Whether you find yourself in a used book store or the new books section of your local public library, much of what you’ll see on display are romance novels. The trend toward marketing romance has been going on for years now and shows no signs of abating. For believers, many of whom enjoy the more chaste versions of historic romance, a number of religious publishing houses have assembled stables of authors to satisfy.
This week, we discuss the state of Christian romance writing with two more Texans who have won awards in this popular genre.
“Most of my readers are looking to escape for a few hours of fun and light entertainment,” said Janice Thompson, author of four romantic comedy novels set on our island in her Weddings by Bella series. “Many have written to me personally, to let me know how much the comedic elements in the inspirational romances touched them as they were walking through various tragedies. My only real goal is to uplift and encourage readers through the lives of my characters.”
Those attracted to such fare are as likely to binge read as Netflix subscribers are to watch entire seasons of a hit show, back to back. But the obsession runs both ways, Thompson said.
“Pardon the double-negative, but I always say that writers write because they can’t not write,” she said. “We put words on paper because we have to — plain and simple. In my case, it took nearly ten years for my first novel to be published. I went to a variety of conferences, took several classes on the craft, sent out hundreds of proposals, met with dozens of editors and finally received a call from a publisher with an offer. The road didn’t get much easier, even after that first book. With over 100 books published, you would think I had conquered most of my literary demons. Not so. Training continues, even to this day”
Texan Hallee Bridgeman goes in more for action/suspense than comedy in her books.
“My readers choose my stories because my readers truly resonate with my characters as if they were real people,” she said. “They have realistic actions and reactions, face realistic consequences and triumphs from decisions, and provide a true suspension of disbelief in the midst of their stories. It is always my desire to present life as it happens, and not to sugar coat it, even though I write for the Christian market.”
As she types up her characters’ actions, she lets the cards fall as they may.
“If my character makes a stupid decision, it’s not always going to turn out for him or her,” Bridgeman said. “That’s OK, because, like in the parables that Christ told, some of the best lessons are learned from stupid decisions.”
To avoid the writer’s obsession which seems to plague those who can produce multiple books each year, she takes a page from the Old Testament.
“I take a sabbath from writing, working six solid days each week,” she said. “If I’m not writing, interviewing authors for my weekly blog, studying for research, or doing marketing and promotion, I’m thinking about all of those things. It’s a full-time, fully-enveloping job.”
Bridgeman’s books have racked up sales of half a million to date without violating the constraints evangelical readers recognize.
“I had written a contemporary romance and submitted it to a major publisher,” she recalled. “As soon as it was in the mail, I was convicted about the subject matter. I am a devout Christian with specific values and that book went against most of my personal moral values. The main characters were motivated by greed and lust and they went against what I believed in. I rewrote the book, this time making one of the main characters a Christian, and making his motivations love and a desire to serve his fellow man. When I got the offer to publish in the mail, it didn’t surprise me. I sent in the revised version and it was all I needed to launch my publishing career.”
Next week in Our Faith: Real-life romances of faithful couples. Please encourage any couple married 40 or more years and who have had their union sustained by their faith to email me to share their insights in this space.