The Page a Day Writers Group

Inspirational Romance

Posted on: February 18, 2010

“Never lose sight of the fact that Christian women read romance novels for the same reason any other woman does:  entertainment.” Brenda Coulter

On any given day I love reading a good romance novel – specifically an African American romance.  Problem is, I have to be careful when I pick one up and turn to that first page, because even though I’m usually a very focused, goal oriented individual – a good romance story will make me forget everything that I’m suppose to be doing!  So I strategize on when I’m going to do my reading.  I make deals with myself.  After I take care of a few things on my “to do list,” I then allow myself the pleasure of reading a few chapters…which often turns into the whole book.

A few years ago, I had this bright idea – “I’m going to write a romance novel.”  Like many new writers, I figured since I enjoyed reading them, I should be able to write one.  Ha! Easier said than done.  Especially since I wanted my romance novel to not only be romantic, but I also wanted it to be spiritually based.  Who knew how challenging that could be?  Trying to merge Christian themes with a romantic relationship without getting too sexually explicit is no easy feat!

Actually, it wasn’t until I completed the second or third draft of my first manuscript, Forgive Me, that I found out that in inspirational romances, there can be no excessive violence, cursing, and most importantly – no sex before marriage.  Aren’t romance novels all about the sex? And some publishers who publish “Christian” romance (a small difference from inspirational romance) barely even want a kiss included. …can you imagine? 

So by now you probably see one of my challenges of writing my latest inspirational romance novel, His Ultimate Love.  Trying to find that right balance of inspiration and romance can be tricky, but I constantly remind myself that most importantly, I want my story to inspire my readers as well as provide some enjoyment. So my sensual, imperfect characters are immersed in realistic situations, and by the end of the story, they demonstrate faith in Jesus Christ.  Well…at least they will when I finish the story.

Sharon C. Cooper


12 Responses to "Inspirational Romance"

From one romance novelist to another, I don’t know how you make it work, girl!

But I will say, as dirty as I get with my characters, a little innocence in the love mix is kind of nice. One of the most romantic moments I ever witnessed on film was the scene in “Strictly Ballroom” when they finally kissed. They barely touched lips and I was soaring.

Deb, thanks for your post. I haven’t heard of Strictly Ballroom, so I’ll have to remember to look for it, if for nothing else to see that scene. …I love those romantic moments.

Well said. Balance is everything. I’ve been known to drop a few spinning plates along the way. When a book is hard to put down, that’s the mark of a good story. I’ve let some pretty serious things fall through the cracks because they had to take a back seat to my fantasy world inside of a novel. And those authors do such an amazing job of developing their plots and characters. They make it look easy. And of course we know, it’s not. Ha!

Kirsten, so true – balance is everything! I still have so much to learn in trying to create a well balanced…enjoyable story. And you’re right, there are some amazing authors out there (you included) who can pull you into a story and have you forgetting everything else!

Balance is the key to everything. A good romance has to have so many elements to keep me reading. I think the challenge is to write about a compelling central character who, along with her commitment to her faith, is a sensual, savvy woman.

You’re right, Claire, a good romance has to have so many elements to keep me turning the pages! I hope when all is said and done, my central characters will be as compelling as I would like them to be…but I’m still working on getting to that point. I’m just going to keep pecking away until I nail it!

I think this is why most African-American Christian authors write for the inspirational imprints of secular publishers. It gives them much more leeway than the CBA publishers, many of which won’t even allow the word “breast” in a manuscript.

After starting out writing inspirationals but being clueless about the “rules,” I switched to mainstream romance and women’s fiction. Now, seven years later, I’m working on another inspirational. But this time I know which publishers I am targeting …

You’re right, Chicki, I can definitely see why authors go that route, because the CBA publisher’s -guidelines almost seem unrealistic! It will be interesting to see who I eventually get published with (smile). Thanks for your post.

Yes, big challenges, Sharon, but you’re up to it! I think the most sensual reading experience is in the allusion to what could happen at any moment- no detailed specifics needed- and in the restraint the characters exercise, leaving their desires to the reader’s imagination. 🙂

Oooh, good one, Ondine! I agree…I’ll have to work on my ability to be a creative…allusionist 🙂

Finally, I’ve discovered a Christian Romance blogger.

Ugh. Just reading this post has renewed my frustration. I’ve been sending my manuscript back and forth with a literary agent of late, and because my historical romance novel was never steamy enough from the start, we’ve decided to switch it over to the Christian market.So, before offering representation, she said I needed to show her I could mould this book into that market. So I’m going through my story with a fine comb right now, removing anything sexual…….. and there are tons.

The problem is, one of my story’s theme is sexual immorality. So I need to indirectly point at the sin of premarital sex. But…WHERE is the boundary? When and when should I not mention “that” sin? it’s so frustrating. I’m guessing you’re more knowledgeable about this genre–so do you have any advice?

I’ve read the books published by Bethany House. They’ve published a lot of edgy Inspirationals. But I still can’t figure out my boundary.

Junebugger, good question! First let me say that I probably don’t know any more than you do re: this genre :), but I’m constantly seeking out more info.

That’s wonderful that you’re working with an agent! Hopefully they’ll be able to guide you re: what’s acceptable and what isn’t. Oh, and it’s great that you’re reading books that are in the same genre that you’re interested in writing!

In my opinion, I think we know when we’ve gone too far as inspirational/Christian writers when it comes to a “suggestive” scene. Keep in mind, different editors/publishers have different tolerances in this area. As for Harlequin’s -Steeple Hill Books (Love Inspired), you can barely have your characters kissing – which means your story has to be very strong in other areas, but still have your character’s falling in love. Whereas w/ another publisher, they might not be as strict.

In my stories either the hero or the heroine is celibate which makes for some great emotional and physical turmoil as it relates to abstaining from sex – which I try to play on. It’s definitely possible to keep this aspect of the story under control, as long as the rest of the story is interesting. Also, I definitely have kissing in several scenes…yet I try to keep it tamed – but juicy. 🙂

It’s mainly going to boil down to what publishing house you’re seeking to hook up with, and what their tolerance level is. I hope this helps! Thanks for stopping by!

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The Page a Day Writers Group is a diverse collection of wonderful writers based in San Diego, CA. We've been meeting monthly since 2004. Our primary function is in-depth writing critique, marketing and brainstorming, but there's usually some wine, chocolate and ribaldry involved too. We write fantasy, humor, literary fiction, nonfiction, romance, thrillers and YA. Join us on our journeys to publication and the wonderland beyond!


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