I am bored with the below discussion (but don’t let me rain on your parade, so carry on). However, I do need to use it as the springboard for what’s on my ADHD mind today: What, precisely, defines a genre?
We’re very specific in romance. Got an email yesterday from my newest BFF (kidding! but the offer’s open!) who said, “I know you don’t write romance…” Well, yeah, I do. It’s just got so much other STUFF in it that it can’t be classified, which is why I’m publishing it myself. In fact, it’s got THREE (count ’em, 1, 2, 3) full-length romances going on at the same time all woven together (which is why it’s going to top 700 pages and who-knows-how-many megabytes). And they have sex and there is no fade-to-black and they say the f-word and the c-word. They live a certain political philosophy (some more than others) that will probably be uncomfortable for other types of readers. The story takes place over the course of 5 years and oh, by the way, they’re all in their late 30s and early 40s and wow is that so not part of genre romance.
And oh, guess what, 2/3 of them are Mormons: Giselle is a true believer, not endowed, unable to pick between the sacred and the profane because she is drawn to them equally; however, she goes to church and she does what she’s supposed to—up until the point she chooses to be seduced. Bryce is searching, a returned missionary, former Peter Priesthood who feels betrayed by God. He’s not sure what he believes anymore, because he wasn’t taught the gospel; he was taught the Miracle of Forgiveness and he doesn’t really know what the gospel is (that would be found in Matthew 22:37-40 and James 1:27). Sebastian left his mission halfway through it because of the experiences he had on said mission that caused him to doubt; he now professes paganism. Knox was excommunicated…but not for the reason you might expect; he is the truest believer of the four and he has been completely disenfranchised.
Addendum: But they do NOT take the Lord’s name in vain. I do have standards.
So given that, it doesn’t fit the definition of any genre, not romance, not LDS (please see below comparison of “LDS fiction” to Steeple Hill and inspirational fiction of the type you’d get at Zondervan). I’m billing mine as straight fiction, but I think it will appeal to romance readers more than LDS readers (unless, of course, you’re one of those Mormons).
“Inspirational romance” as defined by RWA (Romance Writers of America):
Romance novels in which religious or spiritual beliefs (in the context of any religion or spiritual belief system) are a major part of the romantic relationship.
and Harlequin and the CBA (that would be the Christian [read: evangelical] Book Association, retailer/distributor of books and kitsch) is a legitimate (sub)genre. It’s a genre because it has guidelines that publishers of inspirational romance follow. Harlequin didn’t set them but defined them, wrote them down, codified them, made them mainstream.
(And oh, by the way, inspirational romance sales are neck-and-neck with erotica sales and outstrip all the other romance subgenres put together; interesting to me that the two extremes are the most popular. Heh. With mine, you get both in one shot.)
The debate raging now is whether “LDS fiction” is its own genre and, therefore, analogous to “inspirational romance.” I say yes. Why? Because there is a certain expectation that goes along with it. Just because it is CONSUMER-defined as opposed to SUPPLIER-defined makes no difference to me.
Romance = genre that is well-defined and codified with a gazillion subgenres.
LDS fiction = genre that is only well-defined within the consumer’s mind and NOT codified, with no subgenres yet no wiggle room. Rock. Hard place.
My advice, as I have said elsewhere, is for publishers of LDS fiction of all types to get together, define the terms as set forth by consumer expectations, codify it, make it what the readers expect it to be when they pick it up. Take a page out of Harlequin’s Steeple Hill submission guidelines (do Deseret Book and Covenant have anything that specific?) and get something on paper. Those of you who stray outside of those bounds, label label label.
This donnybrook is over the fact that consumers felt ambushed. They expected one thing and got another, which is exactly what they are trying to avoid with their reading choices. I respect that while it was not in any way marketed as LDS fiction, it was written by a Mormon and published by a Mormon publisher, so in the consumer felt him/herself entitled to the expectation. Perhaps marketing mistakes were made, but oh well. Learn and grow.
And readers, you who sling the arrows of self-righteous outrage because you don’t dare set foot outside of Deseret Book and have no clue what you’re getting when you see “Mormon bishop’s wife,” “vampire,” and “dying daughter” in the back blurb: You get over it, too, and quit passing judgment on the man’s eternal salvation. It’s not for you to say. And I do not for one second believe the “I didn’t know ‘vampire’ was code for ‘blameless female sexual expression and enjoyment,'” claim because unless you’re 7 and live under a rock, you can’t possibly be that naïve—not even if you do live west of the Rockies.
And you wonder why we get a bad rap in the public eye.