Thursday, December 04, 2008


I've always loved history. I'm not quite sure when my fascination began, but the stories I read as a young adult were more often than not set in England, France, and early America. I loved reading about the French Revolution, the American Civil War and the American Revolution, and Georgian and Regency England.

It wasn't until the last five years or so that I've really started to focus on World War II and the 1940s. I've written one novel set in that time period and my current WIP is also set in the 1940s. But my trip to England in October reawakened my love of that earlier history - the Georgian, Regency, and Victorian Eras. Maybe it was the gorgeous country homes of Chatsworth and Blenheim, or the quaint old churches, or the cobblestone streets. Whatever it was, that passion is now back with a vengeance.

I've recently re-discovered The Victorian Trading Company. Oh. My. Goodness. Talk about treasures! If I had the money, I'd buy all their reproduction antique furniture and turn my home into a stylish and romantic house. Instead, I bought a few Christmas gifts from them as well as one or two little gifts for myself. :-)

But of course, all this reawakening has had an effect on my writer's brain, and I've got niggling little ideas of novels set in the American Revolution or in Georgian England or even Victorian London. Yet I am still in love with the 1940s time period and have so, so many ideas for books set during World War II.

The problem? Research. I am a stickler for it. I feel like I really need to fully understand the time period I'm writing about in order to accurately portray it - as should all writers. But when the eras are so vastly different, I wonder if I'll be able to downshift from one to the other. And all of that research takes time. Lots and lots of it.

One of my very favorite authors is Rosalind Laker. Reading her historical novels began my love affair with history, and her books were always set in different time periods: Napoleonic France, Norway in World War II, Elizabethan England, and even 18th century Venice. I've just got to wonder, though, how did she do it? How did she keep all those facts straight in her head? How did she decide when she had enough research? How did she have time to do the research and the writing? (And since she's still writing, how does she continue to do it?)

Part of me is incredibly frustrated when I think about it all. There are so many stories and time periods
that I want to dive into. But there is only so much time in the day - and it's not nearly enough to accomplish all that I want! That's a major reason why I booted the t.v. to the curb. I do not miss it at all. (Ok, ok, I missed it a little Tuesday when I was at home sick, but I read and finished Anita Shreve's Resistance instead.)

So! The solution? I'm not sure. And don't even get me started on the whole "branding" issue...if I write a World War II novel first, then an American Revolution novel second, will that completely destroy my fan base? Sigh. Too many things to think about.

Wise bloggers, what advice do ye have for my troubled mind?


  1. Branding is for lazy marketing types who can't be bothered to come up with creative plans. Look at me -- I write any darned thing I want. I bust my ass promotion-wise, but it can be done.

    At the very least, you can write in different periods under different names, yet keep them sounding similar, so people can find you.

    When you write well, your audience follows you from genre to genre. You don't HAVE to be locked into any "brand". That is a myth promoted by lazy people.

    Good writing trumps all.

    If you love history, you will ADORE Sandra Worth's novels, although they are set earlier in English history, during the Wars of the Roses.

    Also, Cerridwen Press/Ellora's Cave now does a line which I believe is called "Cotillion", which is Regency, and I recently reviewed another publication that was Regency -- there's a strong market for it, even though it seemed to fall out of favor there for awhile. And I'm in the process of reviewing a wonderful novel set during the American Revolution.

    There's no reason why you have to or should write only one thing in only one time period. Follow your creativity and your heart.

  2. It would seem that if you're trying to break into publishing in these cost-cutting times, it would be wise to make yourself, as a product, as marketable as possible. Whether that is narrowly focused & identifiable with one genre, or encompassing many is a good guess! Have you tried sending off an email to Rosalind Laker for a little advice? Nothing like hearing advice from the pros.

  3. I recently heard Laura Joh Rowland speak, and she told of the unreal amount of time she puts into research. Copious days on period culture, dress, toilet habits even. Gotta have it for authenticity, and also to add to the everyday activities of the characters. But her Bronte book is paying off big. (Check out her agent Pamela Ahern's site. Maybe a good resource to put in your files for later?)

  4. I'm with you on wanting to write in so many different eras. I know they talk about branding, but I think ultimately, I'd like to brand myself by just writing fabulous books in whatever era I choose. Maybe I'll stick with one or two for romance, but branch out into others for mainstream historical fiction.

  5. Well, I admire you, Melissa, because history and research (don't hate me) are two of my least favorite things. :/ But the Victorian Trading Company is new to me, and I'll for certain check it out. Thanks for the link!

  6. Maybe your brand isn't a particular historical period maybe your brand is the type of stories you set in various historical periods.

    Make the type of story you tell, be it about love, struggles, women overcoming adversity, etc., your brand and the historical period the icing on the cake.

  7. Devon - Excellent statement: "Good writing trumps all." I think I need to print that out and put it on my computer. :-)

    Joanne - I did email Rosalind Laker once and never heard back, but perhaps I shall try again with a hand-written note and a nice card. :-)

    Angie - Pamela Ahearn actually looked at my Regency historical novel once! :-) In fact, she was the first one to request a partial from me, so I have that particular letter framed and hanging in my office. :-) I haven't heard of that author you mentioned, but I'm off to check her out now.

    Kelly - I agree - brand yourself by writing fabulous books. Good goal to have!

    Janna - That's ok, I'll forgive you for not loving history. *grin* I know it's not everyone's thing, but I hope you find some cool stuff at The Victorian Trading Co.!

  8. Jenna - Awesome advice. I think that's exactly what Rosalind Laker did with her stories and she found a lot of success with it. :-)

  9. Write the stories you're passionate about. Readers will respond to that. Look at Margaret Atwood--she's written near-future dystopia, historical, contemporary, and a few things that defy classification. Her "brand" is her fabulous writing and the great thought, detail and passion that goes into her worlds.

  10. Did you see any Past Times stores while you were in England? Talk about tempted to spend money!

    Anyway, I think Jenna is right - branding yourself as a historical writer, rathern than going for one particular period.

    I have written in periods I know particularly well, which does help somewhat with the research. I keep binders of stuff, labelled, with details about each one.

    RL has a website - here's the url for her contact page:

    Would love to know if she responds :) As I think we've discussed before, she's one of my favourite writers as well.

  11. Tess - YES! I saw a Past Times in Derby and didn't realize until I got home and looked at a Past Times magazine that I had actually gone to the place I'd looked at only in magazines. Weird.

    I have looked at her website before, and I see that she has a new book out. She just amazes me!

  12. Christine - I completely agree. The brand should be the good writing. :-)

  13. So many ideas! I love reading the comments as I absolutely have no idea what to say! (unusual for me) But I'd go with what you are most comfortable with and take it from there.

  14. Everyone's given me such wonderful ideas - I love my fellow bloggers!

  15. Oh my gosh! I've got it! EEEH! You're gonna freak--or you'll think I'm a weirdo either way, I'm soo gonna burst! Write them all! Now stay with me on this one. Write about a family! You know, start it in Georgian, then the daughter in Regency, grand-daughter in Victorian, G-Grand daughter in Edwardian, And then Ta-dah! G-G-grand-daughter in the 1940's and a trip across the pond as refugees from a massively war torn England! EEH! Okay, so I'm I'll happy now, you have no idea! hahahah! It can all be their loves stories and stuff! I would so love to read this! LOL! Okay, I'll go back to editing my book now! Thanks for letting me spout! hehehe!

  16. Melissa- write what you want and don't worry about it! You have to love what you do cause it is so much work. And I love love love that picture!!

  17. I loved the PT store when I was at the Oxford one in '95.

    RL has a new book out? Don't know how I missed it. Though I did manage to miss you already saying you'd tried contacting her and she hadn't replied (doh!).

  18. Giddymom - Wow! That's quite the brainstorm - and full of good ideas, too. :-) Thanks!

    Ell - I love that picture, too. And yeah, I just need to write what I love. Problem is, I'm having trouble narrowing it down!

    Tess - Well, I thought it was the one called Brilliance, but I just went to her website and there is a brand NEW one called Garlands of Gold, set in the 17th century world of cosmetics. EEEK! How fascinating does that sound?


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