The Rebel, The Duke or a Gladiator?

“So what do you write?”

It’s the question all writers hear. But just how do you define it? I am a historian by education, with my specialty in US History with European history up to 1715, by academic standards. More clearly defined, I’m a military historian, specializing in the American Civil War. But does that mean I talk only of battles? Of generals? Strategies? Yes and no. My interests dig into medicine of the period and social history, the impact of the war on society as a whole, both how it was before, during and the after effects.

Yet is the Civil War my only interest? No.

The same can relate to writing. I’ve finished five novels. I would define them as romance novel – boy meets girl, they want to be together but for whatever reason, they can’t, and spend the rest of the time fighting to end up in happy-eve rafter in each other’s arms. As a historian, I put my characters in the past. That past, rather it be Regency England, Victorian America or Ancient Rome, I want to come alive for the reader. For them to see and smell that world I build for my hero and heroine. Hence, I have critic partners, contest judges and editors and agents claim I write historic fiction. Hmmm….

I write about all those periods I just mentioned. Whether it is England 1800, America 1862 or Rome 100 CE, I’m fascinated with it – each has such interesting contexts to explore and add more depth to the story that I can’t let it be.

Why write about so many? Because I want to. I had an agent once, during a pitch session, tell me I must pick one time and stay there. That my books have to find that one niche on the shelf for all to see. Really? Why? I see Michael Crichton in historic and contemporary. Did his agent tell him he couldn’t expand? Same with a slew of other authors. I may be new to the scene but do I have to place myself as strictly a Regency author? No. I want more.

What is the difference between romance and general fiction? Are not most stories we enjoy deal with a love story? The original Bourne Identity was a love story of Jason and Marie? Cold Mountain about Inman and Ada? Titantic? The English Patient? Even Die Hard, though action/adventure, is a love story in a sense. The hero and the heroine, their drive to be together, to save the other from death, marrying the wrong person, to be together – this is what drives us to read/see them.

So, on a rainy, dismal January day in St. Louis, I find myself torn in the world of the past. I want to research and write more on my next gladiator story, knowing my sequel Civil War is next but looking forward to Downton Abbey tonight. Ahhh…whoever tries to pin me to one period had better watch out. I always have to have a villain to thwart my hero and heroine and it might be you!