Abingdon Press is melding two popular genres—women’s fiction and women’s Bible studies—to create Faith and Fiction, a unique product line that explores biblical themes via Christian fiction.

“We started dreaming about a new line of Bible studies, then it occurred to us that these same women are also fiction readers,” said Sally Sharpe, senior editor for Abingdon Women. “We decided to use fiction as a backdrop for helping groups dig into scripture in a new way--we’re giving Bible study a new twist.”

Melody Carlson’s The Inn at Shining Waters trilogy (River’s Song, 2011; River’s Call, 2012; River’s End, 2012) is the basis for the first Faith and Fiction Bible study, Healing Waters: A Bible Study on Forgiveness, Grace, and Second Chances (August, 2012) Her Restless Heart: A Woman’s Longing for Love and Acceptance (March) by Barbara Cameron is based on Cameron’s Her Restless Heart, Book 1 in the Stitches in Time series (2012), and explores biblical themes of acceptance and longing.

“We’ve had a lot of interest in Faith and Fiction, but there has been some confusion about whether they are Bible studies or book studies, and whether reading the novel is necessary,” said Sharpe. “We’re trying to be much clearer in saying that this is an in-depth Bible study with the novel as a backdrop, and users don’t have to read the novel to participate.”

Each Faith and Fiction product line includes a book for study participants, a leader’s guide and a DVD, each sold individually. The participant book offers five days of readings each week, including the novel’s plot synopsis and excerpts, with questions and reflection sections. They are designed for 60- and 90-minute sessions.

Faith and Fiction is promoting Restless Heart via a blog tour with dozens of bloggers this spring, and Cameron will host a “preview” Bible study on Facebook beginning April 22. The Bible study features weekly videos from Cameron as well as discussion questions and interaction between participants.

“We’re putting effort and intention into looking at what novels and products to do next,” said Sharpe. “We plan to do many more. We’re watching sales, increasing promotion and marketing, and trying new things to reach fiction fans.”

Sharpe admits they may be a little ahead of their time. “It’s a wonderful idea but it has to catch on. Once people understand it, they absolutely love it.”