One For The (Not Yet) Book(s)

I did not create this blog until just after the November 2013 publication of my first book, an autobiographically-based “new adult” travel historical romantic novel (set in the 1990s) called Passports. To get the word out, a writing blog seemed like a good idea. Thus this web site was born and it has since then been “the center (centre)” of my authoring universe.

One of the early bits I recall writing of that first novel revolved around a Paris Tuileries conversation. The main female character is based on a real woman I once knew very well. As we chatted, she had lightheartedly taken a potshot at American films:

[Excerpt from Passports: Atlantic Lives, 1994-1995, Paperback. Copyright, 2013. Photo by me, 2019.]

As you see, I never forgot that humor from her. It has stayed in my mind also well after having written that paragraph. I became determined that my books would never be THOSE type of romances she had derided.

Historical romantic fiction is a tough writing genre. Sci-fi and fantasy writers, for instance, think it is hard work for them to be taken seriously. Well, it is also in its own way difficult for historical romantic fiction authors.

For my long ago girlfriend was hardly the only person I had come across who said she felt that way. And that writing style was not – is not – really “me” anyway. One of my writing “idols” is, uh, him:

[First page of The Winds of War (1971), by Herman Wouk. Photo by me, 2016.]

Herman Wouk’s foreign service officer, “Leslie Slote,” is one of my favorite male characters in a novel.

And another, of course, is him:

[Excerpt from War and Peace (1869), by Leo Tolstoy. Photo by me, 2019.]

Leo Tolstoy’s “Natasha Rostova” is one of my favorite women in literature.

And him too:

[Pages from The Last of the Mohicans (1826), by James Fenimore Cooper. Our back garden, Windham, New York. Photo by me, 2017.]

Fenimore Cooper’s amazing – especially for 1826 – “Cora Munro” is probably MY FAVORITE woman character in all fiction.

That is to note just three authors.

But in today’s “reading culture” those books above and so many similar works are sadly apparently NOT what most readers seem to think of when historical romantic fiction is mentioned to them. The genre unfortunately has long suffered from a real PR problem. The word “romance” immediately conjures up in the minds of lots of – if not most – people images of, uh, lots of dresses falling off:

[Screen capture of Google search: “Historical romance novels covers.” November 20, 2019.]

And those books also sell lots – so lots of someones are obviously reading them even while possibly not taking them seriously.

I have often felt quite by myself and adrift on an ocean of fantasy, sci-fi, horror, crime, and so many other genres… and beset by the poor image of historical romantic fiction. Recently, though, I had seen on Twitter an author of historical fiction – in her profile she notes “historical fiction” and her Twitter handle is followed by the word “Author” – several times retweeted into my new timeline. The sort of historical writing she was tweeting about seemed much in line with my thinking, so I considered giving her a follow.

I clicked over to her Twitter again yesterday and spotted that she had some 22,000 followers and had tweeted over 33,000 times! She was even BIGGER than I had thought! I noticed also that she seemed overflowing with authoring advice and social media suggestions. I decided given she has so many followers and was so clearly knowledgeable as an author, that I really needed to read at least a sample from one of her novels. I went over to Amazon and typed in her name and clicked…

…And. there. I. found. NOTHING.

I rechecked her Twitter thinking that maybe I misspelled her name. After I saw I had not, puzzled I scrolled down some and discovered that in a recent tweet she had shared a written interview she had just given to some blog. I clicked over to that interview, and not far into it when she is asked about her experiences since publishing her book

…She replies that she has not actually published any books yet… but that she has published a blog series that got her a great response.

I was stunned. I went over and had a look around in her blog… and I was unable to find even a link to any such a “series” either (although that certainly does not mean it does not exist somewhere else, of course). More importantly, despite the fact she had not yet published even a single book, she has been interviewed? I could only but nod in admiration, for being interviewed about writing that does not actually yet exist in public is in itself a darn big accomplishment. I had to admit to myself I was GREATLY impressed that she has managed “to create” so much “buzz” about herself on Twitter out of… err, not actually anything substantive in terms yet of actual writing.

The main bit of original non-blogging writing prominently visible on her blog is her (coming) book’s description page: it is her blog’s home page, and is reasonably well-written; but I would not say it is spectacular prose by any means. Alongside it is the promised coming novel’s cover art: a (unsurprisingly handsome) British naval officer standing beside a petite (unsurprisingly also) frilly-dressed young lady who resembles a saucer-eyed Bennet sister (produced I would say on a computer by a current day artist; and which she – the “author” – tweets again and again). Next to it, I spotted that she indeed does have a large COMING SOON button… that clicks through not to “sneak peeks” or anything like that, though, but (oddly) to her contact page.

Returning next to the interview, I saw how in it she states she has been working hard on her historical (romance) tale set in the 1820s, that she has been writing it since 2016, and has had lots of “beta readers'” feedback. Mention is made too – either by herself or by the questioner; I don’t remember who – also of how “active” she is in Twitter’s #writingcommunity. There is lots of discussion about excitement, “helping” other authors, podcasts, writing challenges, etc. I noticed too a vague mention of a publisher(s) – or maybe it was which publishers and agents to follow on social media? – but nothing concrete. All in all no real there there – at least not yet.

She also reveals that one of her authoring “idols” is the Outlander author Diana Gabaldon. Outlander? And that was the end for me. That series may be “romance” (although one blogger’s review of it I saw called it anything but “romance”), but is in my opinion definitely NOT historical fiction.

Maybe her eventual book will be fantastic. But I came to feel that this “author” was not what I had thought she might be. Having made my way through all of that “authoring talk” that ultimately led to no book, I could only but think that, well, gosh, that’s one for the books… or, more accurately perhaps, not yet books.

[Conventions: The Garden At Paris. New paperback cover. Copyright © R. J. Nello, 2017.]
[Tomorrow The Grace. Paperback cover. Copyright © R. J. Nello, 2019.]

I know I don’t have tens of thousands of followers on Twitter. I know I have not tweeted tens of thousands of times. I know I have not given interviews.

Since 2017, I have however published those two novels – which total over 1,100 pages. They are built around actual historical events, include historical figures among the action, and star fictional characters living their lives in that same era. Oh, and yes, there is an occasional dress that falls off and in that pre-birth control world that often leads to a child romance.

You do not have to take just my word here for all of that. Those two 1700s-1800s novels, as well as their three modern predecessors, already exist in full, and you need not go “hunting” around to try to locate them. Each may be found by clicking on a link you see in my sidebar (or below, depending on the device on which you are viewing my blog here).

Have a good day, wherever you are. 🙂