Far on the Ringing Plains

Welcome to Patrick Craig, whose writing has earned him a passel of fans. Here, he shares his passion for change in the publishing world. I agree with him–every character we create exhibits a spiritual side, even if it’s well-hidden. Some of the greatest books I’ve read would not qualify as “Christian fiction” these days, but they still had a powerful effect on my life.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Patrick, and readers, Patrick is giving away a signed paperback copy of this WWII novel–just leave a reply to the question he asks at the close of this article. (And there are more to come in this series.)

The Resurrection of Christian Fiction

Today I want to talk about my latest book, Far On The Ringing Plains, co-authored with Murray Pura, one of the best writers I have ever read or worked with. I also want to speak to the death of Christian Literary Fiction and its hoped-for resurrection—a resurrection that will only come if authors stop letting agents who tremble in their boots at the thought of one of their clients “Breaking the Brand” tell them what to write.

Murray and I are both former pastors who have been writing CBA (Christian Book Association) books for years. But we have grown weary of an industry dominated by easy- read books written for women, about women and by women. 

Most of the fiction books on the shelves of Christian bookstores or the digital shelves of Amazon or B&N Christian books are what the industry calls “HEA” or “Happily-Ever-After” Romance. That includes Amish, Contemporary, Historical, Biblical, and all the other genres stuffed in under the category, “Christian Fiction.”

How did this happen? Back in the seventies the Christian Publishing Industry began grooming their readership to accept writing geared for women who wanted simpler reading fare… authors and readers fought it at the time but the policy prevailed and Christian Literary Fiction became a thing of the past. Male readers left in droves and so did female readers wanting more depth. We want them to return. 

Murray and I want to see Christian Literature become what it once was, realistic, deep diving, gritty reading that plumbs the depths of the human experience. We have tried to do that in Far On The Ringing Plains, with the rough edge of combat and the rough edge of language, human passion, and flawed humanity. Just like the Bible, in all its roughness and realism and truthfulness about life. And we have tried to show the best of human nature triumphing over the worst. Christ is there in all his strength, but He’s not “prettified” or made into “the meek and mild Savior.” Instead you will see the God who overturned the tables of the moneylenders and drove them out of the temple with a whip.

Look back on the men and women who wrote from this position: Jane Austen, G.K. Chesterson, Jonathan Swift, John Bunyan, Madeleine L’Engle, Flannery O’Connor, Charles Dickens, and many more. We’re not claiming that we have achieved that yet in our own writing, but that’s where we want to go. 

When do we stop preaching to the choir and get out into the world where the sinners hang out? If we are going to present the nitty gritty of our faith to a man or woman desperately looking for something to anchor themselves to, it’s not going to be found in a book where everything turns out peachy-keen just because the protagonists are Amish.

Enough, I say.

Give me some literature that will plunge me to the depths and raise me to the heights. Writing that will ring my bell with moment after moment, line after line, scene after scene that grabs me and shakes me and makes me feel like the author just walked over my grave. 

I want the real deal when I read. And that’s what I’m going to continue to write. How about you?

Patrick E. Craig

About The Book:

In the spirit of The Thin Red Line, Hacksaw Ridge, Flags of our Fathers and Pearl Harbor.

Realistic. Gritty. Gutsy. Without taking it too far, Craig and Pura take it far enough to bring war home to your heart, mind, and soul. The rough edge of combat is here. And the rough edge of language, human passion, and our flawed humanity. If you can handle the ruggedness and honesty of Saving Private Ryan, 1917 or Dunkirk, you can handle the power and authenticity of ISLANDS: Far on the Ringing Plains.

For the beauty and the honor is here too. Just like the Bible, in all its roughness and realism and truthfulness about life, reaching out for God is ever present in ISLANDS. So are hope and faith and self-sacrifice. Prayer. Christ. Courage. An indomitable spirit. And the best of human nature triumphing over the worst.

Bud Parmalee, Johnny Strange, Billy Martens—three men that had each other’s backs and the backs of every Marine in their company and platoon. All three were raised never to fight. All three saw no other choice but to enlist and try to make a difference. All three would never be the same again. Never. And neither would their world.

This is their story.

Patrick authored The Apple Creek Dreams series, The Paradise Chronicles, A Quilt For Jenna, The Road Home, Jenny’s ChoiceThe Amish HeiressThe Amish Princess, and The Mennonite Queen
Visit Patrick’s Website at Http://www.patrickecraig.com
and Amazon Author Page at http://tinyurl.com/megefh6

15 thoughts on “Far on the Ringing Plains

  1. My first agent told me way back in 2007 that intelligent women don’t read Christian fiction, and no one wanted to publish “issue” books. Just sayin’ – that comes from a decades-old “father knows best” attitude that couldn’t even move into the digital age.

  2. “gritty reading that plumbs the depths of the human experience.” YES to more of this writing! Thanks for keeping the faith by publishing literature for those of us hungry for ideas and stories with life, including the grit.

  3. I love these comments! Back in the seventies men left Christian fiction in droves. And I know many Christian women who walk right past the CF section shelves in bookstores with their covers featuring absolutely gorgeous Amish women or women hanging on the arm of some Brad Pitt look-alike. It’s time for CBA to come back to reality. There’s more to life than what we are getting.

  4. It is refreshing to find books that I know my husband will read and find to be real. Real in the emotions unique to men. Real in the issues facing the men in our culture. Thank you for writing your passion and with faith in mind. This is a significant voice in publishing for today.

  5. Cleo,
    Bringing men back to Christian Literary Fiction is what Murray and I are pushing for. We are doing a nine book three series project: The is the Islands series and includes Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Saipan and Okinawa. The second series is Jungles, three books about the sons of the first series protagonists fighting in Vietnam Cambodia and Laos. The third series is Deserts, about the grandsons AND grandaughters fighting in the contemporary mideast wars. We hope that somewhere along the line we will begin to draw men back to reading.

  6. Thank you for your efforts to improve Christian fiction! I wholeheartedly agree with your analysis. I abandoned Christian fiction years ago out of sheer boredom and have been reluctant to try it again. (I recently read several of Gail Kittleson’s books after having met her and I thoroughly enjoyed the historical context she carefully researched, as well as the lack of “preachiness”.) I want to wrestle with hard questions and complicated, messy characters. How else can I grow? I look forward to reading “Far on the Ringing Plains”!

  7. Mmm. I understand your frustration, Patrick, but I don’t entirely agree. Every book in my series deals with a social issue ~ alcoholism, abuse, interracial marriage, death, and more. Yes, most have HEA endings, but not all. Almost all are read by women. But, one male reader said his wife insisted he read a particular one. He did to appease her and reluctantly admitted it was worth five stars. In every one of my books many characters refer to Scripture in dialogue. Naturally, I hope. Also, my publisher does not require anything except good, clean storytelling. My husband has read James Callen and Richard Mabry and liked both. So, no, I do not completely agree with you. Sorry. But I respect your opinion.

  8. I’m jumping in here just to say that for some reason, Patrick’s replies are not showing here. I’m trying to mitigate this problem, and want to thank you all for your comments. If we have to, I’ll have Patrick send his comments to me and post them myself. Anyway, thank you so much–seems like a topic that affects all of us.

  9. Thanks for all the great comments. I am glad to see that I’m not just an old curmudgeon shouting at the wind. Bonnie, I hear you. I am familiar with your writing and I consider it outside of the box of what I’m speaking to. So though you do not completely agree with me, your writing says you do. 🙂

  10. Franz Kafka wrote, “We need the books that affect us like disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.”
    I am not a regular reader of any categorized genre of literature, and don’t want to be pigeon holed, but I appreciate all authors in their efforts, especially those as passionate as Gail and others she champions through her work.

    • Great Kafka quote. Brenda, I think you would like our book. Our protagonists go through exactly those kind of axe strokes. I just finished my last chapter for book two and sent it to Murray. He sent a note back, “good work Pat but sad … but then loss of friends and comrades always is.”

  11. Hi Patrick–Your blog was of great interest to me, as I have been writing literary fiction since before I knew what the term meant. My first novel, largely romance, was pretty much, can I do this? The second was a time travel with an ambiguous ending–did she die, and by whose hand? (Lesson learned: good endings are important.) The third was a raw, edgy dramatization of the gospel without any religious language at all. Practically no one liked it. Next cam a novel on the life of King David, and you don’t get much grittier or bloodier than that. Two others followed, and now I’ve hung up writing but am still interested in discussions like this. My novels were written as much for men as for women, and men–if you can get them to read–have responded well. My David book, The Stones, was endorsed by Eugene Peterson and is still available as an ebook. My for-fun reading is largely Anne Perry who gets into very edgy stuff but always with a moral thread. I dislike any book that has sloppy writing and/or editing. That turns me off faster than rough content. Literary fiction should, first and foremost, be literary–well written. I wish you well, Patrick, in your pursuit of quality literature.

    • Ellie, Thanks for the comments, very insightful and I know the trail you went down trying to break the mold. I have about 60 book ideas in a folder on my computer and I want to write them all—from Medieval romance to memoirs of my life in rock bands in the 60s in SF. Murray and I have both been pastors and we are unabashedly Christian, but we know that the world presented by most Christian Lit is jam in the mouth for most readers, especially the “unlearned.” And you are absolutely right about editing and grammar, and for Indie authors, your book cover too.

  12. Congratulations, Patrick, on finishing these works. I find it to be a difficult journey trying to write. I’ve noticed a lack of something but it’s hard to put a finger on what. I’ve read a lot of ‘older’ writers, that even though they didn’t always write ‘gritty’ they had a point to it. I wasn’t ever really a Mark Twain fan, until my youngest son. A family member gave him a volume of Twain stories. I was sewing him a shirt one January and in return, as I sewed he read to me the story “Puddin’ Head Wilson”. There is a reason why some authors are considered masters. I also want to thank you for your encouragement. June 1, 2020, I’m set to publish my first book “If I Should Die”, following your expert instructions. Thank you very much.

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