Friday, February 08, 2008

Torn Between The Past and the Even Further Past

Yesterday at work, I wasn't in the mood to listen to big band or swing music. Instead, I longed for some good Baroque music ala Vivaldi and Bach. Thankfully, finding an awesome online radio station for such music wasn't hard, and I was suddenly thrust back into the time period that I've loved for so long - but recently neglected.

I started out loving the 18th and early 19th Centuries, mostly in elementary, high school, and college. One of the first romances I read was Tree of Gold by Rosalind Laker, set in Napoleonic France. It remains my absolute favorite book of all time. Patricia Veryan's Georgian Chronicles further seduced me into this period of lush decadence and political upheaval - and continue to remain some of my all-time favorite books.

When I went to graduate school, I had intended to focus on the French Revolution. That evolved to a comparison between the French and American Revolutions. But midway through my first semester, after taking a class on Nazi Germany, I switched my focus and instead centered on World War II. I haven't regretted that decision for an instant.

What I do regret, however, is not being able to give both time periods equal share in my life.

Let me explain.

When I write a novel set during World War II, I listen to the music of the times, read books set during that period, and will watch that era's movies. It's how I keep myself focused and in that "time." My mind is so easily seduced, however, that if I happen to watch a Jane Austen flick (and have you been watching the Jane Austen series on PBS? I can't for fear of, well, keep reading...) I will immediately want to run back to my abandoned Regency-set novel and put aside my World War II book. Novels do not get written this way.

So. How to co-exist in both worlds? I'm afraid I do not have the answer. I wish I did.

I've always wanted to write a novel set during the American Revolution. Heck, I have several folders of another abandoned manuscript set during the French Revolution. Will I ever get to them again?

After listening to that gorgeous music of Bach and Vivaldi, I'm thinking I need to. But then I worry I will be "pulled out" from the World War II time period and not want to write my novel.

Maybe I need to trade off. After I write the World War II novel, I can revisit my French Revolution or Regency one...but then there's that whole pesky idea of getting an agent and having to try and stay in one particular time period to build a reading base.

Is your mind spinning yet? Mine is.

However, there must be a solution to my perplexing dilemma. If you figure it out, let me know. ;-)


  1. Make it clear that you're an historical novelist, not just stuck in a single period.

    You don't have to be stuck in a genre box of you don't allow it.

    Plenty of well-respected authors change it up from book to book.

    The branding is to soothe lazy marketing people. You can market yourself no matter what you write.

  2. I agree with Devon. Plenty of authors change from book to book. You'll be able to market yourself and your readers won't mind if it's Regency or WWII so long as it's a good read.

    Have a great weekend!

  3. I agree with Shirley and Devonellington--and yet, I have the same genre-switching worries. My first book was a contemporary YA. The second is a WWII historical YA. I'm hoping whatever reading base I built with the 1st book will stick around for the 2nd. In a way, it feels like I'm starting from scratch, which is scary. But the thing is, I couldn't get excited about any contemporary ideas, and I was batty about my WWII premise (and, thankfully, so was my publisher). As writers, we gotta go with our inspirations.

    So, fingers crossed. I'll let you know how it goes. :)


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