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