Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Romance, Bromance ...

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

An interview, by Andrea Grigg

Two men.

 One lives on New Zealand’s Kapiti Coast, the other resides in Sydney Australia.

 One is a sixty-something retired science teacher, the other a fifty-something author and strategy consultant.

 They’ve never met, spoken, or been aware of each other’s existence (until this blog post). And yet they share an unusual commonality. They both read Christian romance novels.

How wonderful is that! Men – reading romance novels! I’m sure there are others out there, but these are the only two I know of and I’m intrigued. Why does this genre interest them? I wanted to find out.

Before I get started with the questions though, let me introduce you to our guests. The guy across the ditch is Ross Callaghan, and the Sydney-sider is none other than our own Ian Acheson.

Welcome, gentlemen! Tell us a little about yourselves.

Ian: Thanks, Andrea, for inviting me to join Ross in this discussion. And hi Ross, I’m looking forward to reading your responses. A little about me: I journey through life with Fiona, two adult sons and one lovely daughter-in-law and two very active kelpie-x pooches. I’m a consultant who helps businesses improve, author, curious about most things, read widely and more non-fiction than fiction, known to enjoy Cadbury Marvellous Creations, Marella Jubes and Barossa reds. Surprisingly, often together.

Ross: I’ve been a Christian for over 50 years and married to my lovely wife for 41 years. We have 3 children and 6 grandchildren. Along the way we have been fully involved in Christian ministry, especially in preaching, teaching, pastoring, evangelism, music and small group leadership. I have worked as a teacher, then a training consultant, and am now retired. When I first retired I decided that part of my free time would be devoted to reading more widely. I had always enjoyed historical fiction, especially James Michener, and had only read a small number of “Christian” novels. I had never ever read a romance, assuming they were all of the Mills and Boon variety, which didn’t interest me at all. I love the Lord and I also love learning so had only read the kind of books which I could learn from or which would help me develop in my spiritual life.

Both of you are widely read – what drew you to Christian romance?

Ian: Like everyone I love reading great stories with interesting characters. I’ve always had a soft spot for strong independent women and a lot of the novels I read when I was younger featured such characters. So Lizzy Bennett, Maggie Tulliver, Tess Durbeyfield and others were all characters that grabbed me. Being a long time student and fan of Austen’s novels it only occurred to me in recent years that they are classic romance novels.

For most of the last 20 years I’ve tended to read speculative, thrillers, suspense, and action novels. I enjoyed the escapism and in recent times I read what I wrote because that’s what we’re told to do. Then I became mates (mostly virtual) with all of you while getting immersed in Christian fiction circles. And you can’t really get away from a romance novel in such circles. So I decided it’d be good to understand a bit more about Christian romance novels.

Ross: Two other things I enjoy in life are getting a bargain, and using all the latest technologies so the answer to this question is easy: getting a bargain, and using the latest technologies! A couple of years ago I installed the Koorong and Kindle apps on my phone and tablet, and soon discovered that I could get bargain-priced (or even free) Christian books from them. My first download (free, of course!) was “The Constantine Codex” by Paul Maier. Wow! What a great book – so interesting, so well written, so much to learn from it, and so free! That led to similar books by Davis Bunn – again, well-written with lots of great learning about historical people and places, including some places we had visited on our travels around the world. Then I noticed “The Solitary Envoy” by Davis Bunn and Janette Oke. (You can see where this is heading….). What a lovely book. It had great historical interest but now an extra dimension - a little bit of romance.

Both Kindle and Koorong are cunning in that when you download a book they offer you some more similar ones. I couldn’t resist, so soon I had lots of lovely “Christian romance” novels to read, and I embarked on my journey of discovery in the genre. This has got worse - better? because I have been buying the great value box sets that are on offer all the time. Box sets make your library grow rapidly! These days I tend to have two books going at any one time. One a more weighty historical or spiritually challenging book and the other a Christian romance (which often turns out to be historical and spiritually challenging anyway!)

What do you particularly like about this genre?

Ian: I’ve only just put a toe in the water these past 2-3 years but what I’ve read so far has been really good. But I go in expecting that because to date I’ve only read novels that are highly recommended. Probably what I’ve appreciated the most is the author’s grasp of the craft. Whether it’s a Kendig military zone thrill ride, to Lee’s wordsmith brilliance, or Breslin’s storytelling, I’m in awe of the author’s abilities.

Ross: Two things. The first is that typically the characters are very real and their lives are set in a story that is well written.

Over the years I have done a lot of writing myself, mainly Bible studies which I make freely available through my website. I know how hard it is to write well, so I very much appreciate quality writing. (I have written one novella myself, so empathise with writers who agonise over words to get them to say what is on their heart).

The second is the romance side of the stories. I have had a wonderful Christian marriage with (hopefully) a little more romance in it than the typical Kiwi bloke. The stories I like the most are the ones where the romance resonates with the romance that I share with my wife, or even better, sparks it on a little bit. Better still is that the outcome of the romance is typically a wholesome, positive, and healthy relationship. That’s what I have, and what I hope for in couples across the nation.

Do you have some favourite authors? A favourite sub-genre, ie. Romantic suspense, historical etc?

Ian: Sure, I’m a sucker for a something that is fast and suspenseful so Ronie Kendig is a fave but I really enjoy historical works. I didn’t do a lot of history at school and find I’m fascinated by Biblical times. I can see a lot of Biblical fiction in my future much of which has a strong romance story.

I believe a lot of us read (and write) Christian fiction because we want our faith to be stirred in some way. It’s really my number one interest when reading and assessing a Christian novel. As we all know, to stir a reader’s heart for God is really hard so a novel like Kept by Sally Bradley really grabbed me because Sally’s message was so strong.

Ross: Some authors I have really enjoyed are Amy Mateo, Lynn Austin, Davis Bunn, Leah Atwood, Verna Denman, Serena Miller and, of course, Andrea Grigg. I enjoy all of the sub-genres, but especially historical, suspense and westerns. Mail order brides and Amish not so much.

Do you mind people knowing you read romance? How do they react?

Ian: I’m very happy for people to know my reading tastes. Very few of my male friends read fiction and they mostly only take an interest if I talk about the latest from a Matthew Reilly or Tim Winton.

Ross: I really don’t think of the books as romance. To me they are books I read on my tablet or phone, and they are typically interesting, uplifting and enjoyable. I have often told others about this reading, but not with the label ‘Christian romance”.

Will you continue to read Christian romance or is just a temporary thing?

Ian: Always. I’m hooked and Rel and her blogging buddies, not to mention all my Aussie author friends, keep my TBR pretty full. Ronie’s latest, Falcon, is up next for me. Great idea, Andrea. It’s been fun.

Ross: I keep a record of the books I read and the figures came out as follows:
2012: 29 including 2 “Christian romance” - 7%
2013: 59 including 15 “Christian romance” - 25%
2014: 57 including 32 “Christian romance” - 56%
2015 so far 33 including 25 Christian romance” - 75%
Looks like I will be continuing!

Well, guys, thank you so much for being my guests on ACW. I really appreciate your honesty and love that you read my favourite genre! I’m looking forward to reading the comments. We might find a few more Bromancers!


Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

8 comments:

  1. Thanks Ian & Ross for talking about your interest in romance & how it came about :) And thanks Andrea for arranging it. Wow, that's fantastic. I usually write a strange mixture of adventure and romance - or rather about relationships (not just romantic ones), some of which are romantic. Sometimes the adventure predominates, sometimes the romantic elements. While my primary audience has, so far, been predominantly female - its encouraging to know that some men enjoy reading about relationships too and are not just interested in what I term (in movies) 'the booms and the bangs' (explosions). Mind you my husband, who only reads technical and how-to books enjoys watching romantic films too :)

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    1. Finding out that these two men read and enjoy romance was encouraging for me too, Jeanette. I shouldn't have been surprised (my twenty-something son has taken me on several 'dates' to see a rom-com) but I was. Good to know, isn't it?

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  2. What an interesting interview. Thanks Andrea. And thanks to Ian and Ross for getting on board with romance reading.

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    1. Good guys, aren't they? Thanks, Nicki :)

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  3. Interesting interview and good to hear the male point of view.

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    1. Talking about the male point of view, Dale, I often ask my husband for his opinion when writing from that of my male protagonist. It's very interesting what he comes up with! Thanks for stopping by :)

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  4. Andrea, Ian & Ross, great interview! I do think there are more men who enjoy reading the various romance sub-genres than we realize. Many fiction books have a romantic subplot or romantic elements in the story. It's great to hear the male perspective on romance stories :)

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    1. Hi Narelle - totally agree with you! :)

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