Monday, January 28, 2013

Celebrating a New Year, New Changes with the Historical Team

Before January comes to its frigid conclusion (snow or ice, anyone??? I’ve got lots!) let me wish all our TWRP authors, readers and staff a very happy new year!

One of the things I’m most excited about as we begin another fantastic year in the garden is that we can now consider stories that don’t necessarily fit the typical romance mold.  Over the years in historical we’ve seen many family sagas, or stories that were more women’s fiction than romance, and with heavy hearts we’ve had to inform those authors that we simply could not accept their submission because it wasn’t technically a romance.

For many of us, myself included, change can be a little unsettling.  But rest assured, you devoted readers and writers of historical, this is a good thing! (Yep, I’m channeling my inner Martha Stewart today!)  Not only have many of our established authors already approached us with story ideas and submissions, but we’ve been absolutely inundated with queries from new authors, too.

So with all this talk of change, are you wondering what your favorite historical editor is hoping to find in her submission inbox this year?  Well we still love romance, of course, but let’s ask the editing team that very question.

Allison Byers, what would you most like to see from our authors—established and new—in 2013?
I love historical fiction, especially those set before 1900. I love a story in which the author has taken pieces from the past and woven them into a story that helps the reader see the past through a character’s hardships and happiness. The novel should be plot-driven and richly constructed. When writing, the author should make sure the plot excites, inflames, and inspires the reader.
But let me caution that the story should pay close attention to historical details. There is a new historical fiction entitled alternative historical fiction which is written with a “What if? premise. For example, what if the South had won the war? I’m not interested in this type of historical fiction.

Nan Swanson is sort of our Queen of Vintage Rose.  She loves this line and handles the majority of the submissions that come in for Vintage.  Nan, what are you hoping to see for Vintage Rose this year?
The Vintage Rose line is looking for stories about the 1900s, set anywhere in the world. So much happened during the twentieth century, and so much of it changed the life of every ordinary person, or, as they said back then, “the man on the street” (pre-women’s lib). What better way to learn history than by immersing yourself in someone else’s story as they experience wars, new inventions, social and economic changes, climate extremes, and the widening of their window on the world? Such broad subjects can have intimate stories behind the scenes… The shipyard worker who helped build the Titanic. The woman who cleaned at an inventor’s house, or the gardener or cook there. The family who endured the Dust Bowl and did not pick up and go to California. The half-American orphan in Korea in the 1950s. The family who left everything to come to America but were late getting to the dock so took the next boat and helped rescue survivors from the torpedoed ship they had meant to be on. Anywhere, doing anything, they each have a story that can be told, Edwardians to doughboys to  flappers to G.I.s to rock’n’rollers to women’s libbers to hippies to all the labels of the last few decades before 2000. And Vintage Rose wants those stories!

Susan Yates, how about you?
In the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, a book review website recently featured a Romance Novel Reader Workout. The plan encouraged readers to read a romance novel (always a good thing!) and do exercises when certain things happened in the novel. For instance, when “A tingle or spark goes up the arm of one or both characters if they touch” do ten jumping jacks, or, when “A character looks in the mirror and describes herself” do ten dumbbell curls. The list is not meant to be taken seriously, of course, but it’s a good illustration of how easy it is for authors—and editors too!—to fall into romance-novel clichés. That’s why as a reader and an editor, I’m always looking to be surprised. I love a romance that takes me in a new direction, or that transcends the genre in some way. Whether it’s an under-represented era or a traditional era presented in a new way, I want a story that immerses me in history and that makes me trust the author knows it cold. I love characters that have dimension and feeling, and a plot that throws them into an impossible situation and makes me care about how they resolve it. I love dialog that goes beyond the superficial, that perfectly illuminates the characters. And most of all, I want stories with depth and emotion that sweep me along with them. And of course, I want stories that avoid anything that might turn a reader on the Romance Novel Workout plan into a body-builder!

Cindy Davis, what kind of stories are you hoping to see? 
I would love to see quirky characters, unique new settings, unusual careers. Stretch your imagination. Stay away from the familiar. Research if you have to but go beyond what you read. Go beyond your emotions. Make the story memorable.

And as for me, Nicole D'Arienzo...
Whether it’s romance or not, I want conflict, conflict and more conflict.  Now mind you I don’t mean misunderstanding—I don’t want to see lame or watery conflicts that can easily be resolved with a little explanation.  Nope.  I want angst and emotion.  I want those characters to feel that there’s simply no way to make this work. 

Many authors worry if their conflict is too deep or too complicated, they won’t be able to resolve it, but you know what?  You don’t have to.  It’s okay for your characters to decide that being apart is far more painful than their differences and they can agree to disagree. (Now obviously I don’t mean that one of them is married and the other chooses to accept it, or that one is a serial killer and the other chalks it up to a minor character flaw.)  
Neither should you short change your readers (or editor!) by resolving things too easily simply because you’re nearing maximum word count. Having your heroine suddenly shrug her shoulders on the last page and say “you were right, I was wrong” does not an emotionally satisfying ending make.  

Take your characters on an emotional journey.  Make me feel their inner struggle, torture them just a little …and you have the kind of story I’d love to find in my inbox!

Happy Writing!

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