Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Writers' Wednesday: What Is Inspirational Romance?

Welcome to Writers' Wednesday! Today we have a guest blogger, Diane Craver, sharing her knowledge of the Inspirational Romance genre. Diane is a multi-published author with Samhain Publishing and has just released her newest work, Never the Same.

Sit back and enjoy - and make sure to leave her a comment when you're finished.

Thanks, Diane!


What Is Inspirational Romance?

When I did a chat in December, I posted an excerpt of my inspirational romance, No Greater Loss. The excerpt dealt with a character’s near death experience and how she saw her loved ones in heaven. After reading this excerpt and entering my contest, a reader said, “I never read an Inspirational. Diane, does this mean they are related to religion or is that called something else?”

I thought this was an excellent question. I like RWA’s definition of Inspirational Romance which is “a romantic novel with religious faith as a significant element of the story.” I think it’s important to explain what Christian publishers want in their inspirational romances, but I want to add here that No Greater Loss doesn’t fit their guidelines. Publishers such as, Steeple Hill Love Inspired line, Barbour & Company, Zondervan, Bethany House, Multnomah, and Tyndale have strict requirements.

The following list is what the above publishers look for in their inspirational romances:

No foul language, taking the Lord's name in vain, euphemisms for curses (heck, darn, gosh) and no scenes containing violent content.

No dancing, no alcohol consumption by Christian characters.

No graphic love scenes. In an inspirational romance, they are non-existent and unacceptable. No staying overnight alone together. The characters should not make love unless they are married. Inspirationals are "sweet" romances. Any physical interactions (i.e., kissing, hugging) should emphasize emotional tenderness rather than sexual desire or sensuality.

Do not preach. An element of faith must be present in the books, and should be well-integrated into the plot. The conflict between the characters should be an emotional one. The hero and heroine might be struggling to accept the Christian faith or can be active church members. By the end of the story, hero and heroine must be both believers and members of a church community.

Okay, this is how my inspirational romance differs. I’ll start with the foul language because two secondary characters use a few swear words. The main characters never use any, but the young arsonist and his girlfriend swear when they’re fighting over a major life changing event. I couldn’t imagine their characters not swearing at two crucial points in the story line. However, a reviewer was offended that an inspirational would have any swear words in it at all. I understand her point of view. I asked several Christians what they thought of these two characters using foul language, and all of them gave me strange looks because they didn’t remember this language being used in my book. My editor was surprised at the reviewer’s comment because she said that Christians do use swear words.

In No Greater Loss, Luke and Jennifer spend a night together due to a blizzard. They don’t have sex but the scene between them wouldn’t be acceptable by Christian publishers. They also speak of their sexual desire for each other and think about it. This just seemed natural to me to write it this way.

However, my inspirational romance does have many things in common with the ones published by the Christian market. No Greater Loss is a sweet romance with faith playing a large part in the characters’ lives. Dr. Jennifer Hunter is a Christian psychologist with a Sunday radio show dealing with women's topics. Her Uncle Ryan is a Catholic priest. Jennifer turns to prayer throughout the book. She’s great at helping her patients with their problems, but she can’t help herself work through her own grief and guilt. After her husband and baby died, she thinks God must want her to remain single. Luke needs to learn to forgive his past wife for something she did during their marriage, so he can move on with his life. My inspirational romance is emotional with compelling characters who find inner peace.

Fortunately for me, Samhain accepted my inspirational romance without all the restrictions imposed by other publishers. They allowed me to tell my story the way I felt it needed to be told.

Do you enjoy reading inspirational romances? You don’t need to go to a Christian bookstore to buy them. I bought a Steeple Hill Love Inspired recently in a grocery store. Because of their popularity, they are sold in many secular stores.

Have you considered writing an inspirational romance? Writing about Christian characters facing challenges of love in today’s world is rewarding. Inspirational romances will always have a place in publishing because people are looking for the deeper meaning in life, and they want to read faith filled stories.


Marianne Arkins said...

I'm sold... I need to go and buy your book. I like to read Inspirational Romance, but often feel that it falsely represents Christians as a whole.

Somehow the publishers think that Christians never falter, never think about sex, never swear, never, never, never...

I'm pretty sure that every last Christian (or whatever faith) is first and foremost human. I find most inspy romances unrealistic, and as a result, I typically avoid it anymore.

Good post! Thanks for helping Allie out with her Writers Weds.

Kerri Augusto said...

Thank you for this very informative post. I have to admit that I was under the misguided impression that inspirational romance was a bit more preachy than you lead us to believe. I've never read it, but I might give it a try. Much of what I read is classified as women's fiction, and in many cases, I think it strives for the same kind of personal insights you allude to here. I'm going to pick up your book and give it a try. Thanks for expanding my literary mind!

Diane Craver said...

Thanks for your comment, Marianne! I'm glad Allie has Wednesdays for guest bloggers. The truth is I found the SH inspirational romance I read a bit boring. But I have read others I liked.

I'm just glad Samhain accepted my inspirational romance and didn't ask me to take out what others might find offensive in the novel.

Diane Craver said...

I'm glad you left a comment, Kerri!

I know a number of authors have switched to writing just for the Christian market. They actually have rewritten their previously published romances and taken out any sex and other references unacceptable by the Christian publishers' standards. Robin Lee Hatcher is one of them. Her books sell great.

Judy said...

Thanks for the information, Diane. I have a question, though. Where does Biblical fiction fit into the scheme of things? Not Christian, since a lot of them are set BC, but as a market? In your opinion, would they go into an inspirational "slot"?

Mustafa ┼×enalp said...


Diane Craver said...

Depending on the story, biblical fiction could be considered for the inspirational slot. I've seen Fiction Biblical Inspirational. Sometimes it might go under just Biblical Fiction. Sorry I can't be more helpful. Good question, Judy!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing insights! It's much appreciated.

N Marion

Robin Bayne said...

Good post!

(Blogger ate my long response so I will leave it at that this time)

Diane Craver said...

N Marion & Robin,
Thanks for reading my article about inspirational romance.

I did think of something else. Inspirational romances have changed in that they are willing to confront contemporary issues involving Christians with actual current problems.

Donna Alward said...

*waves at Diane*

I find the rules so restricting...for example, gosh, darn, heck??? The second ms I ever wrote was inspy but it was the only one.

Christians experience sexual tension/urges/frustration/name that strong emotion as much as anyone else. As a writer, I don't think I could manage it. As a reader, I applaud other writers who do it, do it well, and keep me reading despite all the restrictions placed on their work.


Diane Craver said...

Donna, thanks for taking time to comment here. I know you have a deadline to meet.

Actually I didn't list all the restrictions in writing an inspirational for a Christian publisher. Halloween celebrations, card playing, and intimate body parts are not to be mentioned either.

I agree with you and others about the restrictions seem so unrealistic since Christians have sexual feelings and etc.

Diane Craver said...

I did think of something else to share about your question about Biblical fiction before Christ was born. An author, Ann Burton, writes the Women of the Bible series and her heroines are definitely inspirational. I haven't read them but they sound very interesting.

Another author writing Biblical fiction for the inspirational market is Rebecca Kohn and she wrote The Gilded Chamber and Seven Days to the Sea.

megamie said...

An inspirational romance for me is one that has a deep meaning that can influence the readers thinking and actions. The characters are involved in life altering situations and find a way to rise above them and improve the lives of those around them.


Kate Davies said...

Fascinating stuff, Diane! I love the fact that Samhain let you tell the story the way it was meant to be told, instead of letting artificial restrictions stand in the way. As someone who tried to break in to the "sweet" romance market before changing focus, I found that it was a hard line to negotiate. My books weren't targeted as inspirationals, but many of the same restrictions (no intimate contact, etc.) applied as well.

Sometimes, though, the characters just insist on being who they are, don't they? :)

Diane Craver said...

Very well said, Teresa! I agree. Reading your comments reminds me of a particular character in No Greater Loss and how he had to rise above a life changing event.

Thank you.

Diane Craver said...

Good to see you here, Kate. I know you have a writing deadline, too.

I know there was another publisher I tried to write a "sweet" romance for and I just couldn't meet their guidelines either. And as you know, I don't even write hot and steamy books.

But isn't it great how our characters take over and tell their stories?

Diane Craver said...

I appreciate all the comments and all of you made it an interesting and fun day! Thank you.

I decided to put your names and the ones from my blog's comments today in a drawing for a free download of No Greater Loss. My daughter Amanda drew Judy's name. Congrats Judy. Email me at:
DianeCraver@ cinci.rr. com (no
spaces) and tell me what format you'd like.

Also I have a website contest right now.

Meg Allison said...

Great post, Diane! Those restrictions you mentioned are a big part of why I've never been able to writer an inspirational romance.

Congrats on writing such a wonderful story -- and on making the characters more realistic in the process. I'm glad Samhain is open to such wonderful diversity.

Diane Craver said...

Thanks Meg. I appreciate your thoughtful comments.

I'm so grateful to Crissy for starting Samhain Publishing and giving me the opportunity to get my inspirational romance published. It never would have been published as an inspirational by other houses.