Thank you, Tabitha, for having me here on your blog to talk about The Bartered Bride. I’d love to talk about the highs and lows of writing category romance. First, a quick definition of category romance: a story where the main plot is the romance, guy gets girl, with a happily ever after ending. The story must fit fairly strict guidelines as to content and word count, and usually has a fairly short shelf-life, as new books will come up to replace it within a month or so of release. Examples: Heartsong Presents Romance, Steeple Hill’s Love Inspired lines, Harlequin books.
There are several responses I’ve gotten when someone finds out I write category romance for Heartsong Presents.
· Category Romance? Isn’t that a frivolous way to spend your time? Christians shouldn’t spend their time on romance.
· Category Romance. Those are short books. Not like writing a REAL novel.
· C Category Romance. Aren’t those all the same? The guidelines are so tight, every story must sound exactly alike.
· Category Romance! I LOVE those. I’ve been a longtime member of the HP book club and can’t wait to get your book!
Obviously, I love the last response the best, but let’s look at the other three a bit closer.
Category Romance? Isn’t that a frivolous way to spend your time? Christians shouldn’t spend their time on romance. Misconceptions about what Christian Romance Fiction is abound. I can assure you, I don’t write smut, and I don’t write to titillate or tease. In no way do I want to lead my reader astray or beyond what they feel comfortable with. What do I want to accomplish with Christian Romance?
1. Provide an entertaining read. Take the reader to another time and place and allow them to experience the story in a way that entertains and pleases.
2. Showcase the beauty of a romantic relationship that glorifies God and lets the reader see the benefits and blessings of loving someone the way God intended.
3. Show that Christians are real people, with real desires, real struggles, and real feelings.
4. Reach my target audience: Christian women who want their faith affirmed through love stories that glorify God.
Category Romance. Those are short books. Not like writing a REAL novel.
I’ve gotten this response more times than I care to think about. But if I may, I’d like to list a few of the things that go into a category romance that also go into a trade-length/full-length novel.
· Character development. The story has to be ABOUT someone.
· Setting development. The story has to take place SOMEWHERE and the story must be true to that location and time period.
· Plot. SOMETHING has to happen in the story.
· Spiritual thread. The characters must learn and be changed spiritually throughout the story.
· Romance. The guy and girl must fall in love and have a happily-ever- after promise for the future.
The challenge for the category romance writer is to do all the same things needed in a trade-length manuscript, but in HALF the words.
In addition to the content being similar to a trade-length romance, the production process is the same. I go through content edits, copy edits, galley edits, cover art, author bio sheets, all the steps needed to get a book from contract to bookstore shelves, whether trade-length or category. Trust me, this FEELS like writing REAL books, regardless of the impression it might give to someone who has never tried it.
Category Romance. Aren’t those all the same? The guidelines are so tight, every story must sound exactly alike.
There are certain guidelines that Heartsong Presents has that are unchangeable. The word count cannot be changed, for printing and shipping reasons. I’m cool with that. There are also content rules that need to be followed. The characters must be chaste, no sizzling sex-scenes. I’m way cool with that. There must be a happy ending where the hero and heroine are in love and planning a future together. Since this is the entire foundation of romances, I have NO problem writing with this goal in mind. I don’t want to gyp my readers, by promising them a happy ending and giving them something else.
That being said, there is an entire world of possibilities within those guidelines. I’ve written about shipping magnates, lighthouse keepers, ship builders, a ranch foreman, a small town sheriff, and a stage coach driver. I’ve gotten to write about a suffrager, a housekeeper, a mathematics genius, a cowgirl, a baker, and a lady detective in the Old West.
I’ve gotten to explore themes like Trusting God, the sovereignty of God, God as a refuge, God as creator, God has a plan for our lives, and so many more.
I’ve set books in the Guilded Age, in Duluth, MN, in the wild west in SW Idaho. Pending books are set in Texas and Colorado, gold mines and ranches.
The beauty of fiction is that even within strict guidelines, the story is yours to craft in your unique way.
Category Romance! I LOVE those. I’ve been a longtime member of the HP book club and can’t wait to get your book!
Obviously, I love this response the best. So if you haven’t tried a Christian Category Romance, I hope you’ll be willing to reserve judgment until you’ve read one. It doesn’t have to be mine, but I wouldn’t complain!
What about you? What surprised/interested you about the world of romance writing? Please leave a comment to enter to win a copy of The Bartered Bride.