My relationship with God is best described as “It’s Complicated,” (capital letters intentional). When asked about it I try to go with the very neutral, “faith is a gift I have not yet received.” So what I’m about to say may shock you:
I read Christian Romance.
Inspiration Romance that is, usually from the Love Inspired Historical line. It’s all Renee Ryan’s fault, actually. She wrote an amazing love story that just happened to be an Inspirational Romance. I picked it up for free at an RWA Conference, and because she was so nice to me, congratulating me on my three book deal, I decided to read it on the plane ride home. The flight took two hours. I devoured the book and used the in-flight wireless to order more before we touched down.
I’ve read every one of her books, and worse, written her to ask for more pushers, I mean authors, to try. I think Inspirational Romances are the perfect escapist literature. There’s always a happy ending. The main characters are usually the kind of people I’d love to have dinner with. I write about vampires, soldiers, werewolves, and all sorts of complicated questionable folks. They’re a lot of fun, and when you get to know them some of them are nice guys, but I’m not sure I’d want to spend the night at their house if my car broke down. Not so in Inspirational stories, the characters are, in general, genuinely good.
Which is not to say that they’re boring. One of the things I love about well written Inspirationals is the characters have done wrong, sometimes with really wrong, and they’re fairly tormented about it. None of them are perfect, and none of them are one dimensional. If it’s done right their faith is a part of their life, not an annoyingly tacked on here and there.
In Waking Up Dead, Elisabeth Hicks, the tough battle scared solider, goes to church every Sunday with her mother. I enjoyed writing that family dynamic, making my tough warrior woman also someone whose faith is wrapped up in family. One of my stories has a vampire who’s been Catholic for several centuries. I loved bringing those conservative old school values, like not approving of cohabitation, into a modern character. For me faith is a dimension of who someone is, like having red hair or wearing glasses. In fact I tend to mention it about as much, if not a little less, than I mention hair or eye color.
In an Inspirational, faith takes a starring role. People pray often, and sometimes out loud as a group. The hero and heroine tend to go to church together, sometimes as a turning point in their relationship. Those are elements I’ll probably never copy in my work. But having strong, complicated characters, who think things through is something I’ll always strive for.