Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Married with Fiction by Andy Scheer

Most Christian authors I know are married. Ditto for their readers. So why not fictional characters?

A few weeks ago I moderated a webinar that novelist DiAnn Mills taught about adding elements of romance to other genres. While she provided good content, she concentrated on
attraction between characters who were single.

Why not married romance? It can happen. During a break in the webinar as I gave a voiceover message about services from the Christian Writers Guild, DiAnn stayed on camera and her husband, Dean, brought her chocolates and a rose.

Perhaps in the eyes of the publishing industry, married love isn’t worth writing about.

I know a few authors who’ve had novels published about married couples. In the CBA market about fifteen years ago, the late Stephen Bly and his wife, Janet, wrote the Hidden West series about a tightly married couple. In the general market, Clive Cussler and co-writer Grant Blackwood introduced in 2009 a series featuring a pair of globetrotting treasure hunters along the lines of the 1930s Thin Man series with Nick and Nora Charles.

Indie author Heather Day Gilbert recently tried to interest CBA houses with a historical series and a contemporary series featuring a married protagonist, but repeatedly found her stories didn’t quite fit the industry boxes.

There have to be more examples out there. If general market authors can make a killing with stories about vampires, is it too much of a fantasy for CBA authors to find a way to write believable stories about characters who are happily married?


Heather Day Gilbert said...

Thanks for posting this, Andy, and thanks for the mention. Yes, it's funny that so many readers I know are married, and yet it is hard to find novels that portray MARRIED romance (which is actually a real thing! Grin). I do fervently hope more and more books will become available that portray married main characters. In the meantime, I know many authors are indie publishing these books, and readers are enjoying and relating to them.

Linda Glaz said...

I think part of it is that the singles remind us of the first blush of romance and love that can never be recaptured. So we read about it, and it takes us back to that time. Married couples have plenty of romance, yes, and love grows deeper, but I'm sure most of us agree, that first flutter in the stomach is the best flutter ever! And thus, lots of stories about it.

Andy Scheer, Hartline Literary said...

Yes, Linda, I can see that. But the imbalance still strikes me as ironic.

Linda Glaz said...

I think it's the same reason writers don't write about:
He was short, bald, and so ugly even his mother didn't love him. But she looked into his eyes and her heart melted.
Just doesn't sell books. He's always handsome, always has broad shoulders, and usually a deep timbre. It's fantasy. It takes us away from ordinary and gives us what is extraordinary. When a guy dreams about some beautiful woman, I guarantee, it's not Ma Kettle, probably not even Pa Kettle thought much about her, but that's just human nature. So we write about tall, dark, and handsome, or beautifully blond (brunette or raven locks) and violet eyes. Books are for escape. We get same old same old in our everyday lives. I'm thinking most people like to escape to exciting places with what they perceive are exciting people. (somebody else's same old, if truth be told)

Linda Glaz said...

BTW, I'm not saying that's right, just saying that's what is. The grass might look greener, but that just means there's more manure on it.

Nick Kording said...

That's kind of sad, though, because it glorifies the chase and the courtship and discounts the lasting love... or a life of choosing love after the chase.

As Barney Stinson once said, "Challenge accepted."

Diana Flegal said...

Linda, you nailed the reason. Most happily married couples settle into comfortable routines. Routine makes for a boring read. But to me- reunion romances should be allowed but they are also rejected.

Reunion Romance: a divorced couple getting back together

Another thing that does not fly in the Inspirational market are foreign settings or missionary stories. I love foreign settings and being an ex missionary, I know life is pretty exciting out there.

Back to work. I need to look for some more single young romance stories I can sell. :-)

Linda Glaz said...

I hear ya. It is a shame, but I remember something my VERY conservative grandmother told my mom once. Gram was a widow and in her 70s had said she'd dreamed about some actor who was in his 50s and she told my aunt and mom about it. They said, "Mom, he's younger than you are. What are you doing dreaming about him!" And she said, "It's better than dreaming about some old coot my age!" And that sums it up!

Heather Day Gilbert said...

Still, I think the hunger is there for books that portray realistic marriages readers can relate to. I realize publishers don't feel this is the case, but READERS are consistently showing it is something they are interested in. I also think this is why classics like Anna Karenina, Gone w/the Wind, and countless others have lasted. People relate to those married characters (whether they're good or bad!). When we get married, we're not dead. In fact, I'd argue my life was a whole lot more interesting after marriage, as I began to struggle with the idea of true sacrifice and learning how to get along on deeper levels. I just think the married character option is one that has stood the test of time, and I see readers leaving the Christian market because they can't relate to dating woes, widower romance, etc. Even the Bible has plenty of stories of married people and they are far from boring! :)

Lisa Phillips said...

I've read historical stories where it's a convenience marriage and the characters fall in love. I think romance can happen in any context - I've read an LIS where divorced characters got back together, or where ex-fiance's do the same.
Heaven knows there's plenty of conflict in marriage it could make a story, but I wouldn't categorize it as "romance" necessarily. That wouldn't work in genre fiction.
I am toying with the idea of book 3 in a suspense series being after the wedding, and while the characters aren't going to fall in love they can grow in their love for each other. The romance will be part of the story, but not the whole.
Romance can often seem so hasty at the end of a single title novel, so that I'm actually looking forward to showing the "after" picture and how it's not always all happily ever after for the characters.

Thanks for the post, Andy. Lots of food for thought.

JoAnn Durgin said...

Or you could do what I did and write the story of a newlywed couple forced apart and the husband has to court the woman all over again (when she didn't like him in the first place). And told primarily HIS POV for a change. It's called Second Time Around and has been one of my best-reviewed books. Yes, it's the old amnesia theme but I like to think it works to great effect and readers have embraced the story...loosely based on the germ of the idea of the real-life Christian couple on which the movie, The Vow, was based--but Hollywood removed all traces of the faith element. Oh, and she finds out she's pregnant. Got to complicate it all we can, after all. :) I love reading about married couples, and often will incorporate a romance between an older couple to complement the first blush of love counterparts. Blessings and thanks for a great post!

J.E.B. Spredemann said...

Here's the blurb from one of my best-selling books: 'Hannah has a good life. A beautiful home, a loving husband, and a wonderful Amish community are only a few of her daily blessings. But she has carried a heavy burden for years: a secret that no one must know. When tragedy strikes, her secret threatens to be revealed, jeopardizing everything she’s ever loved. Will Hannah be able to face her greatest fear and find God's purpose for her life?' This book has an average 4.7 Star rating with 128 Reviews. If we can write a great story, I'd say there's definitely a place for married fiction! Let's put our thinking caps on and get creative. :)

Becky Doughty said...

Thanks, Andy, for opening up this discussion. It's one near and dear to my heart, too, as many of my characters are married.

One of the best-selling ABA series is Diana Gabaldon's so far 8-TOME (yes, tomes. As in 800-plus pages each.) Outlander series, which is being turned into a TV series on STARZ (which tells you the ratings right there - beware.) in August. Guess what. Her main characters are married. Almost from the very beginning. And believe me, there's PLENTY of first blushes and romance throughout their 40-plus years of marriage documented in these books. (A lot of ugly, too, so no, I'm not recommending it.)

But here's what I'm getting at.

If AUTHORS could write married characters in a way that highlights the deep passion and romance that IS there when we intentionally keep it alive by feeding it in our marriages (married 26-plus years here), I'd DEFINITELY want to read about those characters! I'd want that "blush" IN my marriage, not to go back to an earlier time that can never be recaptured. I'd want to read about how to recapture it! Especially in Christian fiction where I find stories like these SORELY lacking.

Linda Glaz said...

Good post, Becky!

Caroline said...

In my mystery series, the first book, Denton and Alex Davies are a married couple. Of course the mystery is the predominate theme, but the marital relationship between this long-married couple comes into play too. Which works well with this genre. And, according to my sales readers are liking it too. :)

Andy Scheer, Hartline Literary said...

I'm encouraged to hear there are more published novels with married protagonists than I had imagined. Perhaps the tide could be turning. (Years ago, there weren't fancy coffee shops on every corner, either.)

Diana Flegal said...

Yvonne Lehman wrote: I couldn't get a comment to post on Andy's site, so I'll try here (my FB page). The Romance genre is about single men and women falling in love and at the end making a commitment to each other. There must be conflict and tension to make the story interesting. There must be obstacles to overcome. The reader knows the H/H will get together at the end, but ti's the journey they love to follow and identify with. These stories can have subordinate characters, married couples who show what deepening love is. But just a story of married couples' love and passion deepening has no conflict, no wondering if their marriage will last. Married couples' deepening love and romance sounds more like non-fiction. If you write about your vacation with beautiful weather, plenty of money, no problems, great food, then what have you given your reader? But if the situation is opposite but you manage to have a great time anyway, then you capture reader interest. Readers want to know how characters overcome the difficulties. But the difficulty must be the journey toward a deeper love. The Love Story and Women's Fiction genres can explore married love, but the tension and problems must be there. Someone mentioned attractive characters in Romances. One of my editor's discussed that with her Romance authors. I replied that when you're falling in love the other person is attractive. They are seen through the eyes of love which makes all the difference. Maybe not the prettiest or most handsome, but definitely appealing. I don't claim to know it all, not even much to be honest. But that's just some of my thoughts--unedited!

Andy Scheer, Hartline Literary said...


I wasn't trying to speak to the romance genre, but CBA fiction in general.

I think marriage still leaves the door open to plenty of conflict, tension, and problems in need of resolution.

Loree Lough said...

One of my Love Inspired novels, SUDDENLY REUNITED, featured a married couple who, at the start of the story, were separated. The book not only earned 5-star reviews and 8 awards, it also has a still-in-place movie option. I think that's because the challenges and conflicts faced by hero and heroine are realistic...and reader-identifiable. Hard choices are required of these stubborn individuals, choices that not only test their mettle, but their faith in each other...and in God. Personally, I think there's room 'on the shelves' for more stories, and my guess is, lots of readers agree (as evidenced by the 2,000+ letters from them, asking for more stories with similar themes)!