Friday, January 22, 2010

Opinions, Please!

This is my first post for the WIB blog, and I am glad to be here! I hope some of you will take a moment to share your opinions on this topic: What is inspirational fiction?

I’ve been asked this question many times by friends and family, especially when I have a new story release. To many of them, the term “inspirational” refers to any writing which is uplifting or meaningful. Some feel it refers to spiritual writing, and some think it refers to Christian fiction. To one mother who lost a child, the essay I wrote on her daughter was inspirational. To another friend, a collection of encouraging, secular quotes is inspirational. But to most of us reading this, inspirational fiction and romance is fiction that includes God and faith in the storyline.

When I began to research the topic, I found other Christian romance authors have addressed it as well. I asked a few about their reading and writing habits. White Rose author JoAnn Carter said: “I read Christian/Inspirational titles--especially if it's in the romance genre. That way I'm more likely not to run into "issues" that wouldn't be good for me to see/read.”

Author Pamela Thibodeaux wrote a wonderful post on the topic for a previous entry. Here's an excerpt:

Christian fiction is written for a particular audience...the CBA market/readership. Christian fiction focuses on a relationship with God and God is the center of every romantic liaison. It adheres to the guidelines set forth by the CBA publishers and readers. In most instances, those guidelines are very conservative. The CBA wants “chaste relationships…the emotional side of love without the physical.”

Christian Inspirational fiction is written more for those readers out there who are dissatisfied with the typical Christian fiction as well as those turned off by the normal secular romances. It is aimed for readers who like the idea of God/Christ in the books, but want more realistic characters, situations, etc.

She also shared these views with me:

“I consider "inspirational" fiction that which is written with a higher level of sensuality and gritty realism and yet stays within biblical principles. Yes, it is different from traditional "Christian" fiction as the guidelines set forth by the CBA/EPCA are actually very conservative.My writing is labled as "Inspirational with an Edge!" and reviewed as: steamier and grittier than the typical Christian novel without decreasing the message.Other than non-fiction, I read exclusively Romance - of every heat level EXCEPT erotica.”

Author Cindy Green shared her opinions:

As far as my own writing, it is conservative and even though it is published as ‘Inspirational’ it is Christian and would more than likely fall under the CBA standards. My tagline is ‘Bringing Sweet Romance to the Heart.’ I do read mainly sweet romance and most of that is Inspirational and/or Christian romance.

One of the growing sub-genres within romance is the Inspirational romance, but what is an Inspy exactly? Inspirational romance is just like any other romantic tale. It includes the ups and downs of falling in love, a handsome hero and a likeable heroine, those many emotional essentials, and the all important happy ending—aka: the HEA. And within Inspirational romance you can again have all of those subgenres but with a certain world view. The main ingredient separating the Inspirational romance with that of the secular romance is the spiritual element which makes it in many ways even more difficult to write. (But that is a topic for another day.)

The inspirational romance presents a love story centered on religious values. Your characters are not only beleaguered with the typical internal and external conflict but also a spiritual obstacle or struggle. Emotional conflict is key in an Inspy as is sexual tension, but again think sweet romance. Faith is a natural part of the story. It is sewn into the heart of the book in such a way that it is not cumbersome or preachy. As one reviewer said of my own book: “This is a fun, refreshing, non-preachy read. Faith is simply part of the main characters’ lives.”

Thank you, ladies, for sharing your views with us. I invite everyone reading to leave a comment on their own opinion—what is inspirational fiction? Do you read it? Write it?

---Robin Bayne


Marianne Evans said...

What a wonderful and informative post, Robin - it's wonderful to 'take the temperature' of inspy authors and thereby spot trends, needs and wants in readers. Let's face it, we all strive to find, and provide, quality writing, great plots, and biblical principals. Bravo. :-)

Robin Bayne said...

Thanks so much, Marianne!