Friday, April 10, 2009

Petit Fours and Hot Tamales Welcomes Inspirational Author, Missy Tippens


Thanks so much for having me on your fun, new blog. I’m thrilled to be here to talk about inspirational romance. And I guess that makes me more of a petit four than a hot tamale. :)

If you’re not familiar with inspirational (or Christian) romance, then I guess one of the first things you would notice is that it’s G- to PG-rated. Of course, different publishers allow different levels of sensuality/violence/touchy themes. But for the most part, our readers want a “gentle” read. Something they can pass along to their young daughter or grandma.

Another thing you would notice about inspirationals is that the plot involves characters living their faith or searching for faith—or even rejecting their faith. In some books, the faith element is tightly interwoven, and the story couldn’t stand without it. In others, the faith element is less evident. It may just be that the characters are living Christian lives, dealing with faith issues that may or may not have to do with the main plot.

A good many years ago, when I worked as an assistant for author Sandra Chastain, she offered to critique some of my work. And I shared a quick outline of a story idea I had been thinking about. As soon as she read it, she said, “This is an inspirational.” And it was a light bulb moment for me! I had no idea. But my faith is so important in my life that it had just automatically ended up in my characters and in their stories.

In my first book with Steeple Hill, Her Unlikely Family, the hero felt like a failure at love, felt as if he wasn’t even capable of loving (he’d failed his sister and was failing his niece). But then he found during the course of the story that with God’s help, he could love the heroine and his niece. The heroine, a former runaway, feels called to love others like Jesus would do, and thus is helping the hero’s runaway niece. She also talks openly about her faith—it’s just part of who she is and her out-there personality.

In the next book, His Forever Love(coming in June), the hero goes from feeling as if God doesn’t care what happens to him to realizing God has cared all along, and that he does have hope for a future. The heroine doesn’t make such a drastic journey, but she has to learn to trust God’s plan for her life and to risk loving again.

In A Forever Christmas (coming in November), the hero and heroine had hurt each other in the past. During the story, the hero is moved by a Bible verse in the children’s Christmas play to realize God has forgiven him for past mistakes, so maybe the heroine can forgive him, too. Then later, the heroine has to ask God for help so she’s able to forgive the hero.

Some of the faith elements are heavier than others. Steeple Hill wants to make sure the romance is front and center, so the faith elements just add to character depth and to the story.

I’d love to answer any questions anyone has about writing inspirationals (or anything else!). And please leave a comment to have your name entered in a drawing. I’ll be giving away two copies of His Forever Love as soon as I get my author copies (any day now!).

Thank you Debbie and all the Petit Fours and Hot Tamales for having me today!
Missy Tippens

Thank you, Missy! We appreciate the fact that you took time out from your busy schedule to blog with us today. Okay folks, leave a comment or question for Missy today to be entered in the drawing for one of two copies of His Forever Love. Good Luck!

34 comments:

Nicki Salcedo said...

Missy, thank you for sharing your insights. So you really didn't know you were writing inspirational? Had you read one before?

We love hearing from you because you are an inspiration to us!

Debbie Kaufman said...

Morning Missy,
I really loved Her Unlikely Family, so I can't wait to read His Forever Love! Thanks for being here today.

I do think it's funny that you didn't know it was an inspirational. But, like you said, faith just bleeds through into everything!

Marilyn Baron said...

Missy,

Thanks for blogging with us today. We're proud of you and wish you continued success.

Marilyn Baron

Sally Kilpatrick said...

Missy,

I have a question for you. What about elements of faith in books that aren't "inspirational" per se. I often have elements that wouldn't work in an inspirational book, but faith might still be an important part of that character. Do you know of any rules about this? Do you have to steer away from faith completely in books that aren't labeled inspirational?

Thanks,
Sally

Sandra Elzie said...

Hi Missy,

Thank you so much for your very interesting blog. Since I'm a Christian, many of my heros or heroines have faith, or a close walk with God, even though I don't write Inspirational. (Although I'm open to that in the future) For most of the folks I deal with, if they're Christians, it's just a way of life...a way of thinking and acting...a part of their inner blueprint. We don't preach it, we just live it and that's how I write my characters.

Question: How long have you been writing and did Steeple Hill buy your first submission to them?

Sandy Elzie

CiCi Barnes said...

Thanks for sharing with us, Missy.

I had the same question as Sally. I often refer to my characters saying a prayer when they're in a dire situation, but my works aren't insprirational. I'd love to hear some feedback on this.

My daughter-in-law, Candice, says hi.

CiCi

Ana Aragón said...

Missy,

I loved Her Unlikely family. I write at the other end of the sensuality spectrum, but enjoy a good inspirational (I'm a Christian, after all!)

Do you feel like you'll stay in category, or are you looking to branch out into single title?

Ana

Susan May said...

Missy,
Thanks for your post. I loved your first book and look forward to reading the next ones.

Linsey Lanier said...

Missy,

Thanks for blogging with us today. I agree that you are an inspiration in yourself. Congratulations on your success and I hope many more books are in your future.

Thanks for sharing the story about Sandra. I wouldn't have guessed there was a point in your career that you didn't know what your natural genre was. Glad she pointed it out!

It's also good to know from the comments that women of faith can write any genre.

Linsey

Maxine Davis said...

You sound so fresh and, shall I say it, Inspirational! I really look forward to your A Forever Christmas. I wish you continued success.

Missy Tippens said...

Thanks, everyone, for the great welcome!! My whole schedule was off this morning because my husband usually takes the kids to school, but he had to take his car in instead. I'm just all out of whack today!

Nicki, I really didn't know! I had already submitted to Harlequin Duets. And actually, I was writing what I had been reading. So no, I hadn't read any inspirational books. I didn't really know much about it at the time.

I did know that the love scenes I had written were so difficult for me. Plus I was mortified to let anyone but my husband read them! So I was already researching Silhouette Romance, one of the sweeter lines.

Once Sandra made her comment, though, I started looking into Christian fiction and joined the Faith, Hope and Love Chapter of RWA (an online chapter of Christian writers).

Missy Tippens said...

Thank you, Debbie!

Yes, when I grew up going to church and spent my adult life as a pastor's wife, the church-going and faith issues just naturally popped into my characters.

But I also dealt with some tough issues as a teen, so it's all not sweetness and life with my characters. I hope to portray that we're only human and face all kinds of struggles.

Missy Tippens said...

Thank you, Marilyn! This journey to publishing has been long, but now I'm loving every minute of it!

Missy Tippens said...

Sally, there's a lot of talk on loops of inspirational writers about books with Christian characters in the ABA (American Booksellers Association for those who may not know). Most inspirational books are published in the CBA (Christian Booksellers Assoc.). Although my publisher is Harlequin, so that's ABA.

But just recently, a book by an author who's in the Faith, Hope and Love Chapter with me was named a RITA finalist in the Inspirational category. And her publisher is Kensington. The book is called Mulberry Park. The author is Judy Duarte. I just bought the book and have barely started it. But apprently, it's got a faith element in it. It starts with a woman responding to a letter she finds--an urgent letter to God, written by a little girl.

So maybe there will be more and more crossover between ABA and CBA.

I think you should write the story the way it comes to you. Wait and see how it turns out, then decide who you should market it to. Don't try to limit yourself while you're doing the first draft. You'll mess with your voice and might lose some of your vision for the story.

So go for it! And see what happens. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Sandy, you may already be writing inspirational and just don't know it yet. :) Have you read some Christian fiction to see if that's where your books might fit? If you haven't, I suggest you give it a try. (Unless you already know the publisher you're targeting. If so, just ignore me.) :)

As for your other questions... I've been writing forever!! LOL It actually took me over ten years to finally make that first sale. And it was my second submission sent to Steeple Hill. They'd already rejected one book. (plus I had other rejections to other Harlequin lines.)

The book that sold on January 30, 2007 (yes, I remember the date!) had been a finalist in several contests and got a request for a complete. It was the 4th complete manuscript I'd written.

Missy Tippens said...

Hi, Cici. Tell Candice hello back! :)

You know, a character saying a prayer in dire situations probably wouldn't be enough to call it an inspirational. Usually in an inspy, there's some sort of faith journey, even if it's not part of the main plot. Often, one character has fallen away from his or her relationship with God and finds his/her way back. Or sometimes a character comes to believe in God or to make a commitment to God for the first time. So it's more than prayers. And it's even more than going to church.

One of my writing friends, Camy Tang, says that in an inspy, each character should have a spiritual flaw. And the plot should force them to face that flaw and overcome it. I like the way she describes it. That really makes the faith element critical to the story. It makes it's seamlessly interwoven.

But Cici, down the road, if you find your characters move beyond praying to to having their lives changed by faith, or if you find the the plot hinges on that faith journey, then you may want to look into Christian publishers.

And if not, then I've found that most publishers let you keep those prayers in there. Especially if it's part of who that character is. I've seen that in books from all genres. I think it makes us care more for the character to see them vulnerable. We'll be rooting for them!

Good luck with the stories!

Missy Tippens said...

Hi, Ana. Thanks for reading my first book! I'm still surprised when people tell me they've read it! :)

I do have a women's fiction story that I may shop around. Right now, I've got it under consideration with an agent. I love writing for Steeple Hill and plan to stay there as long as they'll have me! It's such a perfect fit for my stories and what I love to write. As for the women's fiction, I'm not in any big hurry on it. I'm still learning the ropes and getting my feet under me on the category books. So I'll just let God take care of the timing on any future sales.

Missy Tippens said...

Susan, Linsey and Maxine, thank you so much for your kind comments!

I love to talk about persistence in writing since I had to stick in there through rejection and tough feedback. So I hope my story can be an inspiration to anyone who's struggling, wondering if they should keep going.

So for anyone reading who's still purusing your publishing dream, don't give up!

Missy

Judy said...

Hi, Missy! Even though I've moved to Florida I'm still so happy to see writers from GRW doing so well. Congratulations on your success! Judy

Missy Tippens said...

Hi, Judy! It's great to see you again. I hope you're loving Florida. Are you near the beach? (of course you may not want to admit it or else we'll all be begging to come visit!) LOL

Missy Tippens said...

Carol,

Congrats on your magazine sale!!

Carol Burnside said...

Thanks, Missy! Here I was, enjoying your post and reading through the comments, then I see my name! LOL.

I know at one time you said you wish you'd had more manuscripts ready to go or in the works when you sold. I'm assuming your other manuscripts were unsuitable for Inspy?

Some authors advise moving on to the next manuscript after thorough polishing of your WIP. Others say they kept reworking manuscripts until they all sold. What are your thoughts?

And thanks for being here. I wish you continued success with your writing.

Missy Tippens said...

Thanks, Carol!

Yes, my number one regret was not having something appropriate immediately ready to give them after the first sale. I only had a longer book--the women's fiction. So it was a while before I completed the next book (they want to buy complete books the first two or three times).

So my advice it to keep writing. Do NOT keep reworking the same stuff! We all get better on each book, so just keep moving ahead. Let the older manuscripts go if they've been rejected all around the publishers. They're not wasted. Think of them as your learning/practice manuscripts. :)

Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...

Hi Missy,

I'm glad I got a chance to stop by and see your post. I didn't know about this blog. Also, I thought you had written more inspirational books before you sold! And I've known you how long now?

As for me, I targeted the secular market in historical romance for over ten years before I switched to Christian fiction. I ended up converting two of my manuscrips to inspirational, and it was one of those that actually sold.

That's the thing I like about inspiratational, there's a genre in just about every area from women's fiction, romantic suspense, mystery, science fiction and fantasy, to American historicals, Regencies, medievals, etc. Twenty years ago, all these subgenres in Inspirationals didn't exist--maybe that's why it took me so long to write inspirationals.

Missy Tippens said...

Hey, Jenn! Thanks for stopping by. A good many of the writers on this group blog are friends from GRW. :)

I actually only wrote one inpy novel that was short enough for Steeple Hill before I sold. And that's the one they had already rejected. I may pull that one out again someday and see if it's fixable. I kind of doubt it! :)

Hey, y'all, Jennifer just sold her first book a few months ago to Abingdon!! We're still celebrating on our group blog. Highland Blessings will be out in May 2010!!

Mary Connealy said...

Missy, I am looking so forward to your next book. YAY! Don't enter me in the contest. I've got you pre-ordered already. I Loved Her Unlikely Family.
Funny, romantic, fast paced. A terrific novel. I can't wait for more.

Missy Tippens said...

Thanks, Mary!!

And for those of you who may be familiar with Christian fiction, Mary is a finalist for the prestigious Christy Award!! So exciting! (And her books are so fun.)

Kelly L said...

Missy,

Great post. I enjoyed hearing your talk at the February GRW meeting and appreciate your encouragement.

This genre is a new one for me, so I'll be starting with your book. :)

What are your favorite things to read? Fave authors?

Missy Tippens said...

Thank you, Kelly! I read lots of different genres. I love pretty much everything!

One of my all-time favorites is Deb Smith. Others are Susan Wiggs, Teresa Medeiros, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Stephanie Meyer and Jenni Crusie. And there are a ton of GRW authors that I love!

One of my favorite inspiriational authors just commented above! Mary Connealy. She's hilarious in real life and it carries over to her books. I also love books by the other ladies on our Seekerville blog: Debby Giusti, Cheryl Wyatt, Camy Tang, Janet Dean and Julie Lessman. And Sandy Wardman has written a great children's book.

Other inpsy authors I love (and I just know I'm going to forget some!) are Brandilyn Collins, Deb Raney, Lisa Samson, Deborah Bedford, Liz Curtiss Higgs, Lynette Eason, Linda Goodnight, Margaret Daley, Debbie Clopton, Deeann Gist, Mae Nunn.

It seems like I hardly have time to read anymore with writing deadlines. I have a massive TBR pile! :)

Missy Tippens said...

Thank you so much for having me today!

I hope everyone is safe. We just had that terrible weather pass through. Spent a while in the basement with tornado warnings all around!

I'll check back later to see if there are any more comments. I enjoyed it!!

Oh, and I'll be back in June to talk about my new book, His Forever Love!

Angela Breidenbach said...

I'm very proud of Missy and her work. I learn from her as she goes through the publishing process. One thing very special about Missy is her desire to help others go through the process too.

I appreciate you, Missy.
Angie

Christy LaShea said...

Good Saturday Morning! I'm late chiming in.Great post Missy. I like the point you made about after finishing your WIP and polishing it, to move on. If I ever sale, I see it's wise to have something else to give them.

I started out writing secular and to be honest, it was easier for me to write because I could write the love scenes and if I wanted to use foul language I was free to do that. I know there are so many different genres out there, but when I changed in my life, I no longer wanted to write the way I started.

Now, that I'm targeting Inspy lines, I still want to write those loves scenes! LOL! and I have to be more creative when I want a curse word to fly. I have to cut the love scene off at a certain moment. Or pull the reins back and not let my Hero/Heroine go there yet! I've even written the scene and then disgarded it.

But I love writing Inspy and wouldn't have it any other way.

Petit Fours and Hot Tamales you ladies have a great blog!

Tami Brothers said...

Hey Missy (and everyone else out there!!!).

Like Christy,I'm running late too. Sorry about that!!!

I LOVE Missy's first story and was extremely thankful when she agreed to be my first interview for the newly published authors section I started in the Galley (the GRW chapter publication). If anyone hasn't seen it yet, I definitely suggest checking it out. She gives a lot of excellent information about what she wished she knew before the sell, etc.

Anyway, thanks a ton for being here Missy. I got so much information just from the comments alone. What a bonus to go with the post. I am definitely printing this out!!!

Also, way to go Jennifer! Major congrats on that first sell. Definitely keep us posted on how things go. We'd all love to hear about it. And also, major congrats to Mary for that finale. You guys are so inspiring!!!!

Tami Brothers

Missy Tippens said...

Hi, Angie and Christy (my blogging buds). Thanks for stopping by!

Tami, thanks so much for your kinds words. I actually love doing interviews! It always makes me think. :)

Missy