Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Moving out of your Comfort Zone?

Have you been tempted to move out of your comfort zone? I’ve written contemporary romance ever since I was a teenager, and it’s the only genre I’ve ever really wanted to write – and felt comfortable writing.
I confess to having no interest in fantasy, sci-fi, or horror stories, and not much interest in westerns either, so I haven’t read many of those, and certainly wouldn’t want to spend any time writing one. In addition, I know I don’t have the kind of mind to invent a complex mystery or thriller – I struggled enough with the ‘minor’ intrigue in my novel set in Egypt. I prefer to leave crime writing to those who like to write about murders, robberies etc., and I have absolutely no knowledge of police procedures, or of the inner working of the CIA or other intelligence agencies, so that eliminates detective or spy stories for me.
That leaves me with romance, but even within the romance genre, there are several sub-genres. Recently, I saw a list of the most popular kinds of romances (on an e-book distribution/review site):
1. M/M Romance
2. Erotica/erotic romance
3. Shifters and Vampires
4. Contemporary Romance
5. Horror and Paranormal
6. Sc-fi and fantasy
7. Multiple partners
9. Interracial
10. Historical
I must admit I was quite relieved to see Contemporary Romance in 4th place, but what about all the others?
There are only two categories that hold any interest for me – contemporary and historical. As far as the other eight are concerned, either I have no interest in them or do not feel qualified to write them.
I’m an historian by profession, with a degree in history and over 25 years’ teaching experience in the subject, and I’m often asked why I don’t write historical novels. Why indeed? The main answer is that I’m aware of how much research is necessary. At my time of life (rapidly approaching the three score and ten years!), I can’t spend years immersing myself in a particular historical period which is what the very best historical authors do to ensure absolute accuracy in every aspect, from the major events and ethos of the era to the minor details that add authenticity to their stories. If I wrote an historical novel, I wouldn’t want it to be simply a ‘modern story in fancy dress’ which I’ve seen all too often in so-called historical romances (not all, I hasten to add!). I would want my story, my characters and my setting to be absolutely accurate - and that involves a huge amount of research.
That leaves me with contemporary romance – so maybe I’d better stay in my comfort zone!


  1. Interesting list of top genres, Paula.
    I used to be a science fiction reader. I liked the technical tidbits, the speculative view into mankind's future, but most of all I liked the human relationships. When I read my first romance, I expected a silly bodice ripper. I was surprised to fall into a finely-crafted plot that focused around two lovers.
    Technical tidbits could be historical details, modern careers, or far-away places. The core is a good story. Everything else is setting.

  2. I'm not into anything technical, so sci-fi never really appealed to me, Ana.
    I agree about relationships being all-important (and a good story, of course) but I prefer settings in which I have some interest, otherwise the research would become a chore.

  3. Hmn? An interesting list to say the least.

    I enjoy reading vampire paranormals, but don't know if I could tackle writing a full-length one myself.

    I do have an idea for a time travel, and I'd love to write a historical set during the American Civil War, but both of those are going to take a lot of research, so for now, I'll be sticking to my familiar and comfortable contemporary romance!

  4. I've got an historical percolating in the back of my mind. It's been there for a while, and the thing holding me back is the research. Maybe one day. For now, I stick with what I'm comfortable in and that seems to be contemporary romance, too. :)

  5. Deb and Jen - I think we are on the same wavelength here! I have a cuple of historicals wandering around in my mind, but the research is putting me off! Seems like we all prefer to stay in our comfort zones!

  6. I think one day we should challenge ourselves to do it. But then, I'm a bit of a masochist that way! :)

  7. LOL, Jen! I could probably write a medieval novella of 20K words, but not a full length novel.