Historicals: Alive, Kicking, and Taking Names
Was it really less than a year ago we were still hearing “Historicals are dead”? On this week’s New York Times bestseller list, 4 of the top 20 mass market paperbacks in the country are historical romances. (And 2 of those 4 are Ballantine releases – woot!) A few weeks ago, Victoria Alexander’s The Perfect Wife was number one on that list.
It’s a good time for historicals. Any theories why? (Despite, of course, the general awesomeness of the subgenre.) I’m guessing the recent success of books and films like The Other Boleyn Girl and the Jane Austen marathon on Masterpiece Theatre are part of the reason. Period romance is doing well, in all media. I only hope the trend doesn’t fade before mid 2009!
But speaking of future historical romance authors who’ll help keep it healthy–
Some squeeing is overdue.
First, for Courtney Milan, who is now not only a Golden Heart finalist, but a double finalist in the Chicago North RWA Fire & Ice Contest! Yep, she is 2 of the 3 finalists. Her odds look good. 🙂
And second, for Jackie Barbosa, (and former fanlitter Guavaln) who has some very, very exciting news today on the Manuscript Mavens blog!
I never understood that whole historicals are dead thing. I never stopped reading them or seeing them on the shelves? Where do they make this stuff up?
I checked out Jackie’s big announcement and that is so cool. It’s so much fun to see all of you find such success. So deserved all the way around!
Oh, I think the perceived comeback of historicals is due to the current situation in the world. When reality sucks, people want to be taken away to another time. When things turn back around and the world takes a more positive turn, then we’ll here how the contemporary is making a comeback. LOL!
First, Tessa, thanks for the squee on my behalf. I am still walking on air.
I agree with terrio that historicals have never been “dead,” but I do know that when I started writing again a couple of years ago, the prevailing wisdom was that historical was a hard sell.
In the end, I think historicals came back as the market got saturated with paranormals. Paranormal has appeal for the same reason as historical, I think–the world-building sweeps you away from reality and makes the fantasy more seductive and appealing. Maybe the pendulum swung a little too far toward paranormal, though, and the publishing industry has realized it.
That said, I do like to try to touch a little on “topical” issues in my stories, and I think the historical venue gives you an opportunity to do it in a way that’s thoughtful, but not heavy-handed. For example, the hero of the second novella in the anthology is a soldier with an eidetic memory who is suffering from PTSD. Of course, in the Regency, no one would have recognized it as PTSD, but I’m sure it existed then just as now. And writing this character gives me an opportunity to reflect, however obliquely, on the horrors today’s military men and women are subjected to.
I must have missed the “historicals are dead” memo cause I’ve never wavered or veered off track. I have, however, broadened my horizons and moved into contemporaries. I love them both!
I do think that you hit the nail on the head, Tessa. All the movies and TV series and mini-series with an historical flavor are very popular. The DH and I are in the middle of watching ROME and it’s blowing me away. Next up is The Tudors. And thanks to Masterpiece Theater I’m getting my fix of Jane Austen and my much loved DVDs have gotten a rest these past few months.
I’m always of the opinion that setting and genre are incidental to the talent of the author. If I find an author that I like and trust I’ll follow her anywhere.
Congrats, Jackie! I just read your call story and got goosebumps.
Dead…smead!! I don’t believe historicals will ever go out of fashion. To me, it’s the ultimate escape.
Congrats to Courtney and Jackie!! I’ll be looking forward to those release dates when you guys post them!
Wow, what awesome news all around! I’m squeeing here in NY for all of you.
Congratulations, Jackie and CM!You give us yet other reasons to celebrate.
Skimming recent bestseller lists suggests to me that historicals are doing quite well. Mary Balogh, Jane Feather, Samantha James, Victoria Alexander–a variety of styles seem to be represented. And Jo Beverley just made her first solo apperance on the NYT list. Historicals seem to be flourishing. And I think I have read that AARs top romance polls have consistently run 60-40 in favor of historicals.
Yay Jackie and CM! I’m just waiting for the news that CM’s being picked up… any day now [drums fingers on desk]
Historical can never die. I write them. Both paranormal and uhm… sort of erotic.
I do wonder how the rumour went around though. Maybe because the old traditional historicals weren’t being produced anymore.
Congrats to Jackie and CM! Soon there will be even more opportunities for me to spend my reading dollars!
I love historicals, but not all of them. Here’s hoping the quality continues to improve with Tessa Dare and her colleagues.
I’m late–but yay for Jackie! I’m going to be so happy to see her name on the shelves. And a second cheer for historicals NOT being dead.
But I counted five historical romances on the NYT list–I’m including “The Other Boleyn Girl” though, which may or may not count. It’s classified as a romance in Bookscan, but it’s obviously atypical of the genre. Still, that’s not proof it isn’t a romance. What do you think?
That’s super news all around!
Wow, this is a day for good news!!!
I want to give y’all a huge congratulations. Awesome work.