Although I have been asked to provide only ten things about writing a Historical Romance, in truth, there are a lot more topics one could draw on to make the story as real as possible. For now, here are the ten that I deem essential:
Planning and Research: Every tale starts as an idea. Most of mine come to me in the middle of the night and I must get up to immediately write them down before they are lost. From those initial thoughts, I will develop them over several days regardless of where I am or what I am doing, and slowly formulate a plan.
Essentially, the plan provides a blueprint of the plot, the conflicts, and obstacles getting in the way of the characters’ journey from start to finish. Detail of events happening around them, the period in history and its associated fashions, modes of transport, etc. have to be researched meticulously.
Everything has to be checked and re-checked to ensure what you are writing is accurate.
Setting and Location: It is important to decide early on in the project where you want your story to be located.
When deciding on the setting and location for my most recent book, Dragoon Serenade, I relied on my local knowledge of the Cote d’Azur to choose it for me.
Local Knowledge: It is so much easier to write about a place if you have been there and know its history. When I began to formulate my plan for Dragoon Serenade, I could not find very much written on the Allied invasion of the South of France, but on speaking to people who have lived here for many years, I was able to obtain clues about where to look. There are memorials dedicated to Resistance fighters, and even one at Le Dramont located near St. Raphael that marks the spot where some 20,000 GIs from the 36th Texas Infantry Division established a beachhead in armoured vehicles on August 15th, 1944
Time Frame: World War Two lasted six years so choosing a time frame within that period gives one a lot of scope to work with. For me, I had chosen July/August 1944 because it was when the invasion of Southern France, code-named “Operation Dragoon” was to happen. I was particularly drawn to this event because for the last two years I have been a resident of this glorious part of France.
Historical Content and Major Events: Perhaps the main reason I chose to write Historical Romance was to enable me to delve into some major events that were occurring during the time frame I had chosen. In my first novel, Beneath Southern Stars for example, at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, when the English fleet destroyed the combined naval forces of France and Spain, this event was crucial for the principal characters in my story as it determined each of their respective futures.
Character Background and History: In a way, this heading most realistically, should have been top of the list, as every story has to have at least one dominant character, but in a romance, you have to have two. Otherwise, without a hero and heroine, what would be the point of a Romance?
Every character, as in real life, has a history. We all have parents, perhaps siblings, and if we are lucky [or not – depending on circumstances] have an extended family: Uncles and aunts, cousins, grandparents. So too, must our characters.
Where and when were they born? What was their background? Were they from a rich family or a poor one? Without a background or history, the characters would not be convincing.
Fitting One’s Characters into the Story [Making it Believable]: Once you have given your character a history and background, you need to decide what is his or her role is in life? You have already chosen the location and time frame for your story, so it makes sense to give them a job.
In Dragoon Serenade the principal character is a British agent, code name Simone. She has been sent to the Cote d’Azur, ahead of the scheduled Allied landings, to supply arms and assist the local Resistance fighters.
The secondary character, but equally important, is the Resistance leader, code name Hibou [the French word for ‘owl’]. He is Simone’s lover.
Their roles must slip into the true events, so the reader is convinced the characters had actually participated at that time.
Photographs and Maps: Not having been alive during the time frames chosen, one has to rely on old photographs, paintings, sketches and drawings from days gone by. These mediums help one ‘see’ the environs your characters are subject to and assist in making the outcome more convincing. Maps, contemporary or ancient, are essential. Again, accuracy is everything in a historical tale. In the case of my series entitled “The Sword and the Rose” set in Spain during the early seventeenth century, I heavily relied on such documents in addition to painstaking research.
Fashion, Food, and Fornication: The three ‘loves’ of any good romance, each sharing an important part in the harmony of your characters’ lives. Fashion: In Dragoon Serenade Simone is sent on a mission to the coastal town of Golfe-Juan. She’s there during the height of summer, and despite the seriousness of her tasks, she still has time to unwind on the beach. For that, you need a swimsuit. When later, she has to attend a gala ball, again the right gown is imperative to make an impression. To ensure the clothes described in the text are what would be available in 1944 attentive research has to be carried out. Food: Depending who you are, food is either plentiful or extremely scarce. For the officers of the occupying forces, a sumptuous meal at a fancy restaurant in Cannes would be possible. The local populous on the other hand would be subjected to rationing and would supplement their pantries by either growing their own food or purchasing it on the black market. Fornication: How could you have a romance without a love scene or four? In Dragoon Serenade Simone and Hibou had met in Northern France the previous year. It was there they had commenced a romantic affair. Now reunited in Golfe-Juan, it only seemed natural that they pick up where they left off.
Sweet or Sensual, but always with a Happy Ever After Ending: Where ‘sweet’ romances leave everything to the imagination of the reader, it’s not always the best formula to make a story credible or interesting.
‘Sensual’ romances bring one closer to the characters. They make you feel as though you are in the same room like an unseen voyeur. You will be sharing in their intimacy, and being absorbed into their moments of extreme happiness. However, just as in true life where there is love, there is also jealousy and tears. In Dragoon Serenade you are drawn into a mixture of these experiences and emotions, climaxing, as with all good romances, to a happy ever after ending.
Blurb for Dragoon Serenade:
Will “Hibou” be able to concentrate on the most important mission, or will his love for Simone lead to a moment’s carelessness that could be their undoing?
On a dark night in July 1944, Special Operations Executive agent, Simone rows ashore from a submarine at the small fishing town of Golfe-Juan on the Côte d’Azur. She meets the Resistance Leader code name “Hibou” with whom she had a romantic affair during a mission in northern France several months previously. Once again, they engage in subterfuge operations against the German forces in the lead up to the Allied landings, code-named Operation Dragoon, scheduled for the following month.
Although their relationship is reawakened, the tension of their exploits and the possibility of being caught by the Gestapo from information leaked by traitors in their midst causes some instability. However, love has a way to conquer doubt, but as their love deepens so too does the risk of them making mistakes.
Will Hibou be able to concentrate on the most important mission yet to come, or will his love for Simone lead to a moment’s carelessness that could be their undoing?
PUBLISHER NOTE: Historical Romantic Suspense. 38,450 words.