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sl_thumbnail.jpgThe ever wonderful Cheryl St.John agreed to put together (VERY last minute for us) a post on Inspirational Romance and how they fit with Westerns so well. I promised not to whine, at least not in the post, *g*! Our host finally got us up and running so I am running very late. Sorry about that our slow start here… hey I have been a bit behind on this blog stuff the past year. Any mistakes below are mine, leave a comment and I will correct, and contest post will follow as soon as I get back.

The Preacher's Wifecheryl-stjohn.jpgThose of us who write and read western romances are as chipper as a bunch of jaybirds by the upsurge in attention the genre has been receiving of late. We are following The Great Western Drive (also see KristieJ & Wendy) week with anticipation. I’m more than curious to learn what the publishers are saying. Thanks for being western’s #1 fan, Sybil—oh wait, you have to share that #1 spot with Wendy. But wait just another gosh darn minute—wasn’t this Kristie’s idea? Okay, thanks to the three of you for the western love we’re feeling—and not only this week, but all the time. Keeping a finger on the pulse of this market is harder than tyin’ down a bobcat with a piece of string.

Victoria Bylin, who writes for Steeple Hill‘s new Love Inspired Historical line told me she was attending RWA in Reno, hearing about the supposed death of the western when she ran into an agent. The agent told her the western wasn’t dead at all. It had just moved to Christian fiction.

In a Mother's Arms
When I asked Vicki why she thought that was happening, here’s what she told me: “Faith and westerns go hand in hand. It took tremendous courage for the early pioneers to load their wagons and travel 2,000 miles. They found hope in the Bible and drew strength from the stories about the children of Israel seeking the Promised Land. Westerns are about adventure, new beginnings, courage and risk. So is Christianity.

“I personally think the middle dropped out of the romance genre. A few years ago, the books that sold were either hot-hot-hot or inspirationals. The middle ground readers (and writers) had to make a choice. I love inspirationals and always have, so the choice was easy for me.

Vicki went on to say, ” I loved writing for Harlequin Historicals, but I’d run out of ideas that required a higher level of sensuality. With LIH, there’s still plenty of romantic tension, but I’m able to go in a direction that’s true to my beliefs about love, courtship, marriage, family, etc..” Her latest story is The Maverick Preacher. (Syb note: didn’t see at eHarl but you can get at amazon hurry!)

Book CoverSo I asked a few more writers for their thoughts. Linda Ford, Dakota Child, LIH September had this to say: “One reason I think westerns and Inspirationals are a good match is because the struggle between good and evil in westerns somewhat mirrors our spiritual struggles. Villains come dressed as gunslingers or smooth talking con men but recognizing them and defeating them requires our characters to confront truth and apply it. Much the same way as how we all deal with spiritual struggles. In other words, the western is almost allegorical and therefore, satisfying to the reader as we all face moral issues in our lives.

“I think readers like them because of this but also because of the adventure and bigger- than-life characters who confront huge obstacles like conquering a new and challenging land, dealing with incredible tough situations and emerging as victors. I like writing westerns because cowboys and ranchers are strong, independent, self-sacrificing men. Who wouldn’t fall in love with such a hero?”

Book CoverWell, Linda, I can’t resist a cowboy, that’s for sure. When my HH Her Montana Man (syb note: you can still get this at amazon just saying) was out, I happened to stand in Wal-Mart and take a long look at all the covers. I counted twelve books with cowboy hats on the covers. Marketing knows something about how to make readers pick up books, so that tells me readers do want to buy those cowboys.

My gun-toting preacher in The Preacher’s Wife has garnered me more reader mail than any book in a long time, and that one is an inspirational. I like to write inspirationals because it’s an extension of who I am and how I think. I don’t think many of my readers were surprised that I expanded to write for both HH and LIH. A few have asked me to please not abandon HH, and I can assure them I will not.

Book CoverI liked what Lyn Cote, Her Inheritance Forever, had to say about the relationship between westerns and the inspirational market. “Westerns are tailored made for the inspirational market because at that time except for the native tribes, everyone in America and its territories was Christian of some sort. Their faith in God was as expected as breathing air. And in a time where there was really no “science of medicine” to speak of and life could end in an instant, faith was got people through. Just like today.

Book CoverAnd my friend Laurie Kingery—some of you will remember her as Laurie Grant—whose The Outlaw’s Lady is in stores now told me: “Westerns are a natural for the inspirational historical genre because it was a time of great growth and conflict in this nation, a simpler time when folks moving to the frontier territory found their faiths not only comforting, but necessary to survive in an often hostile climate. Their existence was threatened not only by the weather, but by Indians, outlaws and wild animals. The settlers’ goal was to create civilization wherever they settled, and a church was often one of the first buildings erected, though they often came after saloons!

“They had few possessions, and no distractions such as TV, computers or cars, so perhaps it was this very fact that made possession of faith very important. Most of our forbears didn’t question the existence of God or the veracity of his Word–they’d seen it proved true in their own lives, and the Bible might be the only book they possessed.”
All I know is I’m grinnin’ like a weasel peekin’ in a henhouse door to discover all these cowboys and know how many readers are loving them some westerns!