Straddling the Fence

ACFW Advice, Authors and writing, Encouragement, Faith, Friends of ACFW, writing 1 Comment

By Donna Wichelman

Mathew 6:24 –“ No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (NASB).

If you are a Christian and a fiction author, perhaps you have squirmed over marrying the two identities and branding yourself as a “Christian” author. In a secular world that often seems to shun anything having to do with traditional Christian values, it’s tempting to divorce ourselves from the association. For some of us, we sit on the fence, attempting a balancing act between our devotion to God and our desire to attract an audience that will hear our message.

To be fair, we believe our intentions to share our hope of salvation give merit to an idea that we can’t write something too blatantly overt or we might be rejected out of hand without a backward glance. After all, we can’t reach a lost world for Christ if all we do is sing to the proverbial choir. I know this rationale; I’ve been one those fence straddlers.

According to Publisher’s Weekly, June 5, 2019, secular presses have broadened their inspirational fiction lines, because they know readers want “uplifting fiction with strong faith content.” I recently read a book by one of my favorite traditionally published Christian authors who had switched to a secular press with an inspirational line. Yet, as the plot unfolded, references to God were noticeably missing, though upright characters made moral or godly choices. It seemed that the content had been subtly altered to be palatable to a larger audience.

It’s not my place to judge the author or their reason for switching. If God called them to make the cross-over for reasons that serve His purposes, then who am I to question the choice. It’s between the author and God.

However, the book and its author compelled me to hit the pause button at a time when I was re-evaluating my brand and my identity and presence as an author. As James Rubart reminded us at the ACFW Virtual Conference 2020, our authority and brand become compromised when we break our promise to our audience.

Based on Mr. Rubart’s suggestion, I polled twelve people—good friends and acquaintances, one who is a non-believer—to answer the question, “When you think of me, what comes to mind?” The answers astounded me, some provoking tears for their view of me as a godly woman of faith. A couple identified me as a world traveler and adventurer, which I am. But the most intriguing answer came from my non-believing friend, who, in spite of using different vocabulary, expressed similar sentiments to my believing friends: “Healthy, positive, Christian perspective, wholesome, loving, righteous, very well researched, historical knowledge.”

Her response homed a profound discovery. My identity in Christ is an integral part of my personal life and professional brand. It can’t be kept subtly hidden under a basket. Whatever I write, it must be a beacon that points people to God whether they know they need it or not.

So, with my discovery in mind, I articulated my brand: Writing historical fiction grew out of my love for history and literature as a young adult, attending the United World College of the Atlantic—an international college in Wales, U.K. There, I learned to appreciate the classics that touched the human spirit. Today, I am still a world traveler, savoring the nuances of cultures and peoples and desiring to bring the message of God’s love to the world.

I am a fence-straddler no more.

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Donna Wichelman worked as a communications professional before turning to full-time writing. She has authored short stories, essays, and articles in various inspirational and secular publications. She has self-published a contemporary Christian suspense series, and now writes Christian historical romance. Her current project takes place in 1870s Georgetown, Colorado.


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