As you've probably already noticed, one of my changes to this site is the new tagline beneath my logo: “Clean content. Perilous tales.” My previous tagline, “Writing the stories you're looking for,” was good, but…a little too Star-Wars, to be honest. Also, it didn't adequately communicate the unique branding and emphasis of my fiction.
So, how does the new one do that?
As many of you already know, I'm a Christian, but I don't write “Christian” fiction. Yes, there is a Christian worldview reflected in the Afterverse and its underlying mythology, but an explicitly Biblical message is never the overt subject of my books. I don't believe that readers should have to navigate philosophical debates of any kind when they read my fiction. This is one of the reasons why controversial themes involving politics, sexuality, and racial tension do not feature in my stories. There is racial diversity among my characters, but it's not central to the story.
Even though I don't put a Christian label on my books, I still keep my stories very clean and family-friendly, with no profanity, sexual scenes, or gory violence. My stories are often scary and intense, but I don't use graphic content to achieve that. I don't always market my books as “young adult” because few of my main characters are young enough to fit that genre. All the same, I do want adults to be able to share my books with their kids without having to shield them from any objectionable material. Plus, there are many adults (myself included) who enjoy their own reading material more when such content is left out.
I don't believe that “clean” stories have to be “safe”. They're not predictable or boring by definition. Gore, swearing, and sex isn't necessary to keep a reader's interest. The key to that is good storytelling, and nothing more. I don't want to offend my readers, but I do want to make them laugh, gasp in astonishment, hide behind the sofa, and possibly even tear up a little here and there. After all, it's safe to say that most of us read fiction for an emotional experience of some kind, and we speculative fiction for wonder, excitement, and a bit of danger. There's no reason why a book can't have those elements without being unsafe for kids or agenda-driven. Hence, “Clean content, perilous tales.”
There are a few things I want to clarify here. First of all, I'm not dismissing or criticizing Christian writers who choose to either include overt Biblical themes or a certain degree of edgier content in their own stories. There are many great books that fit into these categories. I'm just fulfilling a different part of the market, targeting those who have more stringent guidelines about what they choose to read or who are looking for books to read with kids and young adults.
Second, since it's impossible to cater to everyone's unique, individual sensibilities, I don't expect all readers to agree that my books are sufficiently “clean”. There are those who consider magic in fantasy to be problematic, but I'm not planning to change that aspect of my stories. I personally don't agree that magic should not feature in books written or read by Christians, so long as it's handled properly and doesn't in any way promote real-world witchcraft. And given the wide range of views on content, there are possibly other elements in my books which could rub people the wrong way; things which wouldn't even occur to me. But I choose not to worry about that. The basic definition of “clean” which I adhere to when I write is “no swearing, no sex, and no gore”.
Third, there are some brief, mild instances in the original drafts of my stories which some readers have taken issue with, and which do not feature in the relaunched versions that will be released on October 31. I'm referring to just a few scenes where characters say “Oh my God” or some variation of that phrase. I don't personally consider this to fall outside the realm of clean fiction, but enough people disagree that I've decided to make a change here. These lines can be altered without affecting the stories in any significant way, and most readers probably won't even notice the tweaks. As such, my books will no longer feature misuses of God's name in any way whatsoever.
I think that covers it all. Thanks for bearing with me for this post; I don't normally get this philosophical. It'll be back to business as usual with mythical creatures running amuck from here on out, I promise. If you have any thoughts on the new tagline, feel free to share them in the comments.