20.3.13

She Puts the Edge in Edgy: Michelle Sutton

In a publishing world that likes to stick everything in neat little boxes, it’s easy to feel like a misfit. Especially when your books crossover between genres that are thought to be incompatible. With the impending release of my steamy romance featuring lots of spiritual elements (see the countdown on the sidebar. Ah! Is getting close!!), I’ve gone searching for others who like to push genres beyond their limits.

Did you know that there’s a whole sub-genre out there known as Edgy Inspirational? Everywhere I looked to find more information about this genre, I came across mentions of author Michelle Sutton. She’s not only got a full catalog of books that push Christian fiction to the edge, she founded the Edgy Christian Fiction Lovers group and has been instrumental in gaining more exposure for this genre.

Well, who do you go to when you have questions? The expert, right? So I was thrilled when Michelle agreed to answer a few questions for me to share here:

Me: What qualifies as “edgy” in Christian fiction? I’m sure there are still lines that shouldn’t be crossed—what are they?

Michelle: For me it's about the heart of the message. I think the only lines that shouldn't be crossed are offensive language (like the f bomb) and glorifying sin. You can write about sinful situations (I sure do) but the consequences have to be shown as well as the spiritual struggle for the story to have a Christian message of redemption and forgiveness.

Me: Ooh, I like that answer. The characters' inner struggle between what they want to do and what they should do is what I usually find most interesting about any story. What are some examples of the edgy parts of your books?

Michelle: Well, in regards to topics there is nothing I don't cover (such as sexual intimacy before marriage and the consequences of promiscuity, rape - including date rape, abortion, adoption, foster care, homosexuality, child abuse, incest, pornography, addiction, death, deception, unforgiveness, slander, etc. etc.)

Me: Sounds like you’ve got the edgy covered for sure. Would The Red Tent or The DaVinci Code qualify as Edgy Christian Fiction?

Michelle: Never read either book, so I can't say one way or the other. I have heard from people who have read The DaVinci Code that it firmed up their belief that Jesus swooned and didn't raise from the dead. That's disconcerting, but again, I am only reporting what I heard. I haven't read it.

Me: I think a lot of people forget that The DaVinci Code is a work of fiction and should only be taken as such. What's funny about that book is that although it puts forth theories that are in opposition to my faith, even after all those years of CCD and listening to sermons and looking at statues, paintings, and crucifixes, reading this story was the first thing that actually made me feel the humanity of Jesus in addition to his divinity, and that spark sent me along a path that has brought me closer to him. He does indeed work in mysterious ways.

Still Me: Okay, next question: how did you get started writing Edgy Christian Fiction?

Michelle: The stories just came out that way. I was told my ideas were good, but the content was too edgy, so I ended up adopting the term by default to describe fiction that wasn't of the softer variety when it comes to novels with Christian themes and a Christian worldview. Some people call it realistic fiction. I just think it's honest. I don't write about what characters should think, do and feel. I write about what they really would think, do and feel. We're all sinners saved by grace.

Me: Exactly---how can we possibly relate to characters who always make good choices? Even Jesus’ parables were chock full of sinners. Hey! I guess in a way he was the first author of Edgy Christian Fiction, eh?

Thank you so much, Michelle, for giving us more insight into this genre---and thanks for all you do to give Edgy Christian Fiction more exposure.

Below are just a few of Michelle’s inspirational books with an edge
Each book cover links to its Amazon page so you can read more about it.

 
 

28 comments:

Anne Gallagher said...

This is such an interesting concept. And I'm glad someone finally found a name for the genre. I've read quite a few Christian books that I thought really shouldn't be classified as such because of that "edge". now I know what they are.

Thanks Nickie, Thanks Michelle for finally giving me a clue.

Nicki Elson said...

Hi Anne. There are definitely ranges of edginess & sweetness in all genres, and I like the emergence of sub-categories because they 1) give writers a bit more freedom and 2) also set the expectations of readers.

Glad you stopped by today. :)

Shell Flower said...

Ooh, I love anything edgy and it totally makes sense that there would be edgy Christian fiction. Redemption is always better when someone really has to struggle for it. That makes the miracle all the more meaningful. And I love how you went out and found the expert, Nickie!

Nicki Elson said...

Shell - that's exactly how I feel about the struggle & redemption.

I aim to please w/ finding the experts. ;) I'm so grateful to Michelle for taking the time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions.

Michelle Sutton said...

Thanks for inviting me to participate in an interview. It's fun to talk about the subject. I've changed my actually blog to Healing Hearts book review blog (the URL is still http:edgyinspirationalauthor.blogspot.com ) because someone named their blog edgy inspirational romance and I got tired of getting the wrong google alerts. So long story short, I'm all about healing hearts, which is the result of the story and hopefully describes it's impact. I want to use my writing to heal hearts, not just inspire people not to sin (though that is part of my reasoning behind pushing the envelope a bit, too. I'm glad you discovered us, Nicki! My husband googled my name one days and said, "Good grief you are everywhere." Just trying to spread the word. :)

Johanna Garth said...

Character's inner conflict is at the heart of any good book regardless of genre. Sometimes I worry that genre labels box us in too much.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'll have to tell my wife about her books!

Janie Junebug said...

Very interesting. I think I might be an edgy Christian, but I drop the f-bomb. Lots. Not all the time in my writing, but Elvis Aaron Schwarz hears it from me a lot.

Love,
Janie

Michelle Sutton said...

Janie,

I have a few Christian author friends who have F bombs in their books. It's just not a word I say, so i wouldn't write it in a book. But sometimes it works effectively in a scene. I just usually put "he swore" in that spot because I don't like the word myself.

Nicki Elson said...

Hi Michelle! It's so great that you're able to swing by. I hope your husband is properly impressed with his wife's fame. :)

Johanna - I agree on both points, and I feel like this edgy Christian definition gives more breathing room to writers who want to stretch out beyond the confines of what's traditionally thought of as Christian fiction. Likewise, I hope people become less shy about bringing Christian elements into mainstream fiction.

Alex - yes you do!

Janie - let's call you edgy Christian+

Regarding the f-bomb, it's strange because I'm not generally put off by it verbally, sometimes there's simply no other word that will do, but to me, it comes across more harshly in print and so I don't tend to use it (much) in writing.

LD Masterson said...

Interesting interview. I like edgy so I tend not to read Christian fiction. I expected it to be bland. My mistake.

Michelle Sutton said...

Christian fiction has gotten edgier over time, but some of it is still bland. I avoid that at all costs because I can't stand to be bored when reading.

Kristena Tunstall said...

I think having edgy Christian fiction is important in today's society because the unbeliever is rarely going to pick up a Christian novel as they will probably feel like they are being preached at and judge it as so without ever reading it. Whereas when you say edgy, that is intriguing. I know in the story I'm writing I have the hero stay over at the heroine's house a total of three times. The catchall here is that it's totally plutonic. The one instance she fell asleep with her head on his lap and the other two he slept in the guest room. I've been told that with the CBA it is unacceptable because a man may not stay the night ever with a woman. I don't get that. I refuse to take it out. So if that puts me in the edgy bracket I will gladly go there. I agree with Michelle because for me it is more important to tell the story how real people would deal with a situation and not the politically accept way of doing things. Great interview with Michelle. Love reading it.

Suze said...

Babe, I am havin' a doozy of day. Haven't been able to send an email at all today because of some issue with my ISP (Comcast!!) and walked out to my garage to discover I had a flat tire.

Tried to upload your countdown widget and the code doesn't seem to be getting the job done. Has anyone else had an issue with it or am I just under a storm cloud??

xx

Nicki Elson said...

Kristena - thanks for coming by for Michelle's interview. I enjoyed reading her answers too. Wow, even sleeping in the guest room won't cut it? Well, if that pushes you into edgy, then I've fallen right off the edge into a deep, fiery chasm.

Suze - sorry you're having such a bad day. :( I'm sure it's a problem w/ the code I sent. I'll e-mail you a new one.

Suze said...

But I can't send or receive email. That's why I spewed all over your lovely comments ...

Nicki Elson said...

Oh, hehe, duh. In that case how about you just wipe this countdown task out of your pretty little head and start having a better day.

Suze said...

V, I really want to post it to my blog to support you. I love you and want to be a part of DT's launch. I am going to use my husband's email to email you to get it that way. (You can just reply to it.)

jamesfantbooks said...

Love the post. I too write edgy inspirational fiction and will cover any topic because life covers every topic. I've always thought that the inspirational story exists inside and outside of the church and contains a variety of characters, not just pastors and church members. It is all about the message. I love crafting an interesting and entertaining story that also contains a message of redemption.

Again, enjoyed the post. I am inspired.

Michelle Sutton said...

James,

Thanks for reading it. I think you'll find some of my books inspiring too. :)

Nicki Elson said...

Suze - you're wonderful. I'll watch for the e-mail OR in the meantime just posting the cover in your sidebar w/ a note that it will release on 3/26 would be amazing & appreciated...sweetie. ;)

James - "because life covers every topic." Perfectly put.

Michelle - once again, thank you, thank you! I look forward to reading your brand of fiction. Which story to go for first...

Mark Means said...

I've never heard of that genre, but is sounds pretty interesting...especially in putting forth such a positive message.

Best to Michelle!

Cherie Colyer said...

Only four more days and I'll be able to get my hands on Divine Temptation! Can't wait!

Great interview, and it's nice to learn more about this genre.

Charmaine Clancy said...

I love the cover of Somebody Love Me. Very pretty.

Jennifer Lane said...

Great interview--I love learning something new. I think The DaVinci Code as well as Angels and Demons both solidified my faith, which is more about spirituality than any particular religion.

Michelle's books look wonderful!

Kittie Howard said...

Ah, Michelle's explanations clear up a lot. Since I tend to avoid books that start out great and end up super great, Michelle's books sound really interesting.

Donna Hole said...

This was an interesting topic. I enjoyed the explanations. Makes sense; topics I think I would enjoy reading, although I'm not big on the Christian aspect.

......dhole

Michelle Sutton said...

Thanks for stopping by everyone. If you have a question about any of the four books pictured, ask away!