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Monday, September 25, 2006

Finding My Path in the Publishing World

by Delle Jacobs

This has been my year for re-evaluation and changing direction, finding new paths. I don't like the term "Re-Inventing Yourself" that some authors use, since it seems to imply an artificiality to begin with. But it does express my process.

In particular, I have been looking for new paths in my writing. Several years back, I saw a niche forming in the market and moved away from the hot and sensual Medieval historicals to write the Regency historical, and then traditional Regencies. But then, just as I was making my big splash, the trad Regency market came crashing to earth.

Looking at what I write, at what I feel I can write, or am willing to write, I've wondered, can I find my place in the commercial market? Can I adapt? I know I'm not all that young, but I'm no Plesiosaurus.

Or am I? My dilemma is, do I change myself and my writing to find my niche in the changing market? Or do I stay with what I have always loved to write and limit myself to small press and e-books? Sure, I do exceptionally well there, but is that all I want?

The market today calls for hot, hot, hot, contemporary, and very paranormal. Historicals are showing some come-back, but in a different form than what was being bought a few years ago. The traditional historical, one that is purely a historical romance and little else, is looking sadly wan.

So where does this put historicals?

Everything has to have its own gimmick now. High Concept, they call it. To me, it's like swiping a couple of concepts from other authors or movies and splicing them together. But it's not theft, even though sometimes it feels like it. Humor me for a moment, and allow me to call it Archetypal Stories with a Twist instead, because it makes more sense to me that way. I have trouble seeing what's "High" about something so simplistic that it has to be expressed in terms of other people's works. But there it is.

It's still the era of the "Very Very" story, as Jennifer Enderlin calls it. To sell, she says, a story needs to be "very very" something. Very sexy, very scary, or very something else. Ufortunately, historicals are set in a known and limited world, the past, and the past is conservative. Behavior is often severely limited by historical constraints. And that isn't very "very very" for today's market.

Imagine it. Romance Reader picks book off shelf. Clench cover, flowing gown hitched up her thigh in a way no woman would do, male chest bared in an historically inauthentic way. RR reads back cover blurb. She sighs. She's read this plot before. Hundreds of times. Where's the big threat in losing virginity? So her wicked uncle forces her to marry. Why didn't she just say no? Book goes back to the shelf, and RR searches for something with a blazing scarlet cover, with a dark and brooding male with extra long teeth.

Okay, I tried vampires. I guess I just can't find blood-suckers sexy. I even have trouble seeing them as dangerous when they're limited in so many ways. (Think about it-- There's hundreds of things they can't do, and not much they can. They can't even go out in the daytime. )

But I do love writing paranormal, and have put paranormal elements in most of my books. The thing is, I just don't want to give up the historical aspect. Modern life is fine for living, but I don't want it in my fantasies.

So after a full year of turning myself and my writing inside out, upside down and sideways, I think I'm finally finding my new niche. I've left the rigid Regency world behind and returned to my roots in the mysterious and dangerous Medieval times. Going heavily into the paranormal gives me the chance to write characters who don't live by the rules, who make their own rules in a world that is both enchanting and darkly dangerous.

I've borrowed heavily from British mythology to create characters who don't fit in either their human world or their Otherworld, and forced them to deal with both. I've thrown them into stories fraught with danger, reminiscent of Tolkein's Lord of the Rings, yet authentic to the dangerous world of the Eleventh Century and the enigmatic King William II, called Rufus.

My High Concept? "Faerie: Not your ordinary Tinker Bell." Lord of the Rings tangles with history-- Joan of Arc style, maybe. This faerie is no Peter Pan pet. No wings, no pert poses or magic wand. She is as dangerous as she is kind.

Her human hero, called The Peregrine, who is unaware of her faerie heritage, calls her Little Lioness because of her name, Leonie. Thus in his own words, he betrays his deeply held belief that she is dangerous to him and the vows of vengeance he has made.

"You should know, Peregrine, cats are not nice to birds." And even as she says it, she knows the hunting Peregrine Falcon also has claws, and his hatred of magic and all who practice it could bring her to the stake and a fiery death.

Okay, new path found. I have my own brand of Paranormal Historical. Will the fickle market allow it to be bought? I don't know. But truthfully, at the moment, I don't give a d@^^n about the market. This is my story, written for myself alone, and I'm loving it.


At 10:10 PM, Blogger Diane Perkins said...

I have a good feeling about this new direction of yours, Delle! Your passion is in it!

At 12:32 PM, Blogger Tori Scott said...

Delle, I think you've hit on something big here. Go for it.


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