Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Christian Romance Fiction - interview

The other day I got a message from a grad student working a Master in Library Science who asked if I would participate in a survey since I appear to be fairly well read in the Christian Romance genre. After I giggled and felt elated and thrilled, I responded that I would be glad to. Going through all the questions, I realized that I had more to say than I thought I would so, I decided to post most of it here to share my responses in case of interest on any of my blog readers. That and I will email the post to specific authors who I think would benefit from reading it as well. *grin*

Here we go:

1. What age where you when you began to read for pleasure?
As long as I can remember I have been reading books. I remember in first grade, having it as a big accomplishment that I was in the advanced reading group. The first novel that stands out in my mind as addicting me to reading forever was The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi. Which in a way is rather funny, because I have never enjoyed any other titles from Avi. At that point I think I was about ten or twelve years old.

2. What were some of your favorite books as a child?
As a young child I loved books with animals or rhymes. My family has a set of Children’s Encyclopedias and I would pore over those for hours. Other specific books that I remember are various titles from Richard Scarry, Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, and dozens of titles from the Berenstain Bears. In later childhood, I enjoyed the
Mandie Series from the late Lois Gladdys Leppard, some Boxcar Children, and the Baby-sitter’s Club Little Sister, as my older sisters were reading the Baby-sitter’s Club books. I also recall for a short time, I was enthralled with ghost mysteries such as The Dark Garden by Margaret Buffie.

3. What were some of your favorite books as a teenager?
The Mandie series was one that I got invested in later than I should have so I continued to read them into my teen years until I was able to collect the entire series. Even now I am excited as the publisher is reprinting the books five books at a time in omnibus editions. It was my teen years that I was in a program of higher classes that called for a lot of academic reading and severely cut down on my outside reading for fun. In school, I was reading things such as Walden Pond by Thoreau, As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner, Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons and others. I do remember on my own reading Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier and The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers, The Knight of Maison-Rouge all by Alexandre Dumas. I guess it was also during this time that I started reading the Harry Potter series and then The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini. Although, I believe that Rowlings’ Harry Potter had been out for several years before I picked them up by my sisters’ and brother’s suggestions. Other books that I discovered during my late teen years were the beginning of my Christian Historical Romance genre addiction, which I will get to in the next question.

4. What age where you when you first began reading Christian romance?
Technically, I think that the Mandie Series could be could be counted as Christian Romance, but if not the next author and series that I discovered was Liz Curtis Higgs and her Scottish Christian Historical Romance Fiction Lowlands of Scotland series. Loosely based on the stories in the Bible of Jacob and Esau and then Rachel and Leah I decided to read these to get myself more interested in reading Bible stories for clarity and comprehension. Starting in 2003 with the first novel Thorn in My Heart, and then in 2004 with
Fair is the Rose, I was extremely impatient and anxious for the next year when I could finally read Whence Came A Prince in 2005, and then in 2006 when I could read Grace in Thine Eyes. I am still impatient for Liz’ next series that will be one book now as things have changed in the editing phases that also pushed it back another year to be published March 2010 Here Burns My Candle. It was during my impatience for the following novel to come out that I had to find other books to fill in the void. So in a complete answer to the question, you could either say I was 12, or 17 years old when I first began reading Christian Romance.

5. Did you have a reason for first reading Christian romance? If so, what was it?
I picked up Liz’ books, because I have Scottish ancestry and the book looked intriguing. I continued with Christian Romance, because I needed to fill the void while waiting for Liz’ next book.

6. Do you recall the title, author, or story of the first Christian romance that you read?
Thorn in My Heart by Liz Curtis Higgs

7. How many books do you read per month on average? (Total number, not limited to Christian romance)
Up until December of last year I was reading about 25 books a month. I could easily read a good 250-page book in a day if it was interesting enough. After I got pregnant, things changed, and now I am at about ten or more books a month.

8. How many Christian romance books do you read per month?
While reading 25 books a month, I would easily say that 20 of the books are Christian Romance. With ten books a month, I would say still that about seven or eight of the books are Christian Romance.

9. What kinds of books do you read other than Christian romance books?
My favorite genre of reading is Historical Fiction and for the most part the books I choose do end up being Christian if not quality general market. The funny thing about most of the Christian Historical Fiction books that I read is that almost all of them could also be classified as Christian Romance as well. In picking genres, I am not certain what to really say. I loved the Harry Potter Series, and I enjoy the Inheritance Series. I loved the Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer and anything and everything published by Historical Fiction author Michelle Moran and also Deanna Raybourn. Deanna’s first book was a little off with a plot twist for my taste, but the sequels have gotten much better and I look forward to her writing in the future. I really enjoy reading a good spy mystery. In example, I have collected the entire series of Alias – like the TV show books written by the show writers as well as other little Christian mysteries that I stumble across now again such as DiAnn Mills latest Call of Duty series with Breach of Trust, Jill Elizabeth Nelson’s To Catch a Thief series, most anything by Virginia Smith, and others. Lastly, another genre that I would put myself into being a fan of is Speculative Fiction including Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy. Here the authors I enjoy are Bryan Davis, Ted Dekker, Sharon Hinck and so on.

10. Do you read every day?
It is rare that a day will go by without my reading at least a few chapters, but it does happen from time to time, when life is insisting to be lived outside of my fictitious world.

11. How many hours per week do you devote to reading in any genre?
Almost always I could pick up a Christian Historical Fiction book and spend four hours straight during any given day on the story. Other books, such as Sci-Fi or Fantasy, I really have to be in the mood for the story and then could spend an equal amount of time enthralled in the adventure.

12. When do you do the most reading?
Each night I read about an hour before falling asleep or my husband turning the lights off, whichever comes first. During the day probably between noon and four pm is when I do the most, sit down and read reading.

13. Are there certain times during the week that you devote more time to reading?
Not really, it just depends on what else is going on.

14. Where do you do most of your reading?
Currently with our set up, and with pregnancy making the stairs not as nice of an option. I read on the couch in the living room. Or in bed. Or in my husband’s recliner.

15. Do you discuss your reading with others?
a. With whom?
b. What kinds of things do you talk about?
Yes, I joined websites like so that I could find others who read what I read to discuss them. I also share and discuss books with my sister-in-law and various other friends through out the country that I have made the acquaintance of in the last year through either my blog or pages like Goodreads.
We talk about anything and everything. From our the story touched us, to how the writing style was perfect or flawed.

16. How frequently do you obtain books from: (very frequently, somewhat frequently, occasionally, rarely)
a. Bookstore – rarely, too pricy
b. Library – occasionally, the selection is not that great
c. From a friend – very frequently, we all trade
d. From a relative – somewhat frequently, she is not reading as much as she used to
e. Online – occasionally, when the budget allows

17. How frequently do you purchase these formats for the books that you read: (very frequently, somewhat frequently, occasionally, rarely)
a. Hardback – occasionally, usually only if it is the only format, or if others in the series I already have in this format, or if it is cheaper than paperback
b. Paperback – very frequently
c. Audiobooks - rarely
d. E-books - rarely

18. Do you document your reading in a way such as journaling or writing a list?
Yes. I am quite the junkie at this. Every single book I read, or have read since August of 2007 gets a review and a post on Goodreads. As well as my blog, and almost every book sellers website.

19. Do you use social networking websites such as or
a. What is your primary purpose for using these sites?
Yes. I use the most, and used to use LT until I met their quota of books on a free membership. I also use Shelfari. On LT and Shelfari all I did was post my review. On I do everything. I post my reviews, I participate in discussions, and I actually lead a group called Christian Historical Fiction. One of my favorite features of Goodreads that I take advantage of is once I have written my review, I can then click and get the html to blog it on my blog. It makes things much easier because it already has links and pictures included rather than my having to format everything again.

Knowledge and Evaluation of books in the Christian Romance genre

1. How would you define Christian Romance?
Originally, I would say that Christian Romance is whatever book has the little subtitle of Christian Romance written in typeface about the ISBN barcode, or is organized in the Library of Congress Catalog as Christian Romance listed on the copyright page.
Now, I would say that Christian Romance is often found when not even referred to as Christian Romance. Almost any and everything, which is genre-categorized as Christian Historical Fiction is also qualified to be Christian Romance. For Contemporary Christian Romance, I would say that it is any work of Contemporary Christian Fiction that has a deep Romance sub plot through out the story.
Christian Romance is really anything that has a plot line of romance to go along with the story no matter what it is and no matter how it ends.

2. How would you describe the typical plot of a Christian Romance novel?
Hah. Depends, if I were referencing a Lori Wick novel, it would be that some new appears to the main characters, someone falls in love, someone gets kidnapped or runs away, someone dies, someone almost dies, someone finds Christ, someone gets married, and usually two or more people have babies. Then in the three following sequels it happens all over again, except to different characters that you were briefly introduced to during the first book.
With most other Christian Romance novels that are being introduced today (pub 2007-2009), the story would consist of a new girl coming to town and immediately falling in love with whoever the other main character of the story is. They spend many chapters in internal turmoil wishing they did not love the other and not acknowledging that the other loves them as well. They also would go back and forth on the flaws and whether or not that was enough to keep them from this person. All the while, the girl is doing something independent that is unheard of for a girl in that day and age and he tries or rather attempts to reign her in. There will be some form of chaos where a bad guy attempts something, and usually Mr. Right will save the day and then they get married, and in the epilogue someone is pregnant. It makes me smile just to think about how many different ways someone can tell almost the same story.

3. How do you find new materials in this genre?
Well, almost anything that is listed in the genre that is a new book on the publishers website is one way. Or sometimes just surfing through’s Historical Fiction section or watching authors individual websites or blogs for new releases. And also, getting on the good list with publishers and publicists so that I can get emails of what’s coming next. The only problem then, is that I get super excited about a book almost a year from when it is due and often before it is even in the final editing stages!

4. How do you decide what to read in this genre?
Hmmm… Endorsements by other book bloggers that I trust is a big must. Also from other authors that I like, but more so the book bloggers of which reviews I read from weekly. Also the back cover book blurb and the cover image give me some insight into the story as well as to whether or not I might enjoy it. Also, if it is written by an author that I really enjoyed before, I am more likely to pick it up.

5. Who are your favorite authors in this genre?
Liz Curtis Higgs, Mary Connealy, Julie Lessman, Rachel Hauck, Rebeca Seitz, Deeanne Gist, Julie Klassen, Tamera Alexander, Tracie Peterson, Lawana Blackwell, Cindy Woodsmall, Kathleen Y’Barbo, M. L. Tyndall, Tracey Bateman, Lori Copeland, Lyn Cote, Shelley Shepherd Gray, Carol Cox, Lori Wick, Janette Oke, DiAnn Mills, and Francine Rivers specific book Redeeming Love.

6. What features do these authors have in common?
Depends on whether you mean in their own personalities or writing style? One similarity is that they are all women. I know many of them personally now at least through email and they are all similar but very different too. Some write contemporary and some write historical. Some focus on a group of people like the Amish, while others are whoever in whatever time period. They are all different ages and styles of life, so really I would say that they are all very different overall. Also, they live all over the place. (Most of the authors I enjoy are from the US).

7. Why do you like these authors better than others in the genre?
These are the authors that challenge me. Their stories are the ones that come to life and stick with me after reading. From these novels, I will remember bits and pieces about the characters and be able to learn from their lives and apply their lessons to my own life. In many times, I can learn from their mistakes instead of making them on my own. In some circumstances, I can really relate to a story or situation because it reminds me of something of my own. These are the authors that do not just entertain, but they get into your heart and under your skin and really challenge a reader as well as entertain.

8. Do you find that any types of characters appear again and again? What types?
I guess I would say the rugged cowboy who is gentle as all get out to the one he loves. Then there is the obstinate woman who is independent and does everything she knows to prove the fact.

9. Do you find any events that appear again and again? What events?
Babies are born in many of the stories. And many many times someone is kidnapped, severely injured, or missing. Almost in every story a new person moves to town that provides some creativity and imagination for the ordinary folk.

10. Are there any events that never appear in this genre? What events?
Well beside ridiculous speculative cosmic events? ☺ I do not know really how to answer that.
Because almost anything can happen and that is why even though certain things almost always happen, the unexpected occurs as well. Someone may or may not be murdered. Really events change drastically depending upon the time frame in which the story is told.

11. Would you say that people in this genre are real people? What makes them real or not?
In the most part yes, at least the books that I like and return to. They are the characters that when I put down the book can imagine their lives going on that makes me love a book. The writer who writes a plot that gets to me and really has me either angry or vying for a character are the ones that get a second read and a real solid recommendation. Personality of a character is a must, when they can make me laugh as well as cry they show they have their own individuality that makes me curious what they will possibly do next. When the phrases used in communication are real with parts of colloquial terms, the name in the book is more than just typeface.

12. Are events that happen in this genre like those in real life? Why or why not?
Yes and no. In the most part, the people that I know in real life are not as open and involved with scripture on a day-to-day basis as the characters in the book. That is part of why I enjoy them so much. They are real in the fact that they are not perfect and have plenty of flaws, but strive to be better. (Perhaps I need new real life friends.) In the stories, for me they are mostly historical, so I can say that I really do not know if they events would occur the same as they would have back then, but from the vague things I do know of history it is quite possible. For the contemporary Christian Romances, I would say that those plots are quite feasible to real life, so I do not see why the historical ones would not be if the appropriate research was performed.

13. If we met at a party and began discussing reading Christian romance, how would you describe your reading in this genre to me?
As an addiction. In the past I have suffered from depression that no chemical seemed to be able to cure. It was through reading many various novels of Christian Historical Romance Fiction that I was able to escape and spend a day or an afternoon in their world. Going from one emotion to another as the author takes the protagonist and other characters on a journey that I would get caught up in the story and then crave the next one. Some people used to say that you could spend too much time caught up in the faux-reality of a novel, but I think that if you live life and enjoy the novels that you can create a healthy balance. I am luckily enough to put my life around reading of novels by being a book reviewer.

14. What makes reading in this genre different from other types of reading?
Happy endings. No matter what there is a happy ending. That does not always mean that they girl gets the guy or vis versa. It does not mean that the bad guy is gone. It means that there is a plateau of contentment that can continue. There may be a story where people got into a bad circumstance, and instead of working out how the reader thinks they should it ends another way, but through the process the author has wedged away your opinion of what should have been right and made another scenario that works. Almost every book I read in the Christian Romance genre leaves me with a feeling of thorough satisfaction and that is the main reason why I come back for more.

15. Are there any books that you recently failed to finish? Why?
Yes, I will not mention titles though. In some cases, it may be that I was just really in the mood for something other than that book, and one day I will come back and it will be perfect. If the mood is not right, I cannot force myself to read it. Otherwise it defeats the purpose of why I read. Some books just fall flat. The characters are boring or unlikable and that just again defeats the purpose of why I read. I read for enjoyment and there are way to many books in the TBR (to be read) pile to waste my time on something ugly.

16. What do you do with the materials in the genre after you have finished reading them?
If I love the book, it goes on my shelf. I might mail it to a book buddy to borrow, but then it comes back and stays on my shelf. If I liked it, I might keep it unless someone wants it, then I will either loan it or give it away. I also trade books and give them to a specific school’s library.

14 comments and creative thoughts:

Julie Lessman said...

Great interview, Margaret!! And thank you SO much for including me in your favorites list -- your list looks like mine, so obviously we have similar taste! :)


CherryBlossomMJ said...

Julie you make me smile! And I seriously cannot get your next book fast enough!

Rachel Hauck said...

Wow, you did me proud. Not for mentioning me (but thank you! for that) but because you spoke so well of the industry and CBA publishing and romance.

Most excellent, friend! The interviewer did well in choosing you.

And the image of the baby is fantastic. Amazing!

Hugs, Rachel

CherryBlossomMJ said...

Rachel, your Sweet Caroline and Love Starts with Elle are what first came to mind when thinking about my favorite contemporary romances, so it was not hard. :)

The image of the baby at the top of my blog is a widget and not my baby, but I will have new pictures of my baby to share tomorrow!

MaryLu Tyndall said...

Margaret, wow, I really enjoyed your interview. I learned a lot about you and you did a great job describing Chrisian Romance! And I'm honored to be listed as one of your favorite authors! Especially among so many great ones.
Congratulations on your pregnancy! I will pray for a healthy happy baby who loves Christian romance as much as you do!

Amee said...

I really enjoyed reading this. I was nodding along through much of it. :)

Carol Cox said...

That's a wonderful interview, Margaret! You did a fabulous job of describing Christian fiction, and I'm honored to be included on your list of favorite authors. Thanks so much!!!

Julie Klassen said...

Very interesting interview, Margaret. I can't get over how many books you read! I am honored to be on your list. Thanks for letting me know about this article.

CherryBlossomMJ said...

Julie K. - but of course! It is because you people write so many good ones that I just have to read them all.

Carol - Thank you and of course you're welcome

Amee - kindred spirits think alike

MaryLu - I treasure your prayers. I am glad I could provide some insight into the crazy inner workings of my thoughts. More pirate books!

Sheila Deeth said...

Great interview. I love your explanation of the reading addiction. And it's neat to know where and when you read. Lots of ideas to add to my TBR list.

CherryBlossomMJ said...

Sheila - Thanks for the comment. I'm always adding more to my never ending TBR pile if not electronic list.

ginger said...

It's amazing how many questions you answered in this blog that I would have asked in interviewing for my website as well.

I am always interested in how women got started in reading Christian Romance. As a Christian Romance writer myself, I am a great advocate of encouraging young women to wait to read this genre until they are at least 17-20.

The reason being is that when you are reading a story, you become the character. You will feel, think, process and react to just as the character will. If a heroine is feeling mature things, it can awaken these feelings in the reader. In the case of a 12 year old reading about the romantic feelings the woman-heroine is experiencing, she will awaken to these same emotions that are better left to a more mature age when she is ready to handle them.

The book of Songs (Song of Solomon, Song of Songs) states in several places to not awaken love until it's time or pleases. If you've ever read a secular romance in your past, you know what I am talking about.

I think as writers of Christian Romance, it's worth a little reminder to our readers that indeed Parental Discretion is Advised.
Just a little food for thought.

ginger r. takamiya

CherryBlossomMJ said...

Ginger - Thank you so much for your comments. For the real definition of Christian Romance, I would say that I did start at 17 years of age. The books at 12 years old that I was mentioning were the Mandie Series that are meant for girls of 9-14 or so.

Selina said...

I have a quick question! I have been reading Christian Romance for many MANY years now, lol, and I stumbled across a book a few years ago. I don't remember the title or the author's you can help? It's based in Scotland or Ireland. A girl is told by her father to marry a "Lord"? and she ends up walking all the way there. He husband to be assumes she is a maid, then she reveals herself. they get married...her crazy sister tries to take her husband from her...she sleep walks...? Sounding familiar? I know towards the end she is pregnant and is kidnapped by her sister...hopefully you have a bit more luck knowing what book this is! THanks!!! Selina

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