Monday, November 14, 2011

The Fiction Unicorn: Catholic Contemporary Novels 

Did you ever see The Simpsons episode entitled “The Father, Son and Holy Guest Star”? In the episode, Bart is expelled from public school and enrolls in St. Jerome’s Catholic School, where Fr. Sean (voiced by Liam Neeson) leads Bart to convert to Catholicism. It is one of my favorite episodes of all time. The scene I like the most is when Marge wonders what will happen when they die, and she envisions Bart and Homer going to heaven, which is partitioned into Protestant Heaven and Catholic Heaven. In Protestant Heaven, the people are dressed in tennis togs and have names like “Biff.” Catholic Heaven is a rambunctious place, with the Irish fighting, Mexicans doing the hat dance, and Italians singing, eating, and drinking.

While not exclusively, for years I’ve read Christian fiction, but as a Catholic, I’ve noticed cultural differences. Christian fiction, like Protestant Heaven, is more reserved and restrictive. Unfortunately, I haven’t read any contemporary Catholic fiction, because I don’t know of any. It is the unicorn of the publishing world. I’ve tried to write to the guidelines of the Christian publishing houses, but as a Catholic my cultural background is more freewheeling. I can read a book with dancing and drinking and invectives stronger than “Oh my!” and not be scandalized. If the message is the same, can those who read Christian fiction cross over and read contemporary Christian fiction with a Catholic flair?

While I don’t write graphic sex scenes and use a profusion of profanity, I try to write how real people behave and speak, which does not conform to the guidelines. Sometimes I wonder if the Bible would pass muster with some of the more restrictive publishing houses.

When you boil it down, the Bible is a very racy book. For example, we’ve got the rape of Dinah and her brother’s who seek revenge by duping the rapist and his tribe, the Hittites, into being circumcised. While they are all lying around with ice packs on their groins (did they have ice back then?), the brothers murder them all. We’ve got King David playing peeping Tom and watching Bathsheba bathing naked and then bumping off her husband, Uriah, so he can have her. We’ve got a financial scandal befitting the Madoff family when Jacob swindles Esau out of a fortune. The Bible is filled with people who drink, dance, lie, cheat, curse, kill—you name it and they’ve done it.

My grand experiment in going indie is to satisfy this question: Is there a market for contemporary fiction with a Catholic flair? My stories are not sermons disguised as stories, but I feel many of today’s writers fail to take into consideration that readers as well as story characters have hearts, minds, and souls. I’m hoping to attract Catholics who feel deprived of good books that are realistic and yet have a message, and I’m inviting Christian fiction readers to take a gamble on me. If we, who have cultural differences, can meet over the message, that would be heaven—and one that’s not partitioned!


  1. Very interesting thoughts, Janice! As a Christian I have a hard time reconciling some of the beliefs of Catholicism w/ my own but I'm also respectful of others beliefs & think that life would be better for all if we could overlook our differences long enough to hear the other side. That doesn't mean that we have to agree but we can respect others & still have our differences! Looking forward to reading more from you!

  2. Thanks for reading the blog. My book does not dwell on theological differences so I'm hoping that others who read fiction with a Christian influence will make the jump to what I write.