Friday, September 12, 2008

A Report on Historical Romance

I seem to be getting a number of questions about historical romance lately so I thought I’d dedicate an entire blog post to answering those questions.

What kind of historical romance is making a come-back? I seem to only be seeing regency based novels (which never left), and if I do happen to see medievals, for example, they're erotica and published by smaller publishers.

And you are right. The historicals making the biggest comeback tend to be Regency-based novels and they tend to be sexier than some of the historical romances of the past. Does that mean historical romances set in the Old West or in medieval times are never going to sell? No, not necessarily, but at this point they are going to be a little tougher sell. I do talk to a number of editors who would love to see more Westerns or historicals set in other times, but the books themselves need to be really amazing. In my experience, when one author (a new author, not a bestselling author) hits it big with a new time period or sub-genre, that’s when we start to see market shifts. In other words, we need one new author to come up and really hit it big with a sexy Western historical romance and then, look out. The entire market will shift.

Regarding historical romance is there any interest in old west romances based on real women?

I think I answered the Old West question earlier, so instead I’m going to touch on real women. I’m not convinced that heroines based on real women work in romance. I think they definitely work in historical fiction and certainly I think real women can be fabulous secondary characters, but as a straight romance I think it’s a little more difficult because for most of us romance isn’t a whole heck of a lot like life.

When was the last time you signed a historical author cold? And by cold I mean, no publisher is looking or as yet interested in their work. Just your average unpublished submission with no big wins (GH), no deals on the table. Just plain cold.

Honestly, I have no clue. I would have to speculate that it’s been at least a couple of years. Does that mean that the only way you’re going to get in the door with an agent is to have a contest win or an offer on the table? No, it just means that that’s the way it’s worked out for us lately. We are always looking for fresh new voices, and while contest wins and deals are great, a book we think we can sell and that we’re excited about is all we really need.

I hope that answers some of your questions. I am actively looking for sweeping, sexy historical romances and think the market is great and growing and definitely strong right now.



Kimber Li said...

As a reader, this is sad news. I so long for variety (something besides cowboys, Regencies, and Scottish kilts) and can't stomach Erotica or most Highly Sensual. Well, there's always the library and used bookstores!

As a writer, I do have some Historical Romances tucked away in my brain cells, but none begging to be told just yet, thank goodness.

K J Gillenwater said...

I agree, Kimber An. I like different locales...Australia would be great (there's a few of those but not enough), other European locales, or even English colonies of some kind...

But we keep getting the same time period and the same location: London (or anywhere nearby). BORING.

I'd also love to see a resurgence in pirate historical romances! Those used to be some of my favorites. :-)

Kate Douglas said...

FWIW, every time I go to a writers' conference I try to hear Kensington editor Kate Duffy speak, because she doesn't pull punches and she knows the industry inside and out. The one thing she always says is that the historical romance is NOT dead, that she is always looking for a good historical romance. I think sometimes we're too quick to bow to what we perceive as are trends. A truly good book, one with a unique hook, no matter what genre, will probably find a home somewhere.

Karen Duvall said...

I don't care for historical romances because of the typically slow pace and archaic use of language, and I wonder if that's what may put off other readers in recent years. I have no clue. But I will admit that I'd love to read an alternate history historical romance. One of my favorite books is White Lotus by Pearl S. Book. She wrote an amazing story about what might have happened if China had won the war and kept American slaves.

I'm in a workshop today with an editor who'll be leading a critique session with 8 writers (I'm at the Colorado Gold Writers conference this weekend) and one of the partials we'll be critiquing is an alternate history. It's awesome! It's set during the Civil War and is about what might have happened if John Wilkes Booth had kidnapped Lincoln instead of shot him, and Lincoln's role in his own escape. Love this kind of stuff!

Jill Myles said...

Actually, as a historical romance reader, I am always thrilled when I hear that historicals are 'coming back'. I love paranormal and urban fantasy, but historical romance is always my 'go to' genre.

When in doubt, go for the Dukes. *g*

Beverley Kendall said...

Yay!!!! I love historicals and I love Victorian historicals especially. And the locales, as long as you give me an interesting plot with great characters and you wrench my heart a bit (or a lot), I'm happy.

Evangeline Holland said...

Sexier? Does this mean the erotic romance trend is bleeding into historicals too?


I don't read romance for sex, and for the most part, amplifying the sex-factor has only lessened good characters, good plots and good writing. When I check the back cover and see vague references to how sexy a hero is, or how irresistible, blah blah blah, I put the book back.

I'm going to ignore the so-called market and write my books the way I want. There is a market for historical, character-driven historical romances, and I intend to fill that niche.

Anonymous said...

So good to hear that I'm not the only one who is sick of sex sex sex. Romances aren't about sex. In the "old days" as soon as I read the sex scene I lost interest after that for the rest of the story plot.

I don't write historical romance but have the greatest respect for those who do. A good historical romance is wonderful.

I'm a contemporary romance and paranormal writer but with some light humor....remember the romantic comedy? What happened?

Trend setting in reading and writing drives me nuts sometimes lol. I have to do more work........

Santa said...

I, too, have heard that historicals are making a comeback. I never saw them leave. But I have heard some of the bigger houses are looking for more variety in historicals, Westerns in particular. I'd love to see more set in turn of the century New York or ones set in Ireland or the islands.

As a historical romance reader - I couldn't be more thrilled. As a contemporary romance writer, this gives me food for thought.

Anonymous said...

While I agree it to be true, one of my pet peeves with a lot of romances is that "romance isn't a whole heck of a lot like life." While I enjoy some good escapism, I'd like the characters (especially the women) to me more realistic, even if it means making the romantic story a bit quieter. But maybe that's just what straight up fiction is for?

Santa said...

I see your point, Nancy. From what I've learned when romance takes a back seat and the women are more realistic, it's deemed women's fiction.

However, if you are looking for stronger women in romance, writers like Jennifer Crusie and Susan Elizabeth Phillips are writers worth exploring, as well as, Caridad Ferrar, Connie Brockway, Meg Cabot, Lisa Kleypas and Kristin Higgins. Some of these writers have written both historical and contemporaries.