Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Historical genre

I had an email from an agent who said that sellling historical novels to mainstream publishers is very difficult. Another lady, a writer friend, told me I am wasting my time writing historical novels because the market is flooded with them. Both comments are probably accurate but does that mean I should throw down my pen and give up?

I don't think so. It wouldn't be possible for me to write in the modern world; it is an alien place to me, I am far more at home among codpieces and longbows than I am i-pods and blackberries. Giving up writing is not an option either so I shall continue. I often wish I could think of a quick witted reply to those sort of negative comments but I never do, not until later when the conversation is long over. When I was in the shower that evening I remembered that five out of the top six novels shortlisted for the Booker prize last year were historicals and, isn't the whole literary market flooded? Isn't it always a fight to get your writing noticed? Of course it is but that doesn't mean we should all quit! I have decided that the best way to go forward is to remember the reason I began to write historical novels in the first place; it was impossible to buy the sort of novel I wanted to read. There aren't enough quality historical novels on the market.

Oh, there are plenty of over wordy, romantic bodice rippers but nowhere near enough gritty, meaty, historically convincing works. Once I have had my yearly dose of Bernard Cornwell (hurry up with the next in the Saxon chronicles, Bernard!) I spend the rest of the year trawling the pages of Amazon for something new. Simon Carrow writes very well, Jack Whyte's arthurian books are brilliant but I have read them all and there seems to be little else coming through. Sharon Penman's books are about the best written from a woman's perpective but the books that I really love are, unfortunately, male orientated, the female charaters are usually secondary. There must be other women out there who want to read about historical women that aren't swooning all over the place or meekly submitting to male domination. So I sat down to write novels for those women.

In Peaceweaver, Eadgyth is at the mercy of her male dominated world but she isnt submissive. She is raped, beaten, imprisoned, captured, tormented but she puts up a brilliant fight. Her main grievance is that she has never been allowed to make a decision for herself but, in the last few lines of the novel, I provide her with the opportunity to make one that will shape her life.

My females in The Forest Dwellers (WIP) are rather more actively self reliant than Eadgyth. Despite unimaginable drawbacks Aelf and Alys fight back, using their own individual weapons. They embody the vengeance culture of the Anglo Saxon world they were born into and use it against their Norman oppressors. The men in their lives are disempowered, not by strength of arms alone but by feminine stubborness and resilience.

So, if anyone, reader, agent, publisher agrees that there is indeed a gap in the market for books of this type please get in contact. silentwhisper1@aol.com


  1. Don't give up Judith, I loved Peaceweaver and was sad when I reached the end of the book and from what I have heard of The Forest Dwellers I can't wait to read it all.

  2. I'd just like to say I purchased Peaceweaver from Amazon.com on the strength of various recommendations. I haven't read it yet, but will soon get there, and after that, I'm going to post a review on my blog, The Writer's Daily Grind, which deals with a number of topics that are in my WIP, set a few years later than yours. I am also going to link my blog to yours. It looks like a very good one. BTW, comments about "weather" at Easter are similar here in Rain City Otherwise Known As Seattle. I can count "nice" Easters around here, on the fingers of one hand. . . .
    Anne Gilbert

  3. Oh, I forgot to put in the link for The Writer's Daily Grind. It's at:


    You may find it quite interesting. Or not.
    Anne Gilbert

  4. ive only just found this Anne, and its the end of May now. so glad you want to do a review, i just hope you enjoy Peaceweaver