I recently heard this phrase on an interview with a Christian book launch expert. In talking about the types of Christian writing she talked about books that put scripture front and center. And then she talked about books that weren’t scripture focused, but the story was centered around it. #SneakyJesus.
I got real excited. One, because the phrase is catchy. Two, because I thought, “Finally. This is where Lilly fits.”
Let me back up.
Lilly has trouble fitting in. In the publishing industry, everyone wants to quickly and efficiently put you on a shelf, in a category, in a specific genre. It makes booksellers’ lives easier when they can direct you to exactly what you want. It makes publishers’ lives easier when they can tell booksellers where to put you.
If you know Lilly, you know putting her on a specific shelf is hard. She’s not one to stay put anyway. I’ve had several agents on my journey and a lot feedback from publishers. They kept wanting to box her in. #runLillyrun
“Make it more a mystery.”
“Make it more a romance.”
“It’s a little too Southern.”
“Could you put in some more y’all’s?”
“There’s not enough sex.”
“There’s too much cussing.”
“There aren’t enough dead bodies.”
“There’s too much Jesus.”
“There’s not enough Jesus.”
For the love of Pete.
(For the record, I don’t know who Pete is, you’ll have to ask my grandma. But he sounds dramatic, which is always a plus in my book.)
The MisAdventures of Miss Lilly, by industry standards, are not romance novels. There is no sex on page 112.5. Lilly’s not looking to be rescued and the kind of guy that would “complete” her doesn’t exist that I know of. It’s my hope that she grows up enough to be in a healthy relationship. With a hot guy. #Goals
The MisAdventures isn’t really a “mystery series.” Yes, there are some things to figure out, and some things that seem mysterious. But the typical formula isn’t followed, and the mystery isn’t the driver.
Is it Christian fiction? Well, judging by the hate mail I got when I submitted it as such, I guess probably not. Someone told me I wasn’t a true Christian because I allowed Lilly to call Cash and Van jerks. Let’s be real here, people: I love Jesus. Sometimes I act like a jerk. And sometimes, as a Christian, I can recognize when other people are being jerks. And I don’t think it’s bad to call that crap like I see it. That’s the beauty of Brooks, anyone on the street can tell you: “Hey, I love you, but you’re being a jackass, bless your heart.”
Is it edgy Christian fiction? I’ve been told it’s not edgy enough. Not enough blood and guts and mysticism and crap like that.
So, in an effort to stay true to the point of this series, I walked away, and decided to do it Lilly’s way. Which is the way of the truth. We all know she’s about the truth.
I didn’t publish Lilly myself so I could have total control. Well….
I didn’t publish Lilly myself so I could stick my friends on the cover. Well….
I didn’t publish Lilly myself so I wouldn’t have to give any royalties to people in Nu Yawk City. Well…
Well… maybe all those things. But I did it myself, so I wouldn’t have to compromise. Lilly’s not the kind of girl to have sex on page 112.5. She’s only uses a bad word when the situation totally calls for it. But sometimes the situation calls for it, and watch out. And she loves Jesus. And she gets lost. Just like the rest of us. Having her be too perfect would be disingenuous. Having her full of fatal flaws with no opportunity to have morals and to make a good decision, also not truthful.
She’s a person. She loves God. And she cusses. And makes bad decisions. And good ones. And is kind. But can also be a jerk.
But back to Sneaky Jesus:
I got real excited when I heard this phrase. It made me feel validated. That Lilly might actually have a place in the world of publishing. That someone else had coined what I was trying to do.
And then it hit me, again, how much she doesn’t fit.
No one is going around throwing out scriptural tidbits in Brooks. And least not in a Chapter and Verse sense. But Lilly’s Jesus? He ain’t sneaky, y’all. She’s learning lessons left and right, and it pretty much takes her getting whacked on the head to get a clue.
My Jesus? He doesn’t sneak up on me. He’s like a two-by-four right between the eyes. Because I’m an idiot. And I’m human. And here’s the thing. To be sneaky, I think, would imply that He’s not always there. All. The. Time. I get what the speaker was saying. And I understand. But…
There’s nothing sneaky about Lilly, this series, or Jesus. There is cussing. There is shooting. There are bad decisions. There is grace. There is forgiveness. There is falling. There is getting up. There is love.
But front and center, always, there is Jesus. Now Lilly and the gang may be too human to actually see Him all the time, but there’s nothing hidden about it. Kind of like Fae Lynn’s personality and Tally’s boobs.
Someone told me that it would be hard for Lilly to arrive at some of her growth without some cussing. I completely agree. Growth is hard. It is sweaty, uncomfortable, and ugly. You can’t put it on a shelf, in a particular section of a bookstore.
To those that say there’s too much and not enough Jesus, I laugh. I can’t control Jesus. Any more than I can control The Posse or Cash Stetson. Those people are nuts. But Jesus loves them. And I do too.
And bookstores… if you can’t figure out where to put The MisAdventures of Miss Lilly, call The Posse, they’ll build you a special shelf, front and center. Nothing sneaky about that.
What about you? Your Jesus sneaky? Or does he just smack you with the truth in the kindest way possible? Let us know in the comments below.