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HF Poll

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Julianne Douglas
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Post by Julianne Douglas » Tue February 10th, 2009, 6:29 pm

Wow, Michelle, thank you for passing on the information (especially since you yourself are partial to historical figures :) )! I hope the eds take it to heart. I think readers are looking for a good story set in a particular location/era that will teach them something about the time/place that they didn't know. This can be done just as effectively with fictional as with historical characters, in my opinion.

I was arguing this point with my husband, who cast one of the votes for preferring marquee names. He said if he was going to read a book, he wanted to learn something "real," ie. "facts" about a real person. I said well do that--read a biography! I guess that's why I get so frustrated with this whole issue. If a reader wants to learn the facts about the life of Queen Elizabeth or Martin Luther or Florence Nightingale, he has the option of reading nonfictional accounts. I think the goal of historical fiction is to explore broader issues (love--greed--oppression--motherhood, to name a few) in the context of a different era than a focus on the specific details on one person's life might allow (and everyone, please don't attack me--I'm not saying you CAN'T deal with broader themes if your characters are actual people--witness Michelle's beautiful novels!--just that you have to go about it in a different way). Creating historically appropriate fictional characters allows the author a bit more freedom to delve into these issues without having to face the dilemma of whether or not to risk distorting the "historical truth" of a particular person's life for the sake of theme. Am I making any sense?

Anyway, thanks so much, Michelle, for passing on the blog readers' opinions and insightful comments. I'll be first in line with my manuscript should any of the editors change their minds! ;)
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LoveHistory
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Post by LoveHistory » Tue February 10th, 2009, 6:36 pm

I voted for plot because I'm interested in just about any era of history.

Lovely blog, Julianne! That chateau pictured at the top is breathtaking. Which is it?

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Julianne Douglas
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Post by Julianne Douglas » Tue February 10th, 2009, 6:41 pm

Thank you, LoveHistory! The picture is of the Chateau de Fontainebleau, François I's showplace and the setting of my second novel. I adore that picture--I like to think of the reflection of the palace in the water as a metaphor for the reflection of history in historical fiction.
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Post by LoisAnn » Tue February 10th, 2009, 8:35 pm

I think publishers need to be careful about stressing the need for a "known" name vs. setting, plot, secondary characters, etc., etc.

Sometimes, the exact opposite is true ... a preconceived notion that I may have about a name could cause me to turn away from a book, regardless of the plot or how well-known the author is. Perfect example - I am done-to-tears with any more books about Mary, Queen of Scots. Her story is tragic, ends badly and is nothing I'm interesting in trudging through again. And that may be an unfortunate decision on my part - there may be fantabulous books out there about the gal - or that feature her as on of the main characters, etc., but my initial, knee-jerk response is "no thanks."

There has to be more on the hook than just a name to reel in this little fishy.
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Leyland
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Post by Leyland » Tue February 10th, 2009, 8:36 pm

I'm in. I voted for the era/setting which won slightly over the promise of an intriguing plot. So many historical figures intrigue and interest me that I wouldn't mind if the main characters have 'marquee' names, but their presence in a novel will never be the primary reason to buy it.

I'm interested in reading stories about the human condition with splashes of drama and trauma, not just about someone's past 'tabloid' life in particular. I've learned to love some great fictional characters over the years. Celia Garth is one of these, for example.
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Post by Divia » Tue February 10th, 2009, 9:42 pm

[quote=""michellemoran""]Great analysis, Julianne. And very, very true, I think. I showed your poll to several editors (who loved your blog, btw!) and they all agreed that they preferred marquee names. Yet readers clearly care more about the setting. They're tired of Tudor fiction, and many people (imo) are yearning for different places and times. Who knows, maybe your poll will change their minds![/quote]

OMG Can we please have something besides Tudor fiction! PLEASE.

I hope this helps change some minds about what we want to read! I mean seriously how many different perspectives can you have about Elizabeth I's life?
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Post by cw gortner » Tue February 10th, 2009, 11:46 pm

I always buy based on my interest in the era/setting. Unknown or known writer rarely factors in and while "marquee" names can be an attraction, particularly if I don't know the character or the book promises a new look on a familiar one, it's never my primary concern. The marquee factor is unfortunately hampering both published and unpublished hf writers; and it goes beyond that, into gender. It seems that unless it's about Henry VIII; you tie in a strong female POV; or you're Bernard Cornwall, male protoganists are not strong selling points in hf right now.

Now, I'm as avid a fan of hf as anyone but I'm not gender-specific. If a story is well crafted, I'll go with it. While I'm not a huge battle-scene fan, I like a novel with strong male and female elements to it. But as the marketplace tightens and people buy less books, editors aim for the tried and true. They figure the last 200 books about Elizabeth I sold well, so why not one more?

In a nutshell, I think we should write what we as writers care deeply about, because eventually we're going to run out of marquee names. :cool:
Last edited by cw gortner on Wed February 11th, 2009, 12:40 am, edited 1 time in total.
THE QUEEN'S VOW available on June 12, 2012!
THE TUDOR SECRET, Book I in the Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles
THE CONFESSIONS OF CATHERINE DE MEDICI
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cw gortner
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Post by cw gortner » Wed February 11th, 2009, 12:12 am

[quote=""Julianne Douglas""]Creating historically appropriate fictional characters allows the author a bit more freedom to delve into these issues without having to face the dilemma of whether or not to risk distorting the "historical truth" of a particular person's life for the sake of theme. Am I making any sense?[/quote]

Absolutely. There are many wonderful examples of fictional stories that elucidate an era and events in history beautifully. Editors have become less adventurous and more focused on the bottom line but hf should embrace both the marquee names and the fictional characters. One thing that appears popular now is to intermix the two, as in the "fictional witness to history" phenomenon. Still, those books are marketed based on the power of the marquee name to attract a reader.
THE QUEEN'S VOW available on June 12, 2012!
THE TUDOR SECRET, Book I in the Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles
THE CONFESSIONS OF CATHERINE DE MEDICI
THE LAST QUEEN


www.cwgortner.com

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Julianne Douglas
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Post by Julianne Douglas » Wed February 11th, 2009, 12:26 am

The irony is that many lesser known figures in history could become "marquee names" if they were given half a chance!
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Post by michellemoran » Wed February 11th, 2009, 12:29 am

Precisely! Like Mary Boleyn. But it took her sister to get her there. It's quite the conundrum.
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