Kate Allan

The online diary of Kate Allan, author

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Time periods and locations

Stuff happens faster than I can blog it... so if you want to catch up on the Romantic Novelists' Association Conference, there's posts from Michelle Styles, Julie Cohen, Amanda Ashby, Nell Dixon and Fiona Harper.

What I was wondering about today was time periods... in terms of settings for fiction. I had a chat last night with someone at my writers circle about how great Roman-set fiction was (prompted by the fact that Michelle Styles, co-author of The Lady Soldier, also writes Roman-set fiction - and so I mention this to anyone possible). I, of course, love the early 19th century (Regency) period. But I wonder if we (authors and readers) pick on popular settings and neglect lesser-known ones to our greater detriment. Why isn't there more fiction set in the 17th century (e.g. English Civil War)? Why are Sagas always 19th or 20th century set, and not earlier? Why is historical romance usually confined to well known settings and locales?

I don't have an easy answer. The zeitgiest of the Regency period attracts me to write it, and while I'm always on the lookout for quirks and unusual pieces of random historical interest to include in my stories, perhaps I'm not pushing enough.

At the RNA Conference, Freda Lightfoot spoke about optimising settings - i.e. using settings to show character and action, not just be there as background. I'm immediately conscious that I'm thinking more deeply about this and writing more powerful descriptions accordingly. Setting does matter. Whether it's a well known time period or location, or something more unusual, it's not just the scenery, it really is part of the story.


  • At 2:41 pm, Anonymous Julie Day said…

    Very interesting thought, Kate. It has made me wonder if it all boils down to what the author knows or finds interesting. For instance, you are interested in the Regency period so that's what you write about, Michelle is interested in the Roman era so she writes about that. Me? Interested in the modern times, so I write contemporaries and RS set in the here and now, and based in areas that I know or have visited frequently.
    What do you think?

  • At 9:18 pm, Anonymous Barbara B. said…

    I wish there were more romances set in England during the last half of the 17th century, particularly during the Restoration. I've somehow never read a bad romance from that period. Romances set in England during the last 25 years of the 19th century and the first 25 years of the 20th century fascinate me as well.

    I hope it's not inappropriate for me to post on this blog. I'm not a writer, only a reader.

  • At 4:35 pm, Blogger April said…

    Historical settings are wonderful to use as an intrinsic part of the story. How wonderful when we create a story that could only happen in the time period we choose.

    As for why the settings are so limited....I think publishers are afraid of anything too different. They want to be SURE readers will buy it. Of course, it becomes a vicious circle since how can readers know they'd love a setting if they never get the chance to try?

    Great blog! Think I'll add a link to it from mine.



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