I am excited to welcome Jen Turano as guest blogger today. Along with giving advice on writing historical romance, Jen is providing a signed copy of her latest book Flight of Fancy. To enter the drawing for the book, you must be a U.S. resident and leave a comment below. You can comment from now until March 3 at 5 p.m. EST. I will notify the winner that day.
I met Jen at the American Christian Fiction Writer’s conference in 2017. I overheard a conversation about Appalachia and said my YA novel was set in West Virginia, but I was from eastern Ohio. Jen said so was she, and we discovered we were both from the same hometown and our dads taught at the high school together. We hadn’t attended high school at the same time, so I didn’t know Jen when we lived there. Jen brings a sense of humor to everything from her plots to her dedications and emails. So happy to have you here to day, Jen!
What inspires you to write historical romances set during the Gilded Age?
I first became interested in the Gilded Age after reading “The Court of Mrs. Astor in Gilded Age New York.” It was a riveting read, which then led me to read “Consuelo and Alva Vanderbilt,” and after that “’King Lehr’ and The Gilded Age,” by Elizabeth Drexel Lehr, a memoir that lent a clear flavor for the times even if it was less than factual in certain chapters. At the time, in my humble opinion, I felt the Gilded Age was a somewhat overlooked period of history, so I thought it might be fun to rectify that. Because it was a time when men were making fortunes practically overnight, and society, especially in New York City, was becoming more powerful than ever, I knew I’d have enough fodder for stories for years.
Are there other time periods you would like to write about?
When I first started writing, not that those efforts will ever see the light of day, I wrote Regencies. I still adore that time period, but if I was going to write something other than Gilded Age, I’d write contemporary now.
When creating a story, which comes first? Character, setting or plot?
I always start with character because, here’s the thing – readers don’t really connect with plots or settings, but they form attachments and develop feelings for characters. They don’t care about a missing locket, but they’ll care about the lady who needs to find that locket because it’s her only memory of her parents. If you can get a feel for your characters, know their desires and their weaknesses, a plot and setting should develop quickly after that.
What’s the most unusual source of inspiration you’ve used in a story?
A goat – long story, but I was stuck, couldn’t figure out how to move the story forward, but then this goat sprang to mind and I was back in business.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to write historical romance?
Get to be an expert on the time period you want to write. Historical readers expect certain things in the stories they read, and if you’re unfamiliar with, say, the fact that Mrs. Astor was the queen of New York high society, a reader will know you’ve not done your proper research and there’s little likelihood that reader will pick up another one of your stories or tell her friends about you. You should also know the market – different time periods go in and out of fashion. A few years ago, you were hard pressed to sell a Civil War story, which made it very frustrating for those writers who’d written Civil War books but simply couldn’t find anyone to publish them – nor did they do well as self-published books because readers weren’t interested in that time period. Occasionally, certain periods come back in fashion, but it can take quite a few years for that to happen. Go to your local bookstore and library often to see what they’re displaying in their historical section, and then read as many of those books as you can because that’s a wonderful way to learn what is expected in your time period and what is not.
Thanks so much for all the great advice!
Named One of the Funniest Voices in Inspirational Romance by Booklist, Jen Turano is a USA Today Best-Selling Author, known for penning quirky historical romances set in the Gilded Age. Her books have earned Publisher Weekly and Booklist starred reviews, top picks from Romantic Times, and praise from Library Journal. She’s been a finalist twice for the RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards and had two of her books listed in the top 100 romances of the past decade from Booklist. When she’s not writing, she spends her time outside of Denver, CO. Readers may find her at www.jenturano.com or https://www.facebook.com/jenturanoauthor/or on Twitter at JenTurano@JenTurano.