“Be willing to expose yourself to your readers. Plumb the depths of your own experiences and emotions in order to make your stories authentic. Don’t hold back.”
— Madeline Hunter
Wednesday’s post was going to be a special midweek update from Skye, but a domestic tornado chain touched down, here it is, Thursday, and Skye will be able to make her regular Feline Friday post tomorrow, so this one is all on me. Which would be lovely if I had any idea what I had planned to write here in the first place. Keeping the discipline of thrice-weekly blogging is one of my goals, so here I am, and my complete lack of focus means that I am going to babble and trust that some sense will come out of all of it at some point.
I will admit that, in a not that long ago romance writer’s conference, I had the great good fortune to be seated at the same table as Madeline Hunter at one of the meals, but did not get to talk to her. Despite my best attempts to peek at her name badge, I couldn’t get a good view, and the noise level was high, so shouting across a big round table wasn’t the most practical thing to do. Point is, I was at the same table with Madeline Hunter for an entire meal, and did not get to talk to her. This will haunt me to my grave. Either that or until my next opportunity, because these things do roll around again.
Granted, due to the lack of a clear name tag sighting, I didn’t know who the new arrival to our table was, and her only answer to a tablemate’s question of “what do you write?” (universal writer to writer icebreaker there) was “historical.” If I had known, I would have loved to talk with her. I still remember, long, long ago, when Madeline Hunter first came on the scene with well-received medieval romances, and feeling betrayed when she switched to Regency. I’m all for writers writing in different eras, and, in fact, I encourage that. I’d like to see more of it. What hit me hard at the time was the loss of a writer who used the medieval setting in all its grit and glory, leaving for more populated Regency assemblies.
There are multiple reasons a writer might switch time periods. Medievals have been declared dead multiple times since I started reading romance novels, let alone writing them. I don’t recall if it was that same conference, though it may well have been, where I pitched my own medieval, with a working title of Ravenwood, to a very interested agent, who said she loved my voice, quoted my own lines back to me, and assured me she would totally read this book for her own pleasure…but she couldn’t sell a medieval in the current market. Did I have a Regency?
I was working on one at the time, and told the agent that. She said great, send it when it was done, but don’t rush. She wanted the same level of polish as she could see in the medieval. Well, dear readers, I can say that I tried. I love the characters in that once upon a time Regency, love the conflict, love the resolution, but, as Critique Partner Vicki pointed out, I hate writing Regency. Georgian seems to be my natural default these days, so, when I do go back to that manuscript, everything will get bumped back a few decades, to fit within my natural reach. It’s going to take a while to get to that point, as I have the current novel and novella that need my attention, and I’ve blabbered on this subject before, so I won’t belabor the point.
Does this post even have a point? Does it need one? It’s written, that’s what, or mostly so, and I’ve had a few discussions, at various places on the interweb, about writing historical and how and why and all that. Defining what makes a particular period appeal to a particular reader or writer is far above my pay grade, so I’m not going to try (today) but here’s what I do know: I need to feel the era. To us, it’s history. To the characters, it’s life. Barring time travel (and I have a time travel waiting to burn off its own bad juju – this may be payback for all the jujubes I inhaled as a kid) the characters don’t know how the war is going to turn out. They don’t know they’re inching up on another ice age, or that the thingamahoozie is going to be invented two months hence, thus changing the world forever. They don’t know any of that.
What they do know is that they want the same things we do; home, health, shelter, food, companionship, purpose, love. All that good stuff. The way they get it, though, that’s where we find the differences, and what historical characters can and cannot do are influenced by any number of things. I find that endlessly fascinating. It’s easier for me to climb into a character’s skin and move around in their world if that world strikes a chord in me and plucks me like a stringed instrument so we can make beautiful music together. No doubt that can happen in any number of settings, and there are probably some I haven’t ever thought I’d employ that, someday, I will. For now, it’s Georgian, and, for today, that’s one blog entry down.