Melanie D. Snitker is a sweet author friend of mine from Texas. She writes stories with a heart – an emphasis on a deep love for each character, and a romance to go with it! I’d like to think that if you enjoy my novels, you’d enjoy hers. 🙂
Melanie has prayed for me, knit baby cutesies for me, and encouraged me at the hardest of times. I hope all of you can support her worthy books! Thanks for being you, Melanie!
You can purchase Melanie’s books here on Amazon.com!
Me: Hi, Melanie! Here at BlondeRJ, we’re all about Myers-Briggs types. Share about being an ISFJ and what your personality is like. 🙂
Speaking of loving people, you write the sweetest romances ever. What first inspired you to help and write about clean romance for Christians?
Melanie, you were a huge encouragement to me two years ago. Can you tell us about one of the hardships you’ve experienced and how God has used that in your life? ❤
…is a hot button these days, and I’m not always sure why. Some Christians have been the victims of dictatorial, patriarchal homes, but most don’t even have a clue what the word actually means. As a society, I think we’ve swung back and forth so many times on relationship norms that most of us are dizzy. I think every generation “does it differently.”
Recently, my uncle, Richard Briggs, in an author Q and A query, asked me about my own ideas on courtship (I had a very successful and happy one!) and how it plays into my writing love stories.
Since we’re raising a new generation of children – my own included – and I’m seeing the pendulum swing again to “get rid of courtship altogether,” I’d like to say to look past the big, bad C word. What even IS “courtship”? Every single group I’ve ever been in defines it differently.
Let’s just talk relationships on the whole. My girls are young now but it is NEVER too early to start planning for and being aware of this. You are raising children not just to be obedient kiddos in your home, but to be godly adults out in the real world. Your home is just a stepping ground for all of life and, let’s face it, most of our kids are going to get married. So that relationship with their spouse will last the rest of their life, and be the most important relationship in their life.
So what are my views on courtship? Here’s my succinct personal definition:
Committing to love, serve, and honor God by being intentional in doing the best for others and looking at relationships through the lens of future marriage. Being future-mindful and Christ-centered in your relationships, not selfish in your physical affections and giving into lusts, and not causing anyone else to sin, including yourself. Eschewing the worldly, selfish ideas of playing around before finding a spouse.
Beyond that, my ideas are so simple, and yet so foundational. I think, when you muddy it up with more than this, you get into legalism. Let’s leave out all the common sense physical rules like what’s your curfew, if you’re chaperoned, if you kiss before your wedding day, etc. etc. That’s up to your home and your child. My husband and I haven’t set any of those in stone. We’ll see what we decide when the time comes and where the child’s heart and temptations are. And our “common sense rules” may be different from yours – and there should be no judgment from house to house on those types of safety rules. But honestly, that’s not what I’m thinking about or looking for when I’m training my children to be spouses.
I want only three things.
A. I want them to so love God that they’re committed to honesty, morality/godliness, and Him most of all.
(See the previous blog post in the link above.) It’s why I’m seriously, seriously addressing sneakiness and dishonesty and selfishness and other traits now. My child lies to me or selfishly hoards me or is disloyal to friends? He’s going to be those things to his spouse too. They don’t just disappear in marriage or adulthood.
B. I want to so strongly have my kids’ hearts – be such good friends with them and be so close to them that they trust me and communicate with me.
It takes two to tango on this one. I can only do my part, and pray that God leads them to value me as their mother and counselor and friend. ❤
C. I want them to so love others and think much less of themselves that they’re committed to protecting and doing what’s best for the opposite gender always.
At the heart of the “courtship model” that I know is protecting others because you value them so much as fellow human beings, and you love and care about their safety, their hearts, and their emotions. Leading the opposite gender on when you have no intention of marrying or committing to them – whether it’s through mass dating or just being too affectionate as friends – can injure them greatly.
At the heart of relationship values that I was taught was protecting and loving others as better than yourself. (Philippians 2:3)
This starts in just sharing toys as toddlers and choosing to go last to getting your piece of candy. These foundational things prepare them for why they choose what they do with the opposite gender in the future.
RJ Conte is a Christian, realistic, issue-driven fiction authoress with six books on Amazon, including the novel, Heartsick, for young adults. In Heartsick, the main character, a homeschooled college student, who has devised a picture-perfect courtship model with her father, turns her back on it to get entangled with a guy who has a very mysterious and dark past. The novel has been likened to A Walk to Remember meets Hitchcock, and is recommended to any young Christian lady starting out on her own.
I answer Camilla Cruz Uphaven’s question on the inspiration for each of my novels.
My least favorite life event
Which characters are secretly me with different names
If I ever talked to a crisis hotline volunteer and my personal story there
Want to recommend some anime or J/K-dramas and anime to a normal American who doesn’t know what to make of Japanese or Korean culture? You think they’d love what Asia has to offer, but don’t want to scare them away with too much moe or yokai or plot-lines involving getting kicked out of the family register.
Breaking your typical American viewer into Asian TV
I’m going to suggest anime and k/j-dramas that either have fascinating plots that no sci-fi/fantasy lover could resist, or are understandable plots between cultures. You won’t find any Studio Ghibli on my list because I, personally, found his stuff unattractive when I was first breaking into anime. His heavily Buddhist, strange-creature themes or more simple slice of life films could not be appreciated coming straight out of watching non-stop-action American TV. This isn’t going to make me very popular, but I wouldn’t recommend Ghibli to your average American viewer, personally. My recommendations are clean, relatively family-friendly shows and movies that aren’t so overtly Asian that you lose people. Things you could show your next-door neighbor without being labeled a weirdo nerd.
(Most can be found legally on Crunchyroll.com, and one or two on Netflix.com)
1. Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Yeah, I’m going there. Honestly, this one has lots of bizarre elements, but the plot is so epic. It is a deconstruction of the magical girl genre, but totally works as a deconstruction of any superhero genre. We Americans have been inundated with superhero movies lately, so a show that portrays the real psychological hardships of being a Black Widow or Scarlett Witch? Yes, please. I’ve shown this to most of my non-anime-watching family members, and it’s gone over pretty well. You’re going to need to sit and discuss a lot of the final episode, however, as it’s big-picture epic with a lot of symbolism.
Warning: Violence and thematic elements in this one. PG-13
2. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
Starts out like a Disney channel show with a little bit of teenage silliness, but quickly turns into a fascinating sci-fi plot. I really enjoyed this one, and it was the very first anime I ever watched. Only movie-length (not a TV show), this will give viewers a taste of creative YA sci-fi from Japan that makes sense and tugs at their heartstrings at the same time.
Warning: One really stupid sexual line from a side character at the beginning that feels hugely out of place. There is NO sexuality in the rest of the movie, so one just has to ignore it as bad writing in an otherwise squeaky clean movie.
3. Hotarubi no Mori e
My personal favorite. Just a beautiful, beautiful little 45-minute film. Totally an inspiration for the writing of my own book, Lucent Sylph, this movie is tragically gorgeous in every way, and one of my top favorite movies of all time.
Warning: There ARE Buddhist spirits in this one, and Buddhism has something to do with the main plot. However, one can still follow the movie really well by ignoring this aspect – and, in my opinion, it doesn’t get too weird. Nothing weirder than Star Wars. Make sure your child is old enough to know that forest spirits don’t exist.
A sweet, clean, and pleasant little family show, Hyouka is about an apathetic high schooler who is inspired by a group of friends, including a pretty cute, curious girl, to solve little mysteries for his school. He is intelligent and quirky, and his personal growth as a character is delightful. This anime also has some of the most beautiful animation I’ve ever seen. Just look at that eye!
Warning: Japanese hot springs are very popular in anime. There is one episode where the characters go to a hot spring. No body parts are shown, but one character gets woozy thinking about girls bathing behind a fence. If you ignore this episode and chalk it up to the writer being in a weird mood that day, the rest is just charming.
There are 22 episodes in this show, and the pacing of the cutesy mysteries might be slow to some. However, the characters themselves and their interactions make this one a favorite.
Heading the liminal fantasy + break your heart open genres are works by the visual novel company, Key. (visual novel = interactive computer game story) Many of their visual novels were turned into anime shows. Their best work, in my opinion, isn’t the Clannad series, but Kanon (the 2006 version). It’s not terribly long with a second season like the ever-popular Clannad, nor does it have over-the-top characters. Instead, each of the Kanon girls have highly fascinating backstories. I was obsessed with this anime, and also watched it very early on in my anime career. The liminal fantasy was modest and subtle, instead of throwing us into a highly elaborate world. It brought soft elements of fantasy to us, while still focusing on the inter-personal relationships and romance. The story could’ve been set anywhere, and there’s even an English dub (although I don’t think it’s a good one) for the viewer who’s set against subtitles.
The music is gorgeous, the girls are amazing, and you care about their deeply personal and often tragic stories. Highly recommend this one.
Warning: Thematic elements. There’s also a surprise violent scene or two but nothing graphic. Still definitely a PG.
One character makes a joke about asking another character to buy a pornographic magazine for him. She refuses. Again, nothing else is sexual about the entire show, so the line was completely pointless.
6. Patema Inverted
Truly gorgeous, imaginative movie, where the sky animation is so amazing you’ll get acrophobia. I showed my whole non-anime-watching family this movie at Christmas and even my dad enjoyed it. They said it was unique and a really entertaining story.
Basically, the world has been divided into two groups of people with opposing gravity, and one girl and boy find each other. Think a younger Upside Down without all the terrible plot holes and bad pacing. So much better.
Warning: None. Just a fantastic movie. The plot isn’t even set in Japan, so there’s nothing culturally confusing about it in the least.
This anime-style show is actually American, but is always grouped with its Japanese sisters. The art and graphics in the show get better with each season, but can take getting used to in the beginning. A story about hunters and huntresses in a magic-type school learning to defend their nation while working together.
Warning: Many of the females in this show are pretty immodest, so it might be one I recommend to watch by yourselves, ladies. The first season has silly teenage drama, but when you get to season 2, the plot thickens. By season 3, you’re thrown into an epic story that’s highly entertaining. RWBY also has some of the best animated battle scenes I’ve ever seen.
8. Avatar: The Last Airbender
Again, this is American, produced on the Nickelodeon channel, but it’s no secret it was succeeded in borrowing a lot of Japanese anime elements. Safe enough for kids (who can look past the Buddhist-undertones), this show thrilled many adults too. Highly recommend if you’re thinking of breaking into the anime scene but want a safe marriage between something American and something Japanese-feeling. Poignant characters and huge battles between good and evil, it’s one of those shows where I wish I could wipe my brain just so I can rewatch it with all the delight of seeing it for the first time all over again.
Warning: Some New Age/Buddhist talk – maybe for the older, mature child and adults
Live Action (Korean/Japanese Dramas and Movies)
(Most can be found legally on Dramafever.com and Viki.com)
1. Bara no nai Hanaya
One of the most Christian dramas to ever come out of Japan, this is a show with the most selfless male character I’ve ever seen. In a slow-paced, beautiful display of love (both to his little girl, as well as to the woman pretending to be blind to cheat him), Shiomi Eiji is a fantastic character. I watched this drama a second time and showed it to my mom and sister. My mom cried every single episode without fail, and then went out and bought the show for herself.
Unfortunately, though, this show is pretty unknown and hard to find. One would like to imagine the writer was a believer himself, so maybe it wasn’t as popular in spiritually-dark Japan. This is a beautiful Christlike love story in every way.
Warning: There is the most random cross-dressing character that shows up for one quick scene near the end. It makes no sense and has nothing to do with the story.
2. Death Note and Death Note: The Last Name (movies)
I don’t recommend the Death Note anime to American newbies, even though it’s fantastic, because the ending goes down a very strange path that frustrated a lot of people, including me. The Death Note movies clean up the ending and change it a bit to make it more tidy and sensible. If you want to get this highly intellectual, cat-and-mouse thriller, but you’re not a purist who needs it in its original manga form with its bad ending, choose the Death Note movies instead.
Basically, an intelligent high school student finds a notebook that claims if he writes someone’s name in it and picture their face, he can kill them on the spot. The highschooler is then forced into a moral dilemma of playing god and goes to battle against the world’s most brilliant – and quirky – detective.
Warning: There are a lot of warnings on this one. Definitely a PG-13, there is a death god spirit who is pretty scary-looking who follows the main characters around. A very morbid set of movies, I recommend it for the mature viewer. However, it’s not about blood, guts, and action like you’d have to put up with in America. Instead, this slower-paced dark show treats the viewer like an intellectual equal by letting you into some really brainy heads. Very well-written.
Do NOT watch “L: Change the World” as it is a non-canon, highly violent side story that I couldn’t stomach or get through. It has nothing to do with the original plot and should be ignored.
3. Dream Knight
If you enjoyed High School musical, you can put up with the one or two song and dance numbers in this adorable short drama from Korea. A teenager’s dream, a girl has a group of guys magically show up when she’s alone and having trouble in school. The short series takes a very serious and meaningful turn, though, and I was enchanted by how much emotional sweetness they packed into the twelve 13-minute episodes. A really charming liminal fantasy highschool romance that would make sense to any American viewer who watched Disney channel. I might have squealed out loud a time or two. *cough*
Warning: (Cute) teenage drama, and a mention of suicide
Have you ever wanted more Jason Bourne coupled with a sweet romance? You got it in Healer. Having nothing to do with medical illness, “Healer” is the codename of a night courier, basically the Korean version of Jason Bourne, who faces a big moral dilemma when he starts falling in love with the woman he’s been hired to investigate and protect. This Korean drama has it all: action, love, backstory, political evil, mystery, a hilarious computer guru, and outstanding acting. I also had to watch this one through twice – showing it to my husband the second time, and I still enjoy reruns of my favorite scenes.
Warning: PG-13 for the action and thematic elements. A couple is shown in bed after kissing, but it’s not clear that anything sexual happened. A few scenes later the young man tells her father they didn’t do anything. Korean shows tend to be very modest, culminating the romance with kissing only, so even while sleeping they are shown entirely clothed and purity is often implied.
5. I Hear Your Voice
Imagine if a little boy had the super power of hearing people’s thoughts, and was the only witness to his father’s murder, along with an older high school girl. Now imagine that girl grows up to be a lawyer and the boy a young man whose only goal in life is to protect her so that when the murderer gets out of prison, she can survive.
Mixing in great Perry-Mason-courtroom scenes with a budding “noona-romance” (younger guy with a woman older than he), I Hear Your Voice is a deep, thoughtful, psychological courtroom romance with a fantasy twist.
Warning: Definitely violence and scary characters. There are a couple of murders and very tense scenes. PG-13
6. Mirai Nikki (THE JAPANESE DRAMA)
I repeat again, the Japanese drama from 2012, NOT THE ANIME. The anime is a piece of disturbing, violent nastiness that I refuse to see, being so revolted by the descriptions of the show I couldn’t sleep at night.
HOWEVER, the Japanese put out an 11-episode drama with the same name that supposedly bears only a slight resemblance to the manga and anime with the same name. This drama was a real treat! Fascinating mystery, kept us guessing the whole time, and, I repeat, CLEAN. A great clean drama that we could enjoy without feeling in the slightest bit dirty. I highly recommend it to an American breaking into watching Asian dramas. Just please avoid the anime.
Warning: Definitely psychologically tense and thriller scenes. PG-13
Happy watching! And remember to watch everything at your own risk. My recommendation is, by no means, infallible for every viewer. Do your research and enjoy eastern storytelling! 🙂
Heartsick is available on Amazon for purchase!! Celebration time!
Paperbacks will be available in around two more weeks. Ordering myself a proof copy first. 🙂
Here’s the blurb:
Blessing Spivey didn’t expect to cause such an uproar on her first day of college.
She’s a missionary kid, outgoing and eager to achieve her dreams, and when she leaves behind the harder life of Mexico and arrives at her small Bible college, all she wants is to obtain a teaching degree – and maybe a man as well.
But she’s barely set foot on campus before a shadow looms over her. She is told she’s an exact doppelganger for Tessa Lyme, the popular school sweetheart who shocked the college last semester with her unexpected suicide. And now Tessa’s mysterious ex-boyfriend, Shale Westin, seems to have it out for Blessing.
Despite Shale’s hostility, Blessing is irresistibly drawn to him, and to the strange story of his girlfriend’s death. What secrets did Tessa’s glamorous life hide? And can Blessing protect her own heart from danger?
I did rather a bad job of keeping up with the #JanuaryWIPJoy on Twitter that Bethany Jennings so cleverly came up with. (Smart bestie, that girl!) It’s probably because it required me to post daily, and my family and I have been so sick this month. All four of us had colds. One child’s turned into pink eye in both eyes, the second got an ear infection, and then I was just diagnosed with strep throat. Blech. A lot of staying at home, which is probably good because we’re about to move 25 minutes north to the first house my husband and I have bought! Moving time next month will be busy, so let’s get all the illness out of the way now!
Heartsick comes out next month. 🙂 Two of my editors got back to me. Thank you, Bethany and Catrin Lewis!
Therefore, I think I’ll just do all of February’s next list right here on my blog. I hope this gives you a lot of fun details about Heartsick, and sparks your interest. The book releases February 26th, and is already available for pre-order here. 🙂
Can be found here on Amazon.com. Lucent Sylph is always free. The Hotline Girl and The 12th Girl in Heaven will be re-released through Clean Reads press in the spring. 🙂
My Author Photo:
It’s a watercolor anime self-portrait. I like to protect my privacy here on the web. 🙂
My Last 5-Star Read:
Fun Heartsick Art:
In the beginning, I really liked this model for Blessing Spivey, my main character.
I also really thought that Jesse McCartney looked like Shale Westin from my book. I played around with images when I was first writing the book and made my own for-fun cover. 😛
Oh yes. I have a Youtube playlist for Heartsick. The first song is a long guitar piece that I imagine Shale playing. 😀 The first songs on the list are bubbly and fun, as describes the beginning of my book. I warn you, though, later on, the songs get really serious. I have some Melanie Martinez on there. She sings about really disturbing things. However, to get into the mood of some of the stuff one of my characters went through, it really seemed to fit. I cried more writing this book than anything else I’ve ever written. To really take people at their darkest and bring them to the Lord is one of my passions. I have a character – or two – that have truly gone through hell and then some. ❤
I actually put this book down for two years. Went and wrote The Hotline Girl, The 12th Girl in Heaven, and Lucent Sylph in the meantime. Shale just wasn’t fitting as a character. I first had him as an STP, and people were either repulsed or defending him Those were not the reactions I wanted. I wanted a mysterious attraction. In the time I took off, I rethought him entirely as a character, and brought him back as a real, true INFP. He makes a lot more sense now, and his character really came to life, helping me to finish the book. *mwah* I love you, Shale!
A Fave Review:
From three beta readers:
“You are a GENIUS” – B.J. when she got to the last couple chapters and realized what was going on. 😀
“I just finished reading Heartsick by RJ Conte and will definitely read it again! I loved reading about the main character, Blessing Spivey. So many of the struggles and thought processes were similar to ones of my own. When beginning the book, I admit that I was afraid the main character would be perfect and make me wonder at my many struggles. Instead, the honesty and realness in the book showed me I was not alone and encouraged me to continue onward in the fight for purity. This book is open about many struggles of growing into adulthood and fighting to save oneself for marriage. It is encouraging, and is completely focused on God’s grace and redemption. I couldn’t stop reading it and enjoyed every second of it. Every book I have read by RJ is incredible and this one is no different. I highly recommend it!” – R.H.
“It was inspiring, romantic, funny, and it left me in awe several times. I couldn’t stop reading it! It captured my all my focus and attention from the very first chapter. I stayed up reading it was past midnight a lot, and then I continued thinking about what I had read while I was trying to sleep. It was so well done. I love romance books, but so many of them I never get to finish because they’re very inappropriate and have a curse word every sentence and I don’t want to read that stuff. But this one was PERFECT. It had just the right amount of romance but it was not inappropriate in any way. And it was very realistic. I felt like a part of the story throughout the whole book. I didn’t want it to end! I really loved it. It also made me yearn for the Lord a lot, and that’s a feeling I always love. I love feeling the need to just call out to Him. And having a book make me feel that is amazing. I think it was very well written and thought out and I will definitely be telling others about it. Thank you for letting me read it!” – S.T.
No killed darlings in this book. Are you shocked? This is RJ Conte! 😉 Tessa Lyme starts out dead. Does that count?
She’s Blessing’s doppelganger, and Shale’s ex-girlfriend. She was Hot on Campus before she took her life. Blessing’s on a mission to figure out how to help the grieving Shale, but she gets a little in over her head…
A Favorite Book in my Genre:
Favorite of my Covers:
Hmmmm… I’ve had some fantastic covers, but I think Lucent Sylph is my favorite. Maybe because I designed this one myself. I even put the little veins in myself. My cover artist just did font. 🙂
Wow. I haven’t done any swag yet. I need to get on that. I guess I have an angel wings shirt for Angel-Lover, as well as a Lucent Sylph shirt. 🙂
Where I Write:
Here! Although this is a pic from when it was first assembled, right after we moved in. it’s much messier than this now with stuff filling all of the cubby holes. 😀
Where I Relax:
See above. 😛
Fave Chapter Ending:
My favorite one would be a spoiler, so I’ll go with choice #2
Blessing closed her eyes, taking a deep, shaky breath. She swallowed, trying to shake off the happiness that choked out her anger. Muscling some negative emotion back in, she forced out a challenge. “Then what if I sit somewhere else? Is there a give and take in this friendship? If I’m worth more, will you follow me once in a while?” She looked up at him.
“You have a small foot, did you know that?” he replied, completely ignoring her question. He scooted his chair back a little and craned his neck to look down under the table where he had captured her.
Her blood was pounding in her ears. “Well?” she asked, not wanting to be deterred.
Shale finally looked up again, voice low and firm. “No. I’ll sit where I want to because I’m not being controlled by a girl again. Never again.”
One of my inspirations would be a spoiler, so I’m keeping that to myself. But I can’t say I really have “a muse.” I just love writing when I know I’ll have people who will read it instantly and give me excited feedback. So thankful for Melanie Snitker and Bethany Jennings who did just that.
A Dedication Page:
I’m dedicating this to all of the homeschooled young woman that will read this book. All the college-aged young people who grew up like I did, blessedly safe and protected, and who now have to navigate the world. May God show you the remaining sin in your hearts in quick, painless, and safe ways, so that you can have your happily ever after where He will be glorified. ❤
God bless, and enjoy Heartsick!