Thank you so much, Catherine, for that lovely introduction and for hosting me today!
Your website uses the phrase “inspirational with an edge.” Can you explain what that means?
“Inspirational with an Edge!” ™ is my tagline and was sanctioned after the release of my first novel, Tempered Hearts. When speaking with a program director at a Books A Million store to set up a signing, he noted some reviews which said the book was “steamier and grittier than the typical Christian novel without decreasing the message.” We chatted about that and the content then he said, “then I guess your writing is inspirational with an edge ”… Hence the tagline, which has remained consistent even in my nonfiction writing because I like to use that venue to challenge people to think outside the box when it comes to God and their relationship with Him and/or spirituality.
For my readers who might not be familiar with the terminology, can you define the difference between Christian, inspirational and secular fiction?
Sure. ‘Christian’ usually refers to books written with the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) in mind. These normally adhere to a very conservative set of guidelines. Barbour, Bethany House, & Steeple Hill are examples of CBA publishers. “Inspirational” on the other hand, are books similar to mine that although they adhere to biblical principles, are less conservative. Topics which are frowned upon in traditional Christian publishing are explored (ie; women preachers, water & spirit baptism, abortion, divorce, abuse, etc). Pelican Book Group is a great publishing company which considers edgier Christian fiction. Secular fiction is that which falls under the ABA (American Booksellers Association) guidelines and refer to authors such as Nora Roberts, John Grisham, etc.
Would you classify your romances as sweet or steamy? What makes them different from a “secular” romance story?
My books have been reviewed as “steamier and grittier” because they don’t just touch on or hint at subjects like domestic violence and child abuse but delve deeply into them. The characters have been portrayed by reviewers as “the most realistic” they’ve seen. What makes my books different from a secular story is the faith of the characters and the reality of their struggles with honoring that faith. When I first started submitting I was told I had too much sensuality and grit for the Christian market and too much God for the secular.
I think when readers hear the term “Christian fiction,” they suspect they’ll get a saccharine sweet story with characters who haven’t experienced real-life trials and tribulations. Yet I see that your books include themes of unwanted pregnancy, child abuse, a battered wife, and other tough issues. How does Christian fiction treat these issues differently than secular fiction?
Christian fiction handles this by teaching the reader (through the characters) that God is the only true answer to these issues and that peace and wholeness comes through a relationship with Christ. For instance, my novel Tempered Dreams deals openly and candidly with domestic violence. I don’t just hint at it or refer to her being abused, I show the horror of what she endured. IMHO, the more realistic the situation, the more authentic her doubts, fears and responses to the hero. This book also deals with the issue of forgiveness when she is called to forgive her step father after her mother dies from a beating. The story is very intense but has been highly reviewed.
(Details about Tempered Dreams and a link to an excerpt at the end of the interview.)
I created Temperance Publishing as a way to independently publish the reprints of my books and those which do not fit within traditional guidelines. For instance, my devotional, Love is a Rose, does not fit the normal idea of a devotional. It parallels the love of God and the Christian life to the words of a song. Purchasing a lyrical license was a necessity to printing this book and those are only good for 3 years. I tried the traditional route several years ago to no avail so having my own imprint proved to be a valuable and viable tool in getting it out. Also, all of the rights to my 4 part Tempered series were returned and the subsidiary rights (ebook, softcover) to my novel The Visionary were mine to sell or publish. These are all published through my imprint as is the “how to” book, Simple Promotional Tools for Authors I co-wrote with friend/colleague Penny Carlton. All of these titles can be purchased at Amazon for Kindle, Barnes & Noble for Nook and Smashwords for all other E-readers. Soft cover editions will be available in 2014.
One of the first things I was taught as an aspiring author was to steer clear of religion and politics because I might turn away a good portion of potential readers. You make no apologies about being a Christian author. Do you feel this has restricted your readership?
Yes, in some degree I do believe it has. Many readers of romance and women’s fiction do not like “Christian” books because they feel the characters/situations are not ‘real’ or that the book is preachy. On the other hand, many readers of Christian fiction do not like anything outside the traditional/conservative CBA guidelines. Most of my readers enjoy the unique combination of sensual and spiritual my books portray.
Is there a market for inspirational fiction?
Of course, readers are diverse and eclectic! I do believe as more and more authors venture outside of the norm and explore (with good writing of course!) the depths they are capable of, Inspirational (in lieu of ‘Christian’) fiction will become more popular and in demand.
What is your “route to market”? How do readers find you, and vice versa?
Readers can find me by visiting my website, blog, FaceBook page, Good Reads, & Amazon Author Page. They can connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter @psthib. I also have a monthly column in TWJMagazine called Pamela’s Ponderings and several boards on Pinterest. These are only a few places you can find me. Just google my name, I’m all over the place LOL!
Do you have any advice for writers who want to publish inspirational or Christian fiction?
Write the book of your heart then search for an agent/publisher. Don’t be afraid to submit to a small press in lieu of the big publishers. We all have to start somewhere and many times these small publishers are easier to deal with than the bigger ones and most don’t require you to have an agent. Last but certainly not least, don’t give up! Writing is a gift and talent given to you by God. Don’t hide your gift or bury your talent.
In this era when people make a lot of money writing religion-bashing stories, and outright smut, why have you chosen this path?
Except for erotic/erotica, I love romance in every shape and form whether traditional/secular or Christian/Inspirational. Nora Roberts, Julie Lessman & Francine Rivers are my favorite authors! I didn’t initially choose this path but when I recommitted my life to Christ and committed my writing to Him, the path chose me. I firmly believe in God and His promises. God is very real to me and I feel that people today need and want to hear more of His truths wherever they can glean them. People are hungry for practical (and real) Christian values, not some ‘holier-than-thou’ beliefs that are impossible to believe and impossible to live up to. I do my best to encourage readers to develop a personal relationship with God. The deepest desire of my heart is to glorify God and to get His message of faith, trust and forgiveness to a hurting world.
Blurb for Tempered Dreams: Book 2 in Tempered series
Dr. Scott Hensley (introduced in Tempered Hearts) has built a wall around his heart since the death of his wife and parents.
Katrina Simmons is recovering from scars inflicted on her as a battered wife. Can dreams be renewed and faith strengthened? Can they find joy and peace in God’s love and in love for one another?
Read an Excerpt of Tempered Dreams Here!
Tempered Dreams is available now on Kindle, Nook & @Smashwords!
Author bio: Award-winning author, Pamela S. Thibodeaux is the Co-Founder and a lifetime member of Bayou Writers Group in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Multi-published in romantic fiction as well as creative non-fiction, her writing has been tagged as, “Inspirational with an Edge!” ™ and reviewed as “steamier and grittier than the typical Christian novel without decreasing the message.”