Anne here, with Susanna Kearsley and Pamela Hartshorne dropping by to celebrate our 10th anniversary with us. Both Susanna and Pam are 'dual timeline/time slip' authors and Honorary Word Wenches (HWW). They're also representative of international wenchdom, as Pam is from the UK and Susanna from Canada. Welcome, Susanna and Pam!
I am, as it happens, an Honorary Word Wench—a noble and cherished designation that not only comes with the perk of being able to add the letters “H.W.W.” to my signature (always much appreciated by someone like me, who never finished university), but also stands as a sometimes much-needed reminder that I’m never really writing on my own.
It’s a thing about writing: so much of it needs to be done on your own in a room by yourself, shut away from distractions, that it would be easy to feel disconnected…if we didn’t have this amazing community.
The first time I took my elder son to FanExpo here in in Toronto, he looked across the lines of people standing in their cosplay costumes waiting to get in, and said, “My people!” And I knew exactly how he felt.
I feel it, too, whenever I’m with other writers and readers who treasure historical romance. When I don’t have to explain why I’d rather shut myself away with a pile of 18th-century newspapers and a big pot of coffee than go to the mall. When I can say I’ve just surfaced from being in another time, and people understand. It’s a wonderful feeling, to be understood.
It’s in places like this one, with hosts like the Word Wenches, that we’re all able to find one another. We cheer each other, teach each other, share our craft and learn in equal measure; and, as evidenced by this past week, we give each other comfort.
Back when I was gifted with my Honorary Word Wench title, on September 23 of 2009, this group was a mere three years old, and I only knew Nicola. Since then I’ve met nearly all of the Wenches, and from sharing an event with Joanna to sharing drinks and laughter with Anne, to having her and Mary Jo come and stand at my shoulder when I won my RITA, the Word Wenches really and truly are “My people”. (Susanna's first interview with the wenches is here.)
May they continue another ten years, and beyond that.
And I’ll keep on adding “H.W.W.” after my name, with great pride.
It is a great honour to be an Honorary Word Wench, especially when I spent so many years writing strictly contemporary romances for Mills & Boon as Jessica Hart. But I have always been fascinated by the relationship between the past and the present, and in fact started writing to fund a PhD in medieval history (although I ended up as an early modernist) so my historical leanings have always been there.
Throughout the (very) many years it took me to complete that PhD, the question I was asked most often - after ‘Have you ever thought about writing a real book?’, of course - was whether I was going to use my research to write a historical romance. My answer was always ‘no’: I fretted about authenticity and how I could possibly get modern readers to identify with characters who thought and spoke and acted so differently in the past.
But after writing 50 romances, it felt like time for a new challenge and I decided to get over myself and have a go at writing not a romance but a ‘time slip’, part historical novel, part ghost stories, part psychological thrillers – and, in my case, part romance too, because romances are about emotions, and emotions are what connect us to the past, whether that past is our own, or a more distant one. I let go of the authenticity issue; the truth is that no amount of academic research will tell us what it was ‘really like’ in the past. The only way we can know that would be to somehow go back and re-experience life as somebody who lived then (ooh, precisely the premise of a time slip!)
For me, the real appeal of historical novels, romances or otherwise, lies in the tension between everything that is different and intriguing about the past, and everything that is the same – and what never change are the human emotions that lie at the heart of every great story - love, hate, fear - and that we can all identify with, wherever and whenever we live.
The temptation for all those of us fascinated by the past is to get bogged down in details, and squeeze in every interesting piece of our research (I can’t tell you how much about dung heaps and cleaning gutters I had to force myself to jettison from my first drafts of Time’s Echo) but this is where historical romance comes into its own: focusing on the emotional relationship between the characters gives it the perfect structure to draw readers into the story while keeping them interested and intrigued with a dazzling backdrop of historical detail. (Pam's first interview with the Wenches is here.)
So let’s hear it for historical romance – and let’s hear it for the fabulous Word Wenches, and a blog that has been invariably interesting, entertaining and inspiring for an incredible ten years. Many congratulations to you all!
Anne again — thank you so much, Susanna and Pam for coming to celebrating this exciting milestone with us! And dear readers, to quote Pat Rice, "we would love to shower all of you with champagne and cake. But instead, at the end of the week, we'll be handing out gifts to random commenters."
And here's a question for readers: — what historical period or geographical location would you love to see explored in a time slip or historical romance?