Our guest blogger today is Angela Breidenbach. She is a Montana author & Christian Authors Network president, is the host of Lit Up! on Toginet Radio and Apple Podcasts. Angela went back to college for genealogical studies w/specialties in English & Scottish Records. She’ll graduate in 2019 as a professional genealogist.
What does “clean”, “sweet”, and “inspirational” mean?
My name is Angela Breidenbach and I’m a multi-published author in the inspirational romance category, both traditional and indie. I’d like to help you understand what Christian romance is and dispel seven myths about the Christian romance market.
Myth 1: There’s no physical attraction or even any kissing!
The truth: Yes, you can show physical attraction and be published by traditional Christian publishers. My characters notice physical attributes, touch, cuddle, and have sky rocket kiss moments. They talk to their friends and family about their attraction the way normal people do in the real world. Christian authors use emotional words to draw readers into the scene to move the story forward. We keep faith involved in the characters’ decisions creating the holistic person who is more dimensional and interesting.
Myth 2: All Christian publishers are the same.
The truth: In the inspirational romance market each publisher is different and has different business goals. Learning about publishers helps you see the variety of depth, entertainment, and topics they focus imprints on for readers.
Genres also vary widely from contemporary to romantic suspense, historical crosses centuries from biblical times to WWII, Amish to Southern, and many more. Stories range from novellas to long sagas. Christian romance is so diverse it’s hard to choose.
Myth 3: Christian publishers and readers don’t like sex.
The truth: Romantic tension is not the same as sex. Romantic tension is what builds between two people and pulls them together physically. Part of romance, but not all of it. In the Christian inspirational (inspy) romance market, a lot of relationship and conflict builds before the “I love you” scene. The act of sex in inspy romance is handled more like that coffee date with a friend where you tell each other the romantic story of how you met your loved one. It’s not common to tell a friend the blow-by-blow details that happen behind your bedroom door. We tend to keep those parts of our lives personal and private in the real world. And yet those personal stories are highly charged with emotion and romance. That’s what reading a Christian romance is like for readers, the romance and story without the invasion of privacy.
Myth 4: Conversion scenes and “Bible thumping” are demanded by publishers.
The truth: No, publishers want a good, cohesive story. If I’m referring to anything biblical, it’s done in dialogue and paraphrased as we do in common conversation. Deep conversations between two people discuss hard life choices, how they share empathy and love. Think of a time you when you hurt deeply. What did that friend say to you to help you through the pain? That’s more like what would happen in a Christian romance.
Myth 5: Clean, sweet, and inspirational tags mean b-o-r-i-n-g and that means sex is a “dirty” word.
The truth: Sex between married people is important to a good marriage and beautiful to Christians. As a norm, there’s no gratuitous sex, violence, or blue language. “Clean” means clean language to readers. “Sweet” means sex is only between married people and behind the bedroom door, unseen and “off screen”. It might be inferred, as in my story, Bridal Whispers in the Lassoed By Marriage Romance Collection. The characters were married, but had obstacles in the way of fulfilling their vows. We know he carried her across the bedroom threshold, and then the door closes. Privacy is respected. Sexual and story tension are important. Christian publishers and readers want that tension. Books are rejected without enough tension.
This readership does call books “clean”, “sweet”, “inspirational”. There are always jargon words in any industry. These are the jargon words in the Christian publishing industry. They have to do with language content, explicit sexual content, and whether the story is from the Christian worldview. Meaning, the book inspires you to live a better life and turn away from things that are harmful. That’s why if risk-taking behavior happens in a Christian book (yes, these do get written into inspirational romances) the character expressing the risky behavior has to have a consequence shown in the story that results from that behavior.
Myth 6: Christian readers don’t like real life problems. They want cotton candy and fluff.
The truth: Christian readers are voracious readers. They love settings of places they want to visit, characters who struggle through real life problems that they’re trying to figure out themselves, and strong women that set an example of going after their goals.
There’s quite a varying degree of what Christian romance readers want to read from fun fluff to deep literary works. For me, it depends on my mood as is likely the same for others. The average age is 45 and up. They want to learn something from the stories and feel good at the end. These readers love learning how to work through relational conflict in positive ways, love to laugh, love to cry with the main characters, and love to win the goal with them at the end.
Myth 7: It’s easy to write a Christian romance.
The truth: Writing a good story, good enough to get published, is complicated. Entire organizations, conferences, and online education systems exist to teach fiction, including Christian romance. These books are character and/or plot driven, but the story is prime and must hold the tension for the reader through characterization and storytelling. The healing in a Christian romance can be from a trauma that resulted from risk-taking behavior or abuse. Even suicide, rape, drug addiction, marital affairs are written—the stuff of real life struggles. But these books are written for readers that want to learn how to heal from trauma while reading a good story. As our characters go through the journey, the reader does, too. No, writing Christian romance is not easy with the additional dimensions added to the mix. But it is fulfilling.
Consider reading across the wide variance from different publishing houses and their various imprints. There are some similarities, but a whole lot of differences between publishers as with the ABA traditional publishers. Both Lynette Eason and Susan May Warren write great romantic suspense for Revell and Harlequin Love Inspired. Both Roseanna White and Elizabeth Camden write historical romance for Bethany House. If you love biblical romantic fiction, try reading Mesu Andrews or Connilyn Cossette who write for Waterbrook and Bethany House respectively. Personally, I write historical romance for Barbour Books and have quite a few indie romances that range from the American Revolution (Captive Brides Collection) to the great fire of 1910 (The Second Chance Brides Collection) for settings. The list of great authors and entertaining Christian romance would take far too long. Time to get started!