Peretti Talks Film, Books and the State of Christian Fiction
- Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Peretti: It’s a big question because there’s a lot of different things I could address there. But first of all, Christian fiction was not respected as a really worthwhile publishing avenue. That’s back in the days of the how-to books, Bible devotions type things -- those books, you still see that kind of book today … the prairie romances … there were the biblical novels based on the lives of biblical characters. [There was a] little bit of fantasy out there; there were a small number of authors, romance. I felt like a leper venturing into the fiction realm because number one, there was this Christian mindset that “I never read fiction…” When I first tried to get my book published, that’s basically what I got from most of the publishers… "we don’t publish fiction" and those that did publish fiction were restricted to the what they produced.
Crosswalk.com: But your idea was much different.
Peretti: Yeah, I sent my idea off and it was just so different that no one knew what to do with it. Even Crossway, which eventually published it, didn’t get it the first time. They were kind enough to write a letter -- no one else wrote letters, they usually just sent a little card. But they wrote a letter that said it was a very interesting idea, not quite a fit into our publishing needs right now … maybe later on. Anyway, I later on sent them a children’s book, the first of the Cooper Kids’ Adventures; that book got me in the door. They liked that one, it was safe and for kids, so they published it. Then they said, "By the way, you sent us this earlier idea that we rejected … could you send that to us so we could look at it?" And so I sent it to them, and they decided to publish it; they took a risk, adventuresome people that they are. And the rest is history.
Crosswalk.com: It’s certainly acknowledged that This Present Darkness changed the way people think about Christian novels.
Peretti: But even then, This Present Darkness languished on the shelves for about a year and a half selling 40, 50 copies a month, or something like that. Really dismal numbers. If I had a book about how to memorize the whole Bible in 30 days, then there would be something to talk about. But since it was fiction, nobody was interested. But then in late 1987, spilling over into 1988, the book just started to snowball, and word of mouth overcame every obstacle. I didn’t get press, I didn’t get radio, I didn’t get any media exposure, but people started talking about it. Amy Grant started plugging it during her concerts, pastors began recommending it from their pulpits; it just took off like a grass fire, and … suddenly people took notice. It was on the best-seller list for 10 straight years. 10 years. It’s still selling today, over 2.5 million copies to date, 14 different languages.
It was This Present Darkness that changed the whole publishing view of fiction, which made a real difference because it also opened the door for truly good fiction writers who really deserve to be published because, guess what? They really did have something powerful to say. I always remind everyone the story is one of the most powerful ways that human beings share their values. Every culture has its myths, its legends, its sagas, its stories, its epic poems… these are all stories that pass along the virtues and the teachings of that culture. That’s why Jesus used parables, because people remember good stories. The Bible is full of stories from which we learn.
Crosswalk.com: Why did you decide not write to more sequels to the Darkness novels back when they were popular?
Peretti: After I wrote the Darkness books, every bizarre person in the world came out of the woodwork saying “you’ve got to write my story, let me tell you what happened to me ... I was raised by Satan, dedicated to the Devil…” That’s one reason I got out of the whole spiritual warfare thing, 'cause I just got so sick of it. I was sick of demons and all that stuff. I was sick of all this bizarre -- you can only take so much of a steady diet of that, then it starts to cost you. You get depressed. Your outlook is so dark; it’s not healthy. I had to get out of it. Even today, you have to know, Frank Peretti doesn’t talk about spiritual warfare. I don’t deliver demons... I’m like any other human being, I have to keep growing in the Lord, trying new things. I want to have a life. I don’t want to be a rock star singing his one hit the rest of his life. I’ve had some folks say "you’re always writing something different, when are you going to write another Darkness book?" I’ll write another Darkness book when God tells me to, when there’s really a point to it. I’m not going to write another Darkness just because I had such great success with the first two…. We all grow in the Lord, I’m growing and I want to keep growing, and have different things to write about.
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