Now and Then: Writing Contemporary and Historical Novels

A Jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one

 

Recently, around the dinner table, my family had taken to researching misquoted idioms, and this is one of the most interesting. As with curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back, the modern concept has come to mean the antithesis of the original phrase. Isn’t language fascinating? (And more than a little annoying.)

As a writer, I always thought I’d focus my stories in one genre. Historical was my plan from the beginning, which I now can admit was largely influenced by how much historical romance I read at the time. Still, contemporary stories wiggled around in my head until I gave them life, and soon I found that I was writing in several genres, erotic and more traditional romance in both the historical and modern age. I wrote BDSM novellas and menage novels and pirates stories and everything in between. And along the way, I’ve come to favor certain elements of writing both then and now. Here are some of my favorite parts of writing historical and contemporary romance.

 

Contemporary

It’s a Lot Easier to Be a Woman

One of the biggest challenges of writing historical romance is that you have to work within the confines of society at the time. Of course, we can push the rules, we always do, but there are still some facts of history we can’t change. In one of my recent releases, my editor and I worked for nearly a week to find some way for a widowed duchess to still play at sovereign of her land, because historically speaking, it would never have been allowed.

In modern books, women obviously still face challenges, but they’re more nuanced and often less illegal, and I can give my heroines some truly kickass jobs and lifestyles they otherwise don’t get. There’s also the whole question of career path because after awhile, it gets kinda dull writing about women of leisure.

Touched for the Very First Time

I don’t like writing virgin heroines. I have and I probably will again, but mostly because historical romance often demands it. If a character hasn’t been married before, (and I write a lot of widows for this reason,) there are very few good reasons for her to have any experience. Perhaps she’s been kissed once or twice, but that’s usually all you’re allowed to get away with. 

kissing-2353862_1920

When I write modern women, however, that nonsense doesn’t pose a problem. Not only is it fairly expected that by late twenties or early thirties, my heroine will have had sex, but she also has a much more expansive sex education. There’s no question about protection or birth control, it’s a requirement. She knows women are supposed to feel pleasure and she expects it. The equality in the bedroom is often reflected outside of it, and that’s very important.

Use Your Words

You never know how much you swear until you read your own writing. Yeah, I curse a lot. But it’s not just about that – proper ladies of society never swore, of course. It’s about all language. When I’m writing historical novels, I have to check idioms and word origins all the time. Often, the writing will sound anachronistic and you can’t tell why, and that’s when you remember that people didn’t use contractions back then and also those words weren’t invented yet.

hong-kong-1990268_1920It’s challenging. Especially in the age of technology, modern communication is moving faster than ever and the meaning behind words is changing at a totally wild rate. There’s a lot to keep in mind, but it’s much easier to write in the language you speak now than one your great, great, great, great grandparents would have spoken.

 

Historical

Alone at Last

My all-time most favorite thing about writing historical romance is that the tension is built in. Sexual tension doesn’t come from dry-humping on a dance floor, but from secretive glances across a crowded room, from accidentally getting locked in a closet together and God forbid anyone find you. Every word has a hidden meaning, every shared eye-contact is loaded and there’s so much potential for disaster. I positively live for it. ballroom-2026681_1280

There’s also the addition here of reasons people end up in arranged/forced marriages and that adds even more to the heightening tension and drama. These days, if you sleep with someone you didn’t mean to sleep with, chances are that you’ll never see them again. In the Regency eras, chances were much better that you would marry them.

Leave Your Card

Modern communication is great! We’re constantly in touch with each other, in case of emergency, good news or anything in between. We can text, Tweet, message and more, which means the whole romance plot as a series of miscommunications becomes a lot more complicated. After all, if we see something odd or inappropriate or proof of a lie, we can simply text our significant other and ask for an explanation. If we miss an event we were supposed to attend, we can shoot off a quick message to explain why, instead of leaving the other person feeling abandoned.

manor-1503567_1920Modern communication is great, but romance lives for miscommunication. Historical takes away the phone and the messages and the online stalking of your blind date and limits communication to calling cards, letters and face to face visits. This makes the whole miscommunication so, so much easier.

Use Your Words

Yeah, I know, I was just bitching about how hard it is to write historical novels. But the truth is, I’m a gigantic nerd and absolutely love researching things I don’t know. So while it slows down my pace a little bit, I’m actually a huge fan of word origins and historical idiom searches. After all, you write every day, you learn something new every day.

 

I love writing in multiple genres. It’s more challenging to market, maybe, but I get to learn something new from each different story. How do people communicate in a polyamorous relationship? How might a duchess have been exposed to BDSM? These are fun and unique challenges and I like exploring history, language, and sexuality through the years.

What about you? What’s your favorite genre to read and your favorite to write? Do you buy authors who write more than one genre? Share your thoughts in your comments below! ♥

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