Finding My Place in the Historical Romance Sub-Genre

by Guest Blogger on October 4, 2011 · 40 comments

in Guest Blogger, Historical Romance, M-O

by Ashley March, guest blogger and author of Romancing the Countess

I’m so thrilled to be visiting here at Love Romance Passion as I continue celebrating my newest release, ROMANCING THE COUNTESS!

When I first started writing romance, I knew that I would write in the historical romance sub-genre because that’s what I grew up reading and that’s what I loved. But beyond knowing I would write historical romance, I didn’t have any idea what would distinguish my writing from the hundreds of other historical romance writers (many of whom regularly inspire me with their own books).

I started writing my debut, SEDUCING THE DUCHESS, as a sequel to another manuscript (which most likely will never be published unless I revise huge chunks). I was such a novice writer with SEDUCING THE DUCHESS that I had pretty much no plot going in; all I knew was the duke’s character and that he was going to kidnap his wife at the beginning of the book. The greatest thing writing-wise with SEDUCING THE DUCHESS is that it became the book where I finally felt I had found my “voice” as a writer. Voice consists of many things, but outside of the style and tone of the way a writer puts their sentences and words together, to me it also includes the types of characters and stories the author chooses.

With SEDUCING THE DUCHESS I realized I enjoy writing about characters that interest me—not necessarily characters who I want to be best friends with or who I would vote as the next CNN hero, but characters that fascinate me in one way or another. I’d like them to become sympathetic over the course of the story, certainly, but it’s okay with me if they’re flawed at the beginning. When I say “interesting”, I mean they make me want to strip away all of their outer layers and discover who they really are on the inside, why they behave the way they do in others’ eyes.

As I moved on to my second book, I knew I had to write about characters who interested me, but I also realized I want to write about stories that interest me as well—stories that challenge me as a writer. The basic idea for ROMANCING THE COUNTESS—about an earl and his best friend’s wife who are drawn together after their cheating spouses die in a carriage accident—met both of these requirements. I’d certainly never read or heard about a similar historical romance plot, and I knew it would be a challenge to show the hero and heroine getting over the betrayal and deaths of their spouses while at the same time slowly falling in love.

I enjoyed writing both of these books (although I agree with the saying that I truly love when the books are written), and I’m so grateful to have found readers who enjoy my characters and stories just as much as I do. =)

My next book from NAL Penguin, which comes out May 1, 2012 and is titled MY LADY RIVAL, is another such book that consists of, in my opinion, both an interesting story and interesting characters. Although I don’t have official copy I can tease you with yet =) I can tell you that it’s about a wealthy English middle-class dyemaker whose father brought his family up from the slums of London, and his rival, the half-American daughter of the father’s former business partner.

However, if you’ve heard the recent news, you know that I made the choice for MY LADY RIVAL to be my last book with Penguin; I will continue writing as a self-published author. (For the details on this: www.ashleymarch.com/blog.) As I begin this new path in my career, one of the things I have to consider is the decisions I need to make in choosing what I will write. One of the factors that made self-publishing appealing to me is the ability to write anything I want—this means that I can write in any time period or place that I desire. The truth is, this is possibly one of the hardest decisions to make, because I always have ideas. What I can promise you, though, is that I finally know the place I’ve decided to make for myself in the historical romance sub-genre, and that place involves writing about interesting stories and interesting characters. To me, that’s a pretty good place to start. =)

I can’t imagine a time when I’ll stop wanting to write characters in Victorian England, but I also have ideas for many other time periods and places. I’d love to hear your top preferences of the following.

What possibility makes you most excited?

  1. Elizabethan England
  2. Ancient Rome
  3. 14th century Italy (or Italy in any time period)
  4. Other European countries and times, including Russia (be specific, please, if possible—I’m still trying to narrow ideas down myself =)
  5. 1920s New York and Chicago
  6. World War II (different places)
  7. Victorian India and/or China
  8. Morocco/Egypt/South Africa

One random commenter will be chosen to win a copy of my newest book, ROMANCING THE COUNTESS (open internationally)! Last day to enter  LRP giveaway: October 15, 2011.

Also, find out how to win the ROMANCING THE COUNTESS Book Tour Grand Prize of 50+ romance novels by visiting www.ashleymarch.com

Leave a Comment

{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Karen H in NC October 4, 2011 at 7:45 AM

Hi Ashley,

I like the idea of seeing your writings in other historical time periods. I’m partial to American pre-WWI (but that 1920’s NY & Chicago sound good too!). Not much is written about the Industrial period in either England or America and very little is written now during the American Revolution.

Another time period I like is the American counterpart of the English Regency. I’m sure there are books out there, but I haven’t found them, at least not recently. I guess basically I’m interested in reading more books set in America. Shirley Tallman wrote her Sarah Woolson Mystery series set in Victorian San Francisco that were outstanding. I highly recommend all four books to anyone interested in historical fiction. I’m still waiting for Shirley to write a 5th book where Sarah finally gets a little romance and wins her man!

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2 May October 4, 2011 at 7:52 AM

I like Ancient rome and 14th Century Italy or Italy in general… Always have a thing for all things Italian… :)

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3 Keira October 4, 2011 at 8:17 AM

Ooo tough decision. I’m leaning toward Victorian India or Russia with hunky Czars!

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4 Sara Watts October 4, 2011 at 8:37 AM

Ancient Rome or WWII would be awesome! :)

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5 Kendra Edens October 4, 2011 at 9:11 AM

I have always been fascinated with the 1920’s era. The music, the fashion, prohibition, there was so much going on around that time. Seems like you could do so much with everything that happened around that time and create a fascinating story to encompass it all! :) Thanks for the chance to voice our opinions!

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6 Tracey Galbraith October 4, 2011 at 10:51 AM

I would love an Elizabethan Period Ashley March book or, I know it wasn’t a choice but my favorite Monarch is Charles II so a Reformation story would the cat’s meow!!

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7 JenM October 4, 2011 at 11:38 AM

Hi Ashley – Oooh, I can’t wait for My Lady Rival. I adore historical romances where the lead characters aren’t of the nobility. They are few and far between. And of course, I loved Seducing the Duchess and am looking forward to Romancing the Countess.

As for time periods, I also would love to see more American set historicals, but not westerns. It seems like the only American historicals written are what I call “Americana” – set in mid to late 1800’s, either in the west or on a farm in the plains states. We never see ones set in the East coast cities or focusing on the Industrial Revolution. San Francisco in the late 1800’s would also be great.

Beyond that, I’d also love 1800’s Europe, Victorian India/China, or something set in Africa. Carrie Lofty’s newest is in South Africa and while I’m not wild about the plot synopsis, I might get it anyway just for the setting.

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8 Na October 4, 2011 at 1:14 PM

Hi Ashley,
I am drawn to love war stories because they tend to be emotional and I just graviate towards them. Top 3 for me are:
1. Other European countries and times: Leningrad, Russa 1940s
2. 1920s New York and Chicago
3. World War II (different places)

Also some other suggestions, English Colonial era 1700s-1760s.

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9 Ashley March October 4, 2011 at 1:20 PM

Hi Karen! Thanks so much for your feedback. Yes, it seems like there are so many options now where there weren’t before. =) From what I’m gathering from your post, though, it seems like it would be difficult to go wrong with an American-set historical. =)

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10 Ashley March October 4, 2011 at 1:21 PM

Hi May! Thanks so much for your input! I have to admit that Italy is one of the places I’m dying to write about–and visit!

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11 Ashley March October 4, 2011 at 1:22 PM

Hi Keira! =) The czars, and don’t forget those Russian accents. *wistful sigh* =)

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12 Ashley March October 4, 2011 at 1:22 PM

Hi Sara! I’m so happy to see someone who likes both of these choices! Thanks so much for your input! =)

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13 Ashley March October 4, 2011 at 1:25 PM

You’re right, Kendra, and I have to admit that the discovery of everything that happened during that time period makes it appealing for me to write. Thanks so much for your input. =)

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14 Ashley March October 4, 2011 at 1:26 PM

Hi Tracey! I’ve been in love with the Elizabethan era ever since reading a biography of Elizabeth I when I was a little girl. =) And I have to admit that I don’t know very much at all about Charles II, but I do like challenges. ;)

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15 Ashley March October 4, 2011 at 1:29 PM

Hi JenM! Thank you for your comment on MY LADY RIVAL. I loved writing about two characters on the fringes of Society who realized they were perfect for each other instead of needing an aristocrat spouse. =) And thank you so much for all of your feedback. I’m so glad to see you mention Africa; although I don’t think the colonialism in history is a very pretty topic, I think the exotic settings would be fascinating.

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16 Ashley March October 4, 2011 at 1:30 PM

Hi Na! I agree with you on wartime romances. I think the higher stakes in the stories build up the emotional tension to entirely new depths. And I loved your suggestions. =) Thank you.

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17 Connie Fischer October 4, 2011 at 2:23 PM

While I am usually drawn to books in the Elizabethan England timeframe, I also like books that take place in France, particularly Paris, as I lived there for a number of years. In addition, I like the World War II timeframe, especially stories about Americans interacting with people who were our allies in the UK and France. That was such a trying time for people and many love stories have been written and I’m sure many more need to be written as well.

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18 Melissa October 4, 2011 at 4:22 PM

I’m leaning towards the 1920s as so many fascinating social norms were being transformed at the time. Plenty of potential there for some tension. And in the aftermath of WW1 there is plenty of potential for emotionally tortured heroines and heroes too. :-)

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19 Carla F. October 4, 2011 at 4:52 PM

@Ashley – I haven’t seen a lot of romances set in the 1920 which I think would be interesting. The clothes, music, corruption, and the beginnings of voting and working outside of the home for women give a lot of opportunity for stories. My second choices would be Elizabethan and ancient Rome.

@Keira – I love the new look of the site!

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20 Johanna Jochum October 4, 2011 at 7:01 PM

I partial to other Europeon countries. I would love to read more books set in France. I not into war times novel so a time when it was peaceful would be great for me! I do like Elizbethen (England) time too! Thanks for sharing with us today!

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21 LSUReader October 4, 2011 at 7:45 PM

Hi Ashley–Thanks for another interesting post. I loved today’s novella offering on your blog!

I’d be interested in reading stories set in Elizabethan England, or in other European countries during the 18th and 19th centuries: France, Italy, Spain, Austria, Germany, Russia and Switzerland.

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22 Tina (TinaBuriedUnderBooks) October 4, 2011 at 7:59 PM

Oh My top favorites are stories centered around Ancient Rome,
Elizabethan England and I would love a story based in Russia. Who can resist a Russian accent?

kamwh1207(at)att(dot)net

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23 Ashley March October 4, 2011 at 8:17 PM

Hi Connie! =) Glad to hear another person speak up for Elizabethan England. I’m always enjoyed reading stories about France, especially during WWII. And I’ve always been interested in WWII my entire life, but especially after seeing Band of Brothers, the idea that I might one day be able to write a story set during that time began. Thanks for your feedback! =)

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24 Ashley March October 4, 2011 at 8:19 PM

Hi Melissa! I think one of the reasons why I’m drawn to the 1920s IS because there was so much change going on…plus I like the fashion and the music, too. ;) And you’re right about the tortured heroes; hadn’t thought about that yet!

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25 Ashley March October 4, 2011 at 8:20 PM

Hi Carla F.! You are really making me lean toward this time period now. =) Thanks so much for your feedback!

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26 Ashley March October 4, 2011 at 8:22 PM

Thanks, Johanna! I’ve always been enamored of Beethoven (love the music and think the man very intriguing), so I’ve kind of always wanted to write a romance set in his time period with him maybe making a couple of cameo appearances. Maybe. =) And yes to Paris! Have you read Joanna Bourne’s THE FORBIDDEN ROSE? A-MA-zing historical romance set in France (some in Paris).

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27 Linda Mc October 4, 2011 at 11:40 PM

1920’s New York and Chicago sound good to me. Also Egypt! Congrats on the books. And I love that dress on the cover of Romancing the Countess. Very nice.

csolinda(at)hotmail(dot)com

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28 Jen B. October 5, 2011 at 7:38 AM

I am constantly looking for new or different historical periods or places. The idea of a book set in Victorian India sounds really good. I recently read a book set in an Eskimo town. It was great. Maybe a book set in the far northern reaches of Europe. There’s lots of great history there. Of course, there are the Franco-Prussian wars, the rise and fall of Egypt or the relentless wars between England and it’s closest neighbors. All are ripe with possibility!

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29 Maureen October 5, 2011 at 9:00 AM

I like all different types of settings but the 1920s New York and Chicago setting sounds very interesting and different.

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30 Marjana October 5, 2011 at 9:37 AM

World War II!!!

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31 Melora Brock October 5, 2011 at 2:47 PM

Victorian India interests me most. 1920’s chicago also sounds pretty cool. I intend to look into the bootleggers and others outside of the cities, especially in the Appalachian area. I think partly because I’ve been falling in love with the tv series Justified, and because I am from the area.

I also think that egypt would also be a neat place to set a story, especially around the time Napoleon was there and before. Russia during the times of Peter the Great and Catherine would be interesting too. Given enough time to read about any period is enough to draw me in!

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32 JOYE October 5, 2011 at 4:22 PM

I like stories from around the world and especially those set in Scotland or Australia.
Your book sounds really good.

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33 peggy Quidor October 5, 2011 at 9:28 PM

the victorina era something about that time just draws me to it.

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34 ClaudiaGC October 6, 2011 at 5:08 AM

I would love to read more books set in European countries besides England, like Ireland, France or Italy.

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35 winnie October 6, 2011 at 7:35 PM

Thanks for sharing some author behind-the-scenes stuff with us Ashley! Always interesting to know how/what talented authors think :)

My top preferences from your list would be Ancient China and 14th century Italy!

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36 JackieW October 7, 2011 at 4:38 PM

What a beautiful cover on your new book…I would pick it up to read just based on the cover. But thanks to the info I can now select it for the storyline.

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37 Marlene Breakfield October 7, 2011 at 9:35 PM

Out of those choices, I would pick ancient Rome or Victorian India.
marlenebreakfield(at)yahoo(dot)com

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38 Lexi October 8, 2011 at 8:49 PM

I hope self-publishing works out perfectly for you. As long as you keep writing I will keep reading!
Interesting choices, I always love stories based in ancient Rome. But 14th century Italy sounds romantic as well!

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39 Tara A October 15, 2011 at 5:31 PM

I think they would all be amazing but I’ve got to put my vote in for Italy!

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40 Keira October 17, 2011 at 3:04 PM

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