Today we have an interview with Cecelia Dowdy. Cecelia is a world traveler who has been an avid reader for as long as she can remember. When she first read Christian fiction, she felt called to write for the genre.
She loves to read, write, and bake desserts in her spare time. She also loves spending time with her husband and her toddler son. Currently she resides with her family in Maryland. You can visit Cecelia on her websites: www.ceceliadowdy.com and www.ceceliadowdy.blogspot.com
LLH: You've been writing for quite a while. You've got quite a few titles in the Christian Booksellers Association (CBA). What is your biggest achievement as a writer in the CBA?
CD: I consider getting published my greatest accomplishment in the CBA. It took me five and a half years to sell my first novel.
LLH: Writing is a business. Capturing your audience is key to the success of an author. Do you feel pressured to write to a certain audience? Are there things you are told not to write about?
CD: So far, I have not felt pressured to write to a certain audience. I haven’t been told that I, specifically, can’t write about certain things. However, depending upon the guidelines of the publisher, it is generally understood when submitting a manuscript that there are certain taboo subjects that an author is not allowed to write about for a particular line. These taboo subjects are made known to the author before submitting, therefore, if you feel your book would not be a good fit, due to the subject matter, then it’s possible to seek publication with another house.
LLH: Do you ever feel like you must write about people of color? How does your audience respond when you don't?
CD: I don’t really feel that I must write about people of color, however, being African-American, I feel more comfortable writing about people of color. Since I’ve never had a story published with characters of another race, it’s hard to know how my audience would respond if I published a story with non-African-American characters.
LLH: I've been told that AA (African American) Christian fiction is 'so different.' Someone even told me that since I'm black I could 'get away' with so much more. What are your thoughts on that?
CD: That has not been my experience so far. Then, again, my novels are category-type romances and they usually fit a certain mold to begin with. However, on a few occasions, when I’ve already turned in my manuscripts, sometimes, I’ve been told to “tone down the passion” in a certain scene. I merely edit the scene accordingly. However, this has not happened frequently enough to cause a problem.
LLH: What do you feel Christian African American audiences want to read or don't want to read?
CD: I feel they want to read good, Christ-centered stories with characters they can relate to. I’m assuming they don’t want characters who are too perfect. They want somebody with flaws, somebody who has been through a lot of drama and heartache, and they want to see that person come to Christ.
LLH: In your opinion, does labeling and shelving practices in bookstores and catalogs listings limit books written by AA authors?
CD: Sometimes. Sometimes not.
Since we’re AA authors, we fit into a unique niche. For example, my second novel, which was published by Harlequin’s Love Inspired line, was shelved with the category romances. So, if somebody were to want an AA book, and they went to the AA section of the store, mine wouldn’t have been an option for them to choose since my book was shelved with the category romances.
HOWEVER, being shelved with the non-AA books can have its advantages, too. When a customer is browsing through the non-AA titles, they might come across an AA title, like mine, and buy it. You might end up gaining a reader that you might not have gained if shelved with the AA titles. It’s a double-edged sword and I believe the only way to solve this dilemma is to shelve AA books in both categories: AA section and the regular fiction/romance section. However, I don’t believe bookstores will shelve one book in two places, so it’s hard to know what to do. I’ve blogged about this topic before, and I’ve seen other authors blog about it. It’s a hot subject.
LLH: I've only been around CBA fiction a short while but it seems there's a bit of a divide between what's considered mainline CBA and AA CBA fiction. Should the divide exist? If not, where should we go from here to address the separation?
CD: I think mainline CBA fiction is guaranteeing the customer a certain product. If a customer purchases a book by a certain publisher or line, then he/she will know the quality of story they’re likely to get. Sometimes when a publisher publishes a book that greatly goes against their traditional mold, that publisher is taking a risk, and that may be why the divide exists? Who knows? I know there are some AA authors out there who I see advertised, somewhat, as Christian fiction novelists, however, I consider their content and their storylines to be more ABA. I’ve noticed I’m also less apt to see some of these ABA-styled authors’ books in Christian bookstores. I usually see them in secular stores shelved in the AA section or the fiction section.
I think I was in a workshop once and another AA Christian fiction author said that there are stories out there by AA authors that are advertised as Christian fiction, but, actually, they’re not the traditional Christian fiction. She called it Christian Friction? These stories center around the church, but it’s about characters living their lives, but the faith element isn’t NECESSARILY as strong as in the traditional Christian fiction novels. I suppose this is where the separation comes into play at times? It’s hard to address this separation since a lot of it depends upon the publisher and the sales figures involved. I sense that a secular publisher, who publishes Christian fiction/friction, would take more of a risk with a non-traditional story than a Christian publisher would. I’m no expert, but these are just my speculations.
Thanks, Cecelia for taking part in this interview. Find out more about Cecelia's newest release at Heartsong Presents:
Publisher: Barbour – Heartsong Presents
Release date: March 2008