Sunday, August 8, 2010

ECFL Blog Tour - Romantic Suspense

There have been so many excellent posts so far on this 'Edgy Christian Fiction' Blog Tour. I'm certainly enjoying it, and I hope you are, too. Today, I am going to talk about 'Romantic Suspense' - a very broad topic, I know!

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.
www.shawnawilliams-oldsmobile.blogspot.com 
or go to the side button to see what else has been buzzing around this summer.

20 comments:

  1. Thanks for your post, Tracy. I agree thoroughly about the need to have real characters. And as a pastor, I also relate to what you say about how we simply cannot avoid offending SOMEONE. One comment on your definition of "Romance", though. You say it refers to people "falling in love." But Romance can also be an already married couple finding more depth to their love and expressing that love passionately. Just a different perspective!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for expanding on that definition, Keith. I agree. I 'fall in love' with my husband every day! (And people think HE'S the romantic!)

    ReplyDelete
  3. I love the title of your new book, My Mother the Man Eater...lol.

    Great post Tracy!

    Joy

    ReplyDelete
  4. Nice article, Tracy. You're Truly Gifted. Remain blessed.

    ReplyDelete
  5. i love Edgy Christian Fiction - Authors like Melody Carlson, Terri Blackstock and Brandilyn Collins are up there. I will have to check out your writing Tracey BTW if you are ever in need of a book reviewer , give me a buzz on paulazone@live.com

    ReplyDelete
  6. Yowser, man eater. :P Like that title. :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Tracy I think it is important that we make the Edgy Christian Fiction available. Otherwise, we run the risk of driving people to completely secular and traditional romance novels with few redeeming solutions or involvements.

    To expand the "romance" definition even further, remember the "romance" isn't love. Ask any victim who will tell you often an abuser is the most "romantic" date they ever had until the "honeymoon" was over. Not to be nit picky, because true love seems to be the catalyst for romance even for the shyest and most introverted man (and sometimes woman).(I've been romanced for 48 years by my shy guy).

    I love your post and believe as Christian Fiction writers we only have to check out David and Bathsheba, and songs of Solomon to know that communication about love and romance isn't always "purist" material.Joyce Godwin Grubbs

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi, Tracy,

    I like your concept of "edgy." My standard is that you can write about a lot of edgy things without being offensive. It's how it's presented. The Bible, as you pointed out, doesn't take the humanity out of redemption. It's all in there, but tastefully done. I am probably more of the "purist" type, but I am still learning what my boundaries are and what I feel comfortable with. I just know when it crosses the line, I feel "icky."

    ReplyDelete
  9. So true, Lorilyn. When I spoke at a book reading recently, I mentioned that most of my scenes that contain sex are more of the 'Camera pans away to dramatic music' variety.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I'm so glad you brought up that Jesus hung out with tax collectors and prostitutes. I'm sure he heard some raw language. Many saw Him as a carpenter at first. It took awhile for some to realized who He was. There's be no need to clean up language for a carpenter...or subject matter.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Tracy - I love that you have coined a new genre - and I've been waiting for this one. I write Christian lit. and strive to make biblical characters "real"...The Bible is all about humanity in all of its stages of grace, let's celebrate every step we are on:). My first novel, Woman Redeemed is all about the imperfections that are so rich within humanity...now I'm working on another, Mothers of Nations that will look at the flaws and human emotions that led to Sarah and Hagar's split from one another...:)

    ReplyDelete
  12. I can't take the credit for coining the genre, Christine. But thanks for your kind comments and good luck with your book.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hi, Tracy. You do a good job of explaining edgy romantic suspense. Your books sound intriguing.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thank you for giving our readers so much good information, Tracy. May I add my own romantic intrigues to the list for consideration: THE SHADOW OF REALITY, Book 1 The Elizabeth & Richard Mysteries forces Elizabeth to find, painfully, the dividing line between fantasy and reality. Book 2 A MIDSUMMER EVE'S NIGHTMARE will be coming soon.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I always know when my wife is ready to fall asleep, the last thing she says, Is "I love you". Also, I know when she is awake, because it is the first thing she says every morning. I have told our love story many times and won't bore you here, but we have such a great life together. We are also going to make sure we are together in the next one too. rm

    ReplyDelete
  16. Sorry I'm a little late chiming in to the tour this week!

    I love, and totally agree with, your observation, "What a shame to weaken the plot, the characters, or the action simply because you are afraid to offend someone."

    It seems there are so many places in our lives that we censor ourselves (and I mean that literally--we behave/speak/dress differently depending upon the "crowd" we plan to be within, effectively deleting parts of our personality for that stretch of time)and by doing so we so often morph into the fakey phoney posers we despise. If we are truly desiring to affect change within our culture by showing that culture an accurate picture of who Christ is, than we must show an accurate picture of who WE (or, rather, our characters) are. By being "edgy" we are being REAL. More about that on the 22nd!

    My Mother the Man Eater. Awesome title--and timely. "Cougar" seems to be the in thing right now. Hope you find a pubber for it!

    Great post, Tracy!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Thanks for your great comments Shawna. MY MOTHER THE MAN EATER is already in the production phase - Yipee!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Nice article and wise comments about the stories in the Bible - real people, warts and all, really saved.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Hi Tracy,
    I enjoyed reading this article because it depicts my concept of what good Christian fiction should be. After all, we are in the world but not of the world. The other reason I believe we ought to keep our characters and stories "real" is because we are not writing for Christians only, but for secular readers as well, therefore we ought to give them something that is palatable, but without the spice.

    ReplyDelete