Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Writing Contemporary vs. Historical Books: Must We Choose?

Okay, before we debate this, let me add a caveat:

IT IS NEVER A BAD IDEA TO ESTABLISH YOURSELF AND A READERSHIP BEFORE GOING OFF THE DEEP END AND DABBLING YOUR TOES IN NEW WATERS.


Having said that, the influx of indie publishing, hybrid authors (similar to supersweet corn only not as crunchy!) cross-readerships and multiple venues has changed the rules, virtually giving you a #nolimits opportunity.

This is a good thing for authors. And because I'm the kind of gal who bends rules often, I see nothing but potential by writing historicals like "Red Kettle Christmas", "A Town Called Christmas", "Prairie Promises" and my newest one "His Beloved Bride". However, before you jump in the water of both ponds, it's good to note these tips:

1. Readers do not like to be misled.

2. If you've ever gotten a less-than-stellar review, you know that readers have opinions.

3. Readers voice opinions.

4. Historical readers and lovers of history are more likely to hunt for and cite errors.

5. These errors are not necessarily errors.

6. There are certain rules that make certain eras difficult. I avoid those.

7. Pioneer romance has wide parameters because there was little recorded on paper at the time. Basic rules apply. Know when they used motors. When they didn't.

8. Colonial rules are similar but a little tighter, because the colonists were in well-developed enclaves/towns/cities fairly quickly.

9. I went to the Mary Connealy school of clothing. I don't try to name it all, half these women had two dresses, one for good, one for work. Pick a calico or color, easy peasy.

10. Early railroad lines in the Midwest and West often criss-crossed and became obsolete early on, so the development of the railroad in certain areas left some interesting ambiguity. I like to use that to my advantage!

11. Ten rules are enough, for pity's sake, it's SPEEDBO month, I don't want to bore you. If I already have, then please accept my abject and sincere apologies, but I am giving away four
"With This Kiss" collections today (to be delivered via Kindle to your device 4/10) so cut me a little slack, okay??? Geez, Louise. :)


I thought writing historicals would be too hard.

It's not.

I thought I wouldn't have time to do proper research.

I was wrong. There's this amazing thing called the Internet. Oh mylanta, what a nice invention. That + Life = Possible Usable Information.

I realized that my bootstraps-style farm life actually lends itself to understanding many points of pioneer life. My daughter pointed out that I DRAGGED my children to historic museums, that I loved reading them Little House on the Prairie (until they were old enough to read them themselves) and that Sarah, Plain and Tall is one of my favorite books, right up there with Little Women, All Quiet on the Western Front, The Crucible and To Kill a Mockingbird. She also noted that we've traversed all of Independence Park in Philly (and pretended we were colonists, well, I pretended. The kids tried to hide any and all relationship to me but I had the money so in the end they had to come home with me.) We've explored Valley Forge. We've even had weddings at the Genesee Country Village and Museum.


In short, my pleasure reading/work/child rearing was preparing me for writing historicals with characters, places and settings I love.

So was it a natural jump from contemporary stories to old-time romance?  NOT AT FIRST.

I was scared! But of course I did not admit that, I just plowed in and did it.

And when that story came out so well... When I lived to breathe again!!! When I took a critical look at "Red Kettle Christmas" and decided it was an absolutely delightful book, I was hooked!

Four generations of Blodgetts: Beth, Grandma (holding Elijah) Grandpa, Dave
History starts right here, doesn't it?
So here is where Point A meets Point B.

I already had an established readership for my contemporary stories. Would they enjoy historicals?

Well....

If they didn't, (back to the list of ten above) I was pretty darn sure I'd hear about it, LOL!

I believe in branding to a point. Which means, yes, grab your "brand" (cowboy stories, medical thrillers, Amish,  contemporary romance, etc.) but don't be afraid to stretch your brand.

My brand is "Hearth and Home Romance".

I didn't put time limits on it, and neither do my readers! "Hearth and Home" gives me latitude, and pushy gals like me like some latitude.

So do you have to choose? I think initially you need to build a readership, an audience, but I also think that if you're working in a more generic "brand" like the one I picked, golly gee whillikers.

GO FOR IT.

Years ago New York Times bestselling author Karen White told me to write in as many genres as I wanted until I sold. And then to focus on that genre while building my platform.

I took that advice and ran with it because it makes sense. Build your base... then expand. These words of wisdom have worked for Karen and others, and I'm not all about re-inventing the wheel if copying someone's brilliant success seems like the way to go.

Thank you, Karen!

Okay, coffee's on, my friends! And I brought along cheese-stuffed blintzes with triple berry topping and whipped cream. I refuse to get plump alone!

Come on in, leave a comment and tell me what you're writing... and what you'd like to write. I might make fun of you (says Ruthy who has an Amish trilogy waiting to be finished AND a fantasy she can't wait to work on next winter...) or I might be all fun and nice and supportive, you know. Like a good friend would be.

In any case, I'm throwing your names into the cat dish for 2 copies of THIS DELIGHTFUL CONTEMPORARY COLLECTION:



and....

THIS EQUALLY DELIGHTFUL HISTORY-HUGGING COLLECTION!!! 


Both collections feature five (5) wonderful, heartfelt stories written by a collection of multi-published, award-winning, best-selling authors.... and we've given them a reader-friendly price of $2.99 because yes....

I want some of Mary's readers.

And Cara's.

And Pam's.

(Big grin!)

Etcetera. And if we can get our work into people's hands at a reasonable price like this, I'm all over that idea! See you inside!

Ruthy Logan Herne loves to write sweet romances filled with faith, family and fun, well, once they fix all the dysfunctional family stuff! She lives in upstate NY with way too many chickens, fresh eggs, lots of little kids and a couple of black bears that seem to find her farm intriguing. Visit her website http://ruthloganherne.com or find her on facebook where she loves to market her books by exploiting other people's children and small, cute animals!

124 comments:

Marianne Barkman said...

How fun, RUTHY! I am looking forward to reading those novels, historical or contemporary! Has anyone told you lately that YOU ROCK?!!! YOU DO!!!! Please put my name in the cat dish!

Olivia said...

Thank you for some candid thoughts on jumping genres, Ruthy. I am hooked on your contemporary books but would love to read some historical novels as well. Put my name in the catdish for either anthology...
Working my speedbo plan by revising the first page and blurb for the Harlequin contest...what an awesome opportunity!

Keli Gwyn said...

I admire those of you who can write both contemporary and historical romances. You're awesome! I don't possess that ability at this time.

I started a contemporary romance years ago. It remains unfinished to this day. Why? Because my contemporary characters sounded like they stepped right out of the 1970s. Yup. That's when I was hip and happenin'. Well, I thought I was anyhow. ;-)

These days I'm apt to say things when I'm trying to be with it that make my daughter give me The Look. You know the one. It says, "No, Mom. Don't say another word. You're just embarrassing yourself, and you don't even know it." I kinda did that in my contemporary manuscript, which is why it's buried in the deep, dark recesses of my hard drive.

Bottom line: my Voice sounds old, er, make that dated. I'm smitten with words like addlepated, geegaws and collywobbles.

Another reason I write historicals is the research. I can't get enough of it, as the four shelves of reference books in my writerly bookcase will attest. I have to restrain myself when I'm writing and sprinkle the historical factoids into my stories. If I were to include all the intriguing details I want, my stories would be 250,000 words. At least that's how long my first manuscript was. I wish I were kidding.

Wordy writer me will stop now before Ruthy is forced to rein me in.

Cindy W. said...

I love the advice Karen White gave to you Ruthy! I currently have a few WIP that range from historical to contemporary to suspense. I guess I'm still trying to find myself and my voice.

I would love to have my name tossed into the cat dish and it would be even better if it was drawn out as a winner.

Blessings to everyone doing Speedbo this month. May you all reach your goals and books aplenty be born.

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Marianne, darling, thank you! (The check's in the mail, dear girl and yes, to all o' youse, I PAY people to be nice to me, to be my friend! Don't judge.)

:)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Olivia, go you!!!!!

You know I got published (like so many of us here!) because of the Finally a Bride contest back in 2008... and now, almost thirty books/novellas later, here we are.

One amazing turn in the road and the courage and conviction to work hard. Go, girl!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Keli Gwyn, that is a great post, so now you must come to Seekerville and talk about it.

This is YOUR FAULT, honey.

I'm e-mailing you right now to set up a time.

And you touched on something very important to me and (I think) editors:

If we force it, everyone knows. That's part of the reason I'm keeping the before and after school aspects of my day job in a few months... Being immersed in today's families is like being paid to research. They are my best example of what's real in today's society, so then when I'm writing current times, I draw on their examples.

And then it sounds real, which I love because why be the only dysfunctional family in town??? That's just WRONG on so many levels!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Karen is very smart. I found her through a contest, she was the writer, I was a judge, and it's been love, love, love on my side ever since.

(On her side, she's put out a restraining order on Stalker Ruthy, but that was a total misunderstanding, really. I just wanted to pet the dog, the broken window was a BIG ACCIDENT!!!)

:)

Kidding. She likes me, mostly, because I'm bossy and well... bossy.

Debby Giusti said...

Ruthy, you do all things well!

Mary Hicks said...

I agree with Keli Gwyn, you girls who do it all are awesome! :-)

I love reading historical romance, but I don't like to spend time in research. Thanks Ruthy, you make it sound 'doable'.

Speedbo word count : 26,319 ( Happy dance, I should meet my goal of 30,000 )

Jessica Nelson said...

Have I ever told you that I love you?? LOL

I prefer contemporary but writing historical seems to fit my voice. My problem is research...I'm just horrible with details! I like researching but I don't always use what I've learned correctly. Now I'm writing Regencies because it fit with my voice I want to use write now and YIKES, rules, rules, rules. LOL

It's a challenge, for sure, but I don't want to box myself in either. My biz cards say that I write inspirational romance for the passionate heart. I figure that's cross-genre. LOL

Thanks for a fab post!

Mary Curry said...

Good morning, Ruthy.

Once upon a time ... I was a historical writer. My first love, my secret live. In fact, I have a book set during the Revolutionary War that is THE book of my heart. It was my first Golden Heart finalist book and a paranormal - reincarnation version of it was my third GH. I've been seriously toying with revising it in my spare time and doing it Indie.

I switched to contwmp after one too many editors told me she loved my story but no one wanted to read Rev. War. Seriously!!!!!

All those trips to Williamsburg? All those classes at Fraunces Tavern in lower Manhattan.
Well, all that I fo is securely stored somewhere in my brain so don't be surprised to see it emerge someday soon.

Put my name in the catfish. I love Seekerville novellas.

Tina Radcliffe said...

There is no way on this earth that I could write a hysterical romance.

No way.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Jessica Nelson, now you just have to get together with some pals and do a contemporary novella collection to free your inner contemporary voice.

Tina Radcliffe said...

I find it interesting that a lot of readers are only contemp or historical.

I only read contemporary. But I used to only read historical.

Tina Radcliffe said...

26K Mary HICKS!!! WOWZA! So proud of you!

Mary Curry said...

LOL

That's what typing on an iPad will do to you.

That was supposed to say Put my name in the cat DISH, not catfish. ;)

Jackie said...

My parents enjoy genealogy and it's amazing what they learn about our family. It's more than births and deaths. Then there is the vague stuff like the man who lost three wives. That really gets the imagination going when you see the dates and the number of children.

Thanks for giving us permission to write in multiple genres until we sail off the island. Great post, Ruthy!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Oh, Debby Giusti, if you saw my poor house, you would retract that.

But I appreciate the gracious comment, LOL!

The things I let you SEE... :)

I do well, LOL!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Mary Hicks, I thought the same. But then I read a few of Connealy's books and thought shucks... I could do this with my hands hog-tied behind my back while sharp-shootin' dinner!

KIDDING, CONNEALY.


Honestly, so much of it is common knowledge to anyone who went to school pre-drop-history-as-inconsequential craziness.

(Note I'm saying that carefully.)

Kind of.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Jess, the rules of Regency can be gotten around, too.

Think 'vague'.

Don't tie yourself into senseless details. Immerse yourself and the reader in the emotion and keep the details vague.

You understand the rules, but that doesn't mean you have to employ them to show you're obeying. Sometimes vague is better because half the time that's the stuff readers skim!

I bet you do an amazing Regency.

Rose said...

Great post, Ruthy!

You stretched your writing muscles and tried something new. And what did you find out? You LOVE it!!!!

I've written historical stories amidst my contemporaries and I really, really enjoyed it.

And Karen gave you terrific advice years ago. Thank you for sharing it with us now.

(I out for the drawing...no Kindle)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Mary Curry, I can totally see that. So now you establish yourself wherever and build a readership, and then you can put this book out as an indie... or maybe LIH or another history-loving line will grab it! They like you to get established first (and I respect that because audiences vary for different books) but then why not stretch? I'm totally rooting for you!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Tina, Grandma Eichas always said: "Never say never".

I've done so many things I thought I'd never do....


And lived.

:)

If God gives us long enough, we may tempt you to the dark side of the 1950's... because I'm considering anything pre-Vietnam era as historical.

Pleasantville.

Happy Days.

Beach Blanket Bingo. :)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Tina, you raised a great point. The readers I talk to tend to go in waves... Loving this... Loving that... Loving good writing/story telling no matter what.

Karen White, Lisa Wingate and Holly Jacobs are great examples of authors who crossed lines from necessity and sometimes opportunity.

So when opportunity knocks, I figure why not?

Here's the big advantage: my contemp readers are loving the historical novellas... and the historical readings are gobbling up my contemp backlist with Love Inspired, so everyone's happy.

I love making people happy.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Jackie, Geneology Roadshow is a great idea starter!

Glimpsing into the past... Knowing I have a mulatto great-great grandmother...

Seeing that my grandmother's family and Dave's paternal family were all here by 1635...

Think of the amazing things that have changed!

There's a kids' show too, it's on Netflix, and it gives you a great visual... and of course I can't remember the name of it! AAACCCHHH!!!!

Kelly Bridgewater said...

I have interest in World War II fiction and suspense. I have an idea to combine both genres and write a series with those elements. Currently, I have written four novels in the suspense genre. (Not published yet!) For speedbo, I'm finishing the fourth one, then I'll finish the fifth one later. Three are a series.
I believe if the author is great in historical and experiments with contemporary; I'll follow. Enter me for a historical With This Kiss. Keep writing! God bless!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Rose, you know you can download to a free Kindle app on your computer, don't you?

It's free on Amazon and then you can read them on your laptop or desktop.

I'm just sayin', Rose... :)

And I love that quilt you shared on facebook! I am obsessive with sewing, so I don't dare start a project right now, but maybe when there's more time I'll do some on the side...

Or I'll quilt stories. I love quilts. Just love them, love them, love them.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Kelly, you're in!

I remember Jayne Anne Krentz talking about almost shooting her career in the foot by going historical, and she was so funny and honest, hearing her speak was worth the cost of the conference.

(That doesn't mean I'm about to turn into a regular conference attendee!)

But things are different now. We're no longer governed in absolutism, we can spread our wings and embrace new readers who will love our body of work.

And that's a huge improvement! What an amazing time we live in!

Julie Lessman said...

RUTHY!!! What ... you don't want MY readers???? ;)

Ironically, I have just finished my first contemporary and although I enjoyed writing it (it was more therapeutic for me since it's loosely based on my estranged relationship with my own father), I can definitely say I much prefer writing historicals, and I'm trying to figure out why.

Maybe because I am a person who gets set in my ways (i.e. I used the same pillow for most of my life, from childhood to well into my marriage, until it disintegrated; and the same style black purse and sometimes the same actual purse for years on end till IT disintegrated), but comfort level is important to me, and I find I am far more comfortable in another era. (There's a psychology lesson there, I'm sure!).

I think there's an innocence in past eras that I much prefer to the brazen sexuality of today. For me, writing a contemp where the heroine is a "good girl" seems so out of step and old fogey to today's young generation, that it makes me uncomfortable. That and the lingo. I mean I've been saying "blast" and "Sweet Mother of Job," and "Sweet Saints above" for so long now that I ache to put it in my contemp, but if I did, my daughter would send up flares.

Anyway, you're right that it's not that hard to switch genres, but it definitely takes a different type of research and establishing a comfort level.

Hugs,
Julie

Cindy Regnier said...

What a fun post Ruthy! I have always wanted to write historical and pretty much haven't strayed from that. The only exception is sometimes I like to get dyslexic and switch from 1894 to 1984. I love the 80s and that era before cell phones and computers. Trouble is, I understand there is no market for that sort of thing. But oh well, I lived it and therefore I can write it if I want to. btw - you did a fantastic job with historical but forget about we folks hooked on your contemporary stuff too. Love those Kirkwood Lake guys!

Jamie Adams said...

Historials are my favorite, but I read contemporary from time to time So glad you started writing hirstoicals. I enjoyed Prairie Promises and would love to be in the drawing for With this Kiss.

Kav said...

How pertinent -- there was a great discussion going on about this very topic at the Avid Readers of Christian Fiction Facebook page yesterday. The consensus was that loyal readers would follow their fave authors anywhere.

A few said they wouldn't read a genre they didn't like, but to me that just means the cross-branding author might lose a reader or two but she'll likely gain new readers who only read that genre so it's a win/win, right?

Hope that made sense. If not, blame it on fried brain cells from blurb writing. I'm down to 110 words but not sure if I'm conveying everything I'm supposed to. And the clock is ticking. Ack!

Wilani Wahl said...

I Loved this post. the 2 books I am writing are contemporary. The one I am starting is also contemporary suspense. I have an idea and have started doing research for a historical.

I am so close to finishing my first book which is currently at 98k.

Please put my name in the cat dish for the Seekerville collections.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Julie, I'm harvesting your readers left and right.... LAUGHING!!!! I had to keep the blog respectably short, you know how long-winded I am!

Anyway, I hear what you're saying. It's always got to be the right fit. And most of my contemporary heroines have rough patches in their pasts, so they're struggling with overcoming. I love women that overcome, I can sing Mandisa's Overcome non-stop because that's such a prophetic lesson.

But I hear you! Although I'm tickled pink you dabbled in the contemporary waters!

I love both, I won't lie. SIGH.... And that's probably another psychology lesson!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Cindy, those are great points! And I hear you, it's an interesting switch. And yes, the 80's were kind of...

there.

And that's about it.

But having said that, think Billy Joel "Scenes from and Italian Restaurant".

There's a story right there. Estranged... but why? And what's in their future.

LOVE IT.

And I do use switching genres/stories/lengths to try and keep my brain fresh.

The last Kirkwood Lake Love Inspired story is coming out in June... and then I have a Kirkwood Lake novella in a collection coming out this summer!

And then we move to Wedding Blessings with super hot hero Drew Slade...

<>>... :)

And in September "Refuge of the Heart" a beautiful story of a tormented refugee and a hard-hitting, strait-laced District Attorney.

And then Wedding Blessings 2... I'm so honored that you love these stories, you just made my day!

Connie Queen said...

I mainly write historicals. Tried my hand at Killer Voices last year but didn't make it to the last round. (I think suspense writers have to be extra smart.) I've put suspense on the back burner for now...
I also have one that's a contemporary but only a little romance. Acutally it goes back into the 1950's but starts present day. Do we consider those contemp. or historical?

That's about it for me. Thanks for the post Ruthy.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Jamie, you're in!

I had so much fun with Prairie Promises... and with A Town Called Christmas... So I hope you love "His Beloved Bride"...

I sure loved writing it!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Kav, I agree. For the few who might not want to read that genre, there are a lot who will...

And when the good reviews (oh, hoping, of course, right????) come in, then you attract other new folks.

And every new reader is a blessing, for real.

Heidi Robbins said...

As a reader, I equally love historical and contemporary romance. In response to Julie's comment, as a "good girl" I appreciate when authors can write contemporary novels where the main character has high standards and is making good choices- that doesn't mean life is easy and there is still conflict/trials that can be used for the plot. I find that I relate to those characters more than ones with loose standards. In this day of brazen sexuality I love when the good girls still have strong contemporary characters to read about, admire and emulate.

Sandy Smith said...

I am writing a contemporary but have had some interest in trying historical someday. My historical interest is in pioneer stories as I live in Nebraska in Oregon Trail country by Ft. Kearny, so that would be my setting. If I really wrote about historical Kearney(the town is spelled differently than the fort, in case you notice the spelling difference) it would be a very wild book. Kearney was called Dobeytown back then and was a not so nice place.

Please enter me for the collection. I would love to read either the historical or the contemporary.

Heidi Robbins said...

Oh yeah, put my name in the cat dish! I love the novellas you all write! :)

Deanna Stevens said...

That was my class saying! A journey of a 1000 miles begins with small steps.. Nice memory..
wishing you Speedbo's much success in writing last week!
Please put me in for the book drawing, I'd love to read these...

Chill N said...

Ya know what, RUTHY? If the author is one whose writing I enjoy reading, that enjoyment doesn't change with whether it's historical or contemporary -- as long as the writer is comfortable and the voice comes through. I followed several writers from historical to contemporary (hint: MARY C's alter ego).

I've written contemporaries, and am working on one as part of my Speedbo goal of having a story to submit to Woman's World. Like Julie, though, I'm more comfortable with historical.

JULIE, if you figure out why we prefer writing historicals and it isn't psychologically awful :-) let me know?

Nancy C

Helen Gray said...

Years ago when I started writing(before computer and internet), I only wrote contemporary. After completing ten manuscripts, I wrote one historical. Then life got busy and I quit writing for over ten years.

When I retired and started writing again, I wrote a mystery series. Then I wrote some more contemporaries. Then I did a historical series set in the Great Depression, which sold. Then I wrote a western series.

So I'm one who has welcomed the change in rules.

There's fresh coffee!

LeAnne Bristow said...

Great post! When I look at the books on my shelf, I discover that the most worn books are my historicals. I love them. There is something about losing myself in another time period that appeals to me. Don't get me wrong. I love contemporary too. And I write contemporary romance.
One day I would love to try my hand at writing a historical, so your post is great inspiration for me. I've always been hesitant to start a historical because I know I would lose myself in the research and never come up for air.
And Keli's comment made me laugh because my kids were always telling me the same thing. "Stop talking, Mom. You're embarrassing yourself."

Myra Johnson said...

LOL, Ruthy, I've been dipping my toes in both sides of the contemporary/historical river for a couple of years now! And like you, I was SCARED TO DEATH to try writing historical! Back in my school years, research papers were the bane of my existence!

Then, through years and years of visiting Hot Springs, Arkansas, and sampling some of that area's history, I just knew I needed to put some of it in a story. That's how my Till We Meet Again series for Abingdon came about.

Now I'm in the middle of another historical series for Franciscan Media. Also set in Arkansas but a few years later, at the start of the Great Depression. And I am researching like crazy again. I just told hubby yesterday, I am learning more while writing these books than I ever learned in school!

But . . . I'm also still writing contemporary fiction, with my first Love Inspired romance coming out in November! It's fun going back and forth in time. And I don't think I'm watering down my brand because my stories are always about the ups and downs and trials and tribulations of life and love in the real world, whatever era we're talking about. Emotion is emotion. All that really changes is the year and the setting.

Mary Connealy said...

Helen I think it's wonderful you've experimented with different genres. I think unless you're very lucky, a writer often takes a while to find their voice.

Now when I write the cowboys (and post pictures of baby calves on Facebook and talk about My Cowboy husband) writing westerns is so obvious! But it took me a while to find that 'write what you know' seam and settle into it.
I still like doing something different once in a while but time is very limited. That's why the Seekerville Indy collections are just a beautiful, blissful kind of fun for me.

Mary Connealy said...

I was on a panel speaking with other Omaha area authors (I'm from waaaaay out of town!)
We were talking about women authors in history and how hard it would have been to do research in say...1850. Incredibly hard to log into wikipedia back then.

I wonder if the 'write what you know' school was invented for a time that it was darned hard to write anything else?

I mean, even in the cowboy genre, it's so easy to see what plants and animals live in the Big Horn Mountains....but back then? How would you ever know?

I guess order books on Amazon right?

Mary Connealy said...

PS I insisted Ruthy send me a video of her thoroughly washing the cat's dish.

You're all safe. (well, safe-ish--this is The Ruthinator we're talking about)

Mary Connealy said...

Keli, maybe you've already done, but look at the story in your contemporary and see if it can be tranported to historical.

Some books, that's just pretty impossible if some modern invention is required in the plot. But FUNDMENTALLY, a story, the root story, the give and take between hero and heroine, is often universal.

I've got a brilliant computer programmer in a story I'm revising for the next Seekerville collection and that would be hard to convert, but many books work surprising well, and even come to life and work BETTER if you shift the time.

Mary Connealy said...

PS I had FOUR TEENAGE DAUGHTER AT THE SAME TIME AT ONE POINT.

I have 'embarrassed' them so many times it's ridiculous. I got very, very tough.

I think it prepared me very well for the slings and arrows of rejection letters...and those lovely One Star Amazon reviews.

Jan Drexler said...

I don't think I'll be crossing over to the contemporary side any time soon. I love historicals too much :)

I am making a wee step from Amish to western in my next book, but it's still the same time period. The chores are similar, dresses similar, etc.

And since I LOVE research, my historical settings come off sounding much more realistic than any contemporary setting I've tried. I don't live in the mainstream of life and it shows. :) Like Keli Gwyn, my characters would come out sounding like they're from a different time.

But the story is the main thing, don't you think? People are people, whether they live in the 21st century or the 16th. They have the same needs for God, love and acceptance, and the same hopes and dreams. All people in every time period are people like us.

So whether you write contemporary or historical, the only real difference is the setting. We're all just writing stories about the human condition.

Don't put my name in that cat dish, Ruthy. I've already pre-ordered the collections!

LoRee Peery said...

Ruth...super encouraging post. But our names in a cat dish, for real?
I finally had to give it up and printed my Speedbo words to go over tonight. The last few days I've been going in circles. This draft is a sequel to last year's Speedbo story.
I love the simple life...country, western, why not historical? Uh, I'm pretty awful at research?
I wrote the rough draft of a time travel for Last year's Speedbo, thinking I needed to try my hand at writing historical. Since I'm a contemporary author, it felt right at the time to start with what I know, so my gal transports to the late 1800s.
The story was just rejected the second time a few days ago. I'm far from "giving it up," but I need to do something else and let my subconscious go to work.
I'm clearing off bookshelves to lighten the weight on our floor joists.

Sarah Claucherty said...

Thanks for the advice on building a readership! Good thoughts to keep in mind.

I plan to read both collections. I may not be published or jumping genres yet, but my reading preferences span multiple genres! You can't run out of reading material that way ;)

Please add my name to the dish, Ruthy!

Missy Tippens said...

I love it, Ruthy! I love reading historicals and may one day be brave enough to try one! :)

Lynn Huggins Blackburn said...

This was great, Ruthy! History was my favorite subject in school. I even read a lot of non-fiction books about the Revolutionary War and Civil War in junior high - for fun. (Yes, I am nerd!). I still LOVE reading historicals, along with everything else.

So, obviously - I write romantic suspense. :-)

But there's this idea that someday, maybe, I could write a historical. You've given me hope! :-)

Jeri Hoag said...

I love that its ok to write more than one genre. I have a YA book finished and have 3 different romantic suspense MS's in various stages of completion. I like both genre's so I'm hoping and praying both will get published.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Heidi, I'm with you 100%. Even with people/heroines who've made mistakes, who hasn't? Who among us is without sin? And who isn't challenged by the strangeness of modern life?

I love how you put that, so yes, I agree... keep the standards high no matter how rocky the road.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Deanna, you're in and I agree. Every major accomplishment began as one small dream:

A sentence.

A board.

A brick became:

A book.

A house.

A school.

We start small... and aim high.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

LeAnne, my kids say the same thing. I ignore them. Or I talk more to annoy them further. Either way works!

:)

You know, the research was what held me up on historicals too, except then I realized that you don't need the crazy minute details of articles of clothing to impress readers...

Those are to impress other writers.

Well, shucks, I said... I can do my kind of research and write my kind of story and have fun with it... which is exactly what I've done! And I'm having the time of my life!!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Sandy Smith, you're in!

Hey, Omaha was "sin city" in its beginnings, and I had my character's son leery of such an awful town near his mother. But she had the common sense to know that when women... and the Bible... move into town, things shape up.

Write what you like right now... and then specialize once you've gotten published until you have a readership. (Although Virginia Carmichael is doing well with both, so this is not always true!!!)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Nancy, LAUGHING!!!!!

If I'm going to be crazy, it will be fun to be crazy with you and Julie Lessman!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Helen, go you! I love that we've got options that didn't exist ten years ago.

And we still have the SAME options that existed ten years ago. I love my publishers, working with editors, working with graphic artists...

So I'm enjoying pushing the envelope... and enjoying the ride.

Both are good.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Mary, that's such a good point. Write what you know... and what you love.

The recurring thread through my stories is girl empowerment. Steady those women and give them the power of overcoming whatever life threw their way.

So that's what I see when I create. How can I fix a wounded soul? Well. Me and God!

Janet Dean said...

I tried my hand at a contemporary--women's fiction--though my cp loved it, I didn't. Why? First, like Keli, I wasn't hip and knew that would show. Secondly, I hadn't read many women's fiction novels and had no idea how to write without a HEA ending.

I love that writers today have options, Ruthy. You did a great job with Red Kettle Christmas! And your brand is flexible enough to fit any genre.

I write historicals, the genre I love to read and write. But if writers are comfortable branching out, they're smart. The market changes. Lines close.

Janet

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Yes, I washed the cat dish. The new one.

The old one is in its normal state of relative grossness.

Shh.

Don't tell.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Mary, it would be hard to convert the computer programmer thingie...

But we could go all Ben Franklin printing press, couldn't we???

I love Ben so much.

Sherida Stewart said...

Blintzes! I do hope there are some left!

I'm writing a combination of contemporary and historical, but focusing on contemporary for SpeedBo. I have a contemporary series in mind, and I've always been an Oregon Trail gal. So many ideas. Must make more time to write!

The historical vocabulary intimidates me a bit, but I want to try that period. Good thoughts on not worrying about the clothing. Two outfits...got it!

Yes, please, Ruthy, for either ebook collection! Beautiful! Thank you! And I'm very glad you write in both areas!

Sherida Stewart said...

Oh, I forgot to mention......I clicked "send" on my #Blurb2Book entry. Really! Thank you Seekervile and Speedbo!

Now I'm worried about my contemporary vocabulary.

Julie Lessman said...

NANCY C SAID: "JULIE, if you figure out why we prefer writing historicals and it isn't psychologically awful :-) let me know?"

LOL, Nance, I have been thinking about it, and I really think the main reason is what I implied before. And that is even though my tagline is "Passion with a Purpose," I truly prefer a more innocent era, which historicals generally give you.

For instance, the time period for Charity O'Connor's story (the seductive vixen sister) is 1916-19, so even though I could classify her as seductive back then, it didn't necessarily mean she jumped in the sack with whomever, which is something I would never write in a historical. All it meant was she was a wee bit flirtier (i.e. more of an innocent tease) than most girls. But if I dropped her in a contemp? Good night, her seductive air could only be believable if accompanied by immoral behavior, which I have no desire to write about with my heroines. Now my heroes? Another story altogether! ;) As long as I can redeem them ... :)

So hopefully, this reason is not too psychologically damaging, which means we're good to go, girl!! ;)

Hugs,
Julie

Ruth Logan Herne said...

JAN!!!! Thank you for ordering them, sweet thing!

And you're right, of course. There's a part of me that would fit perfectly into old times, just the challenge of facing the West and saying "NAILED IT!!!" would be awesome!

Of course if I crashed and burned, I'd be hanging my head... sigh... heading East.

But with every push West... and then the fallback to the East... we made progress.

I love this country.

Pam Hillman said...

I've been running errands today. New tires and grocery shopping. Back home working on edits.

Writing the With This Kiss novella was a blast. I love banding together with my Seeker sisters and going full speed ahead.

I've written some contemporaries and romantic suspense. One of my RS ms finalled in the Golden Heart, and I think it still has merit. Just not where I'm homesteaded right now. :)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

LoRee, time travel! Love it! Fantasy... that, too!

I love myths and legends and ethereal things that transport the reader to Middle Earth... I still love "Willow", oh, how I cheered for that little Nelwyn!!!!

And Val Kilmer as Madmartigan wasn't too bad, either.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Sarah, my pretty, you're in!

And yeah, jumping genres is pretty cool and it's a great way to expand our literary and ROMANCE horizons!

Tracey Hagwood said...

Hi Ruthy,
I'll enjoy one of those cheese blintzes with you and I could use the caffeine jolt from a cup of coffee too.

I like the four generations shot. Wonderful to have those, they are rare.

I think you do great writing historical, but I agree readers don't always cut writers any slack if they get their history wrong.

I'm looking forward to reading both collections. Please enter me in the drawing.

DebH said...

Ruthy
I love you. You always make me feel like I can conquer the world.

Because of my graphics skills and love of littles, I believe there's children's books in my future. perhaps with eBook stuff, even animated pages 'cuz that's what I do. looking into that...

But I do so love sci-fi/fantasy. As a youth, I lived on C.S. Lewis, Tolkein, Asimov, Orson Scott Card and Anne MacCaffrey. I kinda sorta want to venture there too.

Right now I'm working on my Killer Voice R&R because I don't want to miss out on the opportunity presented, but I have to admit it's been a struggle.

I just love good stories, no matter the era/genre I guess. When I find an author I love, I read anything and everything that author writes. I guess I'm easy to please that way. Good, riveting story trumps all.

which means I wanna be selfish and have my name in the draw for BOTH contemp and hysterical (Tina's words) Seeker Novella collections.

Seekerville rocks.

kaybee said...

Good points, Ruthy. I'm doing historical right now because those are the ideas that come to me, but I haven't ruled anything out. The two periods I'm working in are Oregon Trail and right after World War I. I would love to do women's fiction, contemporary sweet romance, mystery and suspense, but I don't want to spread myself too thin. When I have readers I may try something different. Or if God lays a contemporary, mystery or suspense story on my heart, in which case all bets are off.
I'm doing okay on my Speedbo project. A few wrinkles, like one chapter I am more than stuck on, but I'm going to make it work somehow and finish this draft by the 31st. Entered Genesis and the Blurb to Book contest, so I've been busy, also keeping up my work with my critique partner. It's all good...
Kathy Bailey

Anna Weaver Hurtt said...

Perfect timing on this post, Ruthy!

I've only written contemporaries, mostly because I was afraid of the research, BUT I've learned that research will be done either way... so, I'm working on a couple ideas for the Blurb To Book pitch and I have a mail-order-bride-with-a-twist idea that keeps obnoxiously pushing its way to the front.

My biggest concern is not being able to get the research done in the time parameters... but we'll see. :)

Anna Weaver Hurtt said...

Oh, and please drop my name in for the giveaways. :)

Becky Dempsey said...

The first "novella" I wrote (in 9th grade) was a historical about a woman with Scarlet Fever who falls for the new doctor. (Grin) More recently, I started another historical after one of our Civil War reenactments (still unfinished) I am currently working on a contemporary. I would LOVE to win both the historical and contemporary versions of With This Kiss!

Speedbo: If I continue at the pace I've been typing in my pre-written words from my notebook, I think I'll be finished by the end of the month. Throw in there the fact that my daughter's birthday is the 29th and we have a party to plan and clean for, etc. and we have a little bit of an iffy situation. I'm still plugging away, though.

Chill N said...

Julie Lessman said...
So hopefully, this reason is not too psychologically damaging, which means we're good to go, girl!! ;)


Onward with Speedbo! :-)

Nancy C

Bettie said...

I'm enjoying the conversations. I have tried both contemporary and historical and liked the comment about trying both until being published. ..will keep plugging away and hope for discovery : ) Please sign me up for the drawings...especially the critique.

The Artist Librarian said...

As a reader, I've never really understood what the struggle was for a writer to jump into a different genre --authors should write what they want! If you have a good book cover and summary, I don't know how a contemporary can be mistaken for a historical or vice versa ... I don't know, maybe it's just me. =)

I can see how some genre jumps can be for an audience to follow but ... Do you find most resistance for genre switching from your agent or publisher, or from your readers?

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Ruthy, You know me. I've always enjoyed writing in more than one genre. Keeps me from getting bored.

I do have a historical that is burning in my heart and I will write it some day. It starts in Spain and that is why I went there--to do the research.

I love research too so historical will be a great fit for me when I finally get around to it. smile

Sandra Leesmith said...

I am excited to read all the posts about Speedbo success and accomplishment.

YAY!!!!!


Way to go. Happy writing.

Cara Lynn James said...

Great blog, Ruthy and wonderful 4 generational picture! And 10 rules are definitely enough.

Valri said...

I love both contemporary and historical! I admire so much those authors that can write both! As a reader, I love it! Keep on writing!!!!

Put my name in the dish!!!!

Tanya Agler said...

Ruthy, I love how your voice carries into your blogs. They are an absolute delight to read.

I've always loved history. One joke I tell my husband is that our children have been to half the bookstores and historical sites on the East Coast. When we were at Yorktown, my oldest daughter looked at us in horror and asked if we really wanted her to go through ticky field. We said yep. Now she wants to be a history professor.

So I'd love to try writing historical at some point, but right now I have a bunch of contemporaries running through my head.

Thanks for the post.

Pepper Basham said...

(ducking my head as I enter the conversation)
Love the post, Ruthy!

I've always had a hard time writing in one genre so I intentionally set my tag as "Blue Ridge Romance". ALL of my books (or at least the ones with my real name) have elements of the Blue Ridge Culture in them.

My historical debut comes out in May - But I'm concerned about not having established a readership before I have a second book released in the fall that is contemp romance!

I would think your 'voice' would carry over well for either genre, Ruthy.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Janet, I think we have to find our own comfort zone and that's based on so many factors.

Remember how Tina dared me to enter that contest years ago to try and win money for RWA National?

I didn't win but I finaled because I can't turn down a good dare!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Lynn! Ain't it the truth????

And you'd think I'd recognize that in myself because I loved old things, loved history but always had this mental block about not being able to research properly.

Well with the internet now, we've kind of lost that excuse!!! I totally hear you! And I'm laughing at both of us!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Sherida Stewart, I'm so proud of you!!!!!! Happy dancing!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Jeri, I love YA stuff. I don't know if I'll be able to extend in that direction, but I'd love to.

Strong YA books stay with the reader FOREVER.

Where the Red Fern Grows? The Yearling? Catcher in the Rye?

There's something strange and SCARY about the adolescent mind that absorbs maturing ideas like a sponge to water. We tend to need a baseball bat upside the head to gain the same knowledge later on, but the adolescent thirsts for reasons to thrive...

Idea hungry.

I love that genre.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Pam, your historical wheelhouse is going full steam ahead right now!

And Tracey, you're in darling, the cat's getting hungry but I told her to just hang on! Catch a mouse, for heaven's sake!

:)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Deb H, the beauty in your talents is that you can spread your wings and have fun with it! What a fun blending!

Look how my past nametag and hairnet jobs have been my "paid" research sites for books. That rocks!

Have fun with it right now, although I'd finish that R&R just because no matter what you do, there are times you're going to need to adjust/edit/change.

Why not learn how to do that now, right?

Cheaper than a college course! You're in, my dear!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Anna, go for it! I'm so proud of you! That rocks!!!! Big and brave and bold... and testing waters as we go!

Kaybee, I'm so glad you entered, too! I love that Emily took the time to come here and make sure everyone in Seekerville knew about that contest. I love the #nolimits feel to this whole thing.

AWESOME!!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Becky, hang in there day by day! And you're writing by hand first???? I did that years ago, that way I could write things as I worked, on breaks, etc. There were no laptops, there were room-sized computers! Oh, twenty years has made a huge difference!!!

Good for you!!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Bettie, you're in for everything! And yes, play with everything because no matter where you're practicing, the art of great writing comes with practice. Good for you!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Jen, that's a great question.

A couple of answers:

Editors take a risk when they contract authors. Will the readership develop? Will they produce? Will the readership continue to grow? To do this they generally want you to focus on one main genre, and you can see the sense in that. They're investing money and that needs to come back.


But then, once you're established, then you should be able to spread your wings somewhat. Now that seems fair, it wasn't always possible.

But then... INDIES!!! HYBRID AUTHORS!!!!

The world of opportunity changed. Now indie work can augment traditional work and vice versa.

I think the timing is important, and I think authors need to examine their business, their careers and make decisions based on those goals. I love running my own business, and risk is part of that. But not everyone is wired that way.

I love how smart you are, kiddo.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Cara, LOL!

I agree.

I break 'em, anyway, so the fewer the better. Less temptation! :)

I love those 4 generation pictures. We've been blessed to get several of them over the years to span the generations. And one with 5 generations before Great-grandma Blodgett passed away. What a treasure that is!

History in the making. :)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Sandra, I'm so excited about having more time to write next year. I've loved raising sweet children, but I'm looking forward to more writing time.

I love writing stories. I never have any question about what makes a James Michener or a Herman Wouk or a Laura Ingalls Wilder keep writing into their late golden years... because if you love telling stories as much as you love breathing.... and I do!... it's a pleasure to create new stuff.

Of course a lot of that is up to God.

Oh, that God!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Valri, I love your enthusiasm! You're in!!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Tanya, we're a lot alike, aren't we?

I look back at life and see that God was preparing me for the path he saw later...

And how perfect that is! I can totally see you spanning both fields at some time.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Pepper, hey!!!!! I love it when you stop by!

Well, we grow where we're planted, right? And I think you're coming into this newest career on the wave of change.

I don't think it matters as much now... I think building a readership these days is still a gamble, it's tricky, and I find that there are differing levels... folks that love history, folks that love contemporary, folks that love $6 books, folks that want only trade paperbacks.... and then the genre divides!!! So you're spanning a couple of time periods, I think your tag/brand of Blue Ridge is perfect!

Wilani Wahl said...

Ruthy, I had such a blessing from Cubbies tonight. They gave me some great dialogue to put in a book some day. Now to remember it when I need it. I have written it down.

CatMom said...

Arriving "fashionably late" today (clothing with cat hair is fashionable, right?!). ;)
But even late at night a Ruthy-post still energizes me (I'm waiting for you to bottle and sell your energy, LOL).
My very first manuscript (that I've re-written, revised, tweaked, and polished so many times) is a historical. All my other manuscripts are contemporaries. So right now I'm focusing on contemporary--but still LOVE historical.
Thanks for sharing this today - - you are amazing (REALLY!!).
Hugs, Patti Jo :)

Walt Mussell said...

What a topic. I've been debating whether to submit to LIS or LIH for Book2Blurb. Finally decided on the contemporary story. Have a little time left to go. :-)

jubileewriter said...

Enjoyed this post. I feel with e-books on the rise you can throw a wider net of genres. And readers are often willing to try a new genre if it's reasonably price.
Throw my name in the drawing please.
Cindy Huff

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Wilani, I love when that happens. And my problem is I write it down and then can't find it!!! But there's always something to write. Always!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Walt, it's a bit of a conundrum, isn't it????

I'm so glad you're jumping in!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Cindy, I agree totally. As the rules change we can bend a few more of them... and readers will find us!

A great book is a great book, and by that I don't necessarily mean a literary masterpiece... but a people pleasing experience, akin to the difference between Oscar-winner versus box-office smash.

Honestly?

I'll take the box-office smash every time!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Patti Jo, thank you so much!!! What a lovely testimony!

Bless you!

And living in the South lends itself to writing both, darling. History lived and breathed there in so many ways!

Dee LeRoye said...

Good morning from the Little House country of South Dakota. My Speedbo writing last year took me to "Take A Chance" with the young doctor on the South Dakota prairie. This year I've only had time for a few lines a day transcribed from Mama's diary of her courtship and early marriage. Historical nonfiction...going somewhere before the end of the year with the fictionalized story of my parents' enduring love. Add me to the possibilities of the free set of books. Thanks.

ohiohomeschool said...

Such a fun article! It made me smile. I write homeschool narratives for parents about their student's year.
I would love to win either

Kathy Sheldon Davis said...

I love all the personality you display in today's post, Ruth. I hope I help my readers have this much fun. Would you throw my name in your hat for a collection? Thanks so much!

Christine said...

Love your tip---These errors are not necessarily errors. As the writer of a historical series set in British Colonial India I find this so true. Especially when I think of the 100 books I read years ago in preparation of this series.

I've had one contemporary romance published too, and found that my readers didn't mind this switch. Probably because so much is similar in my brand---I took them somewhere out of their home setting--to Ireland this time---so they didn't feel misled. But I'm a dyed-in-the-wool historical writer. Christine Lindsay

jean kinsey said...

My first published book was historical and the next was ma contemporary trilogy. I wish I had established a brand before diversifying.

Rachael Koppendrayer said...

I really do love historicals - reading, researching, and when the research gets overly-inspiring, a little writing. And if an author I like jumps genres, I'll certainly give it a try - good writing is good writing.

So out of curiosity, what are the "certain difficult eras" of writing historical fiction?

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Rachael, darling, I have no idea because I avoid those pesky things!!!!

Okay, seriously, if you get into Regencies, (think Pride and Prejudice) there are rules... except now they have sexy regencies, so they've already broken the rules.

Articles of clothing (we've already seen what I thought about that...) European settings generally have detailed descriptions of what everyone's wearing and don't put a cravat on a man in a century when they weren't wearing them OR called them something different.

Revolutions vs. coups, battles, historical periods Elizabethan, Medieval, Renaissance, where attitudes of the day affect the interactions of society.

So sticking with American history works for me because I love American history, I'm almost old enough to have LIVED it, (KIDDING, KIDDING, HUSH UP, CONNEALY!) and there's an openness about it that lends itself to an author's imagination.

Other than gold-digging and railroad building towns, so much of it was a long, slow process that you almost Can't Be Wrong.

Now that's what I'm talkin' 'bout, Rachael!!! :)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Jean, I hear you! But it's never too late to concentrate your efforts and focus on one or the other.

But the wonderful thing is that you got them published! Good for you! Fist-pumping the air!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Kathy, you're in! I'm so glad you stopped by!!!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Christine, what a pleasure to have you over here today, thank you for stopping in!

And yes, isn't that the truth? I was on a forum several years ago and I realized this:

I am not meant for forums where everyone is an expert.

I am not meant for forums where everyone is sure they're right and everyone else is wrong.

I am not meant for forums where discussions of the most minute things in a setting meant days of avid discussion.

Who has time for that?

I could write a novella in that time!

So that was part of why I thought I could never do historical romance. I was so very, very wrong, it seems! Glad you stopped by!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Dee!!!! "His Beloved Bride" is set outside DeSmet! That's my contribution to our historical set of "With This Kiss".

And it's a charming story. Jan Drexler sent me a copy of "Land of the Burnt Thigh" and what a wonderful overview of South Dakota history that is. Loved it!

(Mary, see? I do research. Just so youse know.)

I'm so glad you stopped over here, Dee!!!