Saturday, 16 April 2011

Never Say Never

I write contemporary romance. 

I will never write paranormal, fantasy, sci-fi or any other variation of this kind of story.  Why not?  Simply because I have absolutely no interest in them.  I’ve never read or seen any of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ books or films for the same reason. 

I won’t write horror because I’ve no intention of scaring myself to death or having nightmares.  I couldn’t write a murder mystery or a thriller (because my mind just doesn’t work like that).  I don’t feel qualified to write gay/lesbian  or inspirational stories and I’m not into erotic writing either.

I’ve always said, too, that I would never write a historical novel, or historical romance.  That might sound strange because I’m a historian by profession, and taught history for more years than I care to count.  I love historical sites – ten years ago I spent two years visiting dozens of different places linked with 15th century English history, including every single battlefield of the Wars of the Roses.  I’ve done battlefield trips in France, Belgium and Germany, and also in the USA.  I’m drawn to historical sites wherever I happen to visit.

I love reading good historical novels, I like watching films based on historical events (although I hate it when they distort history or introduce deliberate inaccuracies for ‘dramatic’ effect).

So why won’t I write a historical novel?  Firstly, because I have no intention of writing “a modern story in fancy dress”, which is, admittedly, my derogatory opinion of some historical romances.  Not all, I hasten to add, before all the historical authors descend on me to vent their wrath.  But there ARE those who pay scant regard to the customs and attitudes of the period in which they set their stories.  Inaccuracies and anachronisms abound, and irritate me intensely.

My favourite historical authors are Sharon Penman, Edward Rutherfurd, John Jakes, Anya Seton and James Michener.  It’s very obvious that their novels are painstakingly researched down to the smallest detail.  Therefore my second reason for not writing a historical novel is that I wouldn’t have the time (or the patience!) to emulate that depth of research and that’s what puts me off.

Having said all that, while in Ireland a couple of years ago I visited a replica of the famine ship ‘Dunbrody’ at New Ross.  The original ship had carried thousands of Irish immigrants to America in the mid-19th century (including the great-grandfather of John F Kennedy).  Our admission tickets contained the names of one of the families who travelled on the ship, and at the end of the guided tour, we were able to find out what had happened to ‘our’ family.  I discovered that only two members of the family survived the journey in 1845.  The baby died first, followed by the mother and then the father.  Our tour guide said they had been unable to discover what had happened to the two young girls, aged 10 and 12, who survived. 

Somewhere a small spark was lit in my mind, and it has refused to be extinguished.  I keep thinking about those two girls and wondering what did happen to them when they reached New York as orphans.  One day, I might just try to write their story.

Never say never!


  1. That was a really great post Paula. From common sense to personal preference to emotional journey across the sea.

  2. lovely post, Paula. Great to have found you through A-Z. My A-Z blog is, but I'm re-launching my chick-lit site tomorrow if you care to take a peek

  3. Wow there is a story there waiting to be written, Paula. I should write it soon, I sure it would be wonderful.

  4. When inspiration strikes like this, it's well worth setting off on your own journey, to see where it takes you. Good luck with it, and thanks for an excellent N post.
    All best

  5. That sounds like an awesome story. I have an idea for something about my ancestors who came over but it's definitely researching the time period that would keep me from doing it. I keep it in the back of my mind though, in case I ever get the itch to commit to something like that. :)

  6. Thank you all for your comments, and for your encouragement, much appreciated!
    As Kimberley says, it's the research involved that is inhibiting!

  7. I hope you do write it! I would be the first to read it. That's so cool that they put the names of families on your tickets. Rather sad to find out what happened to them though.:(