Thursday, November 12, 2009

Blog Tour for The Bartered Bride

Please welcome Erica Vetsch, author of The Bartered Bride to my blog today. Read on and leave a comment for your chance to win a copy of this latest release.
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!
Thanks Erica!
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.


  1. Sorry guys. I don't know why some of those first words are cutting off. I have tried everything I know to fix it and I can't. I am hoping you will be able to put in those few first letter that cut off and still read most of it very easily.

  2. Great breakdown Erica!

    I was able to read it, Tabitha. :-)

  3. Thanks for a great post. Best wishes Erica.

  4. Ohh I really want to read this book!

    Erica I have a question, Do HP novels have to be written in a certain tense? Can you get away with first person? Thank you!

  5. I was surprised about the shelf life of a category romance. I had no idea it was so short. Interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Hello all! Tabitha, thank you so much for having me here today.

    For T.Anne, HP novels usually have a balance of two POV's, the hero's and the heroine's. I've not read an HP written in first person. That would be something to query JoAnne Simmons about. :)

  7. This post was helpful to me since I have a project in mind for a christian romance. The tips Erica gave have been very insightful. One question, how many words are required for this category? Thanks so much Tab and Erica. xo

  8. I've seen posts on this book all over lately! Would love to get a copy.

    It's always so interesting to see how many of us struggle against others' perceptions of our work:
    Is it long enough?
    Serious enough?
    Chrisitan enough?
    Commerical enough?
    Literary enough?
    Respected enough?

    I write for children and sometimes wonder if my peers see that as easy, short, writing, not serious fiction.

    I am a Christian but intentionally write for the mainstream, believing I am reflecting gospel themes of forgiveness, restoration, grace, and worth for all to hear. I know some Christians see this as a cop-out of sorts.

    Thanks for affirming the truth that all of us struggle with the way our writing is received. All we can do is be true to the current story, open to critique, of course, but faithful to the essence of what needs to be told, not what we think others want us to say.

  9. Great post Tabitha & Erica!

    I appreciate you breaking down the goal of category romance. You hit some questions I have wondered myself.

    I can't wait to crack this open, it should be in the mail any day now.

  10. I always find it interesting to learn more about different areas of publishing. Great post to detail the breakdown.

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  12. If anything I think writing romance can be doubly challenging - when you factor in the dual plotlines. Thanks for the post Tabitha and Erica!

  13. Erica,
    I'm not even going to bother with most of the asinine comments you have to put up with, but I will say there is nothing better than a good romance where the love is deep and real...where I don't have to read about someone's "throbbing manhood". Seriously!

    Getting anything at all published is a big deal...a poem, a short story, a book. I just bought Stephen Kings new book and decided to workout with it. 50 Bicep curls every day and I'm gonna have me some guns! That book is soooo big that a nice pocket sized romance looks like a super model at this point.

    You go girl, write it real. "The Shack" did so much for view of God, and it affirmed the open nature of our relationship, a true conversation about EVERYTHING. Boy was that book criticized! Only God's opinion matters why are you even reading this :)

  14. Thank you, all of you, for your great comments.

    Ellie, for Heartsong Presents, the wordcount must be between 45,000 and 50,000 words. The wordcount for Steeple Hill's Love Inspired line varies depending on which of their genres you are writing for. The Historicals are a bit longer than the contemporary or suspense lines.

  15. Thanks for this post, Tabitha and Erica. Category romance sounds very challenging to me, with the guidelines (particularly length and developing the characters in that amount of pages) so I applaud anyone who can do it and do it well.

    Please don't enter me in the drawing because I've already had the opportunity to read this book. It was wonderful and whoever wins it will be blessed by it!

  16. What an interesting post! I am always so happy when writers defend their genre. Thank you for the fascinating insight. :)

  17. Thanks for the info on how to write Christian romance novels, I just enjoy reading them.

  18. Hey guys. Thank you for the comments. I will draw a name at random for the winner of the book and post the winner on Monday.

    Wine and words, I loved your comment. so much truth in that! And you are right, what God thinks is all that matters anyway.

    Caroline, thanks for sharing about what you write. the shorted the word count the harder in my opinion. Writing kids books is tough. I have dabbled in that genre a few times. I most probably will again :)

    Tira- I agree. All genres have worth and I love hearing other writers defend what they write so well. Erica did a great job of putting some of those questions she gets to BED!

    Erica, thanks for jumping on today and hosting conversation while my time difference had me sleeping on the other side of the world :)

  19. My reaction: Category Romance? You have to be one talented, tight writer to tell a story in only 50,000 words. Which is exactly what you are!

  20. my dear, thank you ever so much! I am so happy everytime i get a comment♥
    your blog, too, is quite so exquisite♥

  21. Thanks for breaking down Category Romance. It's interesting to read about other genres. I write YA so I know books with smaller word counts are definitely "real" novels. In fact, I have a HUGE admiration for picture book writers!

  22. What a great post! I write Christian category romance too. I love how you handled the criticism. Congrats, Erica, on your book!

  23. Day late and a dollar short as usual. 50,000 words is a lot of print on a page! Have read the book. The reader won't be disappointed.