I have always loved books. I know this because my library grows ever bigger and my database of all the books I’ve read since November 1998 grows ever longer. I can flick through my database and tell you when each of my book phases began and for how long it went for. My Christian reading didn’t really start until 2001 after I read “Rachel’s Tears”. I recommitted my life to Christ after reading that book. My Dad began helping me pick appropriate Christian Living books for me to read and some teen devotionals. I devoured all sorts of Christian Living books especially Philip Yancey.
After I finished university I took a job teaching High School Scripture to Years 7 and 8 students. For 3 years I was privileged to answer questions from every area of Christianity. I didn’t know all the answers and told the kids so, but they seemed happy enough that someone was willing to listen to their questions all the same. This job sent me to my local Christian bookstore, Koorong at least two times a week. I would literally trawl the aisles after school looking for anything to help me teach the kids.
It was during these trawling times that I came across a set of books in the specials bin. Now, I have read some Christian Fiction before (only 8 titles actually) but none of it really caught my attention. I saw a box of Christian Romance fiction which contained 10 books for $20. Never a girl to pass up a bargain I snatched it up. I was both pleased and disappointed with what I discovered there. Some of the books were simply not to my taste and I struggled to finish them. However one or two books caught my attention and I realised that I couldn’t judge Christian Fiction based on 10 romance novels. So using the authors I liked from this collection I started trawling the Christian Fiction section. Nothing grabbed me enough to take it home though. The following three books have defined my journey to Christian Fiction.
On another visit and again in the special bin I came across a book that showed me how great Christian Fiction could be. “Sweetwater Gap” by Denise Hunter just grabbed me from the moment I read the blurb. I took it home and devoured it (I checked my database and I read it in 1 day it seems!) and it has become one of my most favourite books. I was hooked on Christian Fiction. I started exploring different writers, trying out what I really liked. From more Denise Hunter to Tracie Peterson, Michael Phillips, Delia Parr, Noel Hynd, Christine Lynxwiler and Judith Pella I got a good idea of what was going on in Christian Fiction. I’m very pleased to say I greatly enjoyed and have collected and still do, many of the books written by the authors mentioned above. Still I was looking for something more and I didn’t know what it was. Again after browsing through the specials bin I picked up another book that blew me out of the water.
“Down Where My Love Lives” by Charles Martin was the second book and something I had never picked up before. It is a collection of two of his novels “The Dead Don’t Dance” and it’s sequel “Maggie”. I have never talked about Charles Martin’s books on here because when we started this blog I had already read all his books. Charles Martin does not tell you things, he shows you instead – in vivid colours and layers of meaning infused in to each word. His ability to create characters so rich in meaning and real without harping on their appearance leaves me slack jawed. Yes I am gushing about his books but you have to read one to get what I’m talking about.
I was quite happy having discovered some fantastic authors and was now enjoying slowly discovering others I had not yet read. The third book, which jumped out at me, was not in the specials bin this time. Alison Strobel’s “The Weight of Shadows” had caught my attention several times but I didn’t buy it straight away. The blurb intrigued me. Finally I gave in to my curiosity and bought it. I was rewarded with a deeply moving, emotionally charged read. I had no idea that Christian Fiction could write on the ugliness of life yet still show the wonderful grace and love of Christ shinning through.
My Christian Fiction journey has not ended by far. However I have come to understand that these three author’s sum up what I relate to as a reader and also the direction of my own hopes and dreams of becoming a published author.
Jess is a mum of two children and married to the calmest man alive. She loves to bake and go for walks. A writer of contemporary romance, Jess write stories about the heart and where love is worth the journey.
The special bins can turn out to be great, that's for sure. A few months ago I was gloomy to hear that copies of "A Design of Gold" had been relegated there, but it turned out to be a blessings in disguise, as they moved really fast (you'd hope so, for $2) and resulted in a boost of sales of "Best Forgotten" and others.
It's interesting to hear that your love affair with Christian fiction started with the specials bin, Jess.
To this day Paula, I always comb through the specials bin knowing that I might find a hidden treasure in there!
I'm so glad The Weight of Shadows was such a moving read for you! That's definitely one of my personal favorites. 🙂
I'm glad you wrote it Alison! 🙂