Tuesday, September 15, 2015
Does Historical Fiction = Fantasy? @MaiaChance
LUCY BURDETTE: So delighted to welcome Maia Chance back to JRW! She always has such an unusual twist on writing...And I will be so interested to hear what the Reds think about her blog today. (And doesn't the book sound wonderful?)
MAIA CHANCE: I’ve come to this maybe strange conclusion about genre: All historical fiction writers are fantasy writers. Weird, I know (and I think I hear some wails of protest emanating from the secret bunker headquarters of World Fantasy Con), but allow me to explain how I arrived at this idea.I write cozy historical mysteries. So, so far away from the fantasy genre, right? One of my series, Fairy Tale Fatal, has a smidge of the possibility of fairy tale magic but, true to the cozy genre and my publisher, there is no actual magic. However, novels require research. All novelists know this:
every historical novelist has a paranoid gleam in his or her eye as the result of this. What’s a 1923 slang word for kissing? What’s for breakfast in France in 1867? Can my character really wear those shoes with that tie!? A lot of this stuff can be researched. Some of it can’t. And even if every little detail were painstakingly checked by, say, my Dream Team of a dozen eager history majors with Red Bull issues, there would still be a couple of problems:
1. As a writer in 2015 there is virtually no way I can disentangle my contemporary viewpoint and language usage from my writing. I try my best, but made by me and 21st Century are stamped all over my work. And this is OK.
2. One of the biggest reasons it’s OK is that my priority is writing stories that my 21st-century readers can burrow into and enjoy. Cozy mystery readers approach cozies with the desire to be diverted in a relaxing manner. I know this because not only am I a cozy addict, but some of my best friends are cozy addicts. We want that escape into the past, but at the end of a long day, a lecture on old-fashioned politics or a History of Brass Buttons is not tops on the FUN list.This isn’t to say that I don’t obsess over research. I totally do. But my goal isn’t a historically-accurate diorama. Rather, my goal is to write stories with the flavor of history, that taste of glamour, mystery, and romance that only a fantastical elsewhere can provide.
So, the European 1867 and 1923 New York I create in my books are approximations of those past times and places. Or, as I have lately concluded, my settings are “1867 Europe” and “1923 New York.” See those quotation marks? Those aren’t just me being cutesy. Those quotation marks are my tickets to writing freedom. Without the homeworky burden of embedding history lessons in my books, I am able to devote myself to storytelling, to worldbuilding, to characterization, to plot . . . like a fantasy writer.
LB: Okay Reds, your turn! Do you agree about the fantasy in historical fiction?
Maia Chance writes historical mystery novels that are rife with absurd predicaments and romantic adventure. She is the author of the Fairy Tale Fatal and The Discreet Retrieval Agency series. Her first mystery, Snow White Red-Handed, was a national bestseller. Her latest releases are Cinderella Six Feet Under and Come Hell or Highball.
Visit Maia on the web at her website, on Facebook, Goodreads, or Twitter!
About the book:
COME HELL OR HIGHBALL
31-year-old society matron Lola Woodby has survived her loveless marriage with an unholy mixture of highballs, detective novels, and chocolate layer cake, until, her husband dies suddenly, leaving her his fortune...or so Lola thought. As it turns out, all she inherits from Alfie is a big pile of debt. Pretty soon, Lola and her stalwart Swedish cook, Berta, are reduced to hiding out in the secret love nest Alfie kept in New York City. But when rent comes due, Lola and Berta have no choice but to accept an offer made by one of Alfie's girls-on-the-side: in exchange for a handsome sum of money, the girl wants Lola to retrieve a mysterious reel of film for her. It sounds like an easy enough way to earn the rent money. But Lola and Berta realize they're in way over their heads when, before they can retrieve it, the man currently in possession of the film reel is murdered, and the reel disappears. On a quest to retrieve the reel and solve the murder before the killer comes after them next, Lola and Berta find themselves navigating one wacky situation after another in high style and low company.