02 June 2010

What Surprised Me: People Don't Read Historicals?

By Isabel Roman

What surprises me? The fact that there are so many people who don't know about the historicals we write!

Let's face it, there are a lot of people who like romances but wouldn't pick up an historical if it was the only romance left on the shelf. Why is that? Do they think the story isn't something they'd be interested in? Do they think the hero isn't realistic? The heroine is a bumbling airhead? Do they not like history?

Looking at this blog now, I wish I'd had the time to do a survey, but alas, that didn't happen. So on the one hand we have readers who will read only contemporaries. On the other we have the historical-only readers. Ignoring the Venn Diagram of those of us who'll read just about anything, there are a great many people who know nothing about history.

I'm not talking America fought in a Civil War sometime during the 1800s. I'm talking, "Of course I know who Napoleon is--I saw Bill And Ted!" This quote is from an actual conversation I had a couple days ago. This was during my explanation about an idea I had set during the Regency Era/Napoleonic Wars--the blank look prompted me to explain Napoleonic wars = Napoleon Bonaparte and whatnot. That's when I got the indignant reply.

Forget going into the more Unusual Historicals we excel at here--Ancient Egypt? Victorian Russia? The Roaring 20s? English Civil War? China during the Tang Dynasty? And all the other places we writers love. One thing at a time.

So is that it? The fact that people aren't interested in history? They don't want to read historical romances because they're afraid it's one giant history lesson? What's the difference between that and thinking all contemporary romances are one giant political essay?

This is only a guess and I'd love to hear what others think. If you read historicals, do you stay close to what you know? Or are you up for anything so long as the subject interests you? With luck, a couple contemporary readers will let us know why they don't read historcials too.