Girls Write Out
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
I have a friend on email who had never met a published author face to face until this summer. She was excited, of course, when she attended a book signing and purchased the author's book, looking forward to another good read.

When she found time to read it, however, she was dismayed, and she emailed me about it. The love scenes shocked her. She couldn't read them. She hadn't realized the author wrote those kinds of stories.

I should have warned her about what to expect when I looked up the author's books online and saw the word "sexy" in the description. I have learned, when judging books for the secular market, that when something is promoted as sexy, sex is exactly what the reader gets, not the gentle romances we Christian writers provide, where we allow the loving couple to close the door after a kiss or two--and only then if they're married.

The GirlsWriteOut readers, who have learned to trust us to bring them stories that won't shock them with a lot of strong language or titillate them with erotic description, may feel uncomfortable when they dip a toe into some of the secular romance novels available on most bookshelves. As I've told my friend, however, in judging some of the books for RWA, I've found, to my surprise, that even in "those kinds" of books, one can sometimes find a Christian message, and since I typically read only Christian fiction, I would never have discovered this had I not been forced to read these books to judge their quality.

I remember plowing through one book with a lot of language, a lot of violence, and yes, the sex scenes, and then being surprised when I found that the author had included a Christian character who affected the whole direction of the plot. In other words, she showed regular people--unbelievers--doing what a lot of unbelievers do, living like unbelievers, being affected by one Christian man who lived like a Christian. She included the whole gamut of a secular story, but the one Christian man, who prayed and supported and loved, must have reached some readers who would have turned up their noses at one of our Christian novels.

I imagine you have some strong feelings on the subject. I know the Apostle Paul wrote that he wished to become all things to all people so that some may be saved. Though I know the story world I create will never have a full-blown sex scene in it, and very little problematic language, I have to admire those who put their professions on the line in order to see that the Christian message is shared in places it may never otherwise be shown.

What do you think?

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Hannah Alexander  
posted at 8:56 AM  
  Comments (10)
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At 9:36 AM, Blogger Jaime said...

Hannah, since my husband is a youth pastor, I have girls from 11 up to 18 at my house on a weekly basis. They all comb through my books and borrow them. The young ones I introduce to Christian books and the older ones ravish every Francine Rivers novel (specifically her Mark of the Lion series). There is nothing more comforting than letting them walk away with piles of books and not have to check which ones they grabbed in case of questionable content. These girls are SO impressionable and are already reading books laced with sexuality. So many of them have been refreshed and "converted" to Christian reading. I even have seen some of their views on romance shift to the deeper more meaningful relationships portrayed in Christian novels and not the suck-my-face-off kissing and other such past times in some of the non-Christian.

My 2 cents. Of course, I come across strong 'cause I'm a protective "mama" of about 50 young ladies. LOL

At 9:55 AM, Blogger Hannah Alexander said...

LOL about the "suck-my-face-off" kissing. Love that term. I don't think you're coming across as too strong at all. Our witness to those under our influence must be like the Christian man in the book I judged--different from the rest. Though I have no children around the house, I still remain aware of what others may find when they go through my house. My reading material should reflect my own personal walk. Along with a lot of clutter, unfortunately, someone cleaning my house or shampooing my carpet would find movies, photos and reading material that wouldn't shock them.

Most parents of teens are also aware that the teenagers know much more about sex and deviances than is comfortable for any parent. It's out there. It was when I was a teen, and it's surely even more shocking now.

At 1:19 PM, Blogger Timothy Fish said...

I think it would be quite a stretch to take what Paul said as an excuse to write erotic scenes. He also wrote, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid! How shall we, who are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” [1]

At 1:30 PM, Blogger Hannah Alexander said...

You're right, Tim, it takes quite a stretch. I don't like the scenes, and I no longer judge, and that's the reason why. I quit the association because of my gut response to the books being published, and the monthly magazine with often lurid titles and pictures, which my postman saw, and by which he may have judged my Christian walk.

I have good, solid Christian friends, however, who remain members for the same reason I quit--their consciences. They believe that they should be shining a light in a dark place. I admire them and respect them, and I believe they're doing the right thing. They feel the same about me. We're not all called to do the same job for Christ. Some of us have to wade into the darkness to rescue those who are lost out there. Some of us withdraw because the darkness is not where we are called to be.

At 4:00 PM, Blogger Rachel Overton said...

Having been a reader of those books as a teen and young adult, I can promise you I wasn't looking for or caring about a Christian message. In fact, if I'd have found one, I would have laughed at it and maybe even have tossed the book, because it would have been as out of place in the book as I knew I was for reading that book and calling myself a Christian.

I understand the "shining a light" theory, and sure, putting a light into a story like that as a secondary character might work for a few people, but I know that the more I read, the more I wanted to read details, and "those" books led to other books, which led much evil in my life. It's a theory I have to disagree with. At least as far as my experience goes, it only took a few exposures to mildly explicit scenes to get me hooked. And this was in the 80s. I shudder to think what constitutes an "explicit scene" these days. Thank God, He's rescued me from that cesspool.

At 4:26 PM, Blogger Hannah Alexander said...

Yes, Rachel, thank God, indeed. I'm so glad you shared this aspect. I'm curious to know how others reading this blog would have felt about that one book I mentioned, with the Christian character. I'm getting the very strong impression from the few posts we've received that most people feel the one positive Christian character could never overcome the unsavory influence of the remainder of the book.

I think I have a tendency to find hope any time I see something positive about Christianity, whether that be books or movies, etc., since we see so much negativity these days.

Thanks so much for your courage to share that insight, Rachel. Thanking God for taking you out of that.

At 9:26 PM, Blogger Kameko said...

A long time ago, it seems the only romance books available were the ones in which the sex scenes and language seem to grow bolder with each book I read. I stopped reading for awhile because I was disappointed in what I was finding. I was so happy to be able to start finding fiction that actually centered on characters and a story line that didn't involved sex and obscene language. The past few years as the Christian fiction genre continues to grow, i couldn't be happier!


At 10:16 PM, Blogger Hannah Alexander said...

Same here. As the publishing world continues to explode with new novelists and new ideas, the horizon is limitless for readers!

At 6:11 AM, Blogger jel said...

remember the movie JAWS, and people were afeared to go out in the water for a while, but it's safe to go in the water now .

with Christian Ficton,
it's safe to read again :)

it that you in that shot?

At 7:04 AM, Blogger Hannah Alexander said...

LOL!! I know what you mean, jel. Now, as long as we know the publisher or the bookstore, we know we can trust what they sell. That may all change, when more people begin to publish their own work as ebook only, and don't have editors to screen their grammar, punctuation, or the substance of their work.

Yep, that's me in the picture. I've gotten almost as many comments about it from friends as I've gotten from the subject. Just trying to make my point. LOL


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The Authors
Kristin Billerbeck
Kristin Billerbeck is a proud Californian, wife, mother of four, and connoisseur of the irrelevant. She writes Christian Chick Lit; where she finds need for most of the useless facts lulling about in her head.

Colleen Coble

Colleen Coble writes romantic suspense with a strong atmospheric element. A lovable animal of some kind--usually a dog--always populates her novels. She can be bribed with DeBrand mocha truffles.

Denise Hunter

Denise Hunter writes women's fiction and love stories with a strong emotional element. Her husband says he provides her with all her romantic material, but Denise insists a good imagination helps too.

Diann Hunt

Diann Hunt writes romantic comedy and humorous women's fiction. She has been happily married forever, loves her family, chocolate, her friends, chocolate, her dog, and well, chocolate.

Hannah Alexander

Cheryl Hodde writes romantic medical suspense under the pen name of Hannah Alexander, using all the input she can get from her husband, Mel, for the medical expertise. For fun she hikes and reads. Out of guilt, she rescues discarded cats. She and Mel are presently taking orders from four pampered strays.

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