I was pleased when Tina asked me to contribute to this blog. I’m also happy to see Stephen Bly is coming on board too. Not that I have anything at all against being the token male in this bevy of beauties, but . . .
You may gather that I love westerns. In fact, I’ve never gotten the credit I deserve over the role I played in cleaning up the west. I devoted my Saturday mornings helping my hero, Roy Rogers, subdue bad guy after bad guy. I helped others from time to time, even branched out during the week with “Bonanza,” “Wanted Dead or Alive,“ “Have Gun will Travel” and such. Still, I was primarily loyal to Roy, he was not only a movie star but a fine Christian gentleman who took being a role model for lots of young people very seriously. I was very busy helping . . . and very dedicated. I never outgrew being a Roy Rogers fan and still have a picture of Roy, Dale and Trigger on my dresser.
As I grew up I did day work on farms and ranches when I could and was the manager of what is claimed to be the World’s oldest rodeo, the “West of the Pecos Rodeo” in Pecos, Texas. When I began to write fiction it was natural I would want to include my love of the west. I also felt a strong calling to include my faith in my fiction. The Western market is very cyclical, comes and goes, and is difficult to break into as the houses that do westerns tend to stay with established names, a number of which I am proud to call friends. Historicals, particularly romantic historical, are a much more stable market. I’ve been writing inspirational, with a lot of historical content, but I do like setting them in the old West if I can find the market for them.
At the Oregon Writers Conference fellow author and agent Ron Benrey was asked how to break into the market for Christian Westerns and he said “the first thing is to manage to get rid of Stephen Bly and Terry Burns to create a slot.” Now I know he was just including me with Steven because we were both there at the conference, Steven just about owns the market for Christian Westerns outright. Still, I got a kick out of it.
In addition to being in the Western Writers of America I’m in an invitation only online group of western writers. I was honored by that invitation particularly since most of them that hang out over there have hundreds of books in print. I only have about 24 books so far including collections I have short work in. The first day I posted to the group the question came out, “What is a Christian Western?” Then I knew why I was there. Most of their books were clean enough to sell in the Christian market as well, but they couldn’t make inroads there. I don’t know that the term “Christian Westerns” is really an industry term, but I knew what they were asking and I told them the difference wasn’t the things that weren’t to be found in the books such as an absence of language, sex or graphic violence. But it was what COULD be found in the books, and that is a specific faith content. I still believe there is a much stronger market for a “Christian Western” than publishers seem to believe is there, so perhaps they’ll come around.
I do have a new book, “Beyond the Smoke” coming out in January from BJU Press with a young protagonist and aimed at the Young Adult market. I’d love to lure more young readers into reading westerns. I also have an earlier work, a historical romance, coming back out from Treble Heart Press rewritten almost a third larger and with a delightful new story line included. The working title is “A Promise Kept” and the actual release date is not set but it should be some time next year.
You see, I spend most of my time as a literary agent these days, but I do want to keep my own writing alive. Because of the way I dress people often assume I only handle westerns. Actually only a small portion of what I represent is aimed at that market. I represent a fairly wide range of projects. Things that I connect with, that have good writing, that I can see the market for and feel I have the right contacts to sell it into that market. I also represent a number of non fiction projects.
I’m working in both the mainstream and the Christian marketplace, but I admit since Hartline has been an established name in the Christian market for over twenty years our contacts are stronger in that marketplace.
I’m not sure what direction she wants my portion of the blog to go, but I suppose it’ll become clear as it develops. As introductions go I suppose this one is a bit skimpy, but you get the idea. I’ll see you here next month, and perhaps I’ll even draw some comments from you about what you’d like to see me address here.