Susan here, and today the Wenches answer a question we asked ourselves. We're all historical fiction writers, with plenty of variation -- Regency, Georgian, Victorian, Tudor, medieval, romance, mainstream, fantasy, paranormal, mystery -- more than one of us has dabbled in writing contemporary settings too.
So we got to talking, as we do, and the question came up --
Why do we write historicals? Some of us write contemporary too. Why or why not, and what's the difference?
I write anything that strikes my interest. I started in historical romance because those were the books I knew and loved, and because history fascinates me. I’d spent years researching English history simply to better understand the English literature I was reading. And since I lived in an area with a wealth of history, writing about that area gave me permission to waste more time digging through old books and visiting historical sites. I adored—and still adore—being able to combine work and play.
But there are some stories that simply don’t fit easily into a historical perspective. I wanted to address current issues, current situations, and to do that, I started scribbling on my contemporary romantic mysteries. Again, I got to explore Santa Lucia and California and other wonderful areas to research my stories. Writing about mental health or the environment or computer hacking just doesn’t fit into historicals!
And then, of course, there are the paranormals… but I digress. It happens—a lot.
Cara Elliott/Andrea Pickens:
The great children’s author/illustrator Maurice Sendak was once asked why he wrote what he did. His answer (I am taking artistic license and paraphrasing) was, “I would love to write the Great American Novel, but when I sit down to tell the story in my head, it comes out as a pig talking to a dog who has just swallowed a mop.” I feel a little like Sendak—my stories just seem to take shape as historicals. I’ve always loved the history, and find it fascinating to explore a time period in the past and learn about all its nuances. I think one of the things I find appealing about historicals is that even when you have collected a lot of research facts, you have to use your imagination to piece them all together. (I tend to have a very vivid imagination.)
I haven’t yet written a contemporary. (Well, actually I have, a long time ago, but it’s one of those “Back-Of-The-Desk-Drawer” manuscripts that will remain buried under stray chewing gum warppers and paper clips.) Which doesn’t mean I won’t. In fact, I’m currently noodling on an idea that involves a contemporary setting. It’s early yet, and I’m still not sure whether the Muse and I are on the same page. But it’s fun to try something new, even if it ends up in the desk
Why do I write historicals? Because I read them, of course! I read a lot of other things as well, including non-fiction history, but I was addicted to Georgette Heyer and chomped through all the modern Regencies at the library when I discovered them. So when I bought my first computer and decided to see if I could write a book, what came out was a Regency.
The Muse has wandered into contemporary and fantasy over the years, but I always come back to historicals. I love the way stories can be over the top and characters larger than life, and history provides such nice conflicts. In other words, historicals are fun!