I’m going to talk about inspirational romance today for my writing workshop. As many of you know, I’m almost finished with writing an inspirational romance right now.
Avon publisher Liate Stehlik notes, “Inspirational romance is an important category in both the romance market and the Christian fiction market.” It seems that both erotic romance and inspirational romance are doing well. During one of my chats, I posted an excerpt of my inspirational romance, No Greater Loss. The excerpt dealt with a character’s near death experience and how she saw her loved ones in heaven. After reading this excerpt and entering my contest, a reader said, “I never read an Inspirational. Diane, does this mean they are related to religion or is that called something else?”
I thought this was an excellent question. I like RWA’s definition of Inspirational Romance which is “a romantic novel with religious faith as a significant element of the story.” I think it’s important to explain what Christian publishers want in their inspirational romances, but I want to add here that No Greater Loss doesn’t fit their guidelines. Publishers such as, Steeple Hill Love Inspired line, Barbour & Company, Zondervan, Bethany House, and Tyndale have strict requirements.
The following list is what the above publishers look for in their inspirational romances:
No foul language, taking the Lord’s name in vain, euphemisms for curses (heck, darn, gosh) and no scenes containing violent content.
No dancing, no alcohol consumption by Christian characters.
No graphic love scenes. In an inspirational romance, they are non-existent and unacceptable. No staying overnight alone together. The characters should not make love unless they are married. Inspirationals are “sweet” romances. Any physical interactions (i.e., kissing, hugging) should emphasize emotional tenderness rather than sexual desire or sensuality.
Do not preach. An element of faith must be present in the books, and should be well-integrated into the plot. The conflict between the characters should be an emotional one. The hero and heroine might be struggling to accept the Christian faith or can be active church members. By the end of the story, hero and heroine must be both believers and members of a church community.
Okay, this is how my inspirational romance differs. I’ll start with the foul language because two secondary characters use a few swear words. The main characters never use any, but the young arsonist and his girlfriend swear when they’re fighting over a major life changing event. I couldn’t imagine their characters not swearing at two crucial points in the story line. However, a reviewer was offended that an inspirational would have any swear words in it at all. I understand her point of view. I asked several Christians what they thought of these two characters using foul language, and all of them gave me strange looks because they didn’t remember this language being used in my book. My editor was surprised at the reviewer’s comment because she said that Christians do use swear words.
In No Greater Loss, Luke and Jennifer spend a night together due to a blizzard. They don’t have sex but the scene between them wouldn’t be acceptable by Christian publishers. They also speak of their sexual desire for each other and think about it. This just seemed natural to me to write it this way.
However, my inspirational romance does have many things in common with the ones published by the Christian market. No Greater Loss is a sweet romance with faith playing a large part in the characters’ lives. Dr. Jennifer Hunter is a Christian psychologist with a Sunday radio show dealing with women’s topics. Her Uncle Ryan is a Catholic priest. Jennifer turns to prayer throughout the book. She’s great at helping her patients with their problems, but she can’t help herself work through her own grief and guilt. After her husband and baby died, she thinks God must want her to remain single. Luke needs to learn to forgive his past wife for something she did during their marriage, so he can move on with his life. My inspirational romance is emotional with compelling characters who find inner peace.
Fortunately for me, Samhain accepted my inspirational romance without all the restrictions imposed by other publishers. They allowed me to tell my story the way I felt it needed to be told.
Do you enjoy reading inspirational romances? You don’t need to go to a Christian bookstore to buy them. I bought a Steeple Hill Love Inspired recently in a grocery store. Because of their popularity, they are sold in many secular stores.
Have you considered writing an inspirational romance? Writing about Christian characters facing challenges of love in today’s world is rewarding. Inspirational romances will always have a place in publishing because people are looking for the deeper meaning in life, and they want to read faith filled stories.