Wednesday, 26 August 2015

My thoughts on sweet romance (plus a giveaway)

Put your feet up and join me for a cup of tea while I share some thoughts with you.


Last weekend I attended my first ever Romance Writers of Australia conference held at the gorgeous Park Hyatt in Melbourne and it was sensational! Joining me were 100 "newbies" and 300 other romance authors from a cross section of genres. Just about every type of romance book you can imagine was represented - and many types of romance you probably wouldn't have imagined! I met authors of historical romance, contemporary romance, rural romance (my main genre) medical romance, suspense, erotica, paranormal, young adult, and of course inspirational and Christian romance.

It was fabulous to meet fellow ACW authors Narelle Atkins and Andrea Grigg. One of the great things about sharing a room with these girls is the way we dug deep in our conversations about all things romance. One of the negatives of sharing a room was we didn't get much sleep!

As Andrea has mentioned in a previous post, she's about to launch herself in the general romance market as Andi Eden which is a brave move for anyone, especially a Christian. I have first hand experience of how difficult it is to uphold and maintain a Christian worldview while writing general market romance. Thankfully, although some readers want it, my publisher has not asked me to turn up the heat on what I write.


The three of us were joined by Catherine Hudson and Iola Goulton one afternoon and we had a fabulous conversation about romance writing and writing in general. After the conference, Andrea, Iola and Catherine headed off to join Dorothy Adamek at her house for an intensive writing course with Margie Lawson. To say Narelle and I are jealous is an understatement - but there's always next year! Note that name: Margie Lawson - I'm sure you'll hear lots more about her.


One of the things that struck me most at the conference was how many people were fascinated when Narelle and Andrea told them they write Christian/inspirational romance. They were equally fascinated when I explained that I'm a Christian but don't write Christian/inspirational romance.

But I do write "clean" romance.

And it's this idea of "clean" or as I prefer to describe it, "sweet" romance I want to talk about today.

So, what is it?

I characterise a sweet romance as a heartfelt love story that won't make you blush when you read it. Your kids can read it and so can your mother-in-law! You won't have to hide it on your e-reader, wrap the cover in brown paper or avoid reading it on the train! You won't have to cringe at euphemisms used to describe body parts or be bombarded by the f-bomb. I explained to one publisher the reason why I write sweet romance - my husband is a pastor currently working in a school as a chaplain. She laughed and said, "I totally understand!"

To me, a sweet romance doesn't mean the characters are lily white, only hold hands, only have sex after marriage and always tiptoe through the tulips in the sunshine. My books are about real life Australian characters facing real life circumstances. My hero and heroine fall in love and come together, but their actual joining together occurs off the page. Or behind closed doors. In other words, any scenes that allude to my characters having sex are faded to black. I focus on the characters, the setting, the storyline and the circumstances of the romance, without the sex.

A lot of Christians assume I write general market in order to subtly impose my Christian worldview on readers. This could not be further from the truth. As I've heard Narelle say on many occasions, readers are not stupid. Non-Christian readers looking for a clean or sweet read do not want to be hit around the head with the Bible and who can blame them? Trust me, even when you think you're being subtle about it - they smell anvilicious proselytizing a mile away! (Andrea Grigg will be speaking at the Christian Writer's Conference in Bacchus Marsh later this year and she will share one of the reviews I received on this exact topic.)

Finding good sweet romance reads often isn't an easy task. I've found that people seem to have different definitions of what constitutes "sweet".

Andrea Grigg/Andi Eden(!) and I are currently considering building a database of sweet romance books - books you can read that still uplift and encourage, but are not from a Christian perspective. Some of you won't like reading those types of books, but others are keen to read something other than Christian or inspirational romance.

In another post at another time, I will share this list as it evolves, but in the meantime, you might enjoy reading Alissa Callen's books. Check out Alissa's website here.


We met Alissa at the conference and like me, she writes small town rural fiction from a sweet perspective. Alissa is not a Christian, but is one of the sweetest girls you'll ever meet. I hope you'll find her on Facebook and 'friend' her and I encourage you to check out her books if you're looking for excellent sweet romance. I have personally read all her books and can endorse them as sweet.

Or perhaps you might even like to read my own! My second book, Emergency Response is due for release on October 22nd but is available for pre-order now.


My first book, Intensive Care is the first in the "Birrangulla" series and worth reading before Emergency Response. I'm currently working on Life Support, the third book in the series.

For purchase links, please click here to go to my website or my books can be found wherever e-books are sold.


As always, I love to connect with readers and other writers - especially those who write sweet romance. I'd also love to hear about some of the sweet romance books that you've read. Why were these stories memorable reads? And for you, what constitutes a "sweet" romance?

Leave a comment below and I'll enter you in the drawing to win a Kindle ebook copy of Intensive Care. I'll announce the winner in a comment on this post on Wednesday, September 3rd.

"Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws."

Blessings and love,

Nicki
x


Nicki Edwards calls herself a city girl with a country heart. Growing up on a small family acreage she spent her formative years riding horses, and pretending the neighbour’s farm was her own. After spending three years in a regional town in New South Wales, her love of small country towns was further developed. One day she plans to escape to the country with her husband Tim, and live on land, surrounded by horses, dogs, cattle and sheep.
In 2006, when Nicki’s youngest child started school, she returned to university, juggling full time study, part time work and four small children, to achieve another of her dreams—becoming a nurse.
A voracious reader, Nicki always wanted to write, and once considered a career as a journalist. Her debut novel, ‘Intensive Care” was released in January 2014.
Now, when Nicki isn’t reading, writing or dreaming about rural life and medical emergencies, she can be found working as a Critical Care Nurse in a busy Intensive Care Unit, where many of her stories and characters are imagined.
Nicki and Tim reside in Geelong, Victoria with their four teenage/young adult children. Her life is busy, fun and at times exhausting, but she wouldn’t change it for anything.
Please check out Nicki's brand new website and subscribe to her newsletter HERE.


23 comments:

  1. LOL, Nicki! I didn't realise you wrote the post until almost the end. When I got to the start of the book recommendations, I was all ready to suggest Nicki Edwards in the comments if the blogger didn't!

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    1. Ah Autumn, you're gorgeous! Bless you my friend.

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  2. Go hard, Nicki. You had a dream to write, you asked the questions of how, went to the conferences to connect, and bingo! You're a writer, and a good one - and I daresay, you will be a popular one too. Good work.

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    1. Meredith, your words of encouragement and support mean more to me than you would ever imagine. Sincerely. Thankyou. x

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  3. Great post, Nicki! So sorry couldn't go to RWA this year. Have only missed a few conferences since they started. I enjoyed your Intensive Care first book very much and sure looking forward to reading your next. I too love reading "sweet" romance and been disappointed in recent years they are getting harder and harder to find at the level of "sweet" I enjoy. My favourite writer has to be Marion Lennox books and also my English friend, Rita Bradshaw for single title historicals. Unfortunately, her books were not readily available here but am delighted they are now ebooks too. Before changing to single titles, Rita has been multi-published by Harlequin M&B as Helen Brooks. Have seen on Amazon some of her back list are now ebooks also. As I am now known as an "Inspirational Romance" writer, I have been wondering about revising my five old Harlequin medical romances released 1994-1998 to include spiritual threads. Now am having second thoughts. Any suggestions?

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    1. Mary, like I just said to Meredith, your words of encouragement to me as an author mean so much. When another author compliments you on your writing, it means so much. There's no point pulling each other day - instead we should build one another up and encourage one another. Hang on, that sounds familiar.....LOL
      As for your question about including spiritual threads into your early Harlequin romances I guess the answer is a question....is that what God is calling you to do?
      The other issue you raised is a big one.
      You said it's getting harder to find books at the "level" of sweet you enjoy. And therein lies the rub. Readers all have different levels of what they find sweet. Some readers are ok with sexual tension, others are okay with sensual tension and others don't want it at all. When I write, I go back to those same questions I asked myself in the beginning. Can I stand before God, my children and my mother in law and hold my head high? I believe I can.
      Once again thank you for your support and I hope you enjoy Emergency Response.
      Your words of affirmation are such a gift.
      Bless you
      x

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    2. I am thinking more and more we are on the "same page" here, Nikki. My "sweet" romances I prefer can certainly include sensual and sexual tension, but not explicit descriptions of sex.scenes. When my sweet medical romances were being published, they always had to have sexual tension but I always gave them to my dear, very conservative mother to read. My inspirational romances were being published the same years. I remember vividly her comments after reading one of the medicals. She said slowly, "It was a good story." Then she added swiftly, "But you are going to write another of those nice ones, aren't you?" Easy to know which ones she preferred! I appreciate the fact that Harlequin continues to "label" their different genres so readers can have a better idea of the level of sex scenes in them. Recently I heard it mentioned that perhaps at times inspirational romance novels may need to have clearer indications of the levels of explicit sex and violence scenes and language. Another topic for another time though!

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  4. Hi Nicki, great post! Im very interested in the sweet or clean romance genre. With my own writing that is the sub-genre I would come under. I look forward to seeing how this genre evolves.

    Thanks

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    1. Hi Jess, from what I can tell, the genre is already very well established, especially in the US, but also in the UK. I guess the issue, and the point of my post, is that we as Christians don't feel the need to write about Christian themes with Christian characters and storylines in "sweet" reads. From what I can tell - there's a big difference between Inspirational and Sweet (or clean). Non-Christians aren't necessarily interested in reading Inspirational but they will read (and enjoy) clean. I don't have any of the answers as to what is right or wrong because at the end of the day, we should all write what God has called us to write. Bless you in your own writing journey. what are you writing?

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    2. Hi Nicki, I'm writing contemporary romance set in a small country town. My characters aren't Christians, and so far they don't act terribly unchristian but not really Christian either. It's some weird limbo at the moment. Since I'm still in the writing stage, that will get worked out more. I believe I'm at this point in time meant to write for a secular audience.

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    3. Jess, it sounds to me like our journey is very similar. I started off with a Christian character and a non-Christian falling in love. Can you imagine how I was going to have to make that work???!!! If you need any advice or someone to bounce ideas with, please don't hesitate to get in touch.

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    4. Yes, that would have been very hard making that work! 😀 thanks for the offer, I'll certainly keep you in mind. :)

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    5. Congratulations Jess you're the winner of a copy of Intensive Care! I hope you haven't already read it!

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  5. Hi Nicki … so is the classic (from years ago) Mills & Boon a sweet romance? I would have thought the sweet romance market constitutes the "core" of the romance market - where all it began? Some might suggest classics like Pride & Prejudice are sweet romance?

    Or am I missing a vital element? Not being too conversant with the various romance genres & sub-genres except having read a bunch of classic ones from yesteryear.

    Congratulations on your 2nd novel and being able to fit writing in amongst your intensive care nursing and raising 4 kiddies. Incredible.

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    1. Ian, thank you so much for your encouragement. I replied but my post has gone into lala land.
      I couldn't do any of this without my husband's incredible support. I'm so blessed.
      As for what constitutes the core of the romance genre - it's definitely NOT "sweet" and probably hasn't been since P&P!! There is a burgeoning UK market for sweet romance and a massive US market. I need to find like minded authors and spread the word in Australia!

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  6. Hi Nicki, I really enjoyed spending time with you and Andrea, plus catching up with Iola and Catherine on the weekend :)

    The definition of 'sweet', as defined by the Harlequin category romance lines, has changed over the years. Once upon a time a sweet Mills and Boon romance had a sensuality level similar to the Love Inspired lines. In recent years the heat and sensuality levels have risen in the sweet lines, and the stories often include open door intimate scenes. At the same time, the sexy end of the spectrum has become significantly hotter as erotic romance has grown in popularity.

    The phrase 'clean romance' is relatively new. There are many readers who want to read a clean read without any religion. Conservative Christian moral values are no longer the norm in our society. As a result, stories that reflect conservative and traditional values in the general market may not ring true and could come across as unrealistic. This is a big challenge for Christian authors, who want to write authentic characters for the general market. Their characters in a sweet romance may have no plausible reason for upholding Christian morals and values eg. not living together before marriage. It's a tricky road to navigate from a Christian worldview perspective.

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    1. Narelle, it was fabulous meeting you and getting to know you. Your wealth of knowledge about the industry is incredible and you have a great 'voice' for sharing that knowledge. Thank you.
      In terms of your comment about writing authentic characters, that really resonates with me. I think for too long I, and perhaps other Christian authors, have lived in a Christian bubble and we don't really know how non-Christians live. I'll give you an example. I just caught up with a long-time friend who is a fairly new Christian. Her husband and young adult male children are unsaved. Those gorgeous young adult male sons both have girlfriends now and of course they want their girlfriends to sleep over. As a Christian, she doesn't want that for her sons, but her worldview can't be imposed on theirs - any more than authors can impose their Christian worldview on readers. Authentic young adult male characters DO sleep with their girlfriends, whether we (as mothers or authors) want them to or not. If we as Christian authors writing for the general market don't have authentic characters, our books will not sell and we are at risk of looking like we are writing something that doesn't exist. I uphold traditional and conservative and Godly values, but I can't impose those on my readers.
      That being said, that's what Christian or inspirational novels for the Christian market does do well and should continue to do as there is a need for Christians to be uplifted and encouraged.
      Thanks again for your comments.
      Blessings
      Nicki

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  7. A thought-provoking post, Nicki. I'm not going to say too much here as I want to keep my thoughts fresh for the CWC in October, but I have to agree with you and Narelle: the goalposts of sweet romance have shifted.

    The RWA conference was a tremendous experience. Apart from catching up with you guys, it was fabulous talking to so many enthusiastic writers of romance! And yes, as you say, they were surprisingly accepting of the inspirational genre. I came away uplifted and thrilled with the amount of support shown by writers of all different genres, and even more encouraged to write for the general market.

    Thanks for a great post :)

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    1. Andrea I loved hanging out with you and can't wait for our books to sit side by side on the general market shelves.
      I like how you say the goal posts have shifted. Hmmmm. Very true. As Narelle said, perhaps because erotica has gotten so much hotter as those authors have pushed the boundaries further out, meaning sweet has various 'levels' that not all of us are comfortable reading. Defining 'sweet' seems to be the hardest thing. I look forward to brainstorming with you at conference and I think we're going to find an hour for the session won't be nearly long enough.
      Bless you my friend.
      x

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  8. Hi Nicki,

    So lovely to finally meet you in person and to also chat to Andrea and Narelle. I really enjoyed this post as I often feel like I'm one sweet/clean voice in a sea of hotter/edgier stories. I'm so glad I'm not:) Take care and I look forward to reading everyone's fabulous stories.

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    1. Alissa I loved meeting you. It was a highlight of the conference. Particularly so because I found a like minded sweet romance author. Can't wait to find more of us! I also hope some of the readers here take the time to check out your gorgeous Aussie rural romances as well as your American stories.
      Bless you my new friend. X

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    2. Hi Alissa, It was great to meet you in Melbourne. Thanks for stopping by :)

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    3. Hi Alissa - so good to meet you! Looking forward to reading your books :)

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