I set out to write books free from explicit content, but I didn’t know there was an actual term for that. The term is “clean books,” which isn’t what it sounds like. In this blog post, I’ll explain what clean books are and what that means you can expect as a reader of my books.
What Are Clean Books?
Clean books are books free from explicit content. You will find some debate about this, but overall, clean books share the following characteristics:
- No swearing
- Sex is off-screen
- No gory or gratuitous violence
Between Worlds is clean, and my upcoming sweet romance series, Love on Belmont, will be clean, too. But they won’t lack depth or acknowledgement of the greater world. I’ll explain why I write books like this a little later. First, though, let’s dive into clean books in more detail.
Does Clean Mean Conservative?
This was my first association when I heard the term. Although conservative books may be clean, clean books are not automatically conservative. In fact, clean books can be diverse, including in sexuality, living arrangements, ethnicities and skin colours, etc.
But regardless of the story, clean books are free of explicit content.
For example, Uncle Peter in Between Worlds is gay and has a partner, Brian Yamamoto. They may give each other pecks on the cheeks, but that’s all you’ll read about. Why? Because I write for a very wide age range.
Are Clean Books Religious?
You will find many Christian titles advertised as clean, but as with conservative books, not all clean books are religious.
In Between Worlds, Elisabeth’s life circles in part around her religious beliefs. However, the point of her story is not to show religious redemption, nor is her character arc one of ultimate forgiveness from a theological standpoint. Religion is important to Elisabeth because it’s also historically accurate.
Depending on how you understand Elisabeth’s story, you may find her a faithful follower of Jesus, a naïve teenager, or a young woman trying to understand what her society expects of her. None of these interpretations would be “wrong.” I write her story and leave interpretation up to you.
However, religion doesn’t play much of a role in Juliana’s life. She celebrates Christmas and Easter and learns about Elisabeth’s confirmation, but that’s about it. Between Worlds is still clean, despite half of each book lacking a religious subplot.
What About Violence in Clean Books?
Books free from explicit content may still contain actions that are technically violent, e.g., a sword fight, a fistfight, etc. But you won’t spend pages reading about all the blood and specific injuries.
Because of the historical setting I’ve chosen for Between Worlds, I can’t exclude all types of violence. Elisabeth tries to understand the ramifications of World War I on her village, and the culture she lives in encourages men to punch each other if they’re angry enough. Moreover, adults used corporal punishment to discipline children.
None of these scenes go into gory or graphic violence, nor do they glorify fighting. But I find we often romanticize the past, imagining times long gone as “simpler.” I don’t believe they were. At least with my family’s background, I’m very happy to live today, not then. Juliana is, too.
Are Clean Books Devoid of Any Romance or Intimacy?
Absolutely not! Next year, I’ll be launching a clean sweet romance series, Love on Belmont. Readers can expect different of relationships, but they don’t have to worry about reading sex scenes that involve bodily fluids.
I want to make one thing clear: I don’t find more explicit content immoral. My tolerance for what should be allowed to be printed is high, but it doesn’t mean I enjoy reading explicit material every time I pick up a book. I don’t need to know the details of someone’s sex life, so I don’t need to read about the details of fictional sex lives either.
But a clean book needn’t exclude human intimacy, which is perhaps the most important, joyful, and sometimes most painful part of humanity. Between Worlds is low on intimacy, but that is my intent. I’ll write about those in a different blog post.
Aren’t Books Free From Explicit Content Boring?
My preference for writing clean novels now is a reaction to the hyper sexualization of the female body and apparent belief that people will only watch TV and read books with copious amounts of violence and steamy sex. I want to write entertaining books that give readers a break from the extreme ends of the sex and violence spectrums.
But that doesn’t mean my books are intellectually and emotionally unengaging. In Between Worlds 4: What Friends Do, for example, readers journey into loss, long-distance friendships, and adult bullying. Between Worlds 7: What Will Come (released this fall), follows Juliana after she has a powerful and overwhelming reaction to seeing people near the end of their lives in a nursing home.
In Tea Shop for One, a prequel to the first novel in the Love on Belmont series, Claire has opened her own tea shop after an ugly and thankfully short-lived marriage. The novel that will follow will take you on a journey with Pauline, Claire’s daughter, and Pauline’s love interest, who both have to change careers in their 40s.
If I’ve done my job as an author right, the characters, plot, and setting will create enthralling stories for you without my needing to resort to gimmicks like explicit content. And if I haven’t done my job right, then I need to work on my craft, not learn a bag of new tricks.
In short, if you see the term “clean” attached to a book, it should only mean that the content is free of anything explicit. You should still expect books that entertain, enlighten, inspire, frighten, enrage…In short, clean books should still deliver on your reader expectations.
How Do I Find Books Free From Explicit Content?
You have several options:
- Subscribe to my newsletter. I participate in numerous cross promotions with other authors, including those who write clean books.
- Search for “clean books” online. You’ll easily find lists and recommendations.
- Be open to reading books by independent authors. Many authors (like me) publish independently because they’re solopreneurs reaching niche audiences. So, if you’re looking for clean LGBTQ urban dystopia, you’ll likely find indie authors who write that. Twitter and Instagram might actually be the places to discover your niche.
As I said, clean doesn’t mean boring. Clean books are simply books free from explicit content. If that’s what you’re looking to read, search “clean books” and you’ll likely find books that interest you!