Author fights to publish modern Catholic fiction

FLORENCE—Michelle Buckman has waited 20 years for the chance to express her Catholic faith in novels.

Her dream came true this year with the publication of two books. Buckman said this step into Catholic fiction is a huge reason for celebration by all the faithful — writers, publishers and readers — because of the long journey that brought it to fruition.

Buckman wrote her first novel 20 years ago. She did not realize that including aspects of her faith would make it impossible to get published, she said in a press release.

“I wrote what was in my heart, and my faith filtered in because that’s who I am,” she said.

Buckman said it was rejected by secular and Christian publishing houses because of the Catholic content.

“My agent reported that editors loved my writing, loved my stories, but references to the rosary, the Eucharist, or confession scared non-Catholic Christian publishers; they feared those references might offend some Protestant readers, a risk they weren’t willing to take,” she said.

After three rejected manuscripts, she wrote non-denominational Christian fiction.

“I could have revised the content of my early Catholic stories, but they celebrated my faith. As I continued forward, my new characters were still Catholic in my head, but not on the page. The rosary stayed in the character’s dresser drawer. The priest became pastor.”

When Buckman spoke at a “40 Days for Life” meeting in 2008, she met Conor Gallagher, vice-president of St. Benedict Press/Tan Books, a Catholic publisher located in Charlotte. They discussed the influence that Catholic fiction could have on teens and adults in affirming faith and Gallagher opened a fiction line, beginning with Buckman’s novel “Death Panels” and ““Death of a Liturgist.” by Lorraine V. Murray. Sophia Institute, Ignatius Press, Pauline Books, Rafka Press, and Rock House also published the genre.

Buckman recently spoke at the Catholic Writers Guild 2010 conference in Philadelphia. She said the first Catholic Arts and Letters Award will be presented at the 2011 Catholic Writers Guild conference. Submissions will be accepted Nov. 1 to Dec. 31.

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