Six down, fourteen (I think) to go…
And now for the historical novels: the seven romances and the seven middle-brow historicals. That’s ‘all’ I have left to scan, format, edit and find covers for, so as to convert them into ebooks.
I’m looking forward to it. The historical novels were always closest to my heart, because history has always fascinated me. But I’ve realised something else about them too, since working on what I loosely call my ‘contemporary’ fiction – they don’t go out of date.
That sounds like nonsense, I know. Isn’t historical fiction by its very nature ‘out of date’? Well, yes – and as historical research, and academic theories about causation and motivation and all that sort of thing are constantly changing, a novelist can find that events or developments have a different slant, a different interpretation since her novel was first written.
But not so quickly as a contemporary novel can be transformed overnight into something stuffy and old-fashioned, above all by the breathtaking rapidity of advances in technology. No novel goes on looking modern if the characters habitually use land-line phones (kept statically on the hall table), or maps, or depend on the Royal Mail to hear from loved ones or write to them. Or even use the old basic, brick-like mobiles instead of the latest smartphone. Next year, next week, you can be sure there’ll be yet another leap forward that leaves your characters looking like dinosaurs.
At least if the heroine of a novel set in the seventeenth century wants to communicate with a distant beloved, you know (if you’ve done your research) how difficult and problematic it will be for her to make sure that her message or letter reaches its destination. You know that if one of your characters emigrates, or even moves a few hundred miles away, then those left behind are going to get only very occasional news of him, if any. That doesn’t mean that the world in which your characters live isn’t going to change – it probably will, quite drastically, especially if, like me, you enjoy writing about times of upheaval, like the French Revolution (‘Candle in the Dark‘) or the English Civil War (‘Disordered Land’ and several of my romances written as ‘Caroline Martin’). But at least you know when, where and how it’s going to change and can bring it in as an essential part of the story. You won’t generally find yourself overtaken by events in some unexpected way.
Unless of course you decide to write about Richard the Third and then the discovery of his remains contradicts all your assumptions about his appearance…