About three months ago, I got an idea for a book. It came to me in a strange place, a place where my mind usually doesn’t wander. I was sitting in church, listening to one of our pastors talk about the Israelites being delivered out of Egypt in the Exodus narrative. The idea came slowly but by the end of the service, I had the whole book mapped out in my head.
I knew, though, that it would be a difficult book to write. It was going to require tons of research. It was going to have me looking intimately at certain passages of scripture that I have always wrestled with. And, quite frankly, it was going to require me to step out of a comfort zone that I have relied on for far too long.
See…those that have visited this sorry excuse for a blog over the last several years know that I am a Christian. But even a step beyond that, I have worked pretty hard over the last few years to successfully weave my faith into my fiction. The results were books like Break Every Chain and Bound. These books would easily be considered Christian fiction (though I think many traditional Christians might steer away from the horror elements of Bound) and I am fine with that. Even my Cooper M. Reid books are heavily influenced by my faith but I also know that traditional Christian markets would never consider them Christian fiction.
But those are genre arguments and that’s a post for an entirely different day.
The comfort zone I need to step out of is proclaiming myself a Christian, almost as if it is an excuse. Hey guys, I still write horror from time to time but it’s okay because I’m a Christian and my faith is a big part of my writing now.
Or something to that affect.
But as this new story idea evolves and I get more dedicated to writing it, I’m realizing that labeling myself a “Christian in the publishing industry” isn’t good enough. I’ve really looked back on my past writing projects as well as my old ideologies and made a pretty tough decision. Or, rather, one that should have been tough but was made with relative ease earlier this week.
Anything I have written that does not contain a reflection of my faith has been taken down from Amazon. And since I went all in with Amazon due to KDP, that means that those titles are now gone. Extinct. No more.
This includes the very first book I ever had traditionally published, The Bleeding Room. Others that are gone are The Masks of Our Fathers (which, looking back, was really far too long and should have just been a long short story) and The Hollows (which, if I’m being honest, is probably the weakest of my books).
This decision took so long because in the past few years when the idea to un-publish them came around, I refused to do so. The only reason I had to do it was not wanting to scare away Christian readers that had discovered me through Break every Chain or Bound. And to me, that was sort of like selling out.
But the decision this time around was different. I see it as resetting my career in a way. And this time, it just made sense. It also stems from a very inspiring speech from a very random person that I would have never expected to have been inspired by. (The guy is Phil Vischer and the talk can be found here for those interested).
It also came form a snippet of a message at our church from last year. It made me realize that those that call themselves Christians and only do the trendy and attention-seeking chores are making other Christians look bad. The example given in the message was: “those that post Bible verses on Facebook and have the Jesus fish emblem on the backs of their cars but outside of Sunday gossip, slander and tear others down…stop it. Stop it and shut up because you’re making the rest of us look bad.”
I am, of course, paraphrasing, but that was the gist of it. And while I don’t think I slander or gossip or tear others down, I was proclaiming the name and nature of Christ while also promoting stories and ideas that had no moral high ground or redeeming qualities.
Let me preemptively clear up a misconception that can be taken away from this. I see nothing wrong with writing horror. And honestly, I still write it to some extent. I am absolutely not one of those Christians that bash horror…though there are personally some movies I won’t watch or books I won’t read because I don’t feel connected to them due to their explicitly evil nature. (Yet another blog post for another day…)
But with where I am spiritually, I simply can’t do it anymore. The Bleeding Room is a great example of this. I wrote that book when ghost hunting was popular and I was even dabbling in it. It was written for the express purpose of scaring the hell out of people and getting gore down onto the page. I’m still proud of the book but when I think about the 25 year-old that started shipping it around to agencies and publishers, I don’t recognize him. Or, rather, maybe I do recognize him but just don’t identify with him anymore.
I am fully aware that those that know me well or even those that have read this blog fairly regularly will think no differently of me because of this. And in that regard, I guess I’m fortunate. While I still write with a bent towards the supernatural, that bent comes from a different place now. And really, this story idea that smacked me in the middle of church three months ago is going to be the ultimate exercise in that.
For those that don’t believe in God, I think there is a misunderstanding about the core of Christian belief. Having been a non-believer for the first 26 years of my life, I understand it. That misunderstanding is that the core of how we live our lives is based on a belief in a God that we can’t physically see. But in a case like this one, it goes one step further. It’s believing that the God we can’t physically see will bless us in one way or another if we trust in him and take these bigger decisions and plop them down into his hands. And believe me…this decision to take down old titles and focus solely on stories that are a bit out of my comfort zone was not a decision that Barry Napier would have ever made on his own.
Whether you’re a believer or not, I think everyone reaches that point in life where you know something needs to change. This change had been nudging at me for about a year but just now nudged hard enough to wake me up and push me in an unfamiliar direction.
Here’s hoping the majority of you will come along to see where that direction takes me.