Today, I present part 4 of our Asked & Answered Series as I attempt to either answer your survey questions or point you in the direction to find your own answer.
Don't get too excited. I am not here to debate the merits of CIR (Christian Inspirational Romance. AKA Christian Romance. AKA Inspirational Romance). Nor to give my opinion or tell you what CIR is or is not.
Per the 2011 Pew Report on Global Christianity: "A comprehensive demographic study of more than 200 countries finds that there are 2.18 billion Christians of all ages around the world, representing nearly a third of the estimated 2010 global population of 6.9 billion. About half are Catholic. Protestants, broadly defined, make up 37%. Orthodox Christians comprise 12% of Christians worldwide. Other Christians, such as Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, make up the remaining 1% of the global Christian population."
A 2015 Pew Report confirms that Christianity is the world's largest religion, with Muslim as second.
The word inspirational is perhaps one of the most difficult to define. Although attached to Christian fiction in the last thirty years, it can and does encompass a broad readership and diverse definition.
One example might be "Fiction that encompasses books where the central character triumphs over adversity and hope for tomorrow is the final outcome. Not necessarily including a higher power."
As defined by the ten thousand plus membership of Romance Writers of America, the romance genre is defined by two things: A central love story, and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.
Author Leigh Michaels defines these characteristics of a romance novel.
This definition summarizes the four crucial basics that make up a
1. a hero and a heroine to fall in love
2. a problem that creates conflict and tension between them and
threatens to keep them apart
3. a developing love that is so special it comes about only once in a
4. a resolution in which the problem is solved and the couple is
The broad definition of Christian Fiction listed under the rules for the Carol Awards of the American Christian Fiction Writers states:
"The title shall be written from a Christian worldview (specifically, the book should not contain profanity, graphic sex, gratuitous violence or other objectionable material, and must otherwise conform to generally accepted standards of the CBA) in any Christian fiction genre."
And while RWA no longer recognizes the term "Christian Romance" as they strive for politically correct and diverse terminology, the reading public continues to recognize and purchase specifically from this category.
From RWA and a 2013 Nielson survey:
Top romance subgenres by format read primarily:
Print: romantic suspense (53%); contemporary romance (41%); historical romance (34%); erotic romance (33%); New Adult (26%); paranormal romance (19%); Young Adult romance (18%); and Christian romance (17%).
E-book: romantic suspense (48%); contemporary romance (44%); erotic romance (42%); historical romance (33%); paranormal romance (30%); New Adult (26%); Young Adult romance (18%); and Christian romance (14%).
14% and 17% That's a big chunk of change for the CBA and ABA.
This might be a good place to discuss CBA and ABA for those who need clarification.
The American Booksellers Association is a non-profit trade association founded in 1900 that promotes independent bookstores in the United States.-Wikipedia
CBA (Christian trade association)is a trade association that was established in 1950. The CBA has guidelines for books sold by its member stores to prohibit offensive content.-Wikipedia.
These are the booksellers who sell the publisher's books. Our books.
Who are the publishers who publish CIR? The list includes:
"Formerly known as "The Big Six" (until Random House and Penguin officially merged in June 2013), all of the Big Five book publishers have their main U.S. headquarters in the hub of book publishing, New York City." -The Balance. They are:
Hatchett Book Group-23 Imprints including Hatchette Books, FaithWords, Little, Brown & Co., Grand Central Publishing, Forever & Forever Yours.
Harper Collins Publishing-120 Imprints including, Harlequin, Thomas Nelson, Zondervan, Harper Collins Christian, & Avon Inspire.
MacMillan Book Group-US Imprints include Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Henry Holt and Company; Picador; St. Martin’s Press; Tor/Forge; Macmillan Audio; and Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group.
Penguin Random House-250 Imprints including-Bantam, Dial, Ballentine, Random House, Knopf Doubleday, Crown, Berkley, NAL, DelRey, Waterbrook/Multnomah, & Delacorte.
Simon & Schuster-35 Imprints including-Jeter Books, Howard Books, Gallery, Pocket Books, Pocket Star, Simon & Schuster, Atria & Touchstone.
Besides the Big Five are the following:
Baker Publishing Group- includes Bethany House, Revell, Baker Books, Baker Academic, Chosen and Brazos Press.
Kensington Publishing- 20 Imprints including Zebra, Lyrica Press, Lyrical Shine & Urban Christian.
Amazon Publishing-14 Imprints including Montlake Romance and Waterfall Christian Fiction.
Other publishers of CIR, include but not limited to, Harrison House, Harvest House, Moody Press Abingdon Press, Barbour Publishing, Worthy Publishing, Crossway Books, Whitaker House, Guideposts Books, David C Cook and Kregel Publications.
Also the Christian small press or small indie publishers such as Mountain Brook Ink, Serenade Books, & Pelican Book Group.
Add to this the Secular small press publishers such as Entangled, Tule, Soul Mate Publishing, who also have Christian imprints, or in the case of Sourcebooks, state "we consider all subgenres."
I haven't forgotten authors who independently publish. Here, the lines blur as do the guidelines, as author-publishers set their own rules on what content is allowed and what makes a CIR.
What's the point of all this information? If you take all these publishers, imprints and options into consideration, can there be a single definition for Christian Inspirational Romance?
The rule of thumb has always been "Find the publisher definition before you target a publisher. However, much of the struggle for authors is the fact that guidelines are not readily available. Even simple things such as word count can be a national secret. May I suggest reading the books of the publisher you are targeting? Or writing the book God puts on your heart?
Trivia for Your Enjoyment: Christian Fiction Historically.
The First Christian Inspirational Romances Include:
Janette Oke is attributed as the pioneer of inspirational fiction and is the leading author in the category today. Love Comes Softly, her first novel, was published by Bethany House in 1979.
Redeeming Love-Francine Rivers 1991.
Heartsong 1993 (Barbour Publishing) See Steve Laube's post on Heartsong's Legacy.
Love Inspired 2000 (Harlequin a Division of Harper Collins)
The Elements of Christian Inspirational Romantic Fiction:
Happily Ever After
The faith thread. What is it and does it still exist? The faith thread like the romance arc and character arc is the development of a character's faith. The character stands in a different place with his relationship with God at the end of the story than they did at the start.
This would include scenarios such as a return to the cross or a decision to become a Christian. It develops as part of the internal conflict, so it can and does include self-forgiveness and forgiving others.
Historically, the first CIR books on the market included an obvious element of proselytizing. And many subgenres of CIR still include this element.
Today, the faith thread may not be as identifiable in contemporary CIR. The trend is "Christian World View," that utilizes an organic element of faith. However, since there are many Christian denominations, it goes without saying that the Christian World View will vary. Would you agree?
I heard that.
What do I mean by organic? From Plato's Organic Unity. A genuine Christian World View relies less on guidelines, and rules, instead, allowing the faith element to flow naturally from the character. This is the difference between a story where a random prayer is thrown up, and disjointed scripture is written into a scene in an effort to create a CIR.
Instead, with organic faith, the author knows his characters and their motivation so well, that their Christianity is seamless (organically) part of their GMC, actions, and vocabulary. The faith element is so well woven into the internal conflict that it is impossible to remove faith from the story. In fact, it would take a good amount of editing.
The last thing I want to offer for random discussion is a term that I (opinion alert) feel is overused as a catch phrase yet, underutilized in practice in CIR.
Edgy Christian Fiction.
Edgy by definition: synonyms: cutting-edge, on-the-edge, fringe, avant-garde, innovative, original, offbeat; gritty.
I think God is pretty edgy, but putting secular elements in Christian fiction does not make it edgy. Copying secular fiction does not make it edgy.
Can CIR embrace edgy? Is the Bible edgy?
Mike Duran wrote an interesting post on the subject if you want more to think about. Here.
Today, I'm barely scratching the surface of the topic of "What is Christian Inspirational Romance?" So I'll end by asking your opinion. (You know you want to give it!)
What does the reader want in Christian Inspirational Romance?
What do you want to write? What are you called to write?
And lastly, in your opinion, what kind of edgy CIR do you envision?
Leave a comment to get your name in the drawing for either a 15-page CIR critique to prepare for the Genesis or a Seeker ebook of Choice. And because I'm sorry I made your head hurt, a coffee or tea gift card to one commenter who discusses the edgy concept. Three winners announced in the Weekend Edition.
Love Inspired author Tina Radcliffe is a two-time RWA Golden Heart finalist, a 2012 ACFW Carol Award finalist, a 2014 ACFW Mentor of the Year finalist, and a 2014 ACFW Carol Award winner. She has won first place in over twenty RWA chapter affiliated contests in her career. Tina is also a short story writer and has sold over twenty short stories to Woman’s World Magazine. She is anything but edgy. Tina currently resides in Arizona where she writes fun, heartwarming romance. So far all her attempts to be edgy have failed. Find her at www.tinaradcliffe.com
And if you've gotten this far, and need another laugh, I'm also visiting Just Commonly today, with "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To Becoming a Writer."