Clean Fiction: a story free from excessive foul language, violence or gore, and graphic sexual content.
Modern literature is full of all of the above. Countless times, I’ve checked out the first few pages of a book to be slammed with F-bombs and lengthy and graphic descriptions of murder, torture, violence, and sex.
Book covers, too, throw “unclean” images in your face. Finding a cover for Myrhiadh’s War was particularly challenging. Searching through potential artwork on my favorite website, I almost became convinced that every female archer in the world plies her trade wearing a bikini. I had started to despair of finding an appropriate cover when I came upon the image that now graces Myrhiadh’s War, and I bought it in a hurry. She may have been the only decently dressed female archer in the collection.
I don’t think a story has to be wrapped in filth to hold a reader’s attention and be an intriguing, edge-of-your-seat book. A writer’s frequent use of multiple swears merely indicates that they don’t have a sufficient grasp of the language to use it skillfully. Sexual matters can be handled without requiring intimate details. Excessive gore is unnecessary.
I don’t think that a clean story has to be wrapped in faith, either. Many modern “clean fiction” offerings are overtly religious. If a reader is looking for a story where the problems are generally solved by the miraculous intervention of God, fine, but in my opinion, a lot of Christian novels contain cookie-cutter plots and predictable endings. A few are nothing short of sermons masquerading as stories. I’ve read truckloads of them. I even read one where the main character stated that she was so happy being engaged, she’d love to be engaged forever. That’s eye-rolling, unrealistic purity.
When I was a child and teen, I was allowed to read only religious fiction. I was expected to write it, too. Every story I turned out had to have a Christian message said my parents, said my church, said my friends. I got tired of it. I was ready to break out of that pattern and try something new and fun.
I think there’s a place in the market for clean books that aren’t blatantly spiritual—where characters who don’t attend church faithfully or pray about everything solve their problems with intelligence, courage, and resourcefulness.
Not everyone wants to be preached at every time they open a book for entertainment, but neither do they want to be sworn at and assaulted with bloody, gory, sensual details. There has to be a balance: a sweet spot where believable characters solve problems in an exciting, unpredictable way without inappropriate details. And that’s where the Dragon’s Fire Series fits.
I have received criticism from some people who disapprove of this series’ content—most of them cite religious reasons for shunning it. Some of them have read the first book, some of them haven’t. Frankly, my books are less fantastic than those of C.S. Lewis, a mainstay author for many religious readers. If you’ve read Tolkien or Rowling, you’ve delved much further into fantasy worlds and magic than the Dragon’s Fire Series will take you. Nonetheless, my critics are entitled to their opinions, informed or not.
I’m also entitled to mine. I won’t write things that I would be embarrassed to read aloud. So you won’t find anything stronger than an occasional use of “damn” or “hell” in my books. Stronger language is left to the imagination, such as when Lauryn writes “three exceedingly uncomplimentary words” on a piece of paper she gives to another character in The Curse of Caledon. Descriptions of suffering are kept minimal and are not especially graphic. Sex scenes are almost non-existent, and what is described is not intimately detailed.
I consider the books suitable for ages 13 through adult, though I am aware of a nine-year-old who loves the Dragon’s Fire Series, and my oldest known reader is 82. Just as storytellers of old gathered entire villages around fires at night and regaled multiple generations with tales of magic and adventure, the Dragon’s Fire Series is a modern version of that classic genre, suitable for almost everyone.
I don’t wrap my historical fantasy stories in filth or faith. I deliver exciting plots, believable characters, and realistic situations solved by ingenuity, intelligence, and perseverance; fun to write, and fun to read. I make no apologies for that. I’m filling a gap in the modern fiction world—clean, but not religious; just great storytelling.