I am honored to be a guest this weekend. Thank you to all the Fillies for providing me this opportunity to blog. I’ve been a big fan of Petticoats & Pistols ever since it started, due in large part to the fact that I’m also a big fan of westerns, and I mean all westerns, not just romances. My two favorite movies are Tombstone and 3:10 to Yuma. I’m also partial to High Noon with Gary Cooper, but who isn’t?
I’ve been fascinated with the Old West ever since I was a kid growing up in northeast Florida in the sixties, a heyday for all things western. I loved watching Gunsmoke on Sunday nights. Even better, there was this really cool theme park near my hometown called Six Gun Territory. My father took my twin sister and me there at least once a month. The park was set up like an old western town straight out of a 1960s television program. Yeehaw!
Aside from all the usual rides and yummy food, Six Gun Territory staged a mock “shoot-out” every two hours in the deserted streets. Looking back with my adult eyes, I realize those shoot-outs had to be the cheesiest shows ever staged. But to a five-year-old little girl they were pure magic. The good guy always won! Hmmm, I think I’ve suddenly discovered the origin of my February release, THE MARSHAL TAKES A BRIDE. The hero is a dedicated lawman and the heroine has a five-year-old little sister who utterly charms the poor sucker, er…I mean hero…from page one. Maybe I should write a song, Ode to Six Gun Territory.
Or, maybe not.
For what it’s worth, the Old West has always been good to me. My first published novel was a western romance set in 1879 Denver, Colorado. EXTREME MEASURES came out in July 2002. That was seven years ago. SEVEN years ago! I could write an entire blog about that looooong dry spell. However, I won’t.
Suffice it to say, lots of things have happened in my life since that first novel hit the shelves. Most importantly, I’ve switched from writing secular romances to inspirational romances.
Although, I have found a lot of success thanks to the switch (I’m working on my fifth contracted manuscript for Steeple Hill) I can’t say the move was an easy one. It took me a long time and a lot of false starts to learn the difference between the two sub-genres.
1. Level of Sensuality: This is the big difference between the two sub-genres and what I consider the pink elephant in the room. There is often a misconception about this topic so let me clear something up right now. Inspirational romances are not merely “sweet romances”. Oh, they can certainly be “sweet”, but this is not a prerequisite.
In fact, a writer cannot simply take sex out of the story, or even shut the door to the bedroom, and magically have an inspirational romance.
Yes, the story should have two people falling in love without the use of sex, or blatant sexual tension on the page. However, the focus should always be on the emotional connection between the hero and heroine rather than the physical connection. Put another way, whether it’s a kiss, a look or even a touch, the event needs to trigger an emotional reaction in the character(s) not a physical one.
2. Attending church: Yet another misconception out there and one that needs addressing. Simply sending characters to church on Sunday does not make a romance an inspirational.
Both the hero and heroine must go on a personal faith journey that is tied directly to their internal conflict. The inspirational thread is actually an additional element to the GMC of your character. Think of it this way: the internal growth of the hero and/or heroine must happen by way of the character’s faith journey.
3. The characters must all be good: No, no, no. Good is boring. Good is unrealistic. Good is…bad. In fact, the best inspirational romances are when the characters are deeply flawed from the inside out. The story will be much stronger if the hero and heroine make a few wrong decisions before they make the right ones.
I had a minister once say, “We’re all emotionally hurting on some level. Christians simply turn to Christ to help them get healthy.” That resonated with me as a writer and is something I keep in mind throughout the writing process. The more human the characters, the more they’ve fallen away from their belief system, the bigger the journey required to return to a stronger faith than before. Getting them there is half the fun and the key to a good inspirational romance. ?
4. Inspirational romances are preachy: Again, not true. Every inspirational romance is different, of course. The level of “preaching” will depend on the type of story, but nowhere should the story be a place for the author to bang the reader over the head with his or her personal theology.
Salvation stories (where a character ultimately comes to Christ who wasn’t a believer at the beginning of the book) can sometimes seem preachy to someone not used to reading inspirational romances. It’s up to the author to thread Scripture into the story seamlessly.
Now, stories where both the hero and heroine are already Christians but have fallen away from their faith tend to be less preachy. However, the faith journey must still be strong and memorable. Again, it’s up to the author to make sure this journey is both realistic and inspiring.
So, there you go. A quick summary of what I think makes an inspirational romance different from a secular romance.
You might be interested to know that February 2009 marks the one year anniversary of Steeple Hill’s new line, Love Inspired Historical. To celebrate this anniversary, I will be giving away three autographed copies of my February release, THE MARSHAL TAKES A BRIDE, as well as one very special GRAND PRIZE. The grand prize winner will receive a copy of every Love Inspired Historical published during the past year. That’s twenty-four free books to one winner!
In order to sign up to win the grand prize, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your contact information of name, address, and email. I will draw the name of the GRAND PRIZE winner Sunday night, February 1, at 9:00 PM EST.
Thanks to everyone for stopping by this weekend. God bless you all!
Renee Ryan writes for the Steeple Hill line Love Inspired Historical. Her fabulous editor is Melissa Endlich of Steeple Hill. Her first book in the Charity House series, The Marshall Takes a Bride is a February 2009 release. Her next book in the series, Hannah’s Beau, hits the shelves July 2009.
For further information check out www.reneeryan.com
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