Sunday, 14 May 2006

Two newpaper articles have caught my attention in the last couple of days.

The first is a piece by Sara Fitzgerald in the Washington Post titled "Romance, Writ Large - A Tried-and-True Genre Of Novels Expands, And Business Is Booming". It is an account of the Washington Romance Writers' annual retreat at Harper's Ferry (pictured above). It gives a reasonable overview of the state of Romance in the US, but what struck me - indeed what struck the Colonial correspondent who alerted me to the item - was a mention of how one author found her way into the Regency period:
Kathryn Caskie was a former marketing executive in AOL's financial content area when she found her voice writing witty Regencys, a sub-genre of books set in the England of 1811-1820, the era of Jane Austen. The Waterford, Va., author had come close to getting a "Scottish Medieval" historical romance published when she had a brainstorm while watching trailers for the movie Rules of Engagement. "What if two old ladies found a war manual and mistook it for a manual on how to get engaged?" That led to her own Rules of Engagement, published by Warner Books' Warner Forever imprint. That was followed by another Regency, Lady in Waiting, about a lady's maid who has a shopping addiction.

The Scottish Medieval historical, she says, remains in a drawer. "People don't want angsty Medievals from me, they want to have fun. That's my audience."
Kathryn Caskie is not the only writer with a Mediaeval historical tucked away in a drawer. Two of my earliest attempts at writing were set in the Mediaeval period: one recasting Æthelred II (known as Unræd, "ill-advised" or, wrongly, "unready") as the heroic but tragic figure he really was; the other telling the extraordinary story of Judith, daughter of the Carolingian King Charles the Bald. Kaskie says that readers don't want angsty Mediaevals from her. I never got far enough to know whether they might want them from me: it was enough for me to establish that while I wanted the stories told, I wasn't enjoying trying to tell them. Maybe one day.

The other article is from the Scottish Sunday Times. "The Write Way to Fall in Love" by Kenny Farquharson describes a recent Romance writing course given by Sharon Kendrick at the Castle of Park. It was a course at the Castle of Park, given by Annie Burgh, which pointed me at the Romantic Novelists' Association. Joining the RNA was probably the single best move in my (as yet still short) writing career. Mr Farquharson cannot resist the usual inaccurate pastiche of Mills & Boon style at the start of his piece, but once past that he gives a better than average account of the course.
Taking a lunchtime break in the sunshine on the Castle of Park lawns, Kendrick explains that the writing of the perfect Mills & Boon is partly instinct and partly an awareness of unwritten rules...

...To succeed in this trade, she says, writers cannot be cynical hacks out to make a killing from women’s simple desires, but must have "a fundamental belief in the redeeming power of love". As for the archetypes and sexual stereotypes that people the books, she is unapologetic....

..."These books are fantasy and they end with the resolution of the romance, which is exactly where Pride and Prejudice ends. We do not hear about what Mr Darcy is saying to his wife 10 years down the line. Instead of calling her ‘my darling Lizzie’ in that quietly passionate way and loving her feisty spirit, he might think she’s an argumentative cow."
This is better certainly than the piece on the same course by Martyn McLaughlin in yesterday's Glasgow Herald (not available on-line). I have only seen the opening paragraph, but McLaughlin manages to squeeze in enough inaccurate, insulting and patronising clichés there to put me off wanting to read anything else by him.


Mandy said...

"it was enough for me to establish that while I wanted the stories told, I wasn't enjoying trying to tell them."

I think this is something that a lot of writers learn as they go along. Reading and writing are two different things, and something that brings pleasure from reading isn't always the same as something that brings pleasure when writing.

As for the article in the Herald, it was an example of (and I quote) "literary schlock to obliterate all taste and sensibility." Factually inaccurate, it wallowed in the cliches of fifty years ago, instead of presenting a well informed view of romantic fiction today. It was a missed opportunity for some serious and relevant journalism.

Gabriele C. said...

Hehe, I'm revising my Mediaeval story, market or no market. And it's not romance, it's epic, so I'm going to submit it. If I don't find a taker I can always publish it on my blog. It's not going to stay in the drawer once I've finished whipping the bugger into shape. :)

Kate R said...

OT, entirely: I just stole a quote from you to paste in my blog.