Status: Drafting the fourth book in the PERILOUS series!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Losing My Religion

The religious aspect of Perilous has been an issue of debate from the moment I got my contract. Not so much debate as in, my editor and I fought over it, but as in, debating how much it really fit my novel.

As my novel became less and less of a coming-of-age, inspirational Christian novel, and more and more of a high-stakes thriller, the religion felt like it belonged to a different novel. We started making changes a long time ago. One of the first comments from my editor about the religion was this:

One of the ideas I threw out in my notes was the option of having only two of the girls be
LDS, Jaci and Callie is what I'm thinking. This is just a thought. See what you think as you go
over your revisions. I am looking at ways of making this appeal to a broad YA audience. It is definitely a YA thriller, and yet I don't see it appealing to the LDS YA audience. Therefore, we need to take out much of the religion, or it won't appeal to a non LDS audience either, and then we have problems!

So right away, we realized we had to tone down the religious aspect because we wanted to appeal to a mainstream audience. Still, we kept the LDS domination as an ever-present part of the novel for two reasons: a) to appeal to an LDS audience b) to appease my desire to have a mainstream novel with an LDS main character.

I made the changes. I went from four LDS characters to two. Instead of having prayers and religious talks, we went to a general sense of normal girls who have moral upbringing. Everything seemed to be going well, when we became aware of a change in marketing. Or rather, a change in the economy that affected LDS books: the closing of LDS bookstores. From my editor:

The LDS bookstores are struggling in a major way right now. Even Deseret Book has closed down stores and been pickier about taking on books at their stores. As a result, WiDo is moving away from the LDS market as it's not economically feasible in today's climate. In fact, one novel under editing has the LDS character changed to Methodist, because it complicated things too much making her LDS, yet she meets a guy at church and she doesn't smoke or drink so we wanted her to have a church background.

I desperately wanted to argue the point and say that there are plenty of LDS readers out there buying LDS fiction. But the truth is, there isn't. Just that day I had spoken with several ladies from church who said they preferred to read mainstream fiction over LDS fiction. So unfortunately, what my editor said rang true to me.

However, it felt like a betrayal and even fraudulent for me to make my main character a different religion. So instead, we've taken out all direct domination references and just left her a Christian. In my mind, she is still LDS. I hope many young teenagers pick up on that and relate to Jaci even more because of her religious background. But perhaps young people of all religions will assume she goes to their church.

In all, as difficult as it was to let go of the idea of putting a strong LDS character out into the world, I have high expectations that the book will come across as a thriller with a moral main character, whose unidentified religious background will make her relate-able to many people.

In your WIP or published book, what have you had to give up to make the publication become a reality?


Don said...

I had to give up the anthurium joke. It was one of the funniest parts of the story, but possibly just a touch off-color.

When I first started writing my book, I did my level best to strip the religious aspects out of it. My characters rebelled. So I caved in and allowed it to be an LDS novel.

Like you, I live outside the LDS Corridor, so I'm now struggling with how much effort I should put into "local" marketing. The themes in the story are universal, but the characters and setting are thoroughly LDS.

Best of luck with Perilous

Diana Mieczan said...

That is so interesting:)....Such a shame we have to give into stuff...but that is how it is, right?

Kisses and have a wonderful day:)

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

Interesting, Don. I'll definitely be interested to see how your journey goes. Keep me informed!

Sigh, Diana. It does seem to be the way things are. Very unfortunate, especially when not even our own support us.

Annie McMahon said...

I feel a song coming. :) I understand your struggle, but it might be a good thing if your book ends up appealing to more people. I'm curious now to see how you handle all these changes, and I can't wait to read your book!

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

I can't remember if you ever read any of it, Annie, but if you did, you'll sure find it different now!

Shane Arthur said...

I guess if it's book #1 we can bend a bit, then once success in under our belts, we can say to hell with rules and get whatever we want and see what happens to sales.

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

That's totally what I think, Shane! I'm hoping that this book does so well that with book #2, I get to call the shots!

Annie McMahon said...

No, I joined the forum after you got your contract. I read some chapters of Book 2, though.

Jen said...

Tough, tough, tough. Reading this I could feel the restraint and sadness behind it. Having to lose something that is so near and dear to you, along with something that is very strong to have in a book to taking it out completely had to be tough.

I have to say that it's nice to see that she is still a Christian and I love how you handled it but making her nothing more than a christian. It means it still rang true to your beliefs and what you were following. I hope that readers also come to relate (especially those LDS readers) to this story!

I have to say I'm with Shane, bending book #1 is okay just to get something underneath our belt. Don't become gumby but give a little get a little is a policy I'd use here :)


Talli Roland said...

Thank you so much for sharing this - it just goes to show the realities of publishing. Publishers need to sell books to survive! It's a business like any other. I write quite commercial fiction so I haven't had to make any major changes - yet. But who knows where the market's heading?

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

Yes, I can tell you all know where I'm coming from! There is simply no choice at this point. Andn while she's not "LDS" in the book, getting to keep the moral feel to it is just as important. So far, the change has definitely been something I can live with.

And hey, it's making my book more marketable!

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