Stories have been around since the dawn of time, since the birth of communication. Stories have always served a vital role in human culture, yet in our modern “sophisticated” world, it’s all too easy for many to dismiss novels as “escape.”
Though, in fairness, spend ten minutes on Twitter and escape ain’t necessarily a bad thing. All genres have unique purposes. Fans of one genre might not “get” fans of another.
As writers we also have our biases, maybe even think some genres are more valuable than others. Or even that genre fiction isn’t valuable at all. Yeah , we’ll post on that another time. It’s okay.
Though today, we’re going to talk about Inspirational Romance, I will admit…
We All Have Our Pets
For instance, I love horror. Some people think I’m nuts, but horror relaxes me. Why? Fear often does the most damage when it’s gray and nebulous. Few things are more terrifying than the unknown.
In fact, Stephen King in Danse Macabre makes a really interesting point that the most terror-filled moments are when we are creeping up the stairs and this unknown thing is banging at the door.
The reader tenses, feels sick, his nerves are shredding with every passing second and when the door is opened? There is a scream!
But it is not just a scream of terror. It’s also a scream of relief.
The human mind has a remarkable ability to be able to process and face what it can see. So when the door opens it’s a ten-foot bug, the reader screams but at the same time (though perhaps subconsciously) thinks, “Whew! At least it wasn’t a fifty-foot bug. A ten foot bug? I can make a plan.” And if it was a fifty-foot bug, the reader would think, “Whew! Well at least it wasn’t a five hundred foot bug!”
Y’all get the gist.
Horror helps ease our general anxiety by putting a name on a monster we can see, face (open the door) and then defeat. We might need Xanax and a bag of cookies when faced with trolls and mob violence, but a movie like The Purge places that generalized fear into a specific story and the hero overcomes. The thing is exposed.
We read (and write) stories for all kinds of reasons. Personally, not only do I love horror, but I love mystery, suspense and thriller because for me? I crave a sense of justice in an all too often unjust world. In a recent guest post about my new book, I said this:
Thus today, I’d like to hand off to a long-time follower of mine on social media and Facebook friend. It’s always a joy to bring guests who write genres different than mine, to hear from them. Jamie Lynn Booth writes Inspirational Romance and I thought, in light of all the doom and gloom we face each and every day, that this might be a cool topic to discuss. Why the world needs Inspirational Romance. Take it away Jaime!
I want to start off by saying it is a great honor and privilege to be asked by Kristen Lamb to write something for her blog. Thank you, Kristen.
So, why does the world needs more Inspirational Romance? It was Kristen’s idea, and I loved the topic.
I think we can all agree on the fact that there is an incredible amount of evil in our beautiful world. On the other hand, there is also just as much love and beauty. The sad part is that the media doesn’t show nearly enough of that. All we hear about and see on the news is the violence, for the most part. With Facebook, Twitter, newspapers and television, it’s basically what we see the most of.
For me, I do my best to not focus on the negative. I know it’s out there and I keep up with some of it so I don’t get completely lost. But for me, I need to keep my heart and soul with the love and romance that is longing to be held, grasped, desired and wanted. We all have love in our hearts. We all want to give and receive love, right? Love is a natural emotion. In my opinion, the most powerful one.
So, when I sit at my desktop I already know pretty much what I want to write about. The idea has already been placed in my head. First, before I begin working on my WIP, I have to ask for guidance from God. Without Him, I wouldn’t have this gift in the first place. Then, I let my muse run free.
I believe with the stress of everyday life we need inspiration. For a lot of folks, love has been lost or desired, we need an uplifting romance to fill the void. To be able to sit in your most comfortable chair, out on the deck, or in your bed and allow another scene or world take you away. I believe it’s not only therapeutic, but magical.
There are times in all our lives when we need to be inspired. Times when we all need to have God, or whatever Higher Power you believe in, to comfort us. Reading an Inspirational Romance about someone who has or is going through struggles but gets through them is powerful. A message is embedded within. When the character breaks through the barrier and finds love it makes it even better.
Most of us can relate on many levels with what we read. I love writing a novel that not only reaches into the depths of your soul, but grips your emotions. In everything I write, somewhere within is a part of me. Something I have experienced.
A great example of this is my new release, Never Again. Which is releasing on June 13th and is the first book in the series.
Blessed with a good life and the perfect love, Sam couldn’t be happier. On vacation with her adoring husband, she is convinced that everything is exactly as it should be…until it’s not. One accident sets off a string of events that forces Sam to watch her life fall apart piece by piece. Loss, grief, betrayal—and the revelation of a long-kept secret have Sam questioning whether she will ever be able to find the happiness she once had.
She’s broken, her heart shattered, her trust ruined, and her faith is tested as she tries to survive the Hell her life has become. Now Sam needs to decide if she’s brave enough to move on, or if she’ll never again find a love worth living for.
I think it’s safe to say we’ve all been broken. We’ve been in that spot where we thought we had nothing left. It was too much to simply put one foot in front of the other. Have you been there? I know I have.
Yet, through Inspirational Romance, we can connect with characters experiencing similar circumstances, trials, emotions and brokenness and, though we might be not able to see light in our dark moment? Through them we can. Regular ordinary people without superpowers or space ships and with more broken places than baggage, finding the courage to dare to move forward. To not only move forward, but, in the end trade their ashes for beauty.
Thank you Jamie! Really appreciate you taking the time to blog here. I know it’s work and can be pretty terrifying for the first-timers, so thanks for being brave.
I LOVE hearing from you! (and remember comments for guests count double for my contest).
What are your thoughts? I know we have some Inspirational Romance folks in the crowd who probably can add to this. Why do you love it? Read it? Write it? What is it about Inspirational Romance that speaks to you and why do you think the world needs more of it? I know I do.
Other genres! What do you love and why? Who does the world need more fantasy, science fiction, YA, whatever? I want to hear from you too!
By the way, y’all can follow Jamie on Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, and Amazon.
****Just FYI, in an effort to combat spammers your comment won’t appear until I approve it, so don’t fret if it doesn’t appear right away.
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I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
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I enjoyed the guest blog. I don’t write Inspirational romance, but I do do (OK, maybe I should try comedy) historical romance and mystery. The reason I don’t write contemporary or anything hard core is because I live in a bubble (that’s what my family calls it) where I don’t like to have things I don’t like, enter – and there are too many sad things in the contemporary world that it’s hard to avoid. I do want to be entertained, and be entertaining with my writing. I want the bad guy to get it in the end. I want my heros to prevail, and to fall in love. There is just too much ugly thrown in our faces these days. If we just keep taking it in, it will smother us. So thank you, Jamie, and Kristen, for reminding everyone that we should enjoy our writing, and hope to find an audience who enjoys it as well, no matter what genre it’s in (or isn’t for those non-genre snobs).
Thank you Terri for commenting and for what you said. I appreciate it. I can relate to being in a bubble. I have been telling myself that, actually. It is difficult sometimes to write without putting sadness in your WIP. It’s hard to avoid like you said. You have to love what you write. Otherwise two things will happen. One, you’ll hate releasing it because you’ll think it isn’t worth reading and two, the readers will pick up on it. We can’t look at it as work, although in some ways it is. For me, it’s a passion and a gift. I love writing what I write and hope to one day be able to do it fulltime.
I agree — some of characters are in this world flawed, how we can relate to them. But sometimes surroundings have the expectations of the perfection of their work etc. I might say, I love escaping into what takes us away from the real world and suspension of belief — even when reality says differently. My example would be a crime. We are so CSI oriented or read True Crime stuff, expect everything to be resolved within days or an hour … so I suspend this reality with flawed policies and the reality that a crime could take months – this is a good set up for a relationship, since love doesn’t happen overnight.
Thank you for this post. I have read IR for many years, up my true and first love is fantasy. But since I’ve begun writing full-time, I can’t get way from the idea that my stories need to do more than entertain or provide escape. That’s the benefit of IR, and I have several writids who believe we need more edgy writers putting out content in that genre (and they point to me when they say it).
My NaNoWriMo novel fits IR category. My biggest personal issue with reading these books is that I enjoy the story to be about more than a romance (and personal growth). I prefer romantic suspense or even women’s fiction to a straight romance.
So how do I write a story that as a reader I would find simple or shallow?
Thank you Sharon, I appreciate you taking the time to comment. I haven’t ever really liked Fantasy as far as reading goes, but I do enjoy some movies in that genre. Ironic that I’m thinking of writing a Fantasy novel with a friend of mine. Should be interesting on how it turns out.
I also enjoy writing Romantic Suspense. Not everything I have written is Inspirational although I do tend to lean more in that direction. I certainly wish you the best in what you prefer or choose to write. As far as how to write a story that as a reader you wouldn’t find simple or shallow…write from your heart. I always write from my heart. If you write totally from the heart you’ll be surprised how many others will relate to your work.
Jamie, your book sounds right up my alley so I’ve made a note of your release date – congratulations! And thanks to Kristen for putting inspirational romance out there, too. My current WIP is an inspy RS and I love the challenge (most days!) of incorporating the faith journey of the protagonists as they battle against the bad guy(s) along with their own personal baggage. I read and write inspirational fiction because I want to see more tough issues tackled in the genre. I’d like to see more realistic life experiences dealt with through the faith of the characters because let’s face it, life is messy and doesn’t usually give us a fair hand. Rather than having the CBA worry as much about whether the hero’s drinking juice as opposed to a beer, I’d like to see inspy fiction deal with real issues that everyone deals with on a daily basis. And while I agree with the CBA “rules” and expectations for the genre, I firmly believe that God has called us to be truth-tellers in a broken world.
Thank you Laurie, I appreciate your comments. I have to totally agree on what you said. Life can be harsh, tough and with many battles. I believe God gave us this gift to touch many others and they would all appreciate reading a novel that is realistic. That is what I believe in bringing to the table as well. I would have to check into some of your work. Thank you for being interested in mine! 🙂
I write the romantic suspense/Insp since that’s what I enjoy. I prefer the edgy battle of the journey to faith with horrible characters that eventually come to Christ, finding it difficult to choose right from wrong, needing guidance, finding love. I have difficulty reading the Christian having sinned in the past of the novel. Since when does our sin often overtake us? When I present my male love interest he is not great at communicating feelings and we aren’t caught up in how touchy feely an alpha even beta guy thinks. That’s not realistic lol. Fighting passion is difficult. But I don’t want to see them having sex before marriage, and the end usually ends in a kiss, knowing that he’s proposed. The reader knows what happens after that, and if they don’t … But the plot and subplot of the suspense mirror the physical/spiritual battle to hold off.
While inspirational romance isn’t my usual fare, many other sub-genres of romance are. For much of the same reasons she states.
Interestingly, for many of the reasons you state as well. The good guys win. The bad guys get their comeuppance. And the couple gets their HEA.
There are far some great blog posts out there about how the romance genre in particular allows women to explore love and relationships in a non-threatening way. Allows us to exore sexuality. What we want from a partner. What we need to be happy, especially as women are at a power disadvantage to men.
Literature serves many functions. Sometimes, we can simply sit back and enjoy a good story.
Thank you Elizabeth, I appreciate your comments. You are correct with what you wrote. I am more comfortable writing the female POV and as the main character. Sometimes my characters will struggle, sometimes not, but I try hard to have my readers sitting on the edge of their seat wanting more. Unfortunately, not every novel will have a HEA, but I love it when they do.
A great post in ways intended and possibly not intended. I found it fascinating how horror was set beside inspirational romance (no humor intended). Could two genres be more different? Yet they both are described as serving the same purpose: helping readers make their way through a crazy world where powerlessness too often rules. There are elements of both in what I write, but I’m a fantasy writer. Yet, I’d describe my purpose much the same way. Quite often it’s easier for readers to understand and manage their crazy world when it’s placed in a different context. I read fantasies, mysteries, thrillers, and the occasional romance for much the same reasons. My thanks to you both.
Hi Kristen and Jamie –
I love inspirational romance, people moved and changed by God within their despair, backsliding and healing. Paul said he strives for perfection, not that he’d achieved it yet … So my main character usually has a horrible past, or a guilt complex. Perhaps thinks God is a mean puppet, or not at all.
My pitch: She’s a thief faced with a murder cover-up. She doesn’t expect to fall in love with a detective blackmailing her. What will he sacrifice to save her? And, she certainly doesn’t expect to meet God in her despair.
This is my possible back flap for How to Steal a Romance:
“Catherine Cade has a problem. She’s an identity thief, one with partial amnesia, and impersonating a nurse practitioner—trying to go straight. When a patient dies a mysterious death, Cade faces an agonizing decision when evidence points to murder. She must overcome her zeal for truth and fear of prison, where a murderous ex-partner may find her. You know how it is, keep the lies straight, tend to patients, and open a bakery to fudge another identity. Her bigger worry is the detective who found her. He’s onto her, and she‘s stuck.
Rick Calhoun is a homicide detective with a knack for crashing computers, but he knows more about Cade than she does. When he finds a murder scene and catches up with Cade, the chase begins. He uses authority beyond his badge to blackmail, harass, and find a way to get free doughnuts. His plate is full: a murder investigation to keep quiet, cold cases to close, and find a way to keep Cade out of trouble—and danger. His biggest problem, he is in love with her, and will do anything to give her safe passage.”
Waiting to hear from an agent … hoping and praying. Thanks for the encouraging words, since a lot of inspirational romances have such perfect characters. Arg.
Thank you, Kristen, for this post and helping me put a name on my writing. I’m not sure that inspirational romance fits my novels (though there is always romance somewhere in the story – how can we get through life without a little romance?). Maybe inspirational fiction. My characters are always dealing with some type of spiritual issue below the presenting issues. I avoid the use of Scripture or anything which would make my writing seem preachy, but then I hear that I’m not Christian enough for most Christian readers, but I’m too Christian for non-Christian readers. Tis a conundrum!
I read IR for many years as a teen. I’ve lost interest in it because it isn’t honest. I seek honesty and truth in fiction more than entertainment so it’s not my cup of tea. I’d much rather face my demons and use that to help people (even with my fiction) than stick my head in the sand about the realities we face. I’d rather see evil, and know that good prevails. That’s what I love about horror. Good always wins. There are so many themes of redemption in horror IMHO. I’ve stopped trying to be the square peg in that round hole, but know there are a good many who love that round hole. Variety is the spice of life.
I also like that horror gives me perspective. Like my whole day or week can completely go pear-shaped and at LEAST I don’t have it THAT bad. They’re house was build on a hellmouth!
Thank you Lisa. I enjoy horror as well. I don’t read it as often as I used too, but I do love a good Stephen King or Dean Koontz novel now and again. I’ve thought a few times about writing horror, but I don’t know if I ever will or not. As far as Inspirational Romance not being honest, that depends on the author. I firmly believe in making my work as realistic as possible. I want my readers to be able to relate, and also grasp all of their emotions as the story unfolds.
Perhaps my understanding of “Inspirational Romance” is skewed. I don’t read any mainstream “Inspirational Romance” because of the reasons you describe, Lisa–it always seems too “sanitized” to me, not truthful. I classified my first book (which I self-published) as “Inspirational Romance” because it was a romance that included a distinctly Christian element, but my main character was flawed and grieving and I felt like it was honest. I’m not sure if it qualifies as mainstream, though. My current work, which is about to be published, is WAY too gritty and off-genre to be marketed as Christian, even though it contains blatant Christian content, and is (ironically) way too gritty and off-genre to be marketed as romance. I’m calling it an inspirational romantic women’s fiction and hoping that the genre makes sense to readers.
This is where I think that self-publishing may make a real impact. If readers like us want to see “honest” Christian fiction, we will tell mainstream publishers with our buying dollars by supporting indie authors who publish those types of work. Perhaps the publishers will realize that Christians are real people living in the real world and want to read about others experiencing the same struggles we are having, and overcoming them. My two cents.
I don’t write (or read) inspirational romance, but I totally agree with your premise! As I once wrote on my blog:
“There are some writers who hold that happy endings are lies, and that it is morally irresponsible to suggest otherwise. I disagree. I believe that good will ultimately overcome evil. That truth gives me hope; and to withhold that hope from others would be both morally irresponsible and utterly selfish.
If all this seems a bit too metaphysical to you, consider it this way: my aim is to write works (novels, plays, what have you) that are like a cup of tea. Sitting down for a cup of tea is both a rest, and a restoration; it eases your weariness and it prepares you to face the world again.
I want to write works which people will read and re-read; not necessarily because of what the story says, but because it gives them the courage to keep going, and change things.”
Great guest post, Jamie. You are so right about the news media only reporting about the negative things in the world. We need to get people back to reading for pleasure, it’s a great coping mechanism and teaches us empathy. If we have a variety of books available for the general public, the more readers we’ll have…and well you can deduce the rest. 🙂
Thank you Lisa. I agree with you that having a variety is a good thing. Not everyone will like what someone writes, and that’s okay. It’s the same with movies and music and art. The important thing is we, as authors/artists, create what we enjoy and the readers will be there (once we get noticed lol) I feel there is a lot of good, beauty and love in the world, but it needs to be broadcasted more. This is my way of doing it. 🙂
I confess: the only “inspirational romance” I ever read is fanfiction. Sometimes I need the cheesy tropiness and don’t have the energy to delve into a full novel.
Otherwise, my “real” reading is all spec fic, almost exclusively fantasy and sci-fi. These genres offer a vital mirror to see (and hopefully fix) the flaws in our own society. Game of Thrones is extremely skeptical of patriarchy. Get Out exposes the subtle racism of “allies.” Star Trek (the original series) criticized the Cold War.
Even if the work as a whole doesn’t set out to do that, it offers heroes and inspirations to real people. Uhura as a black woman on 1960s television was huge. Wonder Woman and Black Panther getting their own movies is monumental. Hermione is the hero of the girls of my generation.
That’s why it always drives me up a tree when people dismiss speculative fiction. Because it IS real.
I write inspirational romance but I read a lot of genres, my favourite being fantasy. However, I love writing it because I love seeing my characters overcome personal barriers to happiness, just like Jamie Lynn said. Great post.
Question about IR…last I heard, the rules regarding what is, and is not, Inspirational Romance is dictated by an association of Christian book stores. Those rules narrow the field to non-denominational Christianity, to reach the widest number of Christians possible, I would think. But, Catholic, Episcopalian, Mormon, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu…while certainly there are inspirational romances to be penned for those readers, they cannot be pitched as (I)nspirational Romance. Unless that is no longer the case. Do you know?
I don’t write IR, but I have crit partners who, while writing inspirational romances, never found their place there. I’m just wondering if things have changed since they moved on.
Christian romance these days is Amish to Catholic. Inspirational romances are as varied now as are the films based on them. The bromance (ok technically not a romance but a friendship like a bro-mance) that develops between an Arab man and his Jewish neighbor in The Infidel. The movie Outsourced stretches continents and religions as does The Other End of the Line. Zach Levi in Shades of Ray, a man who wants NOT to embrace his Pakistani heritage as an actor (until he meets a Pakastani American girl he falls for), and who can forget Jewish rabbi Ben Stiller (Keeping the Faith), Ed Norton, Catholic priest, and Jenna Elfman ~ more or less an agnostic, all best friends until Ed and Ben fall in love with Jenna’s character. A lot of inspirational romances have nothing to do with religion, such as Pay it Forward, a child inspired through his social studies class to do something good to change the world. I think (ok in my mind?) that’s what inspirational romance is — it’s clean, and the characters have to overcome religious, non, or cultural differences to fall in love, and that in my small brain says, inspirational. However, when I write IR, I am writing Christian romances. I don’t like schmaltzy romances so someone in my work is almost always getting shot or things blow up. 🙂
See, now ^^this is what I’ve always believed defined an inspirational romance. The *inspiration*. So I was stunned when I was told about the CBA and the rules within the genre. I agree with you…there needs to be MORE!
Many many PH/agents love any inspirational, I look at Scott Bell’s work – good always prevails. Many just have Christian-based. It’s a process I’ve gone through with several PH that accept IR but not Christian (I’ve found). Which is why I head directly for the Christian agents and or PH. It’s a frustrating process, and I now stay clear of the traditional because of the many rejections. I might add the agent looking at my manuscript and asked me for it personally, was a senior editor at Bethany House, and does have guidelines. Apparently, mine fits. This works – for me. I’d start rounding traditional agents.
With all the negative things going on in this world, we need more Inspirational books.
Just by reading comments, talking with people and watching these terrible events on TV, I can definitely see and feel that more and more people are hungry for uplifting stories, movies and TV shows.
There are many people who are lost and confused and thirst for more spiritual, biblical, inspirational and touching books.
I’m a Christian and I’m working on some Inspirational stories because I believe that genre is what a lot of people are reaching for.
I’ve seen a lot more prayer and discussions about Jesus and God on the I internet in the recent years.
I used to write Paranormal Romances and Erotica. But my heart’s not in it anymore.
Honestly, there’s so much erotica, some written very badly, that it’s starting to feel generic. Just like today’s music.
It’s like a lot of them don’t even try anymore. They keep pumping them out like a factory making toys from the same mold. But, for reasons I don’t understand, they are popular and everywhere you turn.
This was a great blog to read.
Thank you. Keep up the good work.
Thank you everyone! I truly appreciate each and everyone’s comments and honest thoughts! A huge part of the “Inspiration” in my books is overcoming mountains in our lives, whether it be an abusive relationship, addiction, cheating spouses, diseases, etc. To be able to survive the turmoil because of the gift of love from God. I’m a Christian, and I don’t claim to be perfect in any form, but I do try and I know Jesus forgives me when I mess up. When I write a story I feel the desire to put God in it as a main part of it along with the romance. He wants us to love and be loved. He wants us to be happy. He also wants us to depend on Him when we struggle. This is how I try to write my stories and in a realistic theme. The last three novels I have written are Inspirational Romance. I have written a few that aren’t before them and I’m not too proud of the fact. When I sit at my computer now, I let God guide me with the story. With Him and the characters talking to me something beautiful and realistic evolves.
Good morning, Kristen! Yes, once again, so behind in my reading. The pitfalls you and other authors have experienced as true lessons for us yet to be out there in the online world. My friend is going through her own issues with a publisher and it breaks my heart to see her lack of control and her second guessing her quest when things go wrong. I have printed out your article for her to show her, she’s not alone. Thanks for all you do, a fan.
The late Wes Craven once said horror doesn’t create fear, it releases it.