Bringing Historical Romances Alive for Today’s Readers
By Kelli A. Wilkins
My name is Kelli Wilkins, and I write historical, gay, paranormal, and contemporary romances. People often ask me how I can switch genres so easily and write such diverse stories. “What’s the trick?” they want to know. Well, the trick is… there is none.
Writing historical romances is pretty much like writing contemporaries. I use the same basic storytelling techniques—an interesting plot, sympathetic characters, and the right mix of backstory, setting, and details that draw readers into the story and keep them there.
Consider these romance plots:
A father is desperate to find a suitable husband for his wild daughter, but she rejects all her suitors and wants the one man she can’t have.
An outcast is persecuted by the people in her small town and relies on a handsome stranger to help her escape.
Disowned by his well-to-do family, a spoiled socialite is forced to find a job and make his own way in the world. He falls in love with a sweet shop girl and suffers heartache as he sees how the “other half” lives.
A young woman leaves everything behind to start a new job far from home. She tries to solve a murder as she falls in love with her employer’s son.
Sound like great reads? Would it surprise you to learn that they are all plots from my historical romances? (In order, they are: A Most Unusual Princess, The Viking’s Witch, A Most Unfortunate Prince, and Dangerous Indenture.)
Recently, a woman told me she didn’t read historical romances because they were boring. I replied, “Some of them might be, but not mine—far from it!” With a few plot and character modifications, any of my historicals could take place in modern times. Don’t believe me? With the right editing, princesses could become spoiled actresses, singers, or reality show stars. Imagine the pampered prince as a high-paid arrogant actor who is destined for a fall from grace.
The key to writing an appealing historical is to create characters who are engaging and lively. I don’t have “stuffy shirts” making long-winded speeches about politics, law, or anything not crucial to the storyline. You won’t find me (or my characters) giving anyone a history lesson!
Just because historical romances are set in time periods before cars, the Internet, and cell phones, that doesn’t (or shouldn’t) make them boring. There is plenty of action, adventure, intrigue, danger, comedy, and sensual love scenes. These are the same elements that go into making a compelling contemporary romance.
I bring my historical romances “out of the history books” and into the everyday lives of my characters. I focus on how the hero and heroine meet, fall in love, overcome their obstacles and challenges, and eventually live happily-ever-after. And if you think about it, this is what really happened to people back then.
People who lived in ancient Egypt, the Middle Ages, or Colonial times went through the same relationship hardships and heartaches as people who live today. Granted, their life circumstances were much different, and in many cases they were more concerned with basic survival than finding true romantic love, but that didn’t make them any less real. Women especially didn’t have as many options, choices, or chances to fall in love with Mr. Right, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t have hopes and dreams like our contemporary heroines.
I’m not afraid to “break the mold” with my historicals. The settings, plots, and characters I create are far from typical. My heroines are not wearing frilly dresses and hosting tea parties while waiting to find the perfect man. In most cases, they’re too busy trying to keep themselves alive or fighting against perceived notions of how a “proper” woman should behave to look for a husband. And if they do find a man they want to be with, they are only willing to accept love on their terms. Elara from A Most Unusual Princess and Shauna from Dangerous Indenture are two examples. These strong, opinionated women would be right at home in a contemporary romance novel.
When I’m writing, I include only the historical details and descriptions that are integral to the story. I don’t bog down the plot with a step-by-step procedure for churning butter, how to saddle a horse, or go into an endless description of how to unfasten a corset (unless it’s befuddling the hero who is eager to remove it!). The same goes for contemporary stories. Readers don’t want the action slowed to a crawl with long descriptions, flashbacks, or “as you know…” info dumps.
Every romance genre has its fans. Some people like to read contemporary romances, others live for paranormals, and there are those who switch up genres and read anything that sounds appealing.
If the author is doing her job right and creates a believable world, then the reader will be hooked—whether the story is set on a remote Scottish isle in 804 (as in The Viking’s Witch) or takes place in modern times. And that’s the “trick” to switching up genres.
As for me, I don’t know what my next book will be. All I can say for sure is that I enjoy writing romances about people who fall in love, wherever and whenever that may be.
Kelli A. Wilkins
Here are the descriptions and links to two of my historical romances, A Most Unusual Princess and Dangerous Indenture.
A Most Unusual Princess
Princess Elara needs to find a royal husband, but claims that no man can satisfy her. Her father hires Dalton, a special guard, to watch over her while she’s courting suitors. Dalton finds her unusual behaviors charming—and enthralling.
Dalton’s aloof manner intrigues Elara, and despite their differences, they share tender moments and intimate nighttime encounters. Elara is heartbroken when her father chooses a “proper” husband for her—until she meets the mystery man.
Bonus! This e-book includes a sneak peek at the second book in the “Royal Desires” series: A MOST INTRIGUING TEMPTATION.
The Royal Desires Series is now available on Amazon. Catch this hot historical/fantasy trilogy from the start:
Book 1: A Most Unusual Princess:
Book 2: A Most Intriguing Temptation:
Book 3: A Most Unfortunate Prince: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01DMBYJ6E?ref_=pe_2427780_160035660
Eager to escape her past in Ireland, Shauna Farrow signs on to become an indentured servant to Joshua Stewart, a wealthy man in Pennsylvania Colony.
But a life of servitude quickly turns to drudgery, and her hopes for starting over and creating a better life for herself are waning—until she meets her master’s roguish son, Ashton.
Shauna fights her growing attraction to Ashton, torn between propriety and acting on her emotions. But amidst their flirting, something dark stirs. Shauna soon discovers why no other servants will work for the strange Stewart family.
Stewart House has an unsavory reputation: a previous servant died there under mysterious circumstances. When another servant goes missing in the middle of the night, Shauna is convinced that a member of the family is responsible.
When Shauna’s investigation leads her too close to the truth, it’s up to Ashton to save her before time runs out.
Other Platforms: http://medallionmediagroup.com/books/dangerous-indenture/
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kelli A. Wilkins is an award-winning author who has published more than 95 short stories, 19 romance novels, and 5 non-fiction books. Her romances span many genres and heat levels.
In 2016 Kelli is re-releasing her romances previously published by Amber Quill Press. Visit her website and blog for a full title list, book summaries, and other information as it becomes available. A Most Unusual Princess was released in March. Look for more A Most Intriguing Temptation and A Most Unfortunate Prince coming in April!
Her writing book, You Can Write—Really! A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Fiction is a fun and informative non-fiction guide based on her 15 years of experience as a writer. It’s filled with writing exercises and helpful tips all authors can use.
If you like to be scared, check out Kelli’s horror ebooks: Dead Til Dawn and Kropsy’s Curse.
CATCH UP WITH KELLI
Here are a few links to find Kelli & her writings on the web
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