Note: My new novel Imprints had barely reached store shelves a couple weeks ago when a customer, upon reading the description in the catalog, e-mailed Deseret Book asking them to remove my novel from Deseret Book stores since it was a novel dealing with an “imaginative” or “psychic” element, which in her opinion, though she planned on reading the novel, should not be carried at Deseret Book. This objection prompted me to write an open letter to such readers explaining why everyone who enjoys contemporary sci-fi, fantasy, and paranormal, or anyone who believes all genres have value, should not only buy Imprints (shameless plug), but should contact Deseret Book’s publishing division, thank them for publishing a novel in this genre for adults, and urge them to publish and carry more.
Thank you for reading my books and for being a supportive reader throughout the years. LDS authors cannot continue to do the work we love without support from readers. I’ve been told of your objection to Deseret Book carrying Imprints, and though I’m surprised at the objection, particularly by the fact that it was made without first reading the novel, I wish to address your concerns by explaining the great importance I feel that Deseret Book not only continues to publish this series, but also seeks to carry other uplifting books in this genre.
First, you should know that the Deseret Book/Shadow Mountain Publishing Board deeply considered the ramifications of publishing this novel, as they do all the books they publish. The process of approval is rigorous. Deseret Book has a wide variety of readers, from people who read only nonfiction doctrinal books to people to enjoy specific types of fiction, and they want to reach and uplift all their customers. Unlike at an LDS Distribution Center, which carries only nonfiction church items, this means carrying a wide variety of novels in the Deseret Book stores.
The fact is that contemporary fantasy/science fiction novels are growing in popularity, thrilling readers of all ages in the national market. In children’s and young adult stories, these books are usually classified as fantasy novels. After careful review and consideration, Desert Book has printed several fantasies for children and young adults through their Shadow Mountain imprint, including Fablehaven, Leven Thumps, and the Hourglass Door.
These books are imaginative and have inspired children to reach new levels in reading. This is a positive thing. The lessons learned of obedience, friendship, and sacrifice are just as strong as if the characters were in normal, everyday situations—stronger, in fact, because children who aren’t otherwise interested in reading are able to connect with these books on a level they have never achieved before. They develop reading and social skills they would not have had they not been exposed to such literature. In actuality, child readers of fantasy and science fiction generally test higher in reading and comprehension skills than their peers who do not read these genres. In addition, the lessons contained in the books are typically very moral, especially in the Shadow Mountain releases.
LDS people are in general big lovers of fantasy and science fiction, and we have produced a rather high percentage of national fantasy/science fiction authors given our number of members. For the adult market, we have authors like Tracy Hickman, Brandon Sanderson, Orson Scott Card, and Dave Wolverton (Farland). Their work is popular among LDS and national readers alike. We also have authors who write paranormal romance and urban fantasy. Unfortunately, these romance and urban fantasy novels are rife with explicit sex and innuendos that are contrary to LDS teachings. The language and immorality are not acceptable to Deseret Book, so there is nothing available at those stores for LDS women and men and who want to read this genre. These adults have no interest in reading the available young adult fantasy stories with high school themes, but rather yearn for stories about adults dealing with adult issues or going on adult adventures. At present, they have no choice but to read national paranormal novels and skip offending pages—or to stop reading contemporary fantasy and science fiction all together. For some, this would mean to stop reading fiction completely, something I doubt they would choose. Yet continuing to read the national novels Deseret Book can’t carry exposes them to elements they would prefer to avoid.
As a store that caters to all members and who wishes to inspire all kinds of readers to better heights, I feel Deseret Book is doing adult readers a great service by publishing and carrying Imprints. Adults who love a little fantastic or science fiction element in their novels can now read a book without having bad language, explicit sex, and questionable scenes and conclusions assaulting them at regular intervals. To ask Deseret Book to remove Imprints is paramount to saying that those LDS readers seeking uplifting novels in this genre do not matter and that they do not belong in a Deseret Book store. That they should stop reading what entertains them (or maybe only read nonfiction, as many nonfiction readers believe would be better for all of us).
This saddens me deeply, especially after hearing the excited responses from so many readers who have loved the book. Because truthfully, you cannot expect to find novels for adults anywhere except in a Deseret Book. So basically, your recommendation means that there will be nothing for them anywhere because the national market rarely publishes clean contemporary paranormals.
The greatest teacher of all taught in parables. Lessons can and should be found in all types of clean, uplifting fiction. With Imprints, we have been very careful to separate the fantastic/scientific element from any aspect of the gospel. There is no LDS connection, no LDS characters, nothing that should offend readers or weaken testimonies. There is no element of evil or subversiveness. In fact, the novel teaches lessons of enduring, of helping others, dealing with problems, and developing talents even when it is difficult. It is simply a clean, fun, make-believe novel, like all the other clean, fun make-believe (imaginative) novels in the bookstore.
We have great novels imagining entire histories for people in the Book of Mormon, we have novels imagining challenges in pioneer times, imagining the death or illness of a loved one, and now we finally have a novel imagining what it would be like if a character had a make-believe ability. Some would love Desert Book to do away with all fiction, but I feel it is vital to allow readers access to clean, uplifting novels in the genre they enjoy and connect with. Those are parables they understand.
And you never know how much good those books will be for them. The other day at a book signing, I met a grandmother who was never a reader until, recuperating from an illness, she picked up a national YA novel at her daughter’s house and was immersed in what she saw as an exciting contemporary fantasy world. Since then she has eagerly devoured many novels of all genres in the LDS market, spending many enjoyable, even educational hours, but her greatest love remains in the contemporary paranormal (fantasy/science fiction) romance genre, which she can’t find in a clean version. Imprints is not only for my regular readers, but for the many women like her. Deseret Book feels it must take care of the one, giving them an uplifting alternative. This is especially true of our young adults, who are particularly at risk in this day and age.
Authors imagine murders, mysteries, action novels, disasters, love stories, fantasy worlds, scientific advances, and so much more. What a wonderful thing to have different novels for different readers, all faithful members of the Church! Novels that use various imaginary plots not only to entertain but to inspire doing good and helping others.
I’m glad to hear you plan on reading Imprints, and I hope after you do that you will officially withdraw your objection. I hope you will agree that clean novels in this genre will enhance readers’ lives and help them stay on the right path. Keep in mind that if Deseret Book does not fulfill this need, there will be no place at all to buy Imprints or other clean novels in this genre.
Rachel Ann Nunes