27 March 2011

Guest Author: Karen Mercury

This week on Unusual Historicals, we're welcoming the return of contributor Karen Mercury as she celebrates the release of her latest Mills & Boon romance, EITHER ORE, an interracial romance from Siren Publishing. Here's the blurb:

In 1848 San Francisco, Lola Moreno is a housemaid for Gage Lassen, a withdrawn bachelor. When adventurer Harrison Bancroft arrives, he unlocks the pain from Gage’s past, allowing passion to emerge. A group of cruel enforcers threatens their bond of secrecy, and the trio is forced to make a stand.


Do you “write to the market” and select a popular genre, or do you throw caution to the wind and write what is important to you?

Unfortunately I don’t have the ability to write to the market. My first three novels were set in sub-Saharan Africa, which isn’t the most popular setting. And I couldn’t write a vampire or werewolf novel if you paid me in gold. I figure there are already so many writers who are experts at it, and I should do something different. I really admire those writers who can switch between genres.

What limitations do you find in writing historicals?

Oh, the swear words! Imagine the limitations in going back even farther in time! I’m constantly referring to my “Historical Dictionary of American Slang” to make sure no terms are anachronistic.

I recently came up against a roadblock. In 1849 it took mail three months to get from “the States” to San Francisco. If President Polk gave a speech in December ’48, how were my characters reading about it in a paper in February ’49?

Do you take liberties in describing actual historical events, in order to make the story more exciting?

I try not to mess with timelines, dates, and the actions of real historical people. If you have to change the actions and timeline of a real historical person so radically, it’s best to just invent a new name. But “making it more exciting” is the name of the game, and since we can’t really know what individual people said or did during a given historical event, there’s no reason not to, say, have someone blow up a pirate ship off St. Croix. Who knows, maybe it happened, but no one chronicled it. As long as you use the correct sort of dynamite for the year you’re writing about, why not?

I used to be so anal retentive that, if I wanted to depict Ramadan where they are waiting for the moon, I’d spend an hour looking for a moon table for that exact date in history, to find out when it rose. That’s getting a bit extreme!

What is the best hero moment you’ve seen in film?

Definitely the scene in “Last of the Mohicans” where Hawkeye is racing through that battle to find Cora. Your heart stops and you’re literally on the edge of your seat.

What made you choose to write historicals over contemporaries?

Being sort of a cynic in matters of love, it is much easier for me to imagine these grand, dramatic, death-defying romances taking place in a former era. It’s easy to imagine an adventurer slogging across the Ruwenzoris or the Sierras for the love of a woman. The 19th century landscapes, vistas, the flora and fauna—it’s all so conducive to a breathtaking powerful romance. Besides, in the frontiers where I usually set my novels, the ratio of women to men was about one to ten. Much easier to find a happily ever after with those odds.