Saturday, October 21, 2006

Marie Antoinette

Is anyone planning to see this movie? I don't know that I'll go to the movies to see it but I'd like to see it when it comes out on HBO. I was really skeptical when I heard Kirsten Dunst was set to play the role and Sofia Coppola was directing. However, I don't think Coppola is striving for historical accuracy but rather making a film about the legend of the doomed French Queen. I don't mind historical inaccuracy as long as the author/filmmaker is not trying to push it off as history. That was a problem I had with "The Patriot." Rather than saying it was a costume drama, the filmmakers presented it as history. And it wasn't accurate. I actually liked the film, although I found myself rooting for the Redcoats. I think Jason Isaacs had a lot to do with it. I'm the same way with books I suppose, although with books, an author has time to present the facts correctly. Maybe because I am a writer I am a tougher critic. We seem to be tougher judges on our own, I think that is pretty much true with any profession. Have you ever been out to dinner with a waitress?

Anyway, what do you think? Is this movie going to do a disservice to French history or will it be considered on its entertainment merits? I can't wait to see the costumes.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

House of a Thousand Lanterns

I guess I must have been about eleven when my mom gave me one of her books to read. It was "House of a Thousand Lanterns" by Victoria Holt. After reading that book, I knew what I wanted to do when I grew up.

Victoria Holt wrote gothic romance back in the 60's, 70's and 80's. Almost all of them were historical. A couple of them were less gothic and more historical. But they all pulled me into another world, creating vivid settings and fascinating characters. She took me all over the world: Britain, France, India, Australia and Germany. Her heroines found themselves in perilous situations, quite often suspecting the hero was the culprit. Her heroes and heroines were flawed, those very flaws contributing to the plot and moving the story forward.

I fell in love with those stories. In the future, other authors influenced my choice of writing. Jennifer Wilde instilled a love of the 18th century in me. Early Kathleen Woodiwiss made me appreciate sweeping language and heroes and heroines of mythical proportions. Laurell K. Hamilton convinced me vampires could be sexy. But the author who made me a writer was Victoria Holt.

She died awhile back, but her influence is still with me today. If it hadn't been for her, I would never have picked up a pen and wrote.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Accuracy Versus Expectations

I try to be as accurate as I can when I’m working on a historical. I research the facts, make sure my details are true and hope to convey the feeling of the time period.

But what if these conflicts with what a reader expects?

When you are educated in history, the preconceptions of what you believe about the past are wiped away by the truth found in books. Elementary and high school history courses pretty much give a Cliff Notes version of history, coloring the world in black and white, ignoring the fact that our ancestors were human beings just like us, with the same hopes and dreams as we do. And many of the same values.

Anyway, I’m writing an 18th century historical and I know it will raise brows. The language is rough. But at the time, words we reserve for swearing now were no big deal then. They were an earthier group of people, slowly moving towards the bourgeois values more apparent in the Regency period. And the belief that women were not educated. They were and in more than sewing. It was essential they be able to converse about the politics of the day. The upper classes spent much of their time socializing and women were known for the salons hosting writers, artists and politicians. These women were educated.

On a smaller scale, so were the lower classes. No one wanted a housekeeper who couldn’t read. And a scullery girl knew the only way she could advance in her profession was to learn skills, and many times that required literacy.

Those are some specific details, there are plenty more. But in general it concerns me that as a writer I will be writing against the notions readers have based on their perceptions of the past. Does anyone else worry about this?

Sunday, May 28, 2006

It's the little things

I feel like there is complacency among historical romance writers, a complacency which weakens the genre. We are all aware of big inaccuracies and how they can really ruin a story for us as readers. But what about the little details?

I recently read a story where the author had obviously researched one aspect of her novel quite well, but she let the rest lapse. For example, the heroine was wearing a cotton shift in colonial America in the 1750's. Not a big deal, but if a reader knows anything about the period or knows anything about textiles, they would know the price of cotton was so high at the time that only the most wealthy could wear it. Really not a big deal and certainly not something a section of readers are going to know. However, it shows a lack of passion in the writer.

I've always believed a historical writer should write about an era they love. In loving that era, they should know all about it. They should glory in the small details. They should be trying to pass on that passion to their readers. When I read a historical, I want to be transported to another time and place. While I don't require the novel to be a hard hitting expose of the time period, I expect the writer to do her best to know her details.

Did it ruin the book for me? No, but I was disappointed. In this day and age, the wealth of resources available to an author makes me hold them to a higher standard. In ten minutes, the author could have figured out everything she would have needed to know about women's dress in 18th century America and been accurate. But she made assumptions. She was lazy. I suppose I feel somewhat insulted as a reader although I'm positive that wasn't her intent. And in all fairness, not too many people would catch it. But I find it sad that she didn't care enough about the time period to make it as accurate as possible.

I'm probably being a little harsh, but I love history and I love historical romance. I know some readers believe the crucial element is the hero and heroine, that the story and setting should be there to pump up the characterizations and conflicts. But when you as a writer take on a historical, you are taking on the responsibility of making your characters products of their times. And to make them believable, the details are important. Make me as a reader feel your love for the era. If that isn't possible, then perhaps the genre is truly dying.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Switching Time Periods

I just received the latest issue of Romantic Times and when I turned to the historical romance reviews section, my heart plummeted. Most of the new books were set in Regency England. Why did my heart sink? Because that's where my novel is set. And I keep thinking, Why would anyone want to buy more stories set in this time period? The market is just saturated with Regency historicals.

As a writer, I have a hard time wanting to just write in one particular time period. I have lots of ideas for stories in different time periods - the French Revolution, the American Revolution, World War II, Napoleonic France, the Troubles in Northern Ireland, etc., etc. So if I happen to sell the novel I'm working on (the Regency historical), does that mean I'm committed to writing more Regency historicals until I'm successful enough to branch out? In other words, that will be my "brand."

Unfortunately, that doesn't sit well with me.

I don't want to spend years writing in the same time period because, frankly, I'll get bored. And I don't want to just do what everyone else is doing. When I started writing this book (I won't say how long ago), I wanted to write it because I loved that time period and because it was very popular. Now, though, I think it's gone overboard.

I think something is brewing in the historical market. This trend of Regency historicals can't go on forever, nor do I want it to. I love this time period, but I think there is plenty of room for other time periods, as well. I think a lot of romance readers would agree.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Crossing Genres

I'm writing a paranormal historical. It isn't something I see on the shelves too often. There's the LoveSpell line by Dorchester but I've never been too fond of them. Occasionally you'll see one, but it isn't as established in the genre as paranormal is in contemporary.

Do you think there is room? Paranormal is hot, no doubt about it. Could it be the subgenre to enliven the historical market? Susan Squires seems to be successful with her Regency vampire stories. Do you think it could be the next wave?

And what about historical romantic suspense? There is usually a "suspense" plot to historicals, but they are generally just window dressing for the hero and heroine. The plots provide conflicts but rarely create any real interest. And yet there are historical mystery writers out there as well. Is it an area to explore?

I do think we will see more historical erotica as erotica has gone more mainstream. Lisa Valdez's Passion definitely crosses the line into eroticism. Historicals have always been spicy, I think it isn't a big jump to move towards erotica.

What do you think? Will we see the historical genre grow with other subgenres? Do you think it needs to or is the readership loyal to only a certain style, accepting only anomalies to the genre?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Keeping the Faith

"The market for historicals is tight." "Historicals are dying." "You can't sell a historical in today's market place."

We historical writers have all heard these lines. So how do you keep going? How do you find the faith to continue with your historical story?

When I first started writing, historical romances dominated. And you could find a book from a variety of eras. Personally, I think the market has been so badly filtered, it damaged itself. Let's face it, when was the last time you read a historical which didn't take place in Regency England? Yeah, they are out there, but you got to look. When was the last time you read a book that didn't take place in the British Isles?

Author Lydia Joyce has broken from the mold. Her last book Music of the Night took place in Venice. Her next release takes place in Eastern Europe. And her books are selling. Is this sending a message to the editors and publishers? Is there a light at the end of the tunnel for historical writers?

I confess, I've put aside my aspirations of writing about the American Colonies or the War for Independence at this point. A book on the Revolution would be so exhaustive to research, I don't have the heart to do so and see my story never sell. However, I find I can't write Regency. I've tried and while I can do it, I don't enjoy it. I have nothing against it, I happen to prefer other eras. I keep writing historical because it is what I enjoy and I happen to be good at. But I have found myself developing my skills in other genres. Is it giving up? Hmm, not sure. Jayne Ann Krentz does it, but there are a bunch of historical authors that have jumped the ship and are now writing contemporary.

What do you think?

Friday, March 03, 2006

More on historical accuracy...

Rene blogged about this the other day, and I'm going to add something more here - after reading more in a book I'm reviewing for the Historical Novel Society.

Why, oh why, do authors slip little bits of history into their books without doing the proper research? Until last night, I was having a pretty good time with this particular story. A little overwritten in bits, but so far - a fun romp. THEN, the author drops in two pages with one character telling the other about some background info, using events with which I'm well familiar. To put it bluntly, she got things WAY wrong. Not just a little wrong, but WAY wrong. It was clear to me she'd done little research and just gone with what she thought she knew.

Now, had this gone to another reviewer, this might not have been caught. But it didn't and it has. I was sooooo frustrated. What possible reason could this writer have for NOT double and triple-checking her facts? It completely spoils the credibility of the book for me - I don't particularly want to finish it at this point, but I will.

It's not even like the research would have taken all that long. There were just a few tidbits of history that needed a quick review and all would have been well. Instead, the history was just tossed in, apparently to add to the drama of the personal background being revealed. Which might work with most readers, but for those who are aware of what really happened it will only serve to make them want to toss the book against the nearest wall.

Such carelessness just burns me. And to what end? Now I question everything I've read so far. Does this author think people just really don't care? Does he/she really not respect the intelligence of the reader? I've no idea. Or maybe the scene was inserted at the last moment and time ran out. Either way, considering the facts were those that easily could have been checked both online and in a couple of basic sources available at any decent library, it smacks of laziness.

Now, maybe I should give the author a break. But, knowing any number of unpublished writers who, like me, go the distance to create realistic settings in the past, it makes me angry.

So - how do YOU react when you find really blatant errors in a novel? Does it bother you like it does me? Or do you just shrug it off and move one?


Sunday, February 26, 2006

Historical Accuracy

How important is historical accuracy to you in a novel? I waver. If the writing is good, I tend to forgive errors. But if there are problems with the story, I will notice every inaccuracy. I suppose I'm more stringent on books which take place in eras I am familiar with. But I'm not one to hurl a book for one mistake. I also put a higher standard to multi-published authors than newbies like when I'm judging a contest. Maybe that's not fair, but if you are a historical novelist, it is part of your job to produce a book as close to accurate as possible, in my humble opinion. What about you?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

A wonderful resource...

Want to know more about historical buildings in Britain? I was pointed towards this resource by the author of World History Blog. It's a site called, appropriately enough, Researching Historic Buildings in the British Isles. So far, I've only scanned it (must get back to my ms), but it looks like a good place to learn lots!

Enjoy :-)


Wednesday, February 22, 2006


What authors do you like? Any titles you'd recommend? I confess I'm in a bit of a drought. The last one I read was "Music of the Night" by Lydia Joyce and I liked it quite a bit. What are your favorites?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

So, Rene twisted my rubber arm *g* to join this blog and what do you know - here I am *g*.

I'm sure you're all sooooo surprised.

But a blog dedicated to writers of historicals is right up my alley. I feel like we're a dying breed. *sigh* NOT that I have anything against romantic suspense, women's fiction, chick lit, hen lit or any of the other more popular genres, it's just that I am so totally dedicated to the historical world I can't imagine writing anything else. Or give up hope that one day, despite the apparently fading historical market, I'll have one of my mss published.

I write stories set in the past because the events of yesteryear fascinate me. And because my characters are all historical - they come to me, fully formed, as people from the past. The one contemp character who made an appearance promptly insisted on travelling back to 1483 England and taking up with the handsome spymaster of Richard III. So what's a historian who loves a happy ending to do? Write historical romance. And keep on pushing the genre by talking about it, reviewing books set in the past and writing the best da**ed book she can.

Speaking of which - I'd best get back to my characters :-)

Thanks Rene and Melissa for welcoming me here :-)


Monday, February 20, 2006

What Kind of Romance?

What kind of historical romance are you reading, writing or both? Do you have a favorite time period and setting?

Why This Blog?

Besides the fact I thought the template was pretty, I thought it would be a nice place for historical writers to gather. Writing the historical romance is different from other types of writing. While we are able to exploit the wide range of historical material and add that richness to our stories, our heroes and heroines must play by different rules. Their goals and motivations differ from their contemporary counterparts. I thought it would be fun to have a place where others can vent about their struggles or find answers to specific questions. We can gather support for our endeavors and share information with each other.