I received a comment in the “Where To Find Me” section of this blog asking this question. I decided to answer it with a blog post in case other people were wondering the same thing.
All of my main characters are Christian. Sometimes they start the book or series as a Christian. Sometimes they become a Christian during the course of the story because they come to their faith while the story is happening. It all depends on the plot and what’s needed for the character. Sometimes a character isn’t a Christian in a book where they are a secondary character, but when I get to writing their romance, they have either already become one or will become one during the course of that particular story. If a secondary character never ends up becoming a main character in another book, they aren’t necessarily a Christian but they could be. Not every character who shows up in my books are Christians. I’ll offer up some examples in a moment to better explain what I mean by all of this.
But first, I want to offer up a few pieces of information that shed light on why I write the kind of stories I do.
1. I don’t like to get preachy.
My main criticism of most fictional Christian books and movies is that they are preachy. Essentially, they are a sermon lightly sprinkled with a story. I find these incredibly boring. The plots have very little substance to them, and the characters come off as cardboard stereotypes. As if that isn’t bad enough, there also seems to be an added layer of Christian apologetics woven into them (especially in the movies) where the Christian is debating the non-Christian about a social or doctrinal issue we find in our contemporary society. The end result is that you feel like the writer of this book or movie is banging you over the head with their faith, and even though I am a Christian, it turns me off. I read books and watch movies to relax. I read the Bible or listen to a sermon to receive instruction. The place of fiction is to entertain, and a lot of these writers lose sight of that because they’re so worried about getting their agenda pushed into the story.
2. Most Christian books and movies take the viewpoint that the Christian is good while the non-Christian is bad.
In real life, I have only had one or two non-Christians actually confront me on my beliefs, and those were pretty good conversations where the people were just asking for information. I have never felt attacked for my faith from someone who wasn’t a Christian. Now, I have faced criticism from other Christians who don’t like something I believe or am doing, such as handling the finances in my house instead of having my husband do it, what clothes I should wear, or adding sex in my books. And when it comes to discussing things in the Bible, some of them are quite rude when I offer up an opinion that differs from theirs.
I have no trouble with someone who has a different opinion than me. I figure everyone is welcome to whatever they believe. It’s just sad that some people feel like if you don’t agree with them, you should either be ignored or you should be scolded. For example, I had an ex-boyfriend who would criticize every little thing I did or said because it didn’t line up exactly with what he felt was “Christian”, and this was a guy who went to church and went to Bible studies. I’ve encountered quite a few similar people over the years, and it’s just sad that the idea of grace and mercy have been lost on them. The main thing should be Jesus Christ, but some people would rather get tangled in the weeds than focus on what really matters.
I wrote about the issue of how Christians can attack other Christians in His Redeeming Bride. Some of the events were fictional, but some were based on stuff I went through.
Suffice it to say, just because someone says they’re a Christian, it doesn’t mean they’re a nice person. So I don’t paint every Christian character as a wonderful person, and I don’t paint every non-Christian character as a villain.
3. Sex is a beautiful gift from God.
This is the area I receive the most criticism in my books, and it’s only other Christians who do it. I don’t get the hang-up in this area. As long as the hero and heroine are married, I have absolutely no qualms about them having an intimate life. If that isn’t your thing, you’re better off not reading my books. The reason I started writing books was because Christian romances were squeaky clean. I don’t consider a “steamy” kiss to be “hot”. To me, this is still clean. Necking, hugging, and closed doors are all clean. And quite frankly, these types of romances bore me. I like to know how the hero and heroine relate to each other when they’re intimate because that is when they are most vulnerable.
Back in 2007 when I was reading a lot of romances, I searched high and low for an author who had a Christian worldview who also added spice to the stories. The only one I found was Carolyn Davidson. The problem? She was only one author, and there were only so many books she could write. So I decided I would write my own so there would be more books I wanted to read. When I realized other people were reading my books (something I honestly never expected), romances written from a Christian worldview that included sex within marriage became my platform. These are the books I offer. It’s what separates me from a lot of other authors out there. Rose Gordon is the only other author I know who also had this platform, and sadly, she hasn’t published anything for a long time. To me, sex isn’t just the physical act. There are many layers to it. If you read sex and only see the physical act, you are missing the emotional aspect of those scenes where the hero and heroine grow and mature in their love for each other.
Alright, with all of the background information in place, I’m going to present some examples of how I utilize Christian characters in my books.
Example 1: The character who isn’t a Christian at the beginning of the book but becomes one during the course of the story.
At the beginning of this book, Woape is not a Christian. She is agnostic. She considered that there might be a higher power watching over everyone, but she really wasn’t sure. During the course of the story, she becomes a Christian. It was a gradual process for her. I never showed an “ah-ha” moment of conversion, but I did includes thoughts and dialogue that conveyed the conversion had taken place. This wasn’t something I was preachy about. It was just subtly put in.
A Most Unsuitable Earl
In the beginning, Ethan Silverton (Lord Edon) was not a Christian, but due to the circumstances in which he began to fear for his life, he became one. I never came out and said this anywhere in the book. You will notice that before the time A Most Unsuitable Earl took place, he would tell raunchy jokes and play the role of a cad, but after A Most Unsuitable Earl, he changed. While he still is popular and can tell good jokes, he no longer goes around trying to be scandalous. (Breaking the Rules takes place before A Most Unsuitable Earl in the Regency timeline, so he is still a cad at this time and enjoying every moment of it.)
I will add that Christopher Robinson, Ethan’s best friend, was always a Christian, though he did do some stupid things. Christians aren’t perfect. But he does mature as the Regency timeline continues. That all said, Ethan and Christopher do still enjoy learning about a good scandal and like to befriend gentlemen who aren’t uptight and stuffy. In my opinion, people can sometimes take things way too seriously. It doesn’t hurt to relax and have a good laugh from time to time.
Example 2: The character who began as a non-Christian but became one later in the course of a series or a follow-up series.
Neil Craftsman began the Nebraska Series as a non-Christian. In Eye of the Beholder, he wasn’t a Christian. But after the events in Eye of the Beholder, he became one, so by the time we get to His Redeeming Bride, he is a Christian. I make this abundantly obvious in the flashback scene where he spoke with a preacher who led him to Christ. So this is an example of where I did get a bit on the preachy side, but I tried to do it in a way that didn’t feel like a sermon.
Stephen Bachman is another example. In Married In Haste, he was not a Christian. (In this book he was a secondary character.) But by the time we get to The Marriage Contract, he was. (He was a main character in this one.) I never explained how he became a Christian like I did for Neil, but you’ll notice he wasn’t the same person in The Marriage Contract that he was in Married In Haste. That’s because his faith changed him. In The Marriage Contract, he is an example of a Christian who is trapped in the state of guilt after being saved. It’s one thing to know God has forgiven us of our sins, but sometimes, we don’t feel like we can forgive ourselves. This book was about him learning to forgive himself and embrace a new life where he could finally have joy and love in it.
3. The character who begins the book as a Christian.
Bride of Second Chances
This is best example of a character who is overtly Christian. Jeremy Graham is a preacher. You don’t get more overtly Christian than this. He had many thoughts about God, and I gave portions of his sermons in this book. This is also a very spicy book. It’s probably the most “in-your-face Christian worldview with spicy content” book that you’ll find in anything I’ve written.
Wagon Trail Bride
Richard Larson was a Christian at the beginning of this book, but I never came out and stated it. The method I used in this was to draw an illustration. Whenever Amanda thought of him as “light”, this was an indirect reference to Jesus Christ and how He was reaching out to her. She started the book as a Christian, too, but she had been so hurt that she’d lost the joy of her faith. In this book, she worried her “darkness” would expel Richard’s light, but as it turned out, his light expelled her darkness, and she was, in the end, able to find joy within her faith. This story was basically an example of a Christian who has lost the joy of their relationship with Jesus Christ. He never turns His back on us, and He’s always willing to gently bring us back to Him and give us the comfort and assurance we need, no matter what horrible things we’ve faced. But, like Richard, Jesus never forces us to have that closeness with Him. It is ultimately up to us to choose it, just like she made the conscious decision to be a real wife to Richard.
The Reclusive Earl
Landon and Opal, the two main characters in this book, were Christian. This is an example of how I never came out and stated anything about their faith. I also didn’t do any subtle spiritual undertones in the story. The characters demonstrate their faith by how they live their lives. Most of my books are like this, especially in the Regency genre.
4. Sometimes a secondary character is not a Christian, even though the character initially seems like one.
The best way to know if someone is really a Christian is by the way they act. There is no better example I can think of than Ernest in Brave Beginnings. Julia and Chogan are the main characters. Chogan wasn’t a Christian at the beginning of this book, but he later came to be one shortly after he married Julia. I do not show this conversion. It’s implied. Ernest (the villain) comes across as a nice Christian man when you first meet him, but as the story progresses, he shows his real colors. He is only saying he’s a Christian because it was socially expedient for him to put on that facade. I originally thought I could write a book for Ernest, and I had even created a woman in this story to eventually pair up with him, but the more the story progressed, the more I realized I couldn’t do it. He was just too evil to redeem, and in the end, I had to kill him off.
I could go on, but this post is long enough already.
To sum it up, all of my main characters are Christian. Some are obviously so; others aren’t. I go with the plot in order to decide how heavy to hit the “Christian” thing, but in every book, I try not to get preachy and I try to show people as being imperfect because we all have flaws. This might be why people don’t always see the “Christian” characters in my books. I like to write realistic characters that I can relate to. I want characters who have areas they can grow in because one of the most satisfying things for me, as a writer, is to work with characters who need to mature. Plus, I struggle every day between worldly temptations and obeying God. My characters, likewise, are in the same situation. That’s why mercy and grace are so important. And ultimately, that is what I aim for in all of my books. I want everyone to have the assurance that no matter what we’ve said or done, we can be forgiven and have a good relationship with Jesus Christ. It might not be outwardly stated, but it is there.