/ / Articles

I’m Out Of The Spec Closet

I admit it now. Speculative fiction has been my passion since I was a kid, and I had wild dreams back then about writing it someday.
| Oct 21, 2011 | No comments |

“My name is Jim and I’m a speculative writer …”

“Hiiiiii, Jim!”

I admit it now. Speculative fiction has been my passion since I was a kid, and I had wild dreams back then about writing it someday.

But I didn’t want the label when I was trying to break into the world of publishing. I knew it was the smooch of death in CBA, especially for a first time novelist. Not an easy sell.

So when people asked what I wrote, I responded, “Contemporary fiction with a flavoring of the supernatural.” Just a pinch—give it a little texture you know? No, of course it wouldn’t contain anything that would keep a pub house from offering me a contract.

Most people nodded, said something like, “Ohhh,” and moved on. But editor Andy Meisenheimer had to press the issue. As I sat with him at an ACFW conference dinner a few years back, he asked what I wrote, and I gave my standard answer.

“Interesting.” (Andy loves the spec genre.) “Tell me about your novel.”

“It’s about a young Seattle software tycoon who inherits a home on the Oregon coast that turns out to be a physical manifestation of his soul.”

“What!” Andy spewed Diet Coke onto the table. “A flavoring? The house is the guy’s soul, and that’s a flavoring of the supernatural? That’s about as spec as you can get and, uh, good luck with that.”

But I couldn’t give up on the story.

The writing was good enough to snag an agent, and my hopes soared. He shopped it to the major publishing houses in the fall of ’06. They all said, do not pass go, you won’t be collecting any money from us. Their typical rejection was, “Well, the guy can write, but I have no idea where we’d put this and he’s unknown. I don’t even know what genre it is. It doesn’t fit anywhere.”

Which was true.

But I was so passionate about the book I refused to believe it wouldn’t be published.

A year later I sat with David Webb, the executive director of fiction at B&H (who had rejected my book twelve months earlier) and introduced myself. He stared at me and said, “You’re the one? I’ve read 200 manuscripts since I read yours, but yours is the one I can’t get out of my head. Let’s take another run at it.”

I put together a new proposal. David liked it but said he needed the support of his Director of Marketing to get my manuscript through his publishing committee. He gave it to Julie Gwinn who loved it, and in the summer of ’08 (yes, for those of you who don’t already know this, traditional publishing is glacial) I got an offer. They didn’t have high hopes for the novel (as David said there wouldn’t be any bonnets on the cover), but he and Julie were willing to take a risk.

Those of you familiar with my books know I’ve just told the story of how my first novel ROOMS came to be published in April of 2010.

ROOMS became a bestseller, won the RT Book Reviews Inspirational Novel of the Year, was nominated for an INSPY award, and was a finalist for two ACFW Carol awards.

My second novel, BOOK OF DAYS came out in January, and THE CHAIR just released in September. (Christian Retailing Magazine made it their Top Pick for September.) And this past spring I signed a contract to write five more speculative novels.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is, don’t give up believing in Christian speculative fiction whether you read it or write it. (I mean, hey, the bestselling book of all time is racked and stacked with speculative stories. Yes, I’m talking about the Bible.)

I tell people I’d still be writing this weird type of fiction even if I was never going to be published. I know some writers have forsaken the love of spec fiction for another genre in hopes of getting published. I couldn’t do that.
I know, easy for me to say on this side of the coin, but it’s true. Time on this earth is limited, and I agree with Maximus that what we do in life echoes in eternity.

At the end of the age I don’t think Jesus will say, “Did you sell a bunch of books?” I think he’s more likely to say, “Did you follow the passion I put inside you with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, no matter the outcome?”

I’m trying to live my life so I can answer the latter question in the positive.

How are you living yours?

– – – – –
James L. Rubart is a husband, dad, author, and speaker—in that order. He’s the best-selling author of ROOMS, BOOK OF DAYS, and THE CHAIR. He graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in Broadcast Journalism. During the day he runs Barefoot Marketing which helps businesses and authors make more coin of the realm. In his free time he dirt bikes, backpacks, golfs, takes photos, and does the occasional sleight of hand. No, he doesn’t sleep much. He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his amazing wife and teenage sons and still thinks he’s young enough to water ski like a madman. Learn more at his web site.

James L. Rubart is a husband, dad, author, and speaker—in that order. He's the best-selling author of The Man He Never Was, The Long Journey of Jake Palmer, and The Five Times I Met Myself. He graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in broadcast journalism. During the day he runs Barefoot Marketing which helps businesses and authors make more coin of the realm. In his free time he dirt bikes, backpacks, golfs, takes photos, and does the occasional sleight of hand. He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his amazing wife and teenage sons and still thinks he's young enough to water ski like a madman. Learn more at his website.

Leave a Reply

avatar
  Subscribe  
Notify of
Kessie Carroll
Member
Kessie Carroll

This article makes me want to pump my fist in the air and yell, “Go get ’em, man!”

Holly Smit
Guest

This is such an encouragement to me, Jim. It gives me hope. I remember seeing you at ACFW three years ago handing out your Rooms bookmarks with the big B & H logo on them, and I thought, “Hmm. Sounds cool. I wonder how the book’ll do.” And then I watched–and celebrated. Wonderful to see a match that doesn’t fit the manufactured mode catch fire every now and then in the outside world, even if it burns brightly every time for the one who forms it. 

Rebecca LuElla Miller
Admin

I’m encouraged, too, Jim. Thanks for sharing your story with us. Hope the new release is just as successful. Next time you’ll have to let us in on what it’s like to write to deadline. 😉

Just one quibble. I don’t think Jesus will ask us if we followed our passion but HIS. 😀

 

Becky

Jim Rubart
Guest
Jim Rubart

Thanks, Holly! So glad it encouraged you.
Now it’s your turn to go get ’em, right Kessie? 🙂
Thanks, Becky. I see what you’re saying, but I’d argue if we’re surrendered to Jesus our passion IS his passion.

E. Stephen Burnett
Admin

I’d argue if we’re surrendered to Jesus our passion IS his passion.

Or, I suggest: our passions — the God-honoring ones, anyway — will slowly prove to have been His passions all along.

I’m reminded of the different-gifts-one-Body passages in 1 Corinthians. If your passion is not motivated by sin, or isn’t itself a sin, and you can use it to glorify God implicitly and explicitly, then it was Christ’s passion and goodness working in us.”Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24) Yet anything good we do is only because of Him!

Jim, thanks much for a great piece. As you can tell, we love words here, so far as they can tell wondrous, speculative stories with echoes of God’s truths and beauties. Also, I was in the audience of one of your workshops at last year’s ACFW conference, in Indianapolis, when you co-hosted the worship with Chip MacGregor.

Jim Rubart
Guest
Jim Rubart

Well said, E.S.B. That’s exactly right.
In Psalms David says if we’re committed to the Spirit he will give us the desires of our hearts. And in the New Testament it says David fulfilled the purposes God had for him.
So the two go hand in hand.
Sorry we didn’t have a chance to chat at that ACFW conference. Next time!

E. Stephen Burnett
Admin

Amen, Jim!

Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

(Psalm 37:4)

Like many, I used to thank that Psalm meant that if one honored God, He would fulfill one’s pre-existing heart desires. While that nuance might also be there, I’ve more recently learned exactly what you expressed: that if we honor God, He will give us those heart desires, new ones — not just Extracting them to make them come true, but inserting them into our hearts from outside. Of course, that means …

God …

Does …

(“… BWWWWWAAAAAAHHHMMMMM.”)

Andy
Guest

“Diet Coke?” Riiiiiiight.

James L. Rubart
Guest

Sorry, Andy, couldn’t remember the name of the drink you ordered. 
Thanks, Galadriel.
Cool to hear, C.L.D.
And to think, Janalyn, you’ve known it all along.

Galadriel
Guest

I’ve read that book…very interesting take on speculative fiction.

C.L. Dyck
Member

“I suppose what I’m trying to say is, don’t give up believing in Christian speculative fiction whether you read it or write it.”
 
To answer the closing question, I’ve had to make some tough decisions lately in order to follow my own personal walk with the Lord. So, thank you for this, Mr. Rubart. I’ve been needing a little fortification, and I surely do appreciate this article and the way you’ve expressed your thoughts.

Janalyn Voigt
Member

It’s about time you came out of the closet, Jim.  :o)
 

Marion
Guest

Jim,
Thanks for the encouraging article and willingness to stretch the boundary of Christian Speculative Fiction.
I wish you success on your novels and hopefully a publisher (because of your success story in getting published) will take another risk on another up and coming novelist who will stretch that boundary even more.
God Bless,
Marion

James L. Rubart
Guest

Thanks, Marion. Appreciate that much.
 
Jim