Enclave Publishing has released over ninety novels since it began in 2008. But next year, the company will add a feature not often seen in Christian book worlds.
Ronie Kendig’s space opera Brand of Light, releasing in December, will be the first Enclave title released exclusively as a hardcover book. Each of several months following that release will bring new books, such as Sharon Hinck’s fantasy Hidden Current and Chawna Schroeder’s young-adult fantasy The Vault Between Spaces.
Digital editions will release at the same time, and paperback versions will release later, said Enclave owner and president Steve Laube.
“Doing hardcovers is a signal that we are serious about what we publish,” he said.
Hardcovers of truth
Each book Enclave publishes is based firmly in a biblical worldview, Laube said.
“We publish out-of-this-world stories informed by a coherent theology,” Laube said. “There are two key words here. First, informed. Not expressed but informed. This means our stories can be subtle or overt in their faith elements.
“Second, coherent,” he added. “I see some really wild proposals for stories so far away from biblical theology as to range into near—if not blatant—heresy. Coherent theology can mean different things to different people, but I’d like to think that an orthodox evangelical biblical theology is a careful enough definition.”
Before Laube bought Enclave (formerly known as Marcher Lord Press) in January 2014, he had spent decades working in the Christian retail and book industries. He also continues to oversee The Steve Laube Agency of several literary agents.
Laube said he believes more readers are hungry for Christian speculative stories.
“Many general market titles in the speculative category are anti-Christian in tone, even atheistic,” he said. “I saw there was little written from a Christian worldview. So in the 1990s, while an editor for Bethany House, I began searching for the right authors with the brilliant craft to tell stories that were highly imaginative.”
Investing in imagination
Sharon Hinck said she began working with Laube as her agent in the mid-2000s.
“The two things that make Enclave amazing are Steve’s curation, both artistically and theologically, and all his experience and passion that he brings to the table,” Hinck said. “Enclave invests in their books like a huge publisher would.”
Sci-fi and fantasy author Steve Rzasa (who is also Lorehaven magazine’s book clubs coordinator) joined Marcher Lord Press in 2009 and still works with Enclave today.
“Steve Laube has a knack for assembling a crew that has very particular skills,” Rzasa said. “He knows how to find people who are good at particular things so that he doesn’t have to do everything. Which is a hard thing to do when you’re running a small, independent publisher.”
Crafting with excellence
In 2020, Enclave will also start a new imprint for young-adult books, called Enclave Escape. That label will begin with February’s release of the historical fantasy The Vault Between Spaces, from novelist Chawna Schroeder.
“Enclave has cultivated a line of novels that are creatively outside-of-the-box, theologically grounded, and crafted with excellence,” Schroeder said. “There are many other publishers that do one or two of these qualities well, but Enclave has managed to bring together all three.”
In this way, Enclave attracts creators of fantasy who aim for biblical truthfulness, on or under the surface, and practice creative excellence. That’s according to novelist W. A. Fulkerson, whose debut For Whom the Sun Sings arrives from Enclave in March.
“Christian purveyors of art have a certain reputation . . . for low quality, and often it’s a well-deserved slight,” he said. “I follow Christ, and that means that I’m saved, that he wants to use me. But he doesn’t owe me a brilliant fantasy novel. So I ought to work tirelessly and joyfully in pursuit of the craft to the glory of God.”
Ronie Kendig: ‘This book means so much to me’
This spring, novelist Ronie Kendig will mark ten years of published books.
But only this year will she see the release of one story that’s especially dear to her: Brand of Light, which launches her space opera trilogy, The Droseran Saga.
“This book means so much to me,” Ronie said. “Yes, I am absolutely passionate about suspense. There’s a lot more emotional work for me, getting the paramilitary and military elements correct. . . . But I do feel much more connected to God and his creativity when I write Brand of Light and my other speculative books.”
In the last decade, Ronie has created more than twenty novels and novellas. She started in March 2010 with her debut suspense thriller Dead Reckoning. Since then, she’s focused many of her novels on military heroes and even combat service dogs.
Then, starting in 2015, she jumped into fantasy with her Abiassa’s Fire series of three books, which are published by Enclave Publishing.
That’s over two books a year—quite the pace for a creator who once rarely wrote.
“I’ve always been telling stories in my head, though I don’t recall writing so much as a child,” Ronie said. “As a little girl, my medium was Barbie dolls!”
Then as an adult, writing bigger stories became a form of therapy for her.
“When I first started, I didn’t have much confidence in myself,” Ronie said.
In the 2000s, Ronie found support from many authors, especially from sci-fi and paranormal author John B. Olson. Olson saw promise in Ronie’s early version of Brand of Light, and also helped her brainstorm other story ideas based on Ronie’s experience growing up in a military family. Later, Ronie met literary agent Steve Laube, who sold her military-themed novels to publishers.
And although fantasy can reflect challenging situations, Ronie said she believes more fantasy fans—especially Christian parents—want stories that will not push young readers into situations or ideas they’re not ready to consider or discern.
“So many of the parents that I talked to at one homeschool convention—they were so excited to find out that there’s that type of speculative fiction that is clean,” Ronie said. “Being able to hand a book to a child and not have to worry about the content, because you know it’s going to be clean in general—parents are desperate for that book for their kids. Teens and even adults are looking for that.”
Sharon Hinck: ‘Whenever I read, I feel that character’
For twenty years, Sharon Hinck served in dance ministry. She performed classical ballet as well as teaching musical theater, tap, jazz, and contemporary forms.
Sharon has also written devotionals, women’s fiction, and fantasy, which includes her four-book Sword of Lyric series (now published by Enclave Publishing). That series starts with The Restorer, in which readers find not a heroic child or young adult, but a suburban mother, getting transported into a fantasy world that’s still awaiting its messiah.
“As Christian women, we’re often called into a world we don’t expect,” Sharon said. “Like when a child is diagnosed with autism or a friend gets breast cancer.”
But more recently, Sharon has drawn on her love of dance and fantasy for a new story and series. Hidden Current arrives this January as the first book of a new Enclave Publishing trilogy called The Dancing Realms.
For this series, Sharon created a world in which the magic system is based in dance.
Such a concept grew on her—not just the challenge of balancing a dance-based magic system in a grounded world, but describing dance without using terms like pirouette or pas de deux. Also, Sharon needed a story conflict, and found this once she compared what she knew about tough ballet teachers with religious abuse.
“This is a fallen world, and this is a cult, and these people need to be freed,” she said of Hidden Current’s world. “They think they can do everything by their own efforts. . . . ‘If you dream it, you can become it.’ I poke at that philosophy in the book because it’s just so deceptive, that humans can control everything if we just use the power of our self-determination and our minds.”
As a child, however, Sharon became well aware of words’ power to shape our imaginations, even if one can’t use them to control one’s destiny. She read eagerly from many genres. On her early bookshelves, fantasy novelist Stephen Lawhead shared space right next to romance author Janette Oke, and Grace Livingston Hill’s adventures and romances weren’t far from Sharon’s Star Trek novel collection.
“I’m Betazoid,” Sharon said. “I’m kind of an empath. So whenever I read, I feel that character. So I can get lost with characters in just about any genre.”
Such diverse story pursuits helped Sharon create Hidden Current’s world, she said.
Sharon also found inspiration from 2 Kings 22, “where they find the lost book of the Law,” she said. “I feel such sadness when they read that story, and think: How long was it totally lost? . . . King Josiah tore his robes in anguish when they read it to him.
“This whole world has forgotten the Maker,” she said. “And even that idea is very current. Because in our world, even biblical literacy is gone.”
These challenging themes are colored by the beauty of God’s creation, such as a pod of spinner dolphins Sharon once witnessed while kayaking in the ocean. This experience inspired Hidden Current’s portrayal of a fantastic sea creature.
“Sometimes in fantasy, you just want to consider the stuff that’s cool and fun,” she said. “Cloaks are fun. And swords are fun.” And dancing is fun, she added, even for those who don’t dance, or who can no longer dance because of health challenges.
“I just lost myself in the story’s dancing,” Sharon said, “describing the dancing and living that vicariously.”
Chawna Schroeder: ‘Christian authors have God himself’
What are your favorite Christian-made novels?
There are so many good ones. But if I had to pick, Kathy Tyers’s Firebird series has topped the list for many years. And I’ve been in love with R. J. Anderson’s work, including the No Ordinary Fairytale series, for almost as long.
What’s your next novel about?
The Vault Between Spaces is a fantasy, although its setting is more World War II/Cold War than medieval in feel. It is being released as the first in Enclave’s new young-adult imprint, Enclave Escape. My main character is a young girl named Oriel who sets out to escape from a prison camp reputed as inescapable.
What do Christian storytellers bring to fantasy-crafting?
There are many things that Christians can bring to fantasy-crafting that other authors cannot. But ultimately I think it comes down to the simply obvious: Christian authors have God himself. Which is an astounding thought when you really think about it. We have the unique opportunity to create with the Creator, the Source of all creativity.
(And he is very creative! Have you seen some of the crazy animals he designed?)
Moreover, this same God is vast beyond comprehension and multifaceted without limit. He is the bedrock of truth, the source of hope, and the ultimate good that conquers evil in the end.
This means authors have the potential to create the most imaginative stories of the greatest variety without having to fall into chaos or resorting to shock value.
Moreover, this means Christian authors should be able to craft stories that ring truer in the minds of readers, no matter how fantastical the story. That’s because we have the most solid foundation for the belief in good’s triumph, for the hope in the midst of the darkest of times, and for the truths that weave through our stories.