Back when I first started reading (and thinking about writing) historical romance, the world was a larger place. A writer might write a western historical romance in one book, then pirates for the next, then a medieval, then an Australian historical, then Ancient Rome, then Gilded Age New York, and the first question in their head when it came time to start the next book might be what period or setting did they want to spend the next year of their lives immersed in this time. Fast forward to now. It’s not like that anymore, and I am not okay with that.
This is a harder post to write, maybe because it’s two days later, and I’m not in the white-hot rush of reading the posts that spoke strongly to my romance writing heart. Maybe I fell down a rabbit hole of reading the comments on the Smart Bitches post. Maybe my brain is still, at least, in part, churning on the Beach Ball and N’s notes from yesterday’s crit session on Her Last First Kiss, because there’s something there that’s not right (on my part, and she agrees) or maybe I need lunch. Whatever it is, I’m not done ranting on the issue of setting in historical romance. Is this the metaphorical hill I want to die on? Right now, yes.
Okay, I have had lunch, read this post on Romance Novels for Feminists, and come (mostly) to terms with the fact that the workshop I am co-presenting at NECRWA this year is, in fact, opposite the workshop on writing historical romance outside of the Regency. :shifty eyes: Were I the sort to buy into conspiracy theories, I might think there was something going on there. Is it offensive if I use the terms “Regency” and “mafia” in the same sentence, with no other words between them? Sometimes, it feels that way.
Back when RT Book Reviews had a paper issue, which I dearly miss, I would go straight to the historical romance reviews, and note the settings for all new releases that month. Regency, by far, had the most representation, and, more broadly, the nineteenth century, but my attention always went first to the settings that were not in century nineteen, or if they were, had settings that sparked my interest because they were unusual, not in spite of it. Medieval? Golden Age of Piracy? Court of the Sun King? Bring. It. On. I love that stuff. Like crazy, twirl around in fields of daisies love it. Twirl around in fields of daisies until I fall on my back and the sky spins, spins, spins above me and my legs are jelly and my arms tingle and my lungs burn and all’s right with the world.
The big question for me, is: are we, in fact, caught in some sort of single-period whirlpool, forever and ever, no use fighting the current, so crouch down, tall poppies? Hush, child. I don’t think so. I don’t think it’s a lost cause for those of us who love other places and times, but cracking the code, that may be a challenge. There’s art and there’s commerce. They intersect somewhere. That’s one of the big reasons I was super excited to see this workshop at NECRWA. If I could have designed any workshop in the whole entire world (apart from the one I am actually co-presenting, that is, and even then, Corinna Lawson originated the concept) that would be the one: how to write historical romance outside the Regency in today’s market. Because “back then” is not “now,” and “now” is a whole different world. Maybe part of it is because I had a lengthy intermission from first four releases, but even then, my preferred periods were outliers, and time hasn’t changed that.
Right now, I’m focusing on the eighteenth century, a wee bit before Regency, yet still close enough that there’s some bleedover (as there is with Victorian, which comes after, but I was, alas, born without the Victorian gene as well.) and I’m happy there. Still, I know myself. I’m going to get itchy feet. I want to write Restoration again (Orphans in the Storm takes place mostly during the end of the English Civil War, so the last bit is technically Restoration) and Tudor/Elizabethan, and colonial, and Gilded Age and wherever my imaginary friends want to take me.
The workshop would have been lovely. One of the presenters, Alyssa Cole, will be participating in the literacy book signing. I’ll stop by her table, buy one of her books, and hopefully get a discussion going. Missing out on this workshop hurts because the subject is important to me. Cinderella, yes, we need Cinderella. We need Clever Griselda and Lord Eagle Beak and Donkeyskin, too. Even back then, I was drawn to a different sort of fairytale. Maybe that’s a part of they key. We’ll find out, one step at a time.