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!

10 thoughts on “The Rebel, The Duke or a Gladiator?

  1. Why limit different time periods to different books when you could incorporate more than one era in a single time-travel novel!lol. I don’t have the historical background to pull it off but you seem to. Send it to the agent and see what she thinks of that!

  2. I guess I’m fortunate that I don’t have that problem. I only want to write in one time period. I know of several well known authors who switch time periods. In a class I took with one of them at RWA 2012, she advised to have separate pen names for each genre, then again, other authors done’t.

    I think you just have to find the right agent to market you.

  3. We are so much alike, I can’t believe it! I have been told all my writing career (about 18 yrs now) that I needed to stick to one genre and one era. Like you, I’m all over the place. I’m so glad I didn’t listen to everyone…and neither should you, my friend. Write what you love! You are a historical romance author. Period! Or…like me, I’m just a sweet / Inspy romance author. Period! 🙂

  4. I think it’s great that you do branch out and don’t necessarily stick to one genre. With me, chances are, when I read an author I like, and they branch out to cover a different period of time, I’ll still pick up the book (even if it might not be a typical era that I read). I like it when authors expand. Of course, that’s just my opinion as a reader.

  5. I’m a true believer in writing what you like and what you want to write…good for you for taking on so many different time periods…I’ve only attempted contemporary and early 1800’s…

  6. I think the most important thing is to find the era(s) and genre(s) you truly love AND truly have a voice in and go with them. The only mistake is in deciding to write in a genre or era because “they,” whoever “they” are, say it is the up and coming or most profitable one. I will confess I have read some historical romance authors who have a contemporary voice and it appears they have chosen to dress their romance in Regency costumes because someone (an agent, an editor, a gypsy fortune teller) told them that Regency sells.

    For me, if you have the voice for it and have done your research and TRULY love the genre and / or era it will show in your writing and your reader will enjoy what you have written and want more.

    I write Regency historicals because I LOVE England, I LOVE Regency England and I love studying and researching the era. I think I have a pretty decent Regency voice. The only other thing I have written and have ideas for is paranormal romance SET in Regency England. Can’t see to get away from men in breeches and boots. 🙂

  7. Gina, Like you, I love history. The medieval and Regency periods are my eras of choice for writing, but I gladly read in other historical periods. So I’m looking foreward to your next gladiator (yay Spartacus) and Civil War stories.

  8. Gina, go for it, girl! A good writer like you can make a great story set in any era she knows and loves. It probably confuses agents when authors tell them they write more than one genre. Perhaps you should pitch only the story you think might interest them most. If they love that story and offer representation, only then do you tell them about the others. If they back off, they’re not the right agent for you. Good luck!

  9. Not being able to stick to one time period myself (contemporary to medieval – reality to fantasy), I’m on your side. Write what you want. Great post. And don’t worry about the blogging – worry about the writing.

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