Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Welcome Love Inspired Historical Author Naomi Rawlings

Literary Fiction vs. Popular Fiction: Bring on the War!
by Naomi Rawlings

I am admittedly, unashamedly a popular fiction fan. When I was in junior high and high school, I spent a good portion of my summers reading any and all Christian romance novels I could get my hands on. As that was in the 1990’s (hopefully that fact doesn’t make me seem too old), there wasn’t a very wide selection of inspirational romance authors available, but I remember reading Lori Wick, Gilbert Morris, and Janette Oke.

Then I went off to college and decided to major in English Education. Now I’ll admit I had been assigned to read some classic novels in high school, such as Pride and Prejudice, The Count of Monte Cristo, and Great Expectations. But I had no idea what I was getting into with my English major.

 No longer was I reading those sweet, feel-good love stories that I enjoyed so much. Oh no, I was thrust into the world of literary fiction, and what an abysmal, depressing world it was! I remember being given a six point list on what makes a book a classic. I’m sure this list contained traits like erudite prose and lasting themes and a whole other slew of supposedly important items, but I can some up the literary fiction pretty easily: It is usually depressing, and someone often dies. And this dying doesn’t commence quickly, but rather goes on and on, as the main character makes worse and worse choices.

Take for example, Call of the Wild by Jack London. Humanity would have been spared endless agonizing pages had London simply killed the main character in the first chapter. I mean, London accomplished this with his short story, ‘To Build a Fire’ so why write something so long that accomplished the same purpose? The most depressing novel I remember reading was McTeague by Frank Norris. Who wants to read a story about a husband who kills his wife and then his best friend? Ugh!

So after four years of reading classics, I graduated from college and refused to pick up a book for over a year. Actually, it was closer to two years before I started reading again, because all those classics with their deep social themes and morality tales had made me forget that reading could be fun.

When I did start reading again, I found a book lying around my grandma’s house and was immediately sucked back into the world of romance novels. I loved the book, reading it in less than a day, and continued to read at that pace until I’d exhausted all my friends’ libraries.

Counte of Monte Crisco
Watch the movie!
As I read more and more, I’d decided to write my own novel. And then I was faced with a choice. Did I try to write those layered social stories called literary fiction that were so esteemed in my college English classes? Or did I write something fun yet meaningful, a story that would allow the reader to set aside his or her own troubles and escape into another time and place for a few hours.

This was four years ago, and now my debut novel (an enjoyable romance story) Sanctuary for a Lady has released. At the same time, my book club decided to read The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck. This is the first literary fiction novel I’ve read since being assigned them in college, and do you know what? I still dislike literary fiction now as much as I did back then, probably even more so. When I finally closed the book, I thought, What a wretched story. I am never reading another Steinbeck novel for as long as I live.

But I admit that I read for pleasure, not for intellectual gain or satisfaction. Several of my book club members enjoyed the novel. Interestingly enough, these same individuals frown on the “escapist popular fiction” that I love so much.

So now I’m curious about you . . .

Do you prefer literary fiction, or popular fiction? Why?

Have you ever read a classic novel or literary fiction novel on your own, without it being assigned? Which novel did you choose, and did you enjoy it?

A mother of two young boys, Naomi Rawlings spends her days picking up, cleaning, playing and, of course, writing. Her husband pastors a small church in Michigan’s rugged Upper Peninsula, where her family shares its ten wooded acres with black bears, wolves, coyotes, deer and bald eagles. Naomi and her family live only three miles from Lake Superior, where the scenery is beautiful and they average 200 inches of snow per winter. Naomi writes bold, dramatic stories containing passionate words and powerful journeys. You can learn more about Naomi on her website or on her blog

Sanctuary for a Lady

 The injured young woman Michel Belanger finds in the woods is certainly an aristocrat. And in the midst of France's bloody revolution, sheltering nobility merits a trip to the guillotine. Yet despite the risk, Michel knows he must bring the wounded girl to his cottage to heal.

Attacked by soldiers and left for dead, Isabelle de La Rouchecauld has lost everything. A duke's daughter cannot hope for mercy in France, so escaping to England is her best chance of survival. The only thing more dangerous than staying would be falling in love with this gruff yet tender man of the land. Even if she sees, for the first time, how truly noble a heart can be….


  1. I'm still stuck on the words " the nineties" and "too old" .

    I don't mind a few pieces of literary fiction thrown in now and then, but I've watched a co-worker force her way through too many choices if her book club.

    What I don't understand is why some readers look down upon genre fiction. Oh well. I can think of less than five books I "think " are literary that I've enjoyed in the last ten years.

    Give me a mystery or romance ...
    Honestly I wonder if today's women's fiction is considered literary (Christian fiction that is)?

    Does the use of a redeeming theme and a inspiring ending make it popular fiction? Some of them are mighty close

    Naomi, as it happens, I just finished Sanctuary for a Lady last night. Wonderful! My review is coming up on Saturday.
    Oh and I love the latest film version of The Count of Monte Cristo. (And his sandwiches)

    Welcome to the Inkwell and congratulations on your successful debut!

  2. Hi Naomi, thanks for visiting with us today. And I ditto Deb, congratulations on your novel.

    Of course I LOVE romance, suspense, and mysteries.

    I'm not much into literature, with some exceptions. I love Steinbeck, Mark Twain, and Pearl Buck.

    I do NOT read modern literature. I don't care for most of it because so many of them annoy me with head hopping and paragraphs that are so long they fill the entire page.

  3. Thanks for the welcome, Deb! Well, you obviously all know my preference after reading that blog post. And you know, if I still had that list on What Makes A Book A Classic, I would gladly share it with you. But I don't have the faintest notion where it is. :-(

    At the moment, I'm trying to think of a classic novel that ends happily. Well, Count of Monte Cristo does, doesn't it. And Pride and Prejudice. And Les Miserables (though there's much tragedy along the way).

    One of the things I dislike the most about literary fiction is that I feel like I have to work to read it. I want reading to be fun and enjoyable, not hard.

  4. Suzie, I don't care for Mark Twain. I don't know what it is with me, because I know of so many other readers and writers who like Twain. I must be the oddball.

    You know, I don't care for modern literature either. It seems the message behind the novels is so anti my worldview that I can hardly tolerate reading a few chapters.

    The last one I tried to read was Toni Morrison, but there was so much casual sex, and the characters never even seemed to enjoy it. They just hopped into bed with each other because . . . I don't even know. At least in the general romance market, there are good and pleasant feelings attached to the bedroom scenes, which makes me at least able to understand why the characters are doing what they're doing, even if I don;t necessarily agree with the choice.

  5. Okay, let me be the first one to list a classic that I read on my own and liked, or half liked: GONE WITH THE WIND.

    You know, I'm a Yankee through and through. Never been overly fascinated with the Civil War, and I didn't really like Scarlett O'Hara. BUT that book made the Civil War come alive for me. I felt like I could taste the ashes of Atlanta as the city burned, and I was sad it burned, to boot!!!

    And then there's the wonderful Rhett Butler, who makes up for the manipulative Scarlett and pretty much saves the novel. Gotta love him. :-) I only wish the novel ended happy.

  6. Absolutely, definitely commercial fiction. lol And I adore the movie The Count of Monte Cristo!!

  7. Okay, I've never watched the movie, just read the book. Guess I need to correct that, huh?

  8. Oh yes. Jim Caviezal as the Count.(I know I mess up that spelling) does a great job. Beautifully acted and filmed. You'll love it. I am surprised you haven't watched it yet, Naomi!

    Waving to Jessica!

    Was Cold Mountain literary (I really enjoyed it until I felt like throwing the book on the last chapter). No wonder they remade the ending for the movie.

    I'm listening to Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult. Showing my cluelessness here, but is that considered Popular Fiction as opposed to Literary and why?
    Literary to me just means a tedious examination of the human condition. That can be compelling. Or not.

  9. Hi Naomi,

    Great subject!!! I also studied literature in college, and here's where I stand on the issue: I want the best of both worlds. Call me crazy.

    Whether it's a romance novel with nice artistic elements like Philippa Gregory, Julie Klassen, Siri Mitchell, or Laura Frantz, or a literary novel full of hope and beauty like Athol Dickson, Lisa Samson,or Sherri Reynolds, I want the full package.

    For romance, the issue is quality. I don't want a shoddily written romance. I want depth. I want beautiful language, symbolism, rhythm, etc...

    For literary fiction, the issue is world view. I'm okay even with a sad ending as long as the main message of the story is one of hope, beauty, and the hand of God at work in the world. Most of the truly depressing works of literary fiction are written by atheists.

    One other thought is that I love literary short stories and poetry. They are more of a study in literature for me, but I don't want to invest in a whole novel only to feel yucky and depressed at the end.

    By the way, the sample I read from your book had some lovely language and description at the beginning, which is why I'm looking forward to reading it. I find of the Love Inspired books, I usually enjoy the ones set in Europe for that reason.

  10. Welcome to the Inkwell, Naomi, and congrats on your debut novel. :)

    During high school Literature classes, I read about Shakespeare, but was never required to read his works. I believe I read Dickens' Prince and the Pauper because I remember the story, but not actually reading the book. Honestly, I don't know what is classified as a literary novel vs a classic. Well, except that I've often thought that the word, literary, connotates stuffy or boring.

    I consider Gone With the Wind a classic. And The Three Musketeers and The Man in the Iron Mask classics.
    Oops... I believe I'm showing my reading preferences. :D

    Good post, Naomi.

    Anita Mae.

  11. You know, Deb, I've often wondered whether Jodi Picoult was literary or popular. She almost seems like a combination of both.

    And I'm putting Count of Monte Cristo on my "To Watch" list.

  12. Yes, Dina, I think worldview has a lot to do with my dislike of literary fiction. And you bring up a really good point about most of the truly depressing novels being written by Atheists.

    Do you know, I like reading for pleasure more than anything. And so I think that's why I have such a dislike of literary fiction. I don't want to have to work when I read. I want to enjoy myself. :-)

    And I did enjoy Dance of the Dandelion, and can easily see elements of both popular fiction and literary fiction in them.

  13. Hey Anita, how fun to see you here!

    Yep, I think you give away your favorite novel settings during that list. :-)

  14. I have two favorite reading genre's: Christian Historical Romance and The Classics. I rarely stray out of them. Weird that I read the one you like AND the one you hate.

    I have shelves of those two, YA lit, and then lots of non-fiction, esp history resources.

    The last "Classic" I read was North and South - I have to admit, that now knowing the writing rules sometimes I get annoyed by them, but for some reason, I'm okay with that, maybe because I can understand that they didn't know better. I could so rewrite North and South so that it would be a better book.

    DEFINITELY watch the Count of Monte Cristo - the movie takes all the best parts of the book - the movie is better than the book, imho.

    Have you read "Christy" great romance in that "classic." Jane Eyre, Emma, S&S, P&P, (I love Thomas Hardy, but he's depressing so skip him), Dracula, Rebecca, War and Peace, are some really good ones. Next on my list is GWTW and I want to read some of what Jane Austen read, so I plan to read Evaline sometime soon.

  15. LOL, I too will never read another Steinback book as long as I live. Like you Naomi, I read to enjoy. So I pick up books that I know I will. I love great adventure and romance, so MM Kayes sweeping epics were my favorites during my youth.

    But I must say, I really LOVED your book, Sanctuary for a Lady. It did what I want a book to do, it swept me away to another time and place, and pulled on my heartstrings.

    Lovely book that you wrote.

  16. Ah! Okay Melissa, you're killing me here. I most definitely have not read the majority of the classics you mentioned. Sorry. In fact, I have two classics sitting on my kindle that I need to read. Tale of Two Cities and the Scarlet Pimpernel. You would think, since my novel is set during the French Revolution, that I would have also read the classics set in the French Revolution, correct?

    Well, you'd be wrong.

  17. Christine, so glad you loved my novel! And I really should read an MM Kaye book. Those seem a lot more up my alley than Steinbeck. :-)

  18. Yes, I read several literary novels a year. I'll bet that doesn't surprise you. Sometimes I even enjoy them. No, I appreciate most of them. Enjoy isn't the right word. I love the elegance of the writing, the descent into symbolism and wonderful word choices, you know, those words with more than two syllables? Twain. Dumas, Hardy--if one is feeling suicidal--several Russians whose names I won't try to spell, Dreisser, Zola, Edith Wharton. . . Yes, I read War and Peace on my own when I was fourteen. Read Gone with the Wind at ten. Precocious, yes.

    Not crazy about the novels of steinbeck and Hemmingway, and I like their short stories. Fitzgerald! I've read Gatsby four times. And George Eliot is fabulous.

    Anyone see Midnight in Paris? Quite amusing.

    Would I write it? No. And I believe that my depth of reading literary fiction adds a depth to my popular fiction it wouldn't have otherwise.

    First and foremost, though, I, too, am a popular fiction writer, a romance author. My master's degree is in writing popular fiction. Undergrad is in English and French. Nice balance, I think.

    Try reading Les Miserables in French. Oh, my aching brain. But truly spectacular, and the movie is great.

    See, you always knew I was a rosy and rare miss. (That's Regency cant for nose in the air).

  19. Thank you Naomi. As I re-read the comments I realized you were talking about my Scotland setting book.

    I do agree. I want the best of both. I listened to both Jane Eyre and the Tenant of Wildfell Hall last fall. Hardy has beautiful prose as well but I think it would have been too difficult to read. Listening is easier!

    Twain is difficult for me to read because of the dialect but makes a great movie!

    Dina's definitely had beautiful prose...just as we expected. And I know yours will be very well received.

  20. I think we need to distinguish between classics that are also popular fiction (say, Don Quixote and Emma) and classics that are literary (Anna Karenina, Mill on the Floss). The former I like, the letter I don't.

    I'm reminded that ages ago, stories with happy endings were "comedy," even if they weren't really humerous. Dante's Divine Comedy, for example. And stories in which Everyone Dies (Hamlet) were tragedies.

    I think the problem with a lot of "literary" novels is that they think a happy ending automatically removes one from the category. So they're all just dreary.

    The missing element from these downers isn't humor. It's hope.

  21. You know, Kristen, you're right. I do tend to lump classics and literary together, and I think a lot of others do as well. But yes, I often find that of the classics, I'd be more likely to enjoy a story that was popular back when it was first published, over one that was touted as being brilliant in literature classes but never really achieved popularity.

    Good point! Now just don't ask me to discern between which are classics and which are literary. :-)

  22. How very well rounded you are, Laurie Alice! And you know, I bet it does come across in your writing. So then I sit there asking myself, is it worth it to suffer through the literary and classic novels if it adds depth to my writing. I don't know. Hard call for me. But then, I really can't stand literary fiction.

  23. Okay, Thomas Hardy has come up several times, and I just want to share my one encounter with Thomas Hardy's work. I was assigned to read a short story in college. I don't even remember the name, just that it was Thomas Hardy. Well, there was this storm, and it stormed, and stormed and stormed and stormed, for probably the first ten pages of a fifteen page story. Talk about an overload of setting! By the end of page two, my brain was screaming "Enough with the setting. When's something going to happen." Then we got to the rest of the story. Several people were gathered in a cabin escaping a storm, and one was missing from town and supposed to be executed and I don't even know. I remember it ended with a twist, and I thought that the last three or four pages of the story were really good. If two thirds of the story hadn't been some wretched storm, I probably would have liked it.

    And just for the record, I got blasted in class the next day for not getting how the setting itself was a character in the story, etc. And I did get an A as a final grade in the class. It's not that I'm dumb or can't comprehend what literary fiction is about. I comprehend it all to well, and I still want nothing to do with it.

    Maybe I'm just weird. No, you know what, after seeing how many of you enjoy classics and read literary fiction today, I know I'm no the weird side. Oh well, won't be the first time.

  24. Hey Naomi! I'm late to the party, but I can still add my congratulations on your debut novel (which I'm thoroughly enjoying, by the way!).

    Thanks for sharing with us today. As for my preferences, well, I read literary stuff (lately, Flannery O'Connor), but it's well cushioned by fluff.

  25. Yeah, I was thinking later today on what Kristen said, the Popular literature classics would probably be more to your taste than the literary ones.

    Christy, Jane Eyre, Emma, Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice are all popular romances, so I'd put them on your list - because I know you are NOT at all busy. ;)

  26. Ah, yes, Susanne. Fluff is probably a good word for it. "I enjoy reading fluff." There. I said it. :-)

    And Melissa, you're probably right about me enjoying classic novels more than literary ones.


Share This Post

How Our Giveaways Work: The Official Rules

We, the ladies of Inkwell Inspirations, would love to give free stuff to everybody. Since we can't, we will often have a giveaway in conjunction with a specific post. Unless otherwise stated, one winner will be drawn from comments left on that post between the date it was published and the end of the giveaway as determined in the post. Entries must be accompanied by a valid email address. This address is used only to contact the commenter in the event that he/she is the winner, and will not be sold, distributed, or used in any other fashion. The odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. NO PURCHASE, PLEDGE, OR DONATION NECESSARY TO ENTER OR TO WIN. ALL FEDERAL, STATE, LOCAL AND MUNICIPAL LAWS AND REGULATIONS APPLY. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED.