Several years ago, while recovering from an especially painful illness, I read my first historical romance. And was utterly swept away. The dashing, handsome hero and the beautiful, bold heroine caught up marvelous adventures helped me escape away from my discomfort and into their world of romance and intrigue. It was a world I decided then and there to enter with my own words just as soon as I was able.
A university graduate with major studies in world history, I felt I already had the background to attempt the genre. A number of years of writing non-fiction history books and magazine articles on a variety of subjects further qualified me (I believed) as a decent craftsman. So, recovered and confident, off to writing one I went.
In my final year at university I’d concentrated on local history, the dramatic events that made up the turbulent eighteenth and nineteenth century in the Maritime Provinces of Eastern Canada. Such events as the War of 1812 and the Acadian Expulsion appeared fertile ground in which to grow an historical romance. I didn’t know how stories of this genre set in this small corner of the world would be received but it was the place and its past I knew best and about which I was most passionate.
My first several attempts met with rejection. Maybe the Maritimes didn’t appear exciting or exotic enough for a romance editor’s taste. Still, I battled ahead.
Then the light bulb went on in my brain. Maybe the reason for my lack of success was because I’d been neglecting the fairy tale aspect in favor of dry historical facts. Maybe I needed to have a little more fun with the story. I went back to the second of my rejected manuscripts and began revising and revising and revising.
Lady and the Beast was the result, followed by Caledonian Privateer, both of which were pure joy to write. Currently two more historicals are in the works with lots of other ideas galloping or flying under full sail across my mind.
One of the most important things I’ve learned about writing historical romances is, although you must have a sound knowledge of the era and location about which you’re writing, never lose site of the fact that it is a romance. Readers who want purely historical data will be buying non-fiction. Your readers are looking for swashbucklers and bold beauties engaged in sweeping adventures…just as I was all those years ago when I picked up my first historical romance and was forever hooked.
I hope that at least one reader will find comfort and escape by reading my work as I found years ago in the pages of several historical romances. That would be my best reward.
Gail MacMillan is an award winning writer with twenty-three published books as well as numerous articles and short stories presented in magazines in Canada, the USA, and Europe. A graduate of Queen’s University, Gail lives in New Brunswick, Canada with her husband and three dogs. www.GailMacMillan.com