by Tamela Hancock Murray
I always enjoy reading comments on our blog posts. Recently a reader posted a provocative question:
In this time of great emotional upheaval, instability, and unrest, aren’t we ready for something more solid and inspiring than just different types of romance novels?
Those of you familiar with my career know that I am the author of many romance novels and stories — and Bible trivia books!
And while I represent a variety of authors in fiction and nonfiction, my list is weighted heavily to romantic stories. I do realize that not everyone has the same taste — nor should we. God has created each of as unique, and CBA offers a variety of books to accommodate all readers. Please see the twentieth entry in the comments section of my post, Study the Market, for my unscientific suggestions for those looking for limited or no romance in novels.
History Repeats Itself
As to whether readers are ready for heavier books during hard economic times, I would say that economic times themselves have little or no bearing on popular tastes. Because people always have been and always will be unique, in perpetuity you will find a segment looking to escape their problems and another segment looking to confront them in entertainment. Today’s tough economy is likened to the Great Depression. This decade brought us the complicated life and romances of Scarlett O’Hara in the 1936 book release, Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell, which led to the 1939 movie starring a king of Hollywood, Clark Gable. This decade also brought us the 1939 release of a gritty and hardscrabble The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, followed by the 1940 film, when the country had not yet recovered and was on the brink of war.
The Good Ship Lollipop
In the meantime, my grandmother, whom I called Precious, was watching Shirley Temple films, lighthearted and heartwarming stories that are still run on TV from time to time and can be bought in a variety of volumes on DVD. Shirley was so popular that Precious owned, among other trivia, a water pitcher and drinking glass set bearing Shirley’s image. Escapism? Yes. Popular? Wildly. Oh, and my other grandmother watched her “stories” on TV from 12:30 to 4 PM every week day — diversions popular through prosperity, inflation, stagflation, detente, and other such worldly cares.
Variety in Entertainment
Because I don’t want this post to lapse into a burdensome tome overstating a point, suffice it to say, a study of entertainment history shows a consistent pattern of musicals and anti-war plus pro-war films in time of war and silliness alongside consciousness-raising books in times of unrest. Some authors want to address society’s problems — and we will always have problems, though immediate concerns will vary. Those blessed enough to find an outlet and an audience for the important points they want to make may well change society, or at least make people think. But those books and films are likely to attract a different audience than lighthearted stories. There is plenty of room for both.
The Importance of Romance
And please don’t discount romantic stories and genre romance as fluff in the Christian Market. Read one or more of these books and think about the stories. The ones I have written, read, and represent have an underlying spiritual thread and message. In fact, the spiritual arc is one of the proposal points I ask my novelists to include in their proposals. The difference here is, our romance authors are writing the love story as the focus but intertwine spiritual truths. They are not looking to offer a sermon, then the romance. Those who dismiss romance novels and romantic stories should reconsider. God is great, and He can and does use romantic stories to change lives. My authors have the fan letters to prove it.
What is your favorite romance or romantic story you have read in the Christian market? What books do you recommend in other categories?