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Historical, Family and Romance Sagas

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Sanchona 29th December 2006 09:17 AM

 

I have written a historical saga, "A Family Of Strangers", released only last 13 December. Although my friends in the US have taken delivery of my novel they'd ordered, I have yet to hold a copy in my hand. But then, I am in Sydney, Australia.

 

I call my novel a historical saga; my publisher calls it "women's fiction" and I noticed that several bookstores have labeled it as "romance".

 

Do you think these three "labels" interchangeable? Let me list the various components of my novel:

 

1. The setting is 1791-1802 and this would qualify my novel as "historical"

2. The plot/story follows the trials and tribulations of one young Irish girl and her family over many years. This must surely be seen as a "saga".

There you go -- a historical saga.

 

My publisher sees my novel as:

 

1. The plot/story revolves around a young girl/woman.

2. It dwells on her hard life, how she copes and triumphs over adversity.

3. It is a novel that would interest a woman more than a man and hence the novel is "women's fiction".

 

I believe the bookstores took the line of least resistance.

 

1. They have not read the novel and can only judge from what my publisher has provided, (the title of the book and the synopsis)

 

2. They cannot fit my novel amongst others labeled as thriller, a scifi/fantasy, police procedural, horror, western.... and picked on "romance" as a suitable genre for my book.

 

I have nothing against "romance". After all it is a genre that sells very well, better than most other genres, and I want my book to sell well. Still I wonder. My protagonist did not end up with the first man in her life, nor the second, or the third ... I think maybe it is not "romance"?

 

So tell me, what do you think constitutes "historical fiction", "Women's fiction" and "romance"? Anyone?

 

 

Momo 29th December 2006 10:01 PM

 

Difficult question. Some novels can fit in both categories.

 

Where would you fit "Gone with the wind"? It was the first title that came to my mind when I read your dilemma. It answers all the questions the same way as your book

 

However, I am a woman but I never look on the shelves "women's fiction" since they usually display books I would call "chick lit" and I like something more challenging. "Historical saga", I would look at the book more closely

 

On the other hand, there are probably more women who look under "women's fiction". But they might expect something lighter and not choose your book in the end? ... :dunno:

 

Momo 29th December 2006 10:07 PM

 

By the way, I just checked your website and think it sounds very interesting. However, it does not seem to be as easily accessible in the UK as in the US. Not yet, that is.

 

Sanchona 30th December 2006 05:03 AM

 

"Gone With The Wind"

 

I would have shelved "Gone With The Wind" in the "historical saga" section of a bookstore, when the book first came out, and when it became clear that Margaret Mitchell did not mean to produce any sequels, move it to the historical fiction section.

 

"Romance" is seen as something light, which most male readers regard with a little contempt and treat it as something not to be caught dead reading!

 

Well, children are fed their "fairy tales, and men see "romance" as "fairy tales" for women. Do you blame the women for seeing the "westerns" as "fairy tales" for men? Fair is fair.

 

I think there is a "formula" to "romance" -- where boy meets girl, they are attracted to each other but "life"/"misunderstandings" intervenes to break them up, but eventually they get together and "live happily ever after".

 

My novel/plot does not take this path. First I researched the history (30 years' worth) and then figure out the characters that would reveal the history, as they react to the time and the events. Once I have my characters, I let them run "loose" in my novel! There is no "boy meets girl" and "fall in love" stuff in it.

 

But you cannot control how others react to your story, and what I cannot change, I accept. No sense butting my head against the wall. Best to do better the next time.

 

I see "women's fiction" as the publishers/booksellers' attempt to separate those stories about family or about human interest events that would "grab" women readers from "romance" (as defined above). I don't know if it's not just "snob" value for those women who would also not be "caught" dead reading "romance"?

 

I think we all need a little romance in our lives, and that is why women who find a lack in their real lives, indulge their fantasies, harmlessly, reading these "romance" novels. And men have not caught on to this fact? Or perhaps they don't wish to deal with it? What do you think?

 

 

Sanchona 30th December 2006 05:24 AM

 

My website, my novel

 

Quote
By the way, I just checked your website and think it sounds very interesting. However, it does not seem to be as easily accessible in the UK as in the US. Not yet, that is.

 

Thanks for checking out my website. Do you have suggestions of how to improve it?

 

Yes, my novel is available now in the US. My cyber-friends in the US have written to tell me they've received the copies they pre-ordered. And here I am still waiting to receive my "author's copies"! With the Christmas rush, the post office must be very busy, so I don't think I'll see my book till after the new year. It will be my New Year's present then!

 

I know my novel is listed in many overseas bookstores -- I checked their online department -- I guess they won't become available till after the new year too!

 

If any of you should buy my novel and wish to have an autographed book plate, let me know.

 

 

Momo 30th December 2006 05:24 PM

 

Quote
Originally Posted by Sanchona

I think we all need a little romance in our lives, and that is why women who find a lack in their real lives, indulge their fantasies, harmlessly, reading these "romance" novels. And men have not caught on to this fact? Or perhaps they don't wish to deal with it? What do you think?

 

Well, there you go. I've been happily married for almost 25 years, who needs to read about that in other people's lives? ;)

But, honestly, I probably belong to those "snobs" you were talking about. I like a story in my books (same as in my movies, I don't like just one action after the other without a connection) and if it happens to be romantic, that's fine. I just don't like those sort of stories where you can predict everything. I don't think your book belongs to that.

I hope you will check out the rest of our website and contribute to many of our threads.

Oh, and then, I think your website is good as it is. Once you start writing more books you will want to add to it. But for a new website of an author, it's great. There is a lot of information and people can even contact you. That doesn't happen that often.

 

Sanchona 31st December 2006 02:40 AM

 

Hi Momo,

 

Until my book is published, I mostly lurk in almost all the various writing websites I subscribed to. Now I have more courage to post, even disagree. :)

 

Thanks for the kind words about my website. You would be surprised at how slow the traffic is to my website. I am amazed at some of the figures (into the thousands) a day that some of my friends get! I'd be lucky to get a handful! They tell me that I must stop lurking and start posting and get some name recognition "out there". Well, I'm trying!!

 

I guess there are a lot of lurkers like me, since you are the only one responding to my post. I've come out of lurkdom, I hope the others will too. It gets easier the more I post.

 

 

Momo 31st December 2006 03:58 PM

 

Hi Sanchona,

I am sure people will get to know you. Right now there is not a lot going on here since a lot of people are on holiday or busy. It will get better in the new year.

It is fun exchanging ideas about the books we read or just playing in the chain games. After a while it feels like you know every single one of the members and they are like friends to you.

Hope you will feel the same.

Happy New Year,

Momo

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continues

 

 

Flingo 31st December 2006 08:13 PM

Originally Posted by Sanchona

I guess there are a lot of lurkers like me, since you are the only one responding to my post.

 

Hi Sanchona - I'm responding now! I've been away since Friday evening, so this wasn't here when I last was!

 

It's an interesting question, and looks at something that as a librarian I am not sure where I stand.

 

I think the masses like to have categorisation - be it crime, fantasy, historical fiction or whatever. But working out which category to put a book into is so personal. I work in an area that has 6 libraries in it, and I often flounder when trying to track down a particular author in different buildings. For example - look at Terry Pratchett - is he fantasy, humour, teenage or general fiction? What about Jodi Picoult - courtroom drama (thus crime), contemporary fiction, chick lit, romance? And my favourite example - Jasper Fforde - crime, fantasy, humour, contemporary fiction, fiction, teenage? You name it - he fits!

 

So where do we put these "cross-genre" books? How to decide which one is more dominant than the others? Will they issue (or sell in the case of bookshops) better in one area? Or will they be missed by an audience that would really appreciate them by the said area? Should they be put in all of those places (Fforde tells a story that one book shop in the States has The Eyre Affair in SIX areas of their store!)? Or would we be better off with just one run of fiction that encompasses everything (which could equally put off audiences who know they want a pacy thriller but don't want to wade through shelves and shelves of romance and sci-fi before they find one!)?

 

It's a tough - I don't think any book fits neatly in to one category, and that seems to be especially true of your book (as with the examples I just mentioned).

 

PS - I have now visited your website so that should help boost your visitor count!! :D

 

Sanchona 1st January 2007 06:01 AM

 

Originally Posted by Momo

Hi Sanchona,

I am sure people will get to know you. Right now there is not a lot going on here since a lot of people are on holiday or busy. It will get better in the new year.

It is fun exchanging ideas about the books we read or just playing in the chain games. After a while it feels like you know every single one of the members and they are like friends to you.

Hope you will feel the same.

Happy New Year,

Momo

 

Happy New Year, Momo! And yes, I'm looking forward to meeting the other members. May we have interesting chats and debates! :)

 

 

Sanchona 1st January 2007 06:51 AM

 

Originally Posted by Flingo

Hi Sanchona - I'm responding now! I've been away since Friday evening, so this wasn't here when I last was!

 

It's an interesting question, and looks at something that as a librarian I am not sure where I stand.

 

I think the masses like to have categorisation - be it crime, fantasy, historical fiction or whatever. But working out which category to put a book into is so personal. I work in an area that has 6 libraries in it, and I often flounder when trying to track down a particular author in different buildings. For example - look at Terry Pratchett - is he fantasy, humour, teenage or general fiction? What about Jodi Picoult - courtroom drama (thus crime), contemporary fiction, chick lit, romance? And my favourite example - Jasper Fforde - crime, fantasy, humour, contemporary fiction, fiction, teenage? You name it - he fits!

 

So where do we put these "cross-genre" books? How to decide which one is more dominant than the others? Will they issue (or sell in the case of bookshops) better in one area? Or will they be missed by an audience that would really appreciate them by the said area? Should they be put in all of those places (Fforde tells a story that one book shop in the States has The Eyre Affair in SIX areas of their store!)? Or would we be better off with just one run of fiction that encompasses everything (which could equally put off audiences who know they want a pacy thriller but don't want to wade through shelves and shelves of romance and sci-fi before they find one!)?

 

It's a tough - I don't think any book fits neatly in to one category, and that seems to be especially true of your book (as with the examples I just mentioned).

 

PS - I have now visited your website so that should help boost your visitor count

 

Hi Flingo,

 

Glad to meet you. And yes, I saw your "visit" to my website! I had four for the day! Yay.

 

You are right that categorising books as various genres is such an artificial way to separate books. As a writer, I would hate the restraints put on me should I be told I had to write within certain boundaries. It might do for a lot of authors, but it would be hard for me. I write a book I want to read, with sufficient research done on it, and "plays" according to the rules of logic -- not simply write as befits the whims of the author. But then I am not making a living out of writing where I have deadlines to meet. Besides if the author doesn't take care, he/she would lose his/her fans and his/her publisher would not want to publish his/her subsequent books. There is much to argue for a democratic government where the vote counts, and with a free market, where readers can vote with their wallet, so the publisher has to bewar

 

As with the problems with where to shelf a multi-genre book -- well with the use of computers, it is easy enough to track any book. If a reader cannot find the book he/she is looking for, all he/she has to do is check out othe library/bookstore's database. Easy. And with online services, they can accomplish this from home, in their pajamas! Today, most people (those who read) have internet access. As with any database, it is easy enough to check out the kind of genres/authors/titles/publishers you are interested in.

 

Well, it is easy for me to say. I am not a librarian or a bookseller! ;)

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Sanchona 1st January 2007 06:01 AM

 

You are right that categorising books as various genres is such an artificial way to separate books.

 

Sure, it's artificial, or arbitrary, anyway. But I don't think of it as separating the body of published works into categories so much as separating out those books that are so simplistic that they only fit into one category—mystery, horror, romance, or whatever. The more complex books can get along on the shelf together just fine.

 

I'm entirely capable, as are we all, of looking at a title and a cover illustration and deciding if I want to investigate further. If a book is called <i>Emma's Dilemma</i> and the front cover shows a woman in a fancy dress and a shirtless dude wearing an eyepatch, chances are pretty good I'm not interested.

 

But somebody will be.

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Still wending my way through books written about the trials and tribulations of families dealing with wartime England, mostly dealing with the bigger cities which got targeted during the heavy bombing.  The problem I have is that with large extended families I have a hard time keeping track of the characters, especially when I'm a bit tired, and I find myself paging back to identify who I'm reading about.  Some of the writers are good and weave good plotlines then there are the others.  Quite a change from my mysteries and thrillers.

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I've read some WWII family sagas that I have really liked too:

 

- all for nothing by Walter kempowski 

- her father's daughter - Marie sizun

- suite francaise - Irene nemirovsky (the second section)

- the mussolini canal - Antonio penacchi

 

Those are the ones that come to mind for me.

 

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Have you read the Cazelet chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard, Momac?  If not, I think you'll love them (having an idea of your reading tastes from your posts over the years!) There are lots of charecters but I had no problem in following who was who as she creates her personalities so well.

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Iff - found that I had All For Nothing in my Kindle archives, will have another look at it.

 

Thanks Viccie for the Cazelet chronicles, have not read them but will certainly see if they are on Amazon.ca for Kindle.

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Far from Home by Lyn Andrews

This post is not specifically about this book or the writer but about a whole series of English female authors who may appeal to the average housewife, some are romances and others are not necessarily romance but fiction centred around the 1920's or early 1900's.  The one I'm reading, noted above, is about an Irish family, not wealthy but comfortable.  He's the district's farrier, has three young daughters, and is widowed. The oldest girl is sixteen and keeps the family and household running smoothly until her father decides to remarry, hoping for a son. The daughters are shocked and the custom is for the new wife to move in and the daughters placed with relatives. The twists and turns carry on from there and there's never a dull moment. I'll put together a list of the writers for anyone who might be interested.  It also gets into ones about families who are barely surviving with little income but manage with community help to survive.  Quite a bit different from more recent books which don't deal with the abject poverty experienced when times were tough during the depression and WWII.

 

There are many women authors write about the same period and appear to be very popular.  The books I have read have almost without exception been well written and give an interesting look into recent history without being tedious.

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The authors below are some that write similar books to those of  Lyn Andrews

 Dilly Court, Anne Jacobs, Jean Fullerton, Lynda Page, June Tate, Anne King, Annie Murray, Pamela Evans, Anne Baker, Soraya M. Lane, (good writer, maybe a bit different from the rest) , Anne Groves, Rita Bradshaw

 

A mixture of 20's and 30's saga type stories, not mind benders but easy reading.  Popular amongst women who enjoy reading as entertainment and facts about how it used to be in that period of time.

 

Meg, would you please put this post where it should be. 

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