Saturday, March 12, 2016

Changing Genres by Anita Seymour

Any literary agent will tell you one of the first rules of historical novel writing is to choose your genre carefully. Changing eras, however is not so easy, which also mean having to switch your author voice into that of another time in history.

Once, I couldn’t imagine writing about anything but 17th Century England. I immersed myself in the history, how the court went about its daily business, the clothes, habits, manners and sometimes even the speech. How they moved from place to place, what they ate, the subjects they talked about over the dinner table and the place they occupied in society.

Five years ago, the English Civil War was not the most popular era for historical novel readers, so to increase my readership, who were small but loyal and very appreciative, I started to write novels based in the Edwardian era. The more I researched, the more I grew to love the atmosphere of the ‘Belle Époque’ age until I can visualise the environment of that time; its smells, the objects used every day and how people moved around, spoke and the ideas which shaped their lives.

No problem so far then? Maybe not, however, I was then asked to revert back to my roots and write a story for a 17th Century anthology being published by a group of authors. How hard could it be? After all I had written four books in it so all I had to do is switch heads again into a time I know well.
Several times over the last few weeks I have set out my notes on the main characters of that era, and with my fingers poised over the keyboard, arranged my characters within my chosen scene and waited. And waited.

These characters are the darlings of the Carolean Court. Colourful, flamboyant, outrageous, irreverent, immoral and decadent – whose lives were dominated by their wits and their main weapon was the spoken word - but they had nothing to say. Not one of them - Well that’s not quite true, they do, but in 20th Century voices. They don’t even move right!

I feel as if I am being punished for having betrayed them and their time, and they would not let me in again. What I did was go back to my 17th C books and read them through to climb back into the era and my heroine’s head.

I got there in the end, but it wasn’t easy.

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