When I began writing fiction, I wrote. Words came into my head, and I typed them on the screen. Even as I began to learn how little I knew about novel-writing, my concerns were limited to grammar and craft. Big-picture issues such as genre or marketing weren’t on my radar.
Eventually, the time comes when most writers need to categorize their book, if not their writing style. After all, it’s hard to target your niche (and consequently sell books) if no one, including you, knows what it is you write.
After much reading and grasping at plausible labels, I’ve come to call the edgy end of the Christian romance spectrum my literary home. (While my faith perspective is mainly Catholic Christian, I say “Christian” since it is a recognizable literary market.)
The edgy end of “clean” is a perfect fit for me because:
- I prefer realism in writing to over-stylized fairy tales, stories of modern-day nobility, sanitized novels about Amish life, or overly-simplistic, white-washed fiction.
- Romantic love, including its spine-tingling highs and heartbreaking lows, is a beautiful, God-given thing. After all, God is love, and writing romance is a defensible pursuit. (See my Romance Writer Manifesto, a guest post for Erin McCole Cupp’s blog.)
- Human sexuality is important stuff—critical to family life, child-rearing, and societal stability. It should be spoken and written about with honesty and clarity.
- Temptation is real. So is virtue.
- We’re not souls trapped in bodies or animals with feelings. We are both body and soul. (No Gnosticism here, thank you. Nor any room for Jansenism. (If you think old heresies are dead and gone, see this post by Christopher West.))
As a Catholic writer, “edgy” feels natural. My heritage is decidedly not Puritan or Quaker. We’ve got smells and bells, sacraments. Look at the Cistine Chapel – we like bodies. No one’s throwing off the mortal coil, and we’re not afraid to talk about same-sex attraction, the nitty gritty of natural family planning, or masturbation.
All of this is not to say the genre is for everyone. No genre—no book—is for everyone. Even a non-pornographic novel may trouble particular persons. For some, edgy could be a source of temptation. Readers must possess enough self-awareness to recognize their limitations. (My blog post: Beneath the Cover of Your Kindle, How Hot Is Too Hot?)
Like Goldilocks selecting her “just right” porridge from the middle, I think edgy Christian romance is just right – midway between the equally troublesome traps of pornography and prudery.
The downside to life in the middle is being hit from both sides. (I’ve read stories of several authors’ frustration with being simultaneously too Christian and not Christian enough. And romance and sexuality are a lightning bolt for such criticism.) That’s okay. I’m pretty sure I can stand to grow in humility.
For someone whose outward appearance or behavior has surely never, ever been referred to as “edgy,” making my home on the edgy end of the spectrum sounds like fun.