The focus for the conference was (as you probably guessed) romance fiction in the general market, but I left with a lot of thoughts on the subjects of writing, publishing, and where romance fiction fits into peoples lives (in the general and Christian market).
Telling it Straight
If you've spent any time reading Thinking Thoughts you'll know that I'm a Christian. I try my best to live and love like Christ in real life and through my writing. I didn't attend this conference thinking they would talk about Christian/Inspirational romance fiction, but I was interested to see what the community of general market romance fiction looks like.
I loved it! I loved the passion for writing, the understanding of the market, and the sense of community. That's not to say I agreed with everything that was said in the discussion panels. Far from it in some cases. But, more than anything, I was reminded what it is to be a writer and a reader. It's a powerful thing.
As writers, we are burdened with glorious purpose (to borrow the phrase from Loki in The Avengers). Yesterday, many testified to the fact that they read romance novels growing up and it was those novels which helped shape them and their emotions. No writer will likely ever understand the weight of that, but it's true.
I think for those of us who write as Christians (no matter the genre) we must realize the effect our novels will have on others. We often say we write to inspire or encourage, but we also must realize books are a type of reality for many. Readers don't only pick up a book for entertainment, but to sympathize and interact with the characters. They may identify with something a character has gone through, or maybe they learn to relate to God in a different way through the characters journey. But at the end of it all, they often find themselves in our fictional realms.
Where's Our Place?
So, at the end of the day, I asked myself where my place was. Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers was mentioned as a vital book in the romance fiction genre. I was so excited to know that a book I LOVE was mentioned, but it was the only book mentioned by an overtly Christian fiction author. I understand (to the extent that I can) the predicament Christian authors face. We write to a very specific audience with very specific guidelines.
I have asked myself these questions recently:
- Where does this leave outreach?
(I'm not saying that Christian fiction novels can't or won't be read by a non-Christian audience, but that is less likely.)
- Can you write in the general market as a Christian author?
(Yes, I know this is done, but what sacrifices are made, if any?)
- How do you write something that can be published in the Christian market that also appeals to the general market?
(A great example is Redeeming Love. What are some traits found in these books?)