You are on page 1of 3

I

WRLI(IN(I
TIIITIGIITROII:

x
BY CA RRI EL O F T Y

setting
Woo reodersinto lovingon unexpected

Twoyeorsogo, I wrotemy firstorticlefor the RWR("The Discovery, Novelty qnd Wonder
Triolsond T r ium p h so f U n u s u o lH i s to ri c o l s " ),
w h i ch exom-
Most of the writers I surveyedadmittedto writing unusualhis-
i ned t he s t qt e o f th e i n d u s try re g o rd i n g hi stori col toricals becauseof their desire to be original, to indulge in
researchcwiosities, and to explore eras rife with interesting
romoncesset outsideof Englond-which todoy ore doing
.conflict. Alex Beecroft, whose False Colors is set during the
betterthon ever. Groundbreokingnovels(suchos Jeonnie SevenYears'War,says,"...An old, well-worr settingsuch as
Lin's Butterfly Swords ond Zoe Archer's \Norriorl keep the Regencydoesn't offer me that thrill of discovery novelty
and wonder."
p r ov ing t hot t he p u b l i s h i n g i n d u s try ,i h o rg h sl ow to . The difficulty with this dive into novelty is becoming
ch onge, is gent lye x p o n d i n gi ts b o u n d o ri e s . seducedby world building. Historical authors face the same
challengesas writers of sciencefiction and fantasy,where set-
ting plays an enoflnous role. In using Regency or medieval
How did suchbooks achievethe improbable?We akeady England-both well known to fans of historical romance-an
know unusual historicals are difficult to sell, but tricks and author starts from a much higher assumption of familiarity.
techniques exist that enable writers to minimize roadblocks Not every nuance ofthe ton needsto be explainedafresh,but
and maximizechancesof success. rather gently revisited as required by the plot.
Once again, I called upon a fine network for my inquiry In more exotic settings,the particularsmust be illuminat-
including fellow authorsof the Unusual Historicals blog. But, ed as if for the first time a difficult balancing act! Authors
becausewe authorscan get too closeto our work and, frankly, must provide enough inforination to ground readers in the
a little defensiveabout the subject, I also contactedindustry important aspectsof an unfamiliar place and time, while main-
professionals.We proceededwith the assumptionthat writers taining the tight plotting, strong emotion, and potent charac-
always will want to push the boundariesand pursue subjects terizalion required of romantic f,tction.
they hnd intriguing. So, what can we do to make that process The hrst tip for traversing this tightrope is to ground
somethinemore than a fool's errand? yourself in a broad variety of primary sources,delving exten-

Dl,(-ti',1g[[2C 1O R\i\iti

is from the West and helps guide the readerthrough the mes.. Anotherconsiderationis to keepresearch-heavy passages You may. Lin describesher diffi- http:/ / www. Unusual setting is a huge negative.htmI Chinawhen I run out of useablenames." This uncon.and geographyare ProiectGutenberg: more easily absorbedwhen accessiblevoicesfilter and inter- http:/ / www..engagingcharacters.org pret the strangeness. I wound up with fewer than 12 ia .sively into what Beecroft dubs "the spirit of an era.dovidrumsey. they discoverthe true.especially agents revealthe customs.This cre- the story takes place during a major holiday.are familiar with the common tropes OnlineEtymology Dictionory: of our genre: secretbaby. Forced to work istory. a sizzling romanceand fantasticpacing. whose BritishHistoryOnline: arranged marriage is fraught with tension. a good thing. easyto dif- Society Anochronism: for Creqtive ferentiate.org. and the custom of giving a gift to a new bride when sheproved scioussynthesisofresearch". com/ sic romancetrope. existencemakesthe romancericher and more authentic./docs/li brory.if at all. Readers. "Know 10 aspectsof Napoleonic Salzburgthrough Camival celebrations times as much as you ever include in the story.lendsan impressionofrichness to be a virgin.find yourself indulging in too much of away from opening chapters.british-h togetherin a hostilecolonialtown. The best guidelineregardingthe inclusion of suchas a maskedball.the comfort is in the familiar progressionof a clas- hnp/ / www. but also the Hisforicql Reseqrch Websites very bonesof the story. etc.oc.foshion-erq./ http:/ / www.Everything else has to be on the positive side. the readingof a will. marriage of convenience.. that most readers.valuesand motivationsof your period.reunited http:/ / www. or a chasethrough researchis to brutally assessits usefulnessto the story.gutenberg.I joke that I'11have to stop writing books set in http:/ / www.generally. businesspractices.legendsofomericq. for a moment.both of my Austrian-setromances. no matter the unusualsetting Customs."If you ting detail. TheCostumiers Monifesto: Ryam.."Fascinatingas your settingmay be.costu world of eighth-centuryChina.Fqmilior Hooks.The readerneedsto seethem. Facts for their own sakearen't compelling.?"I used such columns: pluses for the book and negatives for the book.pronounceable.revealing Times best-selling author Jennifer Blake advises. Even a story as exotic as JeannieLin's Butterfly Swords utilizes this technique The blue-eyed hero.org. If and editors. For northwestemmedieval Spain.htm http:/ / www.com culty in selectingnames for Chineseprotagonists:"Foreign nameshaveto be easyon the eye.com/ lovers. however. Excitement will propel readers into this Blythe Gifford says. how that culture celebrates."Think ofresearch serving instead as vital plot points that amplified tension as an iceberg:90 percentof it remainsunseen."The salesstaff has two rituals in ancientEgypt. My forthcoming South African-set romance fea- fures an English viscount and his estranged wife. telling detailsthat give your story texture and Assume. Gotewoy Chorocters.sco. Neither of these examplesstood on their own. rather than challenging them with off-put- only interestedin it as it touches the characters. that'shardto explainbut easyto recognize. includeparagraphsofdescription.ostensiblyto set the scene. really weird ones from those faraway placesand times.lov- ing hearl of their marriage.but its very betweenthe hero and heroine. I'm unfamiliar world.What's distinctive about courlship Best-sellingauthor Jade Lee says. ClossicPlotlines Carina PressEditor DeborahNemeth offers this advice: "Select rich." Diane Whiteside found the same trouble.etymonIi ne.Begin with somethingfamiliar. we should see ates a realistic starting point when assessingyour romance.uk/ http:/ / www. "[A reader] FoshionEro: needs to think she can pronounce them fnames]-even the com/index. then you may be sacrificing vital tension."New York techniquesin.This plotline doesnot set out to DovidRumsey Mop Collection: Historicol challenge. Peru or Polynesia. ond throughthe eyesofmultifaceted. Legendsof Americo: Names also must draw readersin.Author darkened streets." Suchpositivesinclude not only a greal voice.are actually repelledby unusualsettings.laws.

with hyperaware of stereotypesthat both weaken their story and Portrait of Seduction to follow this May. Modem assess. the span English husband while studying abroad the best souvenir! betweenhideousinjustice and a romance'shappy ending may Sincecompletingher mastet'sin histoty. raising their two precocious daughters and writing romance' Stereotypesalso can be challenging." charactertype is at least recognizable.ccu' stray toward insult.almost any readercan be wooed into lov- Janine Ballard of the website dearauthor. character-driven about places and periods that you believe will have the best stories set in the past." The inability of place.e. http://unusualhistoricalsblogspot. Theme Pqrks.com. "Try to wrtte genre. againsta manuscript. professions. Michelle Styles suggests. . For some settings. tion to researchand using it to createfully realized individu- LlFait/i3!t 20't a liv"vF. The risk in porlraying these bur- denederaswithout detail and nuanceis to createwhat Ballard Born in California and raised in Indiana.Its strengthis in providing emotional. the few details you do know.in its ability to thoughtfully tack."Make sure that the of situations and charactersthat operate outside the notm. This allows the hero to protest when native Africans are treated as if they places and eras come alive through the eyes of charactersI are possessions.For example. Historical medieval to Victorian-and including British characters'" romanceis limited. felt love story with a satisfliing ending. "Overemphasizing what's new can work precedent. a full half-century after slavery was that we all step back and consider what we enjoy as readers' :'I read nonfiction to leam facts. however.she advises.MaureenLang." When asked to identift concrete choices an author can Let's be honest for a moment about the historical romance make to help maximize success. cal accuracy and political correctness. The trick is to frnd a sympatheticangle that also is room. I read fiction to see other abolishedthroughout most of the British Empire. of a "Great War" seriesof inspirationalhistoricals. compelling enough.she'sbeendevotedto simply be too great. Without that spark. the hero dislikes the heroine'sneedfor opium becauseof puryoseof a romance:to transportreadersand presenta heaft- the dangerbrought on them by her cravings.The samegoesfor hrre." a/s-especially secondarycharactersand villains. Stmggling with the basics Lin explains. If the chemistry betweenthe charactersis such as suffrage. positive or negative.in my book Scoundrel's Over and over." historically appropriate.but that doesnot mean he advocatesfor rights want to care about. Carina Press Executive Editor Angela James echoes this le thorny issues. "When you don't know much about a cul- doesnot make for a pleasurableexperience. Avoiding them meanspalling extra atten.S.but I really want we as romance writers risk failure-no matter the time or authors to make the effort to get this right. rielofty." know that it can be a tough balanceto strike between histori.com. inviting readersto consider how love chance of acceptance-i.comsays. professionalsand authors emphasizethe Klss.men's flrst names. Civil War and anything @ K fl ffi K tl ffi approachingthe Holocaust. Agent Kevan Lyon presentsa frank assessment of unusualhis- toricals in today's market: "Romance readershave generally Stereofypes.. some authors to achieve that balance makes many readers wary of periods such as the U. "I ing a setting they never expectedto love.Having written both Roman and Viking romances becomemore prevalent. even gladiator in a Roman-setnovel rather than a mosaic maker. author ments of addiction do not enter the discussion.It may be harder to convince readers for Harlequin.Give them no reasonother than the Overcoming the Odds setting to put down Your book. ond Politicol not shown a willingness to move too far outside their inter- Correcfness ests. Most writers seem Song of Seductionis availablenowfrom Carina Press. Http //www. Carrie Lofty met her terms "theme park" history.For example. European settings from late and desire have always moved human beings. using a The task falls to the author to educate and convince." within the conhnes of a romance. Similarly.The needsof the romantic fantasy must take advice and adds.suggests Flawless is set in 1881. who can be Without this seemingly trivial entr6e. especially hard-to-con- vince editors and agents. even give the first pagea fair shot. without that passionateconnection.and they can be great for hav€ a story that could have taken place in any London ball- conflict.a reader might not sketchedwith much less attentron. A11of this retums to our initial assumptionthat"an unusualset- ting is not a draw for most readers.Don't write a book set in Italy but then Thorny issuescan be examined.

Related Interests