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,