I’m an author of Catholic fiction for teens. I’m a member of the Catholic Writers Guild and CatholicTeenBooks.com. I’ve received pretty awesome reviews for my novels and even an endorsement from Evangelist Alveda C. King and a first place CPA award for my pro-life novel, For Eden’s Sake. But if truth be told, my novels are not in high demand. And I’m not the only Catholic fiction author feeling the chill. Authors who I consider far better than I am are struggling to find the audience they’re writing for.
Around the time I wrote my first novel The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch, I remember the cry of many a Catholic complaining that there just wasn’t enough good Catholic fiction out there, above and beyond the usual Chesterton/Tolkien offering. It was true. My desire was to make that change in that regard. Many of the authors I know did too.
Catholic fiction for teens is not an easy genre to write, not because it’s difficult to write, I love it. God picked it for me and it’s my ministry. But like all things Christian . . . music, movies, etc . . . Catholic fiction is not a popular genre. This makes it all the more discouraging for writers like me who have more than just a story to tell.
With an estimated 1.2 billion Roman Catholics in the world, you’d think there’d be a high demand for Catholic fiction for teens. You’d think Catholic parents would be rapidly sourcing these books out . . . at least once the usual classics have been exhausted. And especially since many of the teen struggles of today go above and beyond the scope of the classics, concerning issues that I can almost bet Tolkien didn’t see coming. But sadly, no. The secular stories still prevail, and with them, a message often lacking God’s word that Catholics are supposed to thrive on . . . especially teens, who are soon expected to leave the security of the nest and enter an unforgiving, faith-lacking, temptation-saturated world. Such a sad revelation.
Did I pick the wrong genre? I can easily write dark novels with tainted albeit likable characters, devoid of redemptive desires, but elevate them to positions of admiration and envy. I can write shallow tales of empty love, including scenes frenzied by desires of the flesh. I can write wicked stories, saturated in adventure, but bereft of light. They don’t even have to be masterfully written stories in order to gain momentum, as we’ve often seen far less exalted to supreme status simply for their perfectly progressive slant. And all these stories would probably get way more recognition, pleasing the social justice warrior to no end. But none of them would be the Lord’s.
It’s also been suggested to me that I should nix the “Catholic” in my fiction. That it discourages readers, and it may be more appealing to a wider audience if I just write the story and not focus it to a specific denomination. But the point of my ministry is that it demonstrates how teens and young adults navigate the world while still living as a Catholic. It’s not easy. We are all flawed, living in an imperfect world that’s saturated in temptation. As adults, we know that to be true. Which is why teens need all the help that they can get.
No. I cannot hide the Catholic in my stories. God picked Catholic fiction for me. It’s my ministry. Teens need it. So, I write on, along with my fellow Catholic fiction authors, touting the goods inspired by a good and loving God who shares His truth with our words. Yet, always wondering where all the Catholics are!
I don’t expect Catholic fiction to surpass secular . . . although, wouldn’t that be an amazing feat? And, boy, would the world be better for it. But with so many awesome stories out there, wrapped in God’s amazing Grace, I do urge young readers to give it a go, and parents to encourage it! Teens may just fall in love with it. It may just be the guidance they need.