Christian Fiction v Clean Read: Are You Confused?
In the past few months, I’ve often been asked what is the difference between books that are labeled Christian fiction and books labeled Clean Reads. I thought I’d address in case you’re confused by this labeling of books.
Christian fiction is fiction that has a distinct and deliberate Christian element. It can be told from a Christian perspective, or told by a non-Christian perspective, but the Christian element is in the novel.
Either the story is structured and unfolds based on Christian principles, or one (or more) of the characters are Christian and they face the obstacles and events in the stories from that perspective. Perhaps the main character is not a Christian at the beginning of the story, but as a result of events encountered during the story, becomes a Christians at the end of the story. The story can also be seated in a Christian theme.
Regardless of how the Christian element is injected into the story, it is significant to the story and plays a key role. In other words, if that Christian element were removed, then the story would be a different story.
A Clean Read is a story created for the general market and not specifically for the Christian reading community. It follows many of the dictates for Christian fiction, in that there is no premarital sex or foul language. Obstacles and challenges are met and faced through a variety of means, but in Clean Reads, you won’t find explicit sexual conduct or bad language.
In either, because fiction emulates life, you will find bad situations, challenges that must be faced and overcome. But in Clean Reads you can include a religious or faith element but one isn’t required. In other words, a story might be seated on Biblical principles but the Bible not be mentioned.
Some Christian authors write both Christian fiction and Clean Reads. I’m one of them. Now I wrote for a long time before writing Christian fiction and I began writing Clean Reads after then. So some of my older books (many of which are being republished by publishers) are general audience reads. But once I began writing Christian fiction, I eliminated those aspects mentioned earlier from my work. Still, I didn’t want to leave the readers without my books, so I began writing Clean Reads, too.
I firmly believe this is what I’m supposed to do. Go to people where they are, as Christ did by example. So I continue to write many types of stories in many genres, and for many different types of people. Some are Christian fiction. Mystery and Romantic Thrillers, mostly. Some are Clean Reads. Romantic suspense and mystery, mostly.
Over the past twenty-five years, I’ve written just about all kinds of novels with the exception of horror. (I write healing books, and healing and horror haven’t meshed well for me.) So all of my books have healing themes and I use suspense, mystery and romance in each of them. In some, there’s more suspense. In others, more romance. But those things remain in my books whether they are Christian Fiction or Clean Reads.
Why is that?
Because every author has an author theme and writing healing books—books where the characters face tough battles but heal—is mine.
And because for me to love a book, it must have suspense, mystery and romance. I like many other books or books without those three elements, but I don’t love them. And I promised myself many years ago, I wouldn’t invest my time—that’s my life—in writing books I don’t love.
So I’ve always written healing books with elements of suspense, mystery and romance. And for the past few years, those books are either Christian fiction or Clean Reads.
It’s worth mentioning that writers construct books based on their own perspective. It comes through deliberately and unintentionally, in what we deem is important enough to get on the page. In the way we see things. Our perspective shapes the story. So you will see Clean Reads that are seated in Biblical principles because it’s how believers think and the prism through which they see things.
Can an author write books outside that prism? Yes. But they rarely do because it isn’t natural to them.
So Christian fiction contains an overt Christian message (not to be confused with soapbox or preaching to readers). The message is interwoven into the novel’s fabric. Clean Reads are those suitable for most readers and doesn’t carry an overt Christian message.
Hope this clears any confusion.