term edgy isn't using swear words or vulgarity, it's (for me) touching on the "no-no" topic in your books that most Christians shy away from. So many things can be described as edgy. But the edgiest things I've read were written by Melody Carlson and Jack Cavanaugh. Two of my fave authors!!!

    I love writing things that are totally opposite of what's out there in the christian market, which seems to be only romance. I mean don't get me wrong, I like a good love story, but what about the male readers. I like my books to be able to be read by both male and female readers. Edgy enough for both genders to like. And things that people can relate to in present day that are happening in my books.

    If you ask 5 different people you'll get 5 different stories. And you'll get 5 different definitions of what "edgy" is. I just consider it the "out-of-the-ordinary-really-controversial" books.

  6. I would definitely consider Francine River's Redeeming Love edgy.

    And I agree, the definition of edgy will change depending on who you talk to.

    To me, edgy Christian fiction shows characters struggling with sin and dealing with the ramifications of their choices. However, it does not glorify sin.

    You might not think that's unusual in Christian fiction, but there are several publishers in my genre that don't want to see Christians struggling with sin in their books. They will allow it for unsaved characters, but not Christians.

    I personally, would not enjoy an edgy Christian fiction novel that is one cuss word shy of secular fiction. Despite its edgy label, the edgy fiction I've read has been light years away from secular fiction.

    And I don't think graphic scenes and strong language is what makes a book edgy (although they can be found in *some* edgy novels). I guess for me, 'edgy' is found in the plot and the themes.

  7. Joy- I love what you said about glorifying sin. That's a great point.

    I love the response I'm getting. I understand it will mean something different to each person, which is the whole idea.

    See, I read a post on a writers site where a Christian author complained that his books were not taken as 'Christian' fiction because they had rough sexual scenes and the 'f' word. He said that these things made it edgy. Which got me thinking.

    I am definitely enjoying the feedback!

  8. Rachel,

    Thank you for your kind words of "congrats" at my blog this week. I look forward to hearing your "good news" about your very own FedEx package soon!

  9. My pleasure. Oh, so it comes in a FedEx package?! ;)