Me and Alexandre Dumas

Every once in a while, I go through a crisis of confidence about whether or not I belong in the historical romance genre. I also realize this is crazy Jeannie rearing her ugly head because I was also the one that insisted historical romance is exactly where my books belonged whenever I received suggestions that perhaps I should target upmarket historical fiction or fantasy instead.

Every time I get out on this ledge, it takes a couple of writer buddies–my good friend and tough critique partner, Bria Quinlan, to be exact, to talk me down from it.

The conversation goes something like this:

Jeannie: What am I doing here? My emperors and generals are made up. This is more fantasy than historical.

Bria: Calm down. You do write historical romance. All romance creates a fantasy world, in a sense.

Jeannie: But I have a woman wielding a sword!

Bria: Isn’t that historically accurate for that culture?

Jeannie: Well…historical accuracy is a bit squiffy when it comes to Chinese tradition. There are a bunch of historical accounts of woman warriors. It’s all mixed up with legends and myths. Asian history often reads like fantasy.

Bria: Trust me. You write historical romance. (Then she goes off on a very cool analogy using brushwork and how you can paint with the edge of your brush and let some elements of fantasy from the culture come through, i.e. ghosts in Irish tradition.)

Jeannie: Wow, I love that analogy!

Bria: Just write the book.

Jeannie: Someone brought up all the dukes who are secret spies in historical romance right now. I’m at least as historically accurate as dukes who are secret spies.

Bria: It’s okay. I’ll tell you if it’s going over to fantasy. And if your prose gets too purple.

Jeannie: It’s sort of like in historical romance, there’s Jane Austen and then there’s Alexandre Dumas. I’m more Alexandre Dumas. Hey, I LIKE that.

Bria: I LOVE Alexandre Dumas! All that crazy drinking and womanizing.

Jeannie: I’m totally Dumas then! Well, except for the womanizing.

(Bria thankfully doesn’t give me the eye that says, “Jeannie…I’ve read Dumas. I like Dumas. You are no Alexandre Dumas.” But it’s hard to give the eye via DM in Twitter)

Bria: Just write the book. Then we’ll deal with it.

Jeannie: Thank you for talking me off the ledge again. I know I do this once per book.

Bria: Should I be worried that you haven’t even started this one yet?

So a bunch of e-mails and Twitter DM notifications later, yes, I’m writing the book.


  1. Sofia Harper
    Apr 26, 2012 @ 10:03:03

    lol You are not alone. My crisis usually involves me putting pen to paper period. My CPs look at me crazy, or what I imagine is a crazy look because it’s in email. It passes and I can write again.

    Glad to hear the writing is getting better.

  2. Melanie Rose Meadors
    Apr 26, 2012 @ 10:15:46

    It’s always good to have a writing friend like that in times of crisis! If it makes you feel better, the crises are normal; it’s good to have that fear a little bit because it means that you are actually thinking about things instead of diving in without a clue. For what it’s worth, from the work of yours that I’ve read, it’s all good. You are definitely historical romance, and I LOVE that you have strong heroines who can stand up for themselves. You really pulled through for me at the end of Butterfly Swords. Ailey didn’t need to be rescued. There was no man flying in in a blaze of glory.

    Incidentally, I thought this was one of the best lines of all time: “This was unexpected. Fifth Elder Brother was really bad.” It made me laugh so hard I woke up my husband!

    Good luck with your new book, I can’t wait to read “My Fair Concubine”!

  3. Jeannie Lin
    Apr 26, 2012 @ 10:29:32

    Sofia – I try very hard not to complain about not writing — though yes, that is a crisis we all share. So I find other things to complain about, though in the end…as Bria points out…the real issue is that I’m not writing the book when I should be

    Melanie – Oh, so glad you enjoyed Butterfly Swords. I really loved Fifth Brother’s character — maybe because some of his characteristics remind me of my brother. If the stars align, he’s supposed to appear again in another book….

  4. Melanie Rose Meadors
    Apr 26, 2012 @ 11:01:26

    Yay!! I really liked him too!

    PS–Did you see Valerie Bowman’s article “Rockin’ the Mistorical” in the May RWR?

  5. Jeannie Lin
    Apr 26, 2012 @ 11:38:21

    @Melanie – My RWR is laying right here on my desk. I’ll have to take a look

  6. Jeannie Lin
    Apr 26, 2012 @ 11:54:56

    Read the RWR article. I think Miranda Neville’s quote sums it up nicely:
    “Different writers have different rules about how much of the fantasy world they build comes from the historical record and how much they invent”

  7. Melanie Rose Meadors
    Apr 26, 2012 @ 12:12:08

    Exactly–I’ve read many historicals, and they are all so different in the amounts of “real” history they include, and what they make up. I’m sure there are some things that shouldn’t be messed with, but like pirate Barbossa says, “They’re more like guidelines.” 😉

  8. Bria Quinlan
    Apr 27, 2012 @ 10:48:56

    I was tempted to come in here and say, “Lies! All lies! I never said such things!” But you’ve talked me out of as many trees as I’ve talked you off ledges 😉

    I’m always glad for your cool head when it’s my turn.

  9. Jeannie Lin
    Apr 27, 2012 @ 11:24:11

    Bria – And it will all come around again, I’m sure