Hi everyone! Today I am pleased to welcome author Julian Griffith the blog. Julian is here to talk about a new release, Love Continuance and Increasing, as well as to share thoughts on historical romance. Welcome Julian!
Why Historical Romance?
That’s a question I hear a lot when I tell people I write historical romance. “Isn’t it hard?” they ask. “You must have to do so much research. Wouldn’t it be easier to write a story that takes place here and now?”
For me, the answer is no. In fact, it’s just the opposite! Every love story needs obstacles to keep the lovers apart. We’re lucky to live in a time and place when there aren’t many barriers left standing in the way of love, and the ones that remain are falling fast. Same-sex marriage equality is legal in thirteen U.S. states now, and, with the Supreme Court striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act, it might soon be legal in the entire country, and it’s happening throughout Europe as well. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is gone from our military. In 2003, the last U.S. laws prohibiting same-sex sexual activity were declared unconstitutional. Interracial marriage has been legal since 1967, no-fault divorce has let people leave loveless marriages for decades, and romance readers simply don’t expect to read about contemporary, middle-class characters being pressured into an arranged marriage against their wishes. Almost all that’s left are problems that could be solved if the people would just sit down and talk to each other, and those aren’t stories I like to read, and definitely aren’t ones I want to write.
Two hundred years ago in England, where my novel Love Continuance and Increasing is set, it was a very different story. Forget same-sex marriage. Sex between men wasn’t just illegal; it carried the death penalty. Women who loved women didn’t share that danger, but they had their own obstacles, because very few women owned property or had their own incomes that would let them live together without marrying men, and when a woman did marry, everything she owned became her husband’s, down to the last penny or pin. Adultery was illegal, too; a man could sue his wife’s lover for “criminal conversation”, and possibly bankrupt him with damages. Divorce? It required an act of Parliament, and a messy trial was a certainty. Also, it carried such a stigma that it could ruin a man’s career and condemn a woman to social isolation. Arranged marriages weren’t as common among the upper classes as they had been a few generations before, but they still happened, and matters of property and social status were often more important than love. And men of property were expected to marry and father heirs, whether they wanted to or not. So many obstacles for my characters to overcome!
There are also advantages that historical characters have that they wouldn’t today. It was completely unremarkable for two men traveling to share a room at an inn, or even a bed. Very convenient when you’re writing m/m romance! Schoolgirls might be expected to share beds, too. And in those marriages made not for love but for property, husbands and wives might spend very little time together, and women often had intense, romantic friendships with each other. They would write each other flowery letters and even love poetry, and when they were together, they could hold hands, put their arms around each other’s waists, and sometimes even kiss in front of others without exciting any comment. And if something more than that went on behind closed doors, well, such things weren’t spoken of in polite society, so nobody would have to know.
Or would they? People had much less privacy in that era than they do today, and they didn’t expect it. Poor families lived in very crowded conditions, either in small cottages or even one or two rented rooms. Once you got even a little further up the social scale, you probably had servants. And servants, notoriously, talked. Village gossip, murmurs of scandal in the drawing room… people who loved outside the rules had to be very careful indeed.
All of those things give me so many story ideas that I couldn’t imagine writing anything else. I could invent a fantasy society or a science-fiction future that had the same sort of problems, or different ones that were just as hard to overcome, but then I’d be stuck making them up! In a historical novel, it’s all there for you already, and not just the problems. If you want to know what your characters wear, or what they eat, or what their homes look like, or how they travel from place to place, all you have to do is look it up. And that’s become so much easier with the Internet. There are thousands of old documents scanned into Google Books now. Cookbooks. Fashion magazines. Guides for household servants. Naval lists. Memoirs published by men you’ve never heard of, but who fought in the Napoleonic Wars and wrote about their experiences. One of the most amazing things I found was a book called Cary’s New Itinerary, which was a combination road atlas and travel guide. It told you all about the coaching routes throughout England, Scotland, and Wales, including when the Royal Mail and the different stage coach companies left and arrived, and what inns they left from, and all the different inns where they stopped to change horses. A lot of those inns are still doing business today! Which means that you can go to their websites and see what they look like, plaster walls, oak beams, huge fireplaces and all. I couldn’t do that for a distant planet. Looking into the past is fun.
That’s how I fell in love with writing historical romance, and I hope the relationship lasts a long, long time.
Love Continuance and Increasing – by Julian Griffith – Now Available from Storm Moon Press for $4.99 (ebook) or $9.99 (paperback)!