Every Friday I will endeavor to feature a new author. Yes, you can rub shoulders with some of the greatest authors out there today right here, folks! At least I think they’re pretty great. Hope you meet some new friends and find some new books to read!

To kick off our first Feature Friday, I’m excited to have Dr. Richard Mabry as our guest. Richard and I share an agent, and you may also recognize him as the current VP of American Christian Fiction Writers. Richard writes wonderful medical suspense novels. If you haven’t checked them out yet, you need to. He’s a very supportive friend and encourager to many, myself included, in our writing community.

Today, Richard has a few things to share about being an author and how to handle criticism when it comes.

Take it away, Richard!

“My introduction to less-than stellar reviews occurred shortly after the release of my first novel, and brought up the question of labeling fiction as Christian. I’ve seen it with all my novels since then. Sort of like a fire, rekindling itself from coals you thought were dead, it continues to flare up.

Every writer expects criticism of his or her work. It’s part of the human condition. Something I heard years ago has stuck with me through times like these: “I cannot expect to be universally loved and respected.” And that’s a phrase I’ve had to repeat like a mantra since I first read a one-star review of my debut novel, Code Blue. The reviewer’s complaint? It was a “Christian novel.”

Just before the review appeared, Code Blue was made available as a free download as an ebook at both Amazon and Barnes and Noble. That’s when several people took advantage of the free download, only to give the book one star because the novel is “Christian fiction.”

I’m prepared to have my writing style criticized. Perhaps the reader doesn’t like medical novels. Perhaps I don’t pack my work with enough suspense. Maybe the characters are one-dimensional. All these are valid criticisms. But I was crushed to have my writing criticized because it was written from a Christian worldview.

My latest novel, Lethal Remedy, has been getting some good reviews so far. But I’m holding my breath until it’s made available as a free download—something publishers do as a marketing tool (not to proselytize readers to Christianity). Undoubtedly, there’ll be criticism because of its Christian content. Go figure.

What is “Christian fiction” anyway? I went back and copied what I said in an interview on Writer Unboxed some time back. I think it’s as good a definition as I can give for my own version of “Christian fiction”:  The primary difference I see is that (these novels) don’t have cursing or explicit sex, and portray a Christian worldview… The books portray characters that are flawed, as we all are, and who struggle with their relationships, both with God and their fellow man…What I’ve frequently said is that the only difference I really see is that these novels are written from a Christian worldview and don’t contain anything I’d hesitate for my mother, wife, or daughter to read.

In the discussion that followed, a couple of people suggested that they wouldn’t have taken advantage of the free download if my novel had been labeled “Christian fiction.” My question, in turn, is whether some novels should be labeled “Smutty fiction” or “Fiction containing lots of cursing.” It just seems silly to me. If I don’t like it, I stop reading. I do the same with a TV program I don’t like. There’s no mystery to discovering what a book’s about. You can usually tell the nature of the book from the blurb (back of the book, or on the website of an online bookseller). Failing that, it’s possible to thumb through the book (in a store) or read excerpts (online at Amazon). Why have labels?

Some people will want to read what I’m comfortable writing, some won’t. But the question remains: Should Christian fiction carry a warning tag, so people who are uncomfortable reading it (and I wonder why that is…hmm) can avoid it? You tell me.”

You can learn more about Richard and his books on his website! 

Thanks for being with us today, Richard.