The Peretti Phenomena


A few weeks ago I took a very informal poll on Facebook asking how many people have ever read a Frank Peretti book. The response was overwhelming and, surprisingly, split fairly evenly between male and female. Now, this little study was in no way scientific, in fact if I tried to call it scientific I’m sure the science police would be knocking at my door within the hour (of course, they haven’t tracked down Al Gore yet so maybe I’d be safe), but two things it showed me was (1) a lot of poeple have read Frank Peretti, and (2) those people are both men and women.

Some conclusions from this very informal, unscientific poll:

Call it what you want, but Frank Peretti writes Christian horror (okay, you can call it supernatural suspense), he does, and people don’t mind reading his stuff. In fact, he has a new book coming out in 2011 and I guarantee it will be a bestseller before it even hits bookstore shelves. His first book, Piercing the Darkness, has sold over 2.5 million copies and his books collectively have sold over 12 million. Hey, somebody’s reading Christian horror.

Both men and women alike read and enjoy Frank Peretti’s work. This destroys two stereotypes: that men don’t read and women don’t like horror/supernatural suspense.

So, this leads to a few questions . . .

(1) If millions of readers enjoy the work of Peretti, where are they when it comes to other Christian horror/supernatural suspense titles?

(2) What sets Peretti apart that his books are so popular, such bestsellers, every time?

(3) What is it about a Peretti book that you like so much?

Any thoughts? And be honest.

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About mikedellosso

Mike Dellosso is an author of wide-eyed suspense. He writes stories that not only entertain but enlighten.

Posted on June 17, 2010, in Writing Life and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 28 Comments.

  1. Robert Jensen

    Frank Peretti helps me get a feel for how the spirit world might be all around us by giving names to the angels and demons. I know there are both angels and demons (evil spirits) all around and he helps make the spirit world come to life in my mind or imagination. He describes supernatural beings in a way that seems realistic or believable.

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  2. In response to 1, Perretti just might be a breakthrough author. Others of his genre might be sure to follow, though I’m not familiar with his stuff or how long he’s been around. It might just be an isolated phenomenon.

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  3. Peretti was the first adult Christian fiction author I read as a teen, and I was immediately hooked. I think there could be several reasons why he’s so popular. And by the way, Mike, your books really do remind me of his.

    First, Peretti writes about darkness but never falls into gratuitous territory. I honestly feel that some of the CBA thriller/horror writers out there push the envelope too much. I really don’t care to read about a serial killer dismembering and torturing his victims. Peretti never did. Even in The Oath, a classic horror novel if I ever read one.

    Second, he doesn’t shy from sharing spiritual truths. When it’s dark, the light is there shining. I wish more CBA authors would follow his suit on this.

    Third, he doesn’t write romance! LOL. This could explain why men and women enjoy him equally.

    Little story… I was in B&N the other day and saw a guy in the Christian fiction section. He was probably college age or a little older. He had in his hand This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness. I couldn’t resist commenting. I told him, “Those are really good.” He was glad to hear that and went away to buy them!

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    • Thanks for the thoughts, CJ, and I wholeheartedly agree. Frank knows how to walk the line between scary and creepy and over-the-top and always shines the light where it is darkest. To me, that’s important.

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  4. Think of Peretti like dynasties in sports. The Steelers and Cowboys can have a couple of bad seasons without losing their extended fan base. Every team has a loyal local base but only a few have extended bases like those two just mentioned. I am loyal Saints fan from years since childhood. I will pull for them and watch their games regardless. Now a lot of people are talking about them. Let them lose for a couple of years and watch what happens.

    I’m not saying Peretti draws only because he was a franchise long before anyone else in the CBA. But he has managed to create a large enough base over a long enough time that he can experiment some (i.e. House) and not lose his extended base.

    I also think This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness drew in a group of readers that didn’t normally read much fiction at all. He dealt with spiritual issues in way that engaged Christians. Many of them remain fiction readers to this day.

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    • I agree, Tim, longevity is key and building an audience. A challenge for any new author like myself is to build that strong base of readers and then keep the books coming for a long time. A challenge indeed . . .

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  5. First of all, Peretti writes to give the reader the experience of watching a movie. I’ve always wanted that to be evident in my own writing even though I do a different genre. He’s a very good writer.

    Secondly, some people will of course disagree with me here, but his passion for and interpretation of the spiritual realm come through his Pentecostal roots. Full gospel Christianity tends to delve into every aspect of the walk with Jesus, including the demonic, angelic, prophetic, prayerful, supernatural occurrences, etc. without making it seem “abnormal”.

    Third his heart is into storytelling, and he was given the freedom in the word count to do it effectively. The complex stories he wrote delved into all kinds of character development and unique plot points often not afforded to writers today.

    I for one cannot wait for his next novel.

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  6. Peretti was the first for me of that genre. It was spellbinding and unique. My husband, who is not a reader, actually read 2 or 3 of his books. I think his ideas of good and evil make you look outside the box and think about your own beliefs. I love this genre, and enjoyed your latest book. For whatever reason, these types of books don’t receive as much publicity or word of mouth or whatever. Keep up the good work!

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  7. Nicole made a very valid point, regarding Peretti’s Pentecostal roots. The demonic isn’t abnormal, they’re reality. His first two books captured me, as they were down to earth real scenes in everyday life, focusing in on the supernatural aspect of life. Aligning it with the everyday walk of life made his books great. It’s based on, to me, the Scripture that we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers. He made that aspect real so we could pray differently. I wasn’t as enthralled with his later ones when it became more ‘eerie.’

    I also agree that he was one the first breakthroughs in the supernatural realm of writing.

    As I wrote previously, using the title paranormal vs supernatural does make a difference to me. Paranormal has a spooky entity to it. The supernatural is based on God and Satan’s battle for mankind.

    Also since our last discussion, I do plan to read your other books, as you explained that paranormal and supernatural were somewhat the same to you.

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  8. I’ve only read Peretti’s “Monster” and I sort of compare that book to your “The Hunted.” But actually, I think your stories are much more intense and enjoyable. It took me a long time to get interested in “Monster,” but you had me hooked right away. So in answer to your questions I’m not all that excited about Frank Peretti’s books, but I love your stories.

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  9. Thanks, Marty, Linda, and Warren for your input. Frank’s ability to weave spiritual truths into his story and challenge the reader is something I strive for in my own writing. Linda, I hope you enjoy my other stories as well and are encouraged by them. And Warren, I might suggest you try Frank’s book THE OATH. My favorite of his.

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  10. Man good question. I personally liked his earlier books the best. Hated The Oath, wasn’t that crazy about Monster either. I have noticed something about his books… seems like they are a “flash in the pan” – they come out in hardback for about $24.99, and not too many months later, you can buy it for $4-$5. If he is such a great author, what is up with that? You never see Karen Kingsbury’s books on the discount rack, but his go there fairly quickly. Not just saying this for flattery, Mike, but I like your books much better than his last few I read, so I might be a poor one to comment on this subject.

    Maybe people are afraid to try new authors. I sometimes am, though with reviewing books, I have tried several new ones. I bought “Hunted” on a whim – needed something to read, and it sounded good – and wasn’t disappointed.

    Part of it may be the vast majority of Christian fiction readers seem to be women – and too many of them are into romance and Amish books.

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    • Thanks for your thoughts, Mark. Don’t know if I’ve ever heard anyone say Frank was a flash in the pan. I think most would argue 12 million copies sold is more than a flash but I’ve often wondered about the price point. I see some books on Amazon, well selling books, priced at $5.99 and wonder if that contributes to the good sales. I’d imagine it does. I think the trying new author fear is legitimate, though. Good point.

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  11. I’m another in the category of people who liked his earlier works better than his later stuff. Not sure why, but the later stuff felt like he was trying too hard. I guess when you set the bar so high to begin with, it gets more difficult to keep reaching ever higher.

    Just my two cents.

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    • Interesting you should say about the reaching higher and higher. I’m starting to feel the same way about my books. So far, with each book, readers and critics have said it’s my best yet. I keep thinking, sooner or later I have to reach a “this is as good as it gets” and people will say, “Not as good as his other books.” The day will come . . . I need to be ready 🙂

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  12. I can say I didn’t care for Monster. It was my least favorite. Loved The Oath and all the others. I wouldn’t assess Frank’s writing by Monster, and, like Linda, I loved the first two. So real.

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  13. I loved the Darkness novels, The Oath, and even Monster. Not so thrilled with The Visitation, Prophet & definitely not House (much more of a Dekker book). Liked his kids books too.

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  14. Oh, and I have seen KK’s books on the discount rack. 🙂

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  15. Me, too, C.J. and just about everyone else’s. The return policy for bookstores is ridiculous. The outlet stores are filled with all of the best fiction writers’ books. Overstock. Books returned because they didn’t sell fast enough or whatever or the store ordered too many knowing they could return those unsold. Incredible.

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  16. Well, I hope my answers help:

    1. I read Peretti more while in college and not so much recently. Since I’ve been working more on writing also, I’ve been reading more of a genre I want to write in, children’s literature (mainly middle grade and YA). Also as a mom, I find time to read and time to write very limited.

    2. I feel his books grab my attention right away and even though they are supernatural thrillers they are so real. At least to me.

    3. my favorite part of Peretti’s books is that he is so visually descritpive. i can easily picture the scenes and feel apart of what is happening on the page. I am a visual thinker. Maybe everyone does this, but when I think of something it is visually. I think in pictures so when someone can desceibe something to me it draws me in so much quicker. ( if that makes sense!)

    I hope that hepls and makes sense. Your writing is pretty awesome too, Mike. I believe you’ll sitting on a shelf beside Frank Peretti before too long.

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  17. Reggie Greenleaf

    Dear Mike, God bless you and i am looking forward to adding you as a new suspence author! I found you on the Suspence Zone and followed the trail…..I am female and thoroughly enjoy Frank Peretti’s books. I have to tell you that my reasons for enjoying them is I enjoy learning about the spiritual side of life and the things that i know and understand about angels and demons and the spiritual realm Frank gave a picture to and advanced my imagination as to how some of this stuff could work. I also enjoy reading Stephen James, Ted Dekker, Alton Gansky. I am looking forward to checking out your books!

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  18. Michael Miller

    Hmmm… quite an interesting question you pose here Mr. Dellosso! I am a voracious reader, but I have only been a Christian for about three years now. As such, my experience with Christian fiction has been rather limited. I have, however, read all of Frank Peretti’s adult books, with the exclusion of the Cooper kids adventures and his non-fiction stuff. I’ve also read Ted Dekker, and a few others; most, however, were more in the Crime/Detective fiction league of things.

    (1) and (2) I think Peretti’s books are so popular because Peretti was somewhat of a pioneer; he helped create the Christian horror/thriller genre and make it what it is today. Before him most Christian fiction was relegated to end-times dramas and the occasional romance. And as is usual with pioneers he was met with controversy from both sides of the fence – Christian and Secular. But controversy by its nature garners the author attention, and attention begets fame. But since he was one of the first, if not THE first, his name sticks out because his name is synonymous with “Christian Horror”. Having a couple movie adaptations made of his books doesn’t hurt either 🙂

    Also, as is usual when someone creates a “phenomenon”, other people try to imitate it, and the market suddenly becomes inundated with imitators, or books that have been marketed as imitators. The ever-savvy book buyers get fed up with it and avoid the imitators, and stick to what they know – the Frank Peretti name. Which is a shame, because a lot of very good stories get lost that way IMO.

    (3) Now please do not get me wrong by my previous paragraphs – I very much enjoy and respect Mr. Peretti’s writing. I didn’t care much for his first three novels: This Present Darkness, Piercing the Darkness, and Prophet. I found them to be the kind of juvenille, bubble-gum hokum that I usually avoid. My eyes perked up when I read The Oath and, my personal favorite: The Visitation. From that point on his writing became IMO more well-written, intelligent, mature, and imaginative: the three very reasons why I enjoy his work (and your’s Mr. Dellosso!) oh so very much.

    I’m in the middle of Darlington Woods now, and next is The Hunted (finally tracked down a local copy) – love your stuff Mr. Dellosso. Keep it coming! God Bless!

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    • Great points made, Michael. Thanks for the input. My favorite Peretti books were his later ones as well. Loved The Oath and Monster. I’m always humbled when someone refers to my books as “the next Frank Peretti” but I’d rather be “the first Mike Dellosso.” 🙂

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