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.