Please welcome my guest, Janet Mullany!
A woman wiser than myself—my agent—told me I had a contemporary voice and although I didn’t believe her, I gave it a shot and ended up with a two-book contract for contemporaries for Harlequin Spice. The first one, Tell Me More, is on sale at the end of the month; it’s about what happens when fantasy and reality collide, and the erotic lure of storytelling. Find out more at spice.janetmullany.com.
After the initial elation the shock—you mean I have to write them now?—set in and I realized I had some problems. I wrote historicals. I was used to all the props and effects of historicals and I thought I’d really miss them.
For instance, you find very few mantelpieces in contemporaries. My characters, particularly the men, seem to spend a lot of time leaning against mantelpieces (which are about chest high in a Georgian house) elegantly—of course—being witty. Generally they are drinking tea and wearing great clothes.
The contemporary substitute: Hero, wearing blue jeans and plaid shirts leans on his pickup truck with a can of beer in his hand which raises the responsibility of the writer in letting her characters drink and drive. Although the Regency hero starts off with beer for breakfast, progresses through the day to claret and brandy at night he is rarely legless, and besides, he has servants to pour him into his carriage.
Communications. The heroine writes a letter regarding the truth about the hero, a crucial plot point, and dispatches it to her BFF across the other side of London in the care of a footman. While waiting for an answer, massive plot developments can take place: she/her sister/the footman/the hero are kidnapped, she has time to attend a few balls and routs, start an affair with someone else, or …
Substitute: She texts her BFF if it’s true about whatever is bugging her about the hero and the answer comes back within seconds, leaving a huge 10,000 word hole in the middle of the book.
Clothes. Oh boy, the clothes. Are we historical writers lucky in that respect. All those gorgeous fabrics and garters and gloves and corsets, all those exposed bosoms; and for the gentlemen, all those tight pants and trussed up neckcloths; it’s enough to make a fetishist out of anyone.
Substitute: There really is no substitute, at the risk of sounding like a Fredericks of Hollywood and/or Lands End catalogue.
I still think, though, that it’s all in the details to build the credibility of the imaginary world you’re building. The small town full of hot single straight male cops/mechanics/firefighters/nerds bears a strange resemblance to a Regency London where there are at least three dukes for every single woman. It’s everywhere and nowhere, a distillation of our fantasies.
If your hero and heroine are going to get naked, you still have to know what they’re wearing so they can remove it. They probably fantasize about each other’s underwear (a fantasy of a rather limited nature for a Regency character) and the frilly, constraining, fancy items are entirely voluntary.
So, yes, I still write like a historical writer because that’s how I do it. How else can you do it?
Thanks, Janet! It was great to have you! Even though I now hurt from laughing….
Victoria, thanks so much for having me visit. Abigail, glad you enjoyed the post.
Janet, what a witty post! I love the comparisons between contemporaries and historicals. Spoken in a way I understand. ;)
I never thought of the conventions we lose when we go forward in time. I guess my hero had to lean against the kitchen counter – doesn’t sound very elegant. It would be quite difficult to script the activities of an elegant modern hero. He’d have to be James Bond or something. Fun things to think about!