The Lord of the Rings trilogy set high standards for epic fantasy authors, but did you know that author J.R.R. Tolkien was passed over for a Nobel Prize? Documents released after fifty years reveal that a member of the jury felt Tolkien’s writing “has not in any way measured up to storytelling of the highest quality.” Time has proven that summary incorrect. The books gained a cult following and fostered other books analyzing the facets of storytelling and the iconic characters within the series. A hugely successful movie trilogy followed. Where there’s a will . . .
“This is pleasantly done—but for me there isn’t quite enough story value,” Mercury Press editor Robert Mills explained while turning down A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. This book became a children’s classic, and its author has gone down in literary history.
Author J.K. Rowling received twelve rejections for the first Harry Potter book. Barry Cunningham of Bloomsbury Publishing finally acquired the first book but famously advised Rowling not to quit her day job because she couldn’t make a living as a writer. Since Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone appeared in 1997, Harry Potter titles have sold in excess of 400 million copies and counting. Rowling is one of the wealthiest people in the world. Where there’s a will . . .
I’m in good company when it comes to rejections. I weathered that storm while searching for a publisher for the Tales of Faeraven series. It was hard to ignore the warning bandied about in literary circles: “Christian fantasy is a hard sell.” Knowing when to heed the collective wisdom and when to ignore it is a matter for prayer. I won’t say that I didn’t question my course or wish for an easier path, but I couldn’t ignore the unction to find a publisher for Tales of Faeraven.
I kept trying. Because, where there’s a will . . .
I received an offer, along with a check in my spirit. Ignoring my hesitancy, which I chalked up to imagination, I signed the contract. Sure, it was with a small press, but a new author had to break in somewhere. It didn’t turn out well. Deciding to take her publishing house a different direction, my publisher backed out of the contract for DawnSinger, the first Tales of Faeraven book. Within weeks of its release date.
I was devastated. I’d announced the book on all my social media accounts. What would people think about my book and me as an author? Giving up writing altogether was tempting, but I’d done that once and knew that ignoring the stories that come to you is miserable. Perhaps I’d been foolhardy, thinking that my Christian fantasy series would buck the odds at a time when many worthy speculative books never saw the light of publication. And yet . . .
I’d read a secular young adult fantasy novel that I’d found faced out at my library. The cover proudly proclaimed that this book was endorsed by a prestigious literary journal. Reading the book alarmed me. The story glorified violence and murder. It featured sex between teenagers who ultimately decided to live together without the prospect of marriage. God was absent in the storyworld, and the characters swore on the stars. I could barely take in that such a story should be recommended to teenagers.
If Christian authors allow their voices to be silenced, fantasy readers will feed upon an appalling worldview.
The contrast between this lauded book and my own was glaring. Tales of Faeraven is about honor and sacrifice, love and duty, and the triumph of good over evil. The battle was bigger than my disappointment. Giving up wasn’t an option. I allowed myself a day to grieve, and then returned to the fray. Within three months, I’d found another publisher. The first two books in the series, DawnSinger and Wayfarer, are now published, and Sojourner, book three, releases next week. DawnKing, the final installment, arrives in January. Discouragement, rejection, and my own lapses in faith couldn’t stop Tales of Faeraven from reaching publication. The journey taught me a lesson I’ll never forget: Where there’s God’s will, He makes a way.
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Janalyn Voigt is a multi-genre novelist who has books available in the western historical romance and epic fantasy genres. Her unique blend of adventure, romance, suspense, and whimsy creates worlds of beauty and danger for readers. An inspirational, motivational, and practical speaker, Janalyn has presented at the Northwest Christian Writers’ Renewal Conference and Inland Northwest Christian Writers Conference. She has also spoken for local writing groups, book events, and libraries. Janalyn is represented by Wordserve Literary and holds memberships in American Christian Fiction Writers and Northwest Christian Writers Association.
Connect with Janalyn Voigt online at any one of the following places:
You can find a previous article Janalyn wrote on fantasy for Spec Faith here.