Sunday, November 3, 2013

Timeless Romance... Modern Day Dilemmas

Back in the olden days of writing (the 70's and 80's) authors were published by traditional New York publishing houses. If they wrote good stories and made lots of sales they rose to the top of the Best Seller lists. In genre writing (which is what historical romance is) those authors were "known". Stephen King is the king of horror fiction. Danielle Steele the queen of romance.

In this new publishing world of independent authors, we (most of us) do not hit any Best Seller lists for long. We rise to the top if we've worked hard and built a fan base, and are rewarded thus when we release a new book. But then it fades because we lose momentum. We don't have New York and the big money behind us pushing book tours and placement in the (now defunct) traditional bookstores.

What I've seen lately are authors who are using taglines to describe their work. One sentence that follows the author's name in blog post headers, on comments on blogs, in their Web presence.

"Romance through the mists of time..."
"Crime Fiction with a Kiss..."

You get the idea.

Awhile ago I decided to come up with one for my own writing. Not because I necessarily needed one, but because I received some comments from readers who don't understand what I'm writing.

In studying Austen's work, any of her work, she dives deep into the psychological make-up of women of that era and uses that against the mores and social customs of the time. Mr. Darcy is a snob. One can't deny it. He has no use for the lower classes. Until he meets Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Who in her own way is also a snob. She certainly has no use for Mr. Darcy.

In Emma, when she tries to match-make for Harriet. Austen shows the plight of women as she believes Harriet deserves more than she is worth by trying to fix her up with high-born men. In Northanger Abbey, we see the destruction of Isabella who is trying to make a play for Captain Tilney. And we can't forget Eleanor and Edward's tragic story. Need I say more?

In all of Austen's work, there is the stigma of a woman being less than, that we cannot aspire to be "better than we ought to be." There is a deep understanding of the human condition and the frailty of what it was to be a woman. Women had no rights, had no chance of becoming "more" than what their station observed. A parlour maid could not marry a duke.

In my romances, I try to take that same stigma and surround the plot with a modern day dilemma. In THE LADY'S FATE we have a much younger woman with an older man. In THE EARL'S ENGAGMENT we have a daughter taking care of a father with dementia. In THE DUKE'S DIVORCE we have a man who cannot reconcile himself to loving a woman who is so different than himself. LADY CADORET'S LONGING, a woman is grieving over the loss of her love through the vagaries of war.

In my next novel, THE CAPTAIN'S LADY, there is an element of danger. The husband is cruel to his wife. ( I do not write the violence, however I allude it is there. ) Spousal abuse is not something I wanted to write about, however, it seems the characters thought their story should be told. I hope I do it justice.

In real life, as well as back in 1811, life is not dropping a handkerchief and hoping some nice soldier will pick it up and you'll live happily ever after. Life is, for the most part, filled with the everyday conundrums that make us human. The happy and the not so much. War, cancer, Alzheimer's, spousal abuse, addiction -- these are some of the things that women must face in the modern era. How we tackle them and get through each day is what makes us or breaks us.

Same as in my stories. I write what I see and what I've experienced in my own personal life. As the saying goes -- "Write what you know." Well, my stories are what I know.

And that's why I write Timeless Romance....with Modern Day Dilemmas. Because at the end of the day, when we get through our dilemmas, we all need a happy ending.

Anne Gallagher (c) 2013

9 comments:

  1. As a fellow historical fiction writer, I definitely understand your theme! My characters have to live in the time of the book and be a product of that time -- but they have similar dilemmas to modern day people: an estranged father, a manipulative older sister, a step-father with an unsavory political agenda, the stigma of being "the new girl" or "the boy from the wrong side of the tracks" or "working class."

    Times change, but people and their problems don't.

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  2. Dianne -- Exactly. Times change, but people and their problems don't. It's been an idea of mine to take my historicals and turn them into contemporaries someday. Just to see if I can do it.

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  3. The same issues have always existed. The solutions change with the times. When I read Austen, I am always blown away by the "women as property" theme. Now we have so many more resources to use in order to fight for ourselves. I guess my point is we can always relate, regardless of in what period the story occurs. And, given that the same problems in life will continue into the future, I for one, will always be grateful for a happy ending.

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  4. Interesting post, Anne, and I like how you show Austen's underlying theme, as well as how your own work uses issues that affect women and their relationships to men.

    In my writing, I incorporate some of the issues that could affect women of the future. Ideas change slowly. I show women strong and weak (All of us-men and women- have these moments).

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  5. Liza -- I think that's why people read romance. Honestly. No matter what is going on in their lives, they want a happy ending. Regardless of who gets it.

    D.G. -- I write what I know. Unfortunately, being the age I am, I've had to overcome a lot of inequality. And it's not so different as in 1811. Sure there were strong women back then, and my Lady Olivia is one of them, but too many women depended on men for their own well-being. It's a shame.

    As for the future, I hope it's not as slow to change as the last 100 years have been. I would not wish my daughter to be fighting these same battles in her lifetime.

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  6. The strength of your stories is the universal appeal--I've always loved how you delve into the emotional development of your characters. And I am always impressed with the amount of research you do to place those characters in the Regency period, yet manage to maintain that timelessness you talk about.

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  7. Aw thanks Bridget. That's so sweet. You know how hard I try to keep the longing and yearning, yet not spill over the edge into anything else. Like I said, I did it once in THE DUKE's DIVORCE, but I thought it was tasteful and didn't cross any lines. Besides, they were already married so there had to be some sex. Even if it was only once.

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  8. I think the marketing term for what you're talking about is your author "brand". I love what you came up with. I think my stories are similar (though I'm still just starting out). They are regencies, but not the "traditional" regencies in the market. Mine are focussed on more ordinary people, with real-world problems... and lots of 'sweet' romantic tension :-)

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  9. Thanks Charlotte -- You're absolutely right. That's exactly what it's called. duh.

    You know, I have to say, I really do think that these kind of Regencies are going to be "big" again. So keep at it. We may become famous some day.

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