Writing Christian Romance
by JoAnn Durgin
I’m a Christian romance writer. Let’s face it – like it or not – the word romance is often equated with sex. A Jewish friend of the male persuasion recently asked me, point-blank, “What makes a romance novel Christian?” Ah, that is a great question. If you write Christian novels, especially romance, I suggest you find your own answer. It is perhaps the most important question you might ever be asked as an author and an opportunity to make an eternal impact in someone’s life with your answer.
Romance novel conjures up visions of beautiful women with gorgeous tresses and overflowing bosoms straining low-cut gowns and swooning in the arms of strong, virile-looking men. Just check out any local grocery, drug or chain megastore with row-upon-row of romance novels with shirtless men (usually billionaires or cowboys – or both) and women in various stages of dress, or undress, posed provocatively with laughable titles. What’s deceptive are those romance novels with seemingly innocuous covers featuring seascapes, houses and flowers – but enough in-between the covers, so to speak, to steam your glasses and make your cheeks flame.
Christian romance authors have an awesome responsibility – write a realistic book about a man and woman falling in love, recapturing love or saying goodbye to love without offending sensibilities. It’s a fine line. We’re charged with writing an involving, God-honoring story without resorting to sensual scenes at least every 10-15 pages. Write about murders, and you won’t have a problem. But write something even remotely sensual, and people will squirm. I’ll tell you a secret: I know Bible-believing, strong Christian women who read secular romance novels. Why? Most Christian romances don’t fulfill their need for pure romance, ironically enough. Most are safe, sweet and non-threatening, but a lot of the plot involves keeping the main characters apart until the end due to some type of conflict.
While I understand and applaud the safe and sweet, I also believe there’s room for more within the scope of a God-honoring story. One of the most precious things in life is that first blush of love, that rush of adrenaline at a glance, a touch, a kiss… Personally, I love the hope and joy in an uplifting romance. As a writer, I don’t generally adhere to the three kiss rule – one kiss early on or toward the middle, one about two-thirds of the way through the novel and one at the end. Sometimes I simply need more pure romantic moments, not necessarily with kisses. I’ll admit to loving witty, flirtatious banter between my hero and heroine. I believe in weaving a strong element of faith throughout a book, and I’m a firm believer in the happy ending. It’s more satisfying and I believe, deep down, it’s what the majority of Christian romance readers want.
As a debut author, the title of my book, Awakening, unfortunately conjures up sensual connotations for some, but the name is as perfect now as it was when originally written more than a decade ago (just a tip, though: search for my name instead of the book title to avoid the erotica). Awakening is loosely based on my own story with my husband, Jim, and involves a spiritual and emotional awakening. I sincerely appreciate that my publisher, Torn Veil Books, put the tag, A Christian Romance Novel, following my book title. Cuts down on any possible misinterpretation.
While Awakening is interwoven with that strong element of faith, it’s also realistic in terms of a mature, adult relationship – complete with lots of romantic moments and flirty banter interspersed with drama and emotional moments. It’s important to show how characters react to the temptations and pitfalls of life, maintaining a mindset to honor the Lord, even when they stumble. In my book, two great characters are falling deeply in love – my God-fearing hero, Sam Lewis, and my God-seeking heroine, Lexa Clarke (yes, Lewis and Clarke, and it’s a contemporary romantic adventure). My characters make the conscious, mutual decision to honor the Lord in terms of their physical relationship and share an open, honest discussion. It’s a beautiful testament to waiting on the Lord’s timing. No clothes come off that shouldn’t, and there’s nothing offensive or inappropriate, yet some might perceive it as edgy. I stand behind this scene as written. It’s endearing and incredibly tender. As one reader affirmed, what shines through in this scene is Sam’s integrity and desire to honor the Lord and Lexa. I’ve had mothers tell me teenage girls should read Awakening as a testament to abstinence before marriage. So, you see, Christian romance authors have an awesome responsibility.
Faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love. God first loved us so much that He sent His Son to die for our sins, and it’s through His boundless love that I write. Humans, like characters, often stumble and sometimes fall but they find grace, forgiveness, love, redemption and hope when they seek to follow the Lord’s will for their lives. Matthew 5:16 is my personal theme verse, and it’s my prayer that His light will shine through the words in my books, giving light and hope to an often hurting world. It’s my high honor and privilege to share the stories the Lord has laid on my heart.
JoAnn is a FaithWriters member and a member of ACFW and its Indiana chapter. Awakening is her debut novel. She was a finalist in the long contemporary romance category of the 2010 RWA/FHL Touched by Love contest, and is a regular blog contributor with Hoosier Ink and Reflections in Hindsight. JoAnn is also an active member of the John 3:16 Marketing Network and the My Book Therapy Voices where she has won or placed in several of their quarterly Flash Fiction contests. Above all, she loves to share the redeeming love of Christ through her stories. Visit JoAnn online at: http://www.joanndurgin.com
Lexa Clarke signs up for a short-term summer mission in San Antonio with TeamWork Missions, hoping to make a difference in the world. TeamWork director Sam Lewis has a job to do and can’t afford to be distracted by the petite, feisty blonde. But when she tumbles into his arms from the top of a house they’re rebuilding, Sam suspects his life will never be the same. A God-fearing man. A God-seeking woman. It’s a combustible combination.