What is Inspirational?

Over the course of the past ten years,What is Inspirational? Articles the inspirational book market has exploded. Thanks to blockbusters like the Left Behind series as well as the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, the inspirational market has become a major contender for book industry dollars. There are now lines of inspirational romance, and Chicken Soup-esque fare like A Cup of Comfort, Hugs, and God’s Way popping up in bookstores across the country.

In short, there is no shortage of inspirational reading out there. However, with the upsurge in options, a problem has surfaced in the inspirational writing community as well as in the inspirational reading community. Just what is “inspirational” or “Christian” anyway?

The inspirational romance lines, of course, have well-defined styles set out, and their readership holds them to that style quite securely. Generally speaking, this style is one in which the characters in these books are ultra-Christian. They go to church. They quote the Bible. They even have ministers who show up on their doorstep un-summoned at the first sign of trouble. They are so straight-laced that recently, authors have been asked to refrain from using preachers as heroes in the stories because that has simply been overdone.

There is also a faction of the inspirational market, however, who believes that Christian literature should have the leeway to tackle worldly issues such as divorce, abuse, and drug use as well as other such scurrilous topics. They argue that to reach the world with the message of Christ, inspirational authors must have the latitude to write about topics that the world faces on a daily basis, and readers who are clamoring for that type of material should be able to find it.

So who’s right?

Here’s the surprising answer: Both of them are!

Just as there is a season for everything in God’s Kingdom, so there is a place for both types of inspirational literature in the market—whether it be fiction or nonfiction. I must confess that for many years I was firmly entrenched on the worldly side of this argument. I argued to the point of insanity that I hated reading “fluffy Christianity that didn’t tackle real issues.” Then I was given the gift of seeing that all readers are not built alike. Basically, they don’t all want what I want. Some come home from a hard day and want to read about people who make the right and Godly choice every time because they see so little of that at work. Some, on the other hand, want to come home and read about people just like them who stumble and fall but who ultimately find their way to God and His promises. Neither is wrong. It’s just a question of what the reader wants to read.

Authors too should not be put into a box that says the only thing they can write and call inspirational is full of Bible quotes and kisses that are barely implied and only at the end of the book when that is not the story God gave them to write. There is honing and learning the industry. There is also staying true to what your heart is telling you to write.

That’s why in July 2003, I began working on a lifeandyou website called The Inspirational Reader. The idea being that the problem was not what the authors liked to write or what the readers liked to read but that the two had no really good way of finding each other. Before this site, the best a reader could do was to read a few lines in a potential purchase, buy it, and hope their idea of inspiration was the same as the authors’.

Unfortunately more than one reader was disappointed, and more than one author was told that they fell short of being able to be called a Christian because their book didn’t line up with the reader’s idea of what a Christian book should be. How sad for both of them.

With the introduction of The Inspirational Reader, however, a reader can go to the site, choose the exact types of books he or she likes to read and a list of the books that fit that criteria is returned. The reader can then view extensive information about that book including Reviews and an Excerpt as well as full availability information. The goal is that authors can use the talent they were given to tell the stories God gave them to tell without having to squeeze those stories into some box that will fit a perceived mass market because the niche market they want to write for can now find them.