Friday, June 15, 2012

Why I write historical romances

My path to writing historical romances held a few detours.  When I first started writing in earnest, approximately six years ago, I focused on writing literary fiction and was all over the place--among my novel attempts were (1) contemporary women's fiction with a supernatural twist, (2) historical fiction, (3) a YA modernization of a literary classic. I still think each of those Works In Progress had potential, but they all remained unfinished and all had fundamental (sometimes major) flaws.  I was learning.  I'm still learning. 

When I ended up focusing on my historical fiction WIP, I knew rather quickly that the plot would end in tragedy. Writing as a panster (by the seat of my pants, jumping from scene to scene to piece them together later), I even wrote the painful ending early on.  And then I found after a year or so of writing that WIP sporadically that I had no idea what should go in the saggy, unformed middle--I knew the beginning and the end but was at a loss as to how to get from A to Z.  I wanted the writing to be organic, wanted to be "faithful" to the story as it grew, wanted to celebrate the complexity of the time period I was writing about.  Unfortunately, I felt increasingly reluctant to wend my my way to the inevitable conclusion, making my protagonist go through more and more conflict and adversity until she lost everything.  Eventually, every writing session because laborious and disheartening. 

After taking a little break from that WIP and from novel writing, I went back to playing, to writing for the fun of it.  And I found myself gravitating toward historical romance, which combined what I loved most about writing historical fiction with a happy ending.  The more I read, the more I saw the fun, the joie de vivre, in writing romance. The more I played with the writing, the more I mixed in outlining with my panster style--I set waypoints, significant moments from A to Z, but still jumped to whatever waypoint was foremost in my mind.  Ultimately, I found writing roance to be fundamentally entertaining and invigorating and challenging.  I find writing romance fundamentally entertaining and invigorating and challenging.  In a genre filled with so many wonderful writers, what can I write that's new? In a genre that tends to have consistent elements, how can I use them in innovative ways?  In fact, a few elements of my current historical romance manuscripts came directly from my historical fiction WIP.  And, really, what's better than a Happy Ever After (or even a Happy For Now)?  So...why do I write historical romances? Because they make me a happy writer.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Why I set novels in the Victorian era

Short answer: I'm pretty sure I am a Victorian lady reincarnated.  That would explain my affinity for long skirts and paisley shawls.

Real answer: I see the Victorian period (traditionally defined as the period of Queen Victoria's reign--1837 to 1901) as one of the most magnificent, vibrant, and dynamic times since the Renaissance. So much about the world changed fundamentally during this time due to political, social, scientific, and literary developments, and so much of what we perceive as proper or even natural was really a product of that time. 

Celebrating a commercialized Christmas with a decorated floor-to-ceiling tree, lavish gifts, and a reading of Dickens's A Christmas CarolAll were initiated in the Victorian period (although the Christmas tree in general was already a German tradition).  

A bride wearing white? This practice was initiated by Queen Victoria. Family in mourning wearing black for a year or more? Exemplified by Queen Victoria upon the death of her beloved Prince Albert. 

Photography (and pornography). Psychology (and phrenology). Evolution. Dinosaurs. Trains. Marxism. Modern surveillance. Cheaply available mass media. All results of the Victorian era. 

The Industrial Revolution initiated in the 18th century and the 18th century revolutions in America and France set the stage for a Victorian world that tipped nobility on end.  No longer was class status just a matter of birth; one could work himself (yes, usually him...but more on that later) up to a nouveau riche position of power and respect. Class boundaries blurred.

The definition of women's roles was particularly fraught with difficulty.  The dualistic Victorian ideal of "separate spheres," wherein men belonged in the public sphere taking care of politics, industry, finance, etc., and women belonged in the domestic sphere taking care of home and family was strongly emphasized in many social mediums.  Plenty of etiquette guides came into existence to guide women in their "proper" roles as wife and mother.  But these guides as a whole suggest an underlying anxiety about how women's roles were being challenged.  Just as common men could make themselves a financial and social success, so women could (with difficulty) support themselves independently.  Some Victorian women writers used male pseudonyms to break into publishing, but an increasing number of women writers (novelists, poets, journalists, memoirists, etc.) began successful careers in the public eye.

And I haven't even gotten to the complex issue of British imperialism.  Or the corset, crinoline, and bustle. Or gaslights. Or the Poor Laws. Or voting reform. Or myriad inventions and contraptions.

What's not to love about that time?

NECRWA 2017 Follow-up!

*ahem* *looks around* *sweeps away the dust bunnies and cobwebs* So...hi! It's apparently been quite a while since I last sa...