Sunday, August 8, 2010
ECFL Blog Tour - Romantic Suspense
There is a lot of writing going on in this genre, and the Christian market is no different. In fact, one could say there is a glut out there. What makes one Christian Romantic Suspense story stand out from another? I think this is where the 'Edgy' part comes in. Readers are looking for a bit more reality. Tastes have been refined and readers have become more sophisticated in their expectations. Perhaps this could be better defined as 'desensitized' in some cases, but you would be hard pressed to find anyone - Christian or not - who hasn't been exposed to the raw realities of life on television or in movies. (Not to mention in real life.) Come on. Admit it. You've watched and enjoyed a few shows, I'm sure, that contained violence, swearing, and premarital sex. Everyone's thresh hold of tolerance is different, of course, but I would wager that there are few 'purists' still out there.
I'm not suggesting that we all just give in to our baser natures. But if we are truly interested in reaching the lost - especially the current generation - we had better stop hiding behind any false sense of righteousness. Jesus didn't. He was righteousness embodied, yet He hung out with the tax collectors, prostitutes and 'sinners'.
So, let's define the words 'Romance' and 'Suspense'. Romance is pretty much a no brainer - it's all about falling in love. Suspense on the other hand encompasses mystery, action, and intrigue. It's the kind of story that leaves you on the edge of your seat, wondering what will happen next. It's the element of surprise - plot twists that jump out at you when you least expect it - the 'shock factor'. Now I ask you - how can you effectively utilize either of these elements, especially in light of today's changing marketplace, without a healthy dose of realism? What a shame to weaken the plot, the characters, or the action simply because you are afraid to offend someone.
I know from my experience in ministry (my husband and I pastored a church for ten years) that you can't please everybody all the time. Someone will always be offended by something - whether it was intentional or not. I am always surprised that people tend to pick up on the most mundane, and in many cases, innocent things. Yet, make no mistake, they are probably at home right now watching one of those movies I alluded to earlier.
I like to use the Bible itself as my base line. For anyone who has actually read the Bible, you will note that there is both 'Romance' and 'Suspense' within its pages. And not just the mamby-pamby 'everyone is perfect' kind either. There is plenty of graphic violence, lust, and dare I say 'reality' to be found - real people with real issues who weren't perfect. The wonderful thing, however, is that if we examine the Bible for of its 'Romantic Suspense' content, it is essentially a book about God's grace. He is able to use these imperfect heros and heroines in all their humanity, as examples of how His love and mercy can change things.
I was surprised a while back when a regular Christian publishing house rejected one of my manuscripts because the main character was too cynical and stubborn. If they had read through to the end, they would have seen that that was the point - God can take an imperfect person and change him from the inside out. I am a believer in realistic characters, so I don't apologize for their imperfections anymore. Sometimes they swear, have pre-marital sex, or find themselves in compromising - even 'ungodly' - situations. That's real life. As well, in order to write effective suspense (in my opinion anyway) one needs to include a certain amount of action/violence/reality. It's what gives the story its edge, and hopefully will keep the readers interested.
As a reader, this is the kind of fiction I am interested in reading myself. I know that there is still a huge market for other, more traditional forms of Christian Fiction, and I don't want to be misconstrued as being judgmental. Everyone has his or her own tastes. For me, however, I want, action, intrigue, a sprinkling of romance, and definitely a twist. As a writer, I don't know any other way to deliver this up except by being honest - and that means 'edgy'. So, all you edgy fans out there - be true to yourself and don't let anyone convince you otherwise.
Of course, I can't end this post without a short pitch for my recent release And The Beat Goes On. Mark Graham, an archeologist, finds the remains of pterodactyl and giant human bones buried together while on site in the mountains of Zimbabwe. Even before the controversial find becomes common knowledge, sabotage, death threats, kidnapping and even murder ensue. The action and intrigue highlight the polarized debate between creationists and evolutionary theory without becoming too pedantic and preachy. Of course, there is a healthy dose of romance thrown in, but not perhaps in the way one would expect. I tried to keep the characters 'real' and thus they don't always act the way good Christians should. Ultimately, it is a redemptive story about one man's journey back to his faith roots. For more, check on the side bar. :)
My next release, My Mother the Man Eater (coming soon!) is another Romantic Suspense about a forty something cougar caught in a tangled web of men, mafia and murder. It's 'Grace Inspired', as my friend Shawna Williams says about her writing, with no apologies! I'll keep you posted!
Speaking of Shawna, she's next on the tour so check out her blog on August 15.
or go to the side button to see what else has been buzzing around this summer.