Writing Erotic Christian Romance

Bookends

I was a guest blogger on The Artist Unleashed on Wednesday. I strongly recommend that blog, run by Jessica Bell and Rasana Atreya, to anyone who hasn’t yet come across it. You can find my post (and subscribe to the blog) here.

And, for those who don’t like clicking through, here is the text:

When I tell people that I write erotic Christian romance I get some interesting responses, the gist of which is, “If it’s Christian, it can’t be erotic. Not as in rude.” I find that fascinating when I think about the amount of sex in the Bible, but it seems to me that the idea people in the West have today of Christianity bears little resemblance to anything taught by Jesus or followed in the Church’s first few hundred years. What we have now is a conception of Christianity that I can only describe as “milksop”. Christ was a revolutionary, but when his teaching became mainstream – when Christianity started to become the official religion of state after state – what he taught was adapted to give rulers what they thought they needed to maintain the obedience of the ruled.
To give just one – relatively recent – example: the church was at the centre of Poor Law operations in England in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and Poor Law Officers insisted on chastity outside marriage and came down hard on any woman who dropped a sprog while unmarried, but the reason for that had nothing to do with Christianity and everything to do with the parish’s desire not to risk having another mouth to feed.
John Lynch is a fellow Mandrill Press author (and, indeed, our administrator) and I’ve had some interesting conversations with him about the ambivalent or negative feelings many people in Britain have towards farmers. John believes that this is a hangover from 250 or 300 years ago when enclosures forced the labouring poor off the common land they had worked for so long and into the manufactories or down the pit. (One of his historical novels, set in the northeast of England in the 1760s, deals with that very subject).It was, by and large, the big landowners who made and benefited from those decisions but it was usually farmers who had to put them into effect and so it was farmers who ordinary people blamed. More to the point of this post, John pointed out to me something that as a non-Arabic speaker I would never have seen for myself: that Barabbas was in fact Bar Abbass and that Bar Abbass means Son of God. The original story was that the Jewish people were offered two Sons of God, one who preached turning the other cheek and one who demanded violent uprising and that they made the wrong choice. The drawback to that from a ruler’s point of view would be that either choice involved the overthrow of the ruling power and no ruler was going to stand for that – and so Bar Abbass became Barabbas and a Son of God was turned into a bandit. Forgive me, therefore, if I choose not to define my religion by the misrepresentation it has been subject to over the centuries.
I’m a Christian (and just admitting to that in 21st Century Britain invites derision and questions about my imaginary friend). Does being a Christian mean I can’t have filthy thoughts about men – and, sometimes, women – and the things I find nice to do with them? It seems that in the minds of many people it does, which is a pity because I’ve had those thoughts all my life and still do and I wouldn’t be without them.
I know there are Christian Romance writers who pretend sex outside marriage does not exist and while I may respect what they do I can’t imitate them. My characters don’t find it necessary to be married before giving themselves to each other, and I don’t find anything in the Gospels to say that Jesus would have condemned them. There are things that don’t happen in my books – the temptation to commit adultery may be strong but it is never given in to (see the Seventh Commandment); rape is only covered once and the rapist faces a violent end; when Pearl turns to prostitution her mind rebels and she suffers a breakdown – but beyond that there are few limits. The human ability to imagine and put into effect sexual practices that would astound others (and often astound themselves) is almost unlimited; I try to write about it. (Readers have on occasion asked about some activity they found particularly risqué: “Have you done that yourself?” Dear Reader, the answer is almost always, “Certainly have. More than once if you really want to know. I recommend it. ”)
I said something recently on Goodreads and in my blog that I’ll say again here: God made us the sexual beings we are and God made sex between people who love each other a joy so great that nothing exceeds it; it was humans and the society they created that told us that God didn’t really want us to be that way. That, really, sex was temptation and God wanted us to avoid it. See if you can find where in the Bible God expresses that wish – because I can’t. In fact, the moment He saw that Adam and Eve had covered their genitals he knew that Humankind was on a downward slope.

You’ll find my books on this page and I won’t dissect them all here (though I will invite you, if you find what I say interesting, to subscribe on that page to my mailing list). What I will say is that I don’t want to offend anyone (Is that milksop? Or just good manners?) So instead of posting anything explicit here I’m going to point you at two audio extracts from Winging It and one from Pearl’s a Sinner. Listen to as much of them as you feel able to. If you get a short way into the first and think, “Oh, my God! No! I can’t read this filth” then I’m not your kind of writer. But if you find yourself wanting to read or hear more…well, you know where to find me, don’t you?
And, finally, let me say that I love hearing from people who agree with what I say – but I love it even more when someone gets in touch to tell me I’m a filthy trollop who shouldn’t dare use the word Christian to describe herself. Do you have anything you want to tell me?

The Audio Extracts

In this one (it’s Chapter 26 of Winging It), the protagonist’s sister muses on what light a short story (I published it as A Perfect Solution) throws on Jimmy’s truthfulness when he wrote Winging It. Just how much did he leave out? Writers should perhaps not be moved by their own work, but I can’t help being moved by this: There is nothing in this book about “mighty love-hammers” or “thrusting thighs” because I wanted to write a story about love. Love, even sexual love, is not about those things. It’s about tenderness. Affection. Closeness. Intimacy. When two people who love each other come together to make love, they become one person. Self is put aside. Sex without love is a waste of time. Trust me: I have had enough of it to know.

This extract from Winging It tells us how hard Jimmy resisted God’s call. He fought to remain a non-believer – and he lost.

Finally, this extract is from Pearl’s a Sinner.

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