Hello, readers! Today we have a special guest joining us on the blog. Christine is a strong advocate for Christian fiction, a super-cool librarian who always has a book recommendation, and and all-around delightful person to know. And in addition to all of that, she’s a reviewer for Library Journal, so as part of our new series interviewing people behind the scenes, Christine offered to let us in on more of what she does. Enjoy!
Amy: What would you say is your favorite part about reviewing for Library Journal?
Christine: The five years that I have been reviewing for LJ (and over 600 books reviewed, not counting the ones I read and do not review), has been an honor and pleasure to give back to the library community. I have to admit that being one of the first to see the new titles and new authors is a thrill every single time.
Amy: 600 books! That’s incredible! And yes, I totally understand the excitement of opening a galley months before a book officially releases.
Let’s get into the actual writing of reviews. How do you decide what to say in the evaluative part of the review? Especially if you didn’t care for the book, how can you tell if it just isn’t for you or if it objectively could have been better?
Christine: Because librarians use LJ as a source for purchases, LJ asks that we not include reviews of books that are purely negative. Now, that may give readers pause…and make authors wonder if they didn’t make it into the Journal because their books are terrible. Not so. We are limited by space constraints and therefore are limited to the number of reviews that can be included in the print journal. As a librarian, I want books that are timely, relevant, that fill a hole in my collection or augment a popular one. I am looking for a fresh take on an existing genre or a new voice that throws me a curve.
Amy: Too many books…such a great problem to have! So, when you explain to others that you read and review Christian fiction, what are some stereotypes that you’ve encountered?
Christine: From clergy most times I’m scoffed at and told that there is no such thing! From non-readers of the genre sometimes I can pique a reader’s curiosity, but sometimes I get the eyes widening and backing away slowly. It can be a tremendous conversation stopper. Mostly it’s the stereotype of preachy evangelizing that makes people worry. I have found that it’s a 70/30 split: among those who haven’t heard of Christian fiction, about 70% have no interest, and 30% would be interested if I can give them the right recommendation. This is when it pays to know your audience and your authors’ writing styles.
Amy: We’re glad you do! You mentioned stereotypes that are no longer true. What is the biggest change that you’ve appreciated in inspirational fiction over the years?
Christine: I believe the biggest change I’ve noticed is the broadening of the subgenres. This is great news for readers who are used to a variety of subgenres in their fiction diets. Reading inspirational fiction does not mean that you are limited to Amish or romance, which is a common misconception. There’s something out there for everyone.
Amy: That’s one of the things I love about looking at the fiction titles on display at a Christian bookstore. So much variety! That said, is there anything you’d like to see (or would like to see more of) in the future?
Christine: I would like to see more contemporary fiction that deals with hard issues. Obviously, those issues can be difficult to address well, but I believe readers of any genre should be able to find themselves in a book.
Thanks so much for joining us, Christine! Readers, what Christian fiction books have you read recently that address hard issues? (Even though Christine mentioned contemporary in particular, feel free to include historical titles.)