Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Monday, October 09, 2006

Happy Beaver Day!

Gosh, feels like I was just doing this—what? Three days ago. Time flies when you are behind your self-imposed deadline. Since you have heard so much from me lately and these questions disguised as blogs seem to have been so successful lately—(Rob, Julie, and Stephanie, I am talking to you) I thought I’d pick your brains a little bit. But first I will actually write something (Rob, Julie, and Stephanie.)

My daughter brought home an interesting devotional from BYU. The speaker—whose name I can’t remember (Rob, Julie, and Stephanie) got a hold of the picnic index. This was a report done by some yogurt company that tracked the number of picnics families go on. According to the study, there is a direct correlation between what he called social capital—or the time families spend together—and the confidence in our country as whole. The number of picnics dropped as our confidence in our country dropped. Don’t know if it’s true or not, but I am all for more family picnics. So get out the tablecloth and fried chicken, whip up some potato salad and deviled eggs and help out your country.

Oh, and also, Happy Canadian Thanksgiving, please pass the roast beaver! (That last part was just a joke. Canadians don’t actually eat roast beaver. They fry it.) Okay, just kidding Julie. I actually have been celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving all day today, by eating everything I see and saying "eh" a lot.

Now for my questions. At my book club presentation, the first question I was asked was what defines LDS fiction. I explained that LDS fiction does not have to be about LDS people. It does not have to have major LDS themes. Mostly it is published by an LDS publisher and meets LDS publisher standards. My question is: Was I wrong? So here are my three questions:

1) How do you define LDS fiction?
2) On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the highest) how would you rate the overall quality of LDS fiction compared to the overall quality of national fiction.
3) What are the last three national novels you’ve read? Do you think that could have been published by an LDS publisher? Why or why not?
4) What changes if any would you like to see in LDS fiction?
5) Do you like or dislike the trend in LDS fiction of having more novels without much specific LDS content? Why?
6) Without mentioning any names (Rob, Julie, and Stephanie) how many of your top ten favorite contemporary authors are LDS?
7) Why do you think certain LDS authors (Rob, Julie, and Stephanie) are relying on questions for their blogs?
Okay that last one was a trick question. We know (Rob, Julie, and Stephanie) have just been busy writing their new books and cooking like crazy for Canadian Thanksgiving.


5 Comments:

At 10/10/2006 2:39 AM, Blogger John Ferguson said...

1. I have always defined it as a work that is published by an imprint that caters to the LDS market regardless of the characters, plot, situations, or genre of the book.
2. This is a loaded question. I have read LDS fiction that I would rate 0 (I know the lowest was supposed to be 1.) all the way up to 8 and maybe a 9. However, I have also read national fiction that I would rate a -5 all the way up to a 10. Most national fiction (in my opinion) doesn't rate a 10. I also don't think I am qualified to rate the general markets because there are only a couple hundred or so books published in the LDS market each year of which I may read 5-10%. On the other hand there are thousands of books published nationally of which I maybe read 0.1% or less.
3. The Dragonlance Chronicles (all three), and the Running with the Demon series by Terry Brookes (first two). I don't think an LDS publisher would publish these books under an LDS imprint because they cater to a niche market. I think this is a good business decision and always shake my head when I hear about a publisher trying to break into the national market with an LDS imprint it only confuses the buyers.
4. Other than my wife getting published? I don't know.
5. I think there is a place for novels that hold to LDS standards even if they don't mention the church by name. I also think there is a place for stories that do mention the church by name and explore the unique challenges faced by members and those around them. I am curious what the trendline for this is. I have read a couple books that were written quite awhile ago, by LDS authors, that don't have LDS-specific content in them. I don't have enough information to be more specific.
6. Hmmm. Lessee. There's Jeff, and Julie, and Kerry, and Rob, and Sariah, and Stephanie. That's six I think. [smile]. Honestly, I don't know. I have a hard time ordering my favorite authors because it changes based on the day, what I read last, my mood, and how much time I have to read.
7. I think it is because they want to become one of those hard-hitting, steely-eyed, street-tough journalist-types who can ask the power questions and get that headline story. Yeah, that's it.
PS. You know, Jeff, you really need to work on the question-blog-thing. See, you put seven questions in one blog when you could have used just one and spread this thing out over seven posts. Maybe next time. [wink]

JOHNF

 
At 10/10/2006 6:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. How do I define LDS fiction? I'd say; written by LDS authors for LDS readers and published by LDS publishers.

2. I would say that there is a handfull of LDS authors who would rate above 9.1, but perhaps not quite as high as 9.6. From what I've read, though, I'd say the average for LDS authors is about 8.5. The best mainstream authors which I know and love, I would rate above 9.5, but I'm sure there are also a lot of weaker authors out there, too. On the whole, I'd have to say I rate the best LDS fiction just one tiny step below the best mainstream fiction.

3. The last three national novels I've read are Watching Out by Ann Granger, The Alleluia Files and Angelica both by Sharon Shinn. On the one hand, I think that the Sharon Shinn books could definitely have been published by an LDS publisher, as there is nothing offensive about them. There is a strong theme of religion running through the books, with mortals and angels praying to a god. On the other hand, there is that part where they find out that what they worshipped as a god is actually a spaceship. This sounds harsh, but Sharon Shinn is very careful to point out that there is very another, higher power in that universe, and so the people are not left completely bereft. I'm not sure whether an LDS publisher would take that challenge. There is another book by Sharon Shinn called Archangel where the god is still just the god, and I think that one could have been published in good faith by an LDS publisher.

The Ann Granger mystery is also a clean book, though some of the supporting characters do some dodgy things. I think it might just miss being acceptable for an LDS publisher.

4. What changes would I like to see in LDS fiction? I personally would like to see more space opera, sci fi, and fantasy. Wouldn't it be cool to see an identifiably LDS figure on Battlestar Galactica or Star Trek or whatever other sci fi show is out there? Well, it'd be cool for me, but I don't know about anybody else.

5. As for liking or disliking the current trend in LDS fiction about not having much specific LDS content, I'm not sure if I like it or dislike it. I'm glad that not every book in the LDS market focuses on conversion and/or temple marriage, but the absolute lack of LDS specifics is ... well, it's okay, but it kind of makes you wonder why the author didn't try for the mainstream market in the first place. I guess I like enough identifying characteristics that I know that the protagonist is LDS, prays, and can get a bit of divine help when needed, but I don't need much more than that.

6. Without mentioning any names ... hmm ... perhaps 50%. My top ten authors change over the years or even months, depending on what I read.

7. Why do I think LDS authors are relying on questions for their blogs? Well, let's see. It could be because they're busy and they can't think of anything else to write. It could be that they are genuinely interested in what other people think. Or it could be that their writing hearts shrank in the wash and are now three sizes too small. But I think that the most likely reason of all is that their publishers are putting pressure on them to ask questions so that people will answer, and the publishers can judge their writing on the strength of their replies, note their names in their little black books, and look favourably upon their submissions when they roll in ... NOT!

Yes, well, speaking of LDS fantasy ... that was Melanie Goldmund replying. Now back to our regularly scheduled blog.

 
At 10/10/2006 7:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

1) How do you define LDS fiction? I have to think this early in the morning? Mainly books with LDS themes written and published by LDS folks.

2) On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the highest) how would you rate the overall quality of LDS fiction compared to the overall quality of national fiction.
That really depends. Some of is it wonderful, others not so good. Fortunately, all the authors here seem to fall into the really good category.

3) What are the last three national novels you’ve read? Do you think that could have been published by an LDS publisher? Why or why not?
"The Constant Princess" and "The Other Bolyen Girl" by Phillipa Greggory. I would guess probably not due to the treatment of sex in the books. Not that there is graphic sex int he books, but it is discussed so much in getting a boy to raise to be king. LDS books seem to prefer sex didn't happen.

4) What changes if any would you like to see in LDS fiction?
Hoestly, cheaper would be great, but that's not likely to happen. :-) Otherwise, I guess I mostly wish that mt favorite authors would publish a little more often.

5) Do you like or dislike the trend in LDS fiction of having more novels without much specific LDS content? Why?
I hadn't thought about that. I guess I would say that I prefer the LDS stuff, that is why we're lookign into LDS fiction after all, but that I don't like things always being perfect. If the guy needs to be baptized, he is, etc. I have a bunch of LDS women in my ward (the whole RS Presidency!) who don't have member husbands, although almost all of their husbands attend church. Why can't that happen once in awhile?

6) Without mentioning any names (Rob, Julie, and Stephanie) how many of your top ten favorite contemporary authors are LDS?
Kerry Blair adn Rob Wells are definate favorites of mine. Julie as well. Jennie Hansen is good.... the list could go on.

7) Why do you think certain LDS authors (Rob, Julie, and Stephanie) are relying on questions for their blogs?
Do you really wnat an answer for this? ASk them.

 
At 10/10/2006 1:27 PM, Anonymous Jennie said...

1. Any book that is written within the framework of LDS culture and standards with references to the Church being doctrinally accurate. Author or publisher doesn't have to be LDS, though they usually are.
2. Depends if you mean technical quality or content quality. A few LDS publishers rate 7 and above in both areas. Some are down in the 2-3 range. Generally LDS publishers are high on content, but techincally sloppy. The opposite is more often the case for national publishers where many plaster their books with sex, profanity, and violence as a substitute for real plots.
3.I don't get much time to read non-LDS novels any more. I'll not name the last three I read because they were sent to me by publishers who mistakenly thought I would review them because they had some religous references in them. They all had ethics, weird religious interpretations, or gratuitous sex scenes which are not acceptable in LDS fiction.
4. I don't know how to answer this one.
5. I don't like the blatantly preachy stuff, but I enjoy both the spiritually uplifting books and the ones that just let us know the characters are LDS and the charcters' decisions are based within the framework of ethics taught by the church.
6. 8
7. They're busy people, besides questions invite interaction with readers.

 
At 10/10/2006 7:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

1)LDS fiction = stories of particular interest to LDS readers, published by LDS publishers. If there’s not a distinct LDS flavor, it should/could be national.

2) Quality of LDS fiction vs national fiction = there is such a range between books that it’s hard to generalize, but I’ve always been just a bit disappointed in the quality of LDS writing; not so much the ideas and story lines, but the technical/literary aspects.

3) The Only Alien on the Planet by Kristen Randle (She’s LDS; it could have been published by an LDS publisher, but nationally, the market is much broader); DaVinci Code by Dan Brown (no, too much violence); Travelling Pants series by Ann Brashares (No, sex.)

4) I would like to see the quality of the writing continue to improve, the development of more genres. As the national market becomes more inundated with sex, violence and other objectionable material, I’d like to see good stories without this stuff.

5) I don’t care if it has LDS content or not, only that it is well-written and clean. Although, if it can be published nationally, it would be in the author’s best interest to go that route. Their income potential is dramatically higher in the national market than in the LDS market.

6) 2

7) Each person is born with a finite number of creative ideas and they don’t want to waste any on a blog?

 

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