My unusual situation has almost become part of my branding and schtick at author events. I’ll be in the middle of a panel about writing romance, and the question inevitably arises: “Are any of your plot lines based on your own love life?” and the ever-popular “How does your significant other feel about your books?”
When it’s my turn to answer, I usually play it up, with a deep sigh and an air of sharing a secret. “Well . . . my husband is a priest. So you can probably guess which plot lines are not based on my own life!” As for how he feels about my books . . . that’s a little more complicated.
To be fair, I was a writer long before my husband became a priest. I wasn’t a clergy wife who woke up one day and decided to write romance. I’d been writing for years, and while it’s true that I published my first book (a young adult paranormal romance) the December after my husband graduated from seminary, it had never crossed my mind that our careers could ever be considered incompatible. And for a while, they weren’t. He started out his career as a hospice chaplain, working for corporations who didn’t care what his wife did for a living.
Meanwhile, my first books were quite clean, with almost no language or sexual content. Of course, there were still some Christians who took umbrage with them because The King Quartet was paranormal, featuring witches and psychic phenomenon. From my point of view, though, this story of good versus evil was completely consistent with my beliefs. Christianity has a long tradition of literature that is written in metaphor. Some of the most famous of those books never even mention God by name. While I never intended Tasmyn’s story to be overtly religious, I didn’t see anything in it that should offend Christians.
My next books after The King Quartet were quite different. I’d moved away from young adult lit and into contemporary romance for adults. I was very excited about the story in The Posse, but because it was adult, and because I felt the plot called for it, I included a few love scenes. Oh, let’s not be coy; they were sex scenes, although they were fairly mild. But I found I really enjoyed writing books for adults and then eventually, for new adults, and I didn’t like to close the bedroom door, as they say.
Still, my husband continued to work for hospice at this point, and no one seemed to care about my smutty books, as my kids teased me.
In the summer of 2014, I wrote a new adult romance called The Last One. It would be one of my best-selling books, and it also contained some of my hottest sex scenes to date. That book released in September, about two weeks before my husband took his first position in parish ministry. I was a little nervous, but fortunately, I was able to fly under the radar when it came to church. Since we’d been attending the church where my husband was now serving, I wasn’t a new commodity. I was the same lady with purple hair I’d always been.
But then my not-so-secret identity began to crack a little. A few ladies in the church mentioned that they had read some of my books, and after some initial panic (mine!), I realized that the world wasn’t ending. No one stood up in the middle of church and pointed at me in condemnation.
Of course, I don’t necessarily flout my books in certain settings. I’ve had conversations with people who have roundly criticized any books with mystical elements–and sex? No. Just no. When they finish up by asking for a copy of one of my titles, I’m understandably a little reluctant to share. I’ve learned that redirection and stall tactics work every time.
I’m very blessed that my husband supports my work, no matter what. My kids, who are mostly grown, don’t read what I write (because ICK–who wants to read their mom’s sex scenes?), but they’re tolerant. I’ve had a few dear ladies at church whisper to me how much they enjoy my stories. One told me recently, “Father is a lucky man!”
I’m not naive, however, and I realize that there may come a point when we have to explain to someone in the church why I write the books I do. The truth is that although I understand my work will never be classified inspirational fiction, I don’t find it inconsistent with my faith. My love stories are between two consenting adults, who always end up in a committed, loving relationship by the end of the book. The choices they make might be different than those I made for myself and those I’d want for my kids, but they are within our cultural norms. I don’t write violence nor do I glorify irresponsible sex.
All of my books celebrate love, family and the triumph of good over evil. Some of my characters attend church, and it always portrayed in a positive light.
Sometimes I wonder if those who might judge my books harshly have read the Song of Songs in the Old Testament. It’s a love story, a beautiful recounting of a couple coming together, and although it is often described as a metaphor for God’s love for His people, there is no doubt that this is the most sensuous book in the Bible.
So how does it work, being a priest-and-romance-writer couple? Actually, it’s easy. We support each other, and we do whatever we can to help each other. When I’m traveling for work, I often miss Sunday services, but I try to make Wednesday mass. My husband usually can’t make my signings or events, but I know he’s got my back, and when I come home, he makes me dinner and spoils me while I recover.
When it comes down to it, our careers really aren’t that different. They’re both all about celebrating love . . . and could there be anything more beautiful than that?