Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Lusting for the 21st Century

In case you haven't picked up on it by now, I'm a historical novelist.

All six of my to-be-published books are set in the 19th century, in various locations in Europe. As of this moment, I have no plans in the near future to write anything set in contemporary times.

I love writing historicals. I've always read novels set in different time periods--my favorites being Plantagenet England, 19th-century Europe, and the settling of the American West.

There are wonderful benefits to writing historical novels when it comes to plotting.

1. There aren't any cell phones, or even telephones--so there can be communication glitches that make it harder for the protagonists to get things done.

2. No cars or airplanes, so travel isn't quite as timely or quick when you're trying to get from London to Rome.

3. I don't have to worry about Uzis or automatic weapons or internet viruses.

4. The strictures of Society and culture in historical time periods often lend difficulties to the protagonists, which I, of course, use to my advantage.

For example, one of Victoria's (the protagonist in The Rest Falls Away) biggest problems is how to get out on the streets at night to stake vampires when she can't even talk to a man unless she's been introduced first.

And where she's going to keep her stake, dressed in long, light and airy gowns that don't have pockets, sleeves, or belts.

5. And I love finding out about interesting tidbits of history and incorporating them into the story.

For example, in the second Gardella book, Rises the Night, I bring John Polidori into the story. He was the first person to write a vampire novel portraying the undead as aristocratic, handsome, and mysterious--even before Bram Stoker--and thus it was, in some way, a tongue in cheek nod that he's actually a character in my book.

However. There are times.

There are times when I really wish I could dress Victoria in CFM boots, or a mini-skirt.

Or that I could give her a cell phone so she can call for backup.

I would really like her to be able to make pop culture references: quote the Beatles or liken a given situation to a scene in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or Star Wars, or Lord of the Rings, or whatever.

And when I write historical novels, my author voice is different. It's less breezy and snarky (although there is breeze and snark in small doses), more rhythmic and lyrical--not stilted, not filled with passages of descriptions (heavens no!), but different.

So there are moments when I really long to put Victoria in a pair of stilettos and suede jeans that will knock the Marquess of Rockley's socks off...except that he doesn't wear socks. He wears breeches and stockings!

So, for now, I wouldn't trade my situation for anything...but once in awhile, that grass in the 21st century looks a little bit greener than it does in Regency England.

Savvy?

15 Comments:

Blogger Carl V. soliloquized...

You could always do something different and do a steampunk type of novel where you mix historical and contemporary stuff. Might be interesting.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006 12:17:00 AM  
Blogger Zeus soliloquized...

All of these thoughts you're describing could only have helped to make your novels that more rich and detailed. When you post things like this, it only makes me want to read these books more! Stop it! I can't wait any longer as it is!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006 8:47:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous soliloquized...

Yay for steampunk!

As a fantasy writer, I occasionally think that writing contemps would be soooo much easier because I could just buy a map of some place, and I wouldn't have to make up slang. The grass is greener on the other side again. LOL.

The voice thing happens with me as well, though it appears to be different for every book. One's more formal, another has more slang and modernisms, and a third is colder and edgier.

You can see it other people's work as well. Sherrilyn Kenyon sounds more casual than Kinley MacGregor, for instance, and Jessica Hall sounds different from Lynn Viehl who in turn sounds different from SL Viehl.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006 8:52:00 AM  
Anonymous Annie soliloquized...

Is it January yet? I can't wait to read your book!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006 9:01:00 AM  
Anonymous SciFiChick soliloquized...

You could always have one of your characters do a little time traveling...
In Connie Willis' The Doomsday Book, she has her main heroin go back in time to the dark ages.. most of the book is set in that time, yet the girl is from the present(future) time.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006 9:10:00 AM  
Blogger Jaye Wells soliloquized...

I have a question about research. I've always wanted to tackle an historical. But despite my education, which is heavily history-related, I'm intimidated. Do you research as you go or is there a lot on the front end? Even though it's paranormal, since it's in an historical setting you can't get too crazy with the world building, right?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006 10:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous soliloquized...

Some day my Darling! I have no doubt you'll get your chance to use your 21st century voice!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006 10:24:00 AM  
Blogger Alyssa Goodnight soliloquized...

I LOVE it when little bits of history are included. I think it makes the story so much more interesting and real.

And why doesn't anyone but me like long descriptive passages? Not all over the place, but occasionally...they're just right.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006 10:42:00 AM  
Blogger Colleen Gleason soliloquized...

Carl, I had to go look up steampunk. As I've mentioned before, I live under a rock. But once I read the description, I though The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. And that's not a bad idea at all! Maybe I will some day.

Zeus, Zeek, Annie...thanks. The days do seem to be going by slowly, yet January is coming. It's weird to me that I have to get through the end of the year holidays before everything hits!

Alyssa, I actually like descriptive phrases when they are used in the right place and used judiciously. They definitely help to set the sense of time and place. I can't stand historicals that don't stay true to time and place. It pulls me right out of the story.

Which is why, and you hit on it, May, that my (and other) authors' writers' voices differ when writing historical fiction. It has to fit the time period, without being too stilted or old fashioned.

I have noticed the difference in Kenyon vs. MacGregor! Thanks for reminding me. She's one of the historical novelists who can translate to contemporary and historical fiction and carry both off well.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006 10:55:00 AM  
Blogger Colleen Gleason soliloquized...

Jaye, what a great question. Sounds like a blog post topic to me (says a blogger who's always desperately looking for good topics).

I'll write it on Friday, okay? And I'm sure other historical writers will chime in too and we'll get some other view points.

Thanks for asking, and for giving me a topic. LOL.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006 10:56:00 AM  
Blogger Diana Peterfreund soliloquized...

"all six of my to-be-published novels..."

Ooh, all the hairs on my arms stood on end when I read that!

I think the idea of "If I didn't have to make it all up, it would be easier," or "if I wrote in modern times, I wouldn't have to do as much research," is not true. (Please note that I don't think Colleen is doing this. I think she's saying that if she were writing in modern times she could make different CHOICES with her plot and characters.)

I write contemporaries, and I do MASSIVE amounts of research. If you're doing a regency, you may have to research old maps or old dress codes or old forms of address, or how long it really does take for a phaeton to get from here to there, but if you're doing modern stories you need to research how certain internet viruses work and if the trains run on Sunday and whether or not you get any cell reception in this place or that, and how a policeman would actually do something. The reseach may be different, but the amount isn't.

And what is EASY in one type of writing turns into a challenge in another. Colleen may wish that in certain situations, her character can have a cell phone for back up, but in many situations, I find myself trying to find a reason that my character doesn't. So for me, it's harder to find a reason that the character can't get backup, rather than just not being able to call someone for help. Alternately, her characters may be hampered by skirts or slippers or corsets, but mine are not, and she has to get creative to find a way for them to fight in these outfits.

In a fantasy novel, it may be hard to make up all the maps in your head, but you do get to make up the maps or physicis or calendars to suit your plotline, while in realitistic (is that the right word?) fiction you may have something that needs to take place on Monday and soemthing that needs to take place on Wednesday and need four days in between and you're stuck. So it's not that there are no challenges. It's just that the challenges are different.

Justine Larbalestier has a great post about this topic as well as links to other discussions about the easy/hard thing.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006 11:00:00 AM  
Blogger Colleen Gleason soliloquized...

Diana, that's so true! The choices are different, and believe me, there are times when I'm glad Victoria doesn't have a cell phone.

Yes, the grass can look greener, but it's usually just a different shade--and being a writer is fun, regardless of which side of the fence you're on.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006 11:07:00 AM  
Blogger Carl V. soliloquized...

You're exactly right Colleen. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is definitely steampunk...now I only hope you are talking about Alan Moore's fantastic graphic novel series and not the steaming pile of crap of a movie that was definitely NOT an accurate representation of his work. Not even close.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006 4:49:00 PM  
Blogger Colleen Gleason soliloquized...

Whew. Saved from infamy again! Carl, I can say with a clear conscience haven't seen, nor had much desire to see, the--er--steaming pile of crap movie of League. And much as I am a fan of Moore's Lost Girls, I must admit I haven't read League either.

But it's definitely on my wish list. Even before you mentioned it. But now, it's moved up a few notches, thanks to you!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006 4:56:00 PM  
Blogger Jaye Wells soliloquized...

Colleen, I look forward to it. I'm familar with research and enjoy it, but I know there are specific challenges for the historical author.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006 11:57:00 PM  

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