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Topic: Marquee Characters in H/F

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Subject: Marquee Characters in H/F
Date Posted: 6/6/2011 8:27 AM ET
Member Since: 3/14/2009
Posts: 9,174
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This is a really interesting article about using a marquee character in writing H/F.  It is by Mary Sharrat http://marysharratt.blogspot.com/2011/06/beyond-marquee-toward-common-history.html

Date Posted: 6/6/2011 10:05 AM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2008
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That's a really good article Letty! It seems like it is becoming well known that HFreaders are getting sick of the same old characters, but then you have the publishers - bah! Interesting though, is that I recently finished Madame Tussaud and even though she has a well known name, I knew almost nothing about her. That book ended up focusing on ordinary people and I loved it! Too bad though that the authors are constrained to write about what sells, but there you have it. Makes you really admire those who take the chance and go out on a limb!

Date Posted: 6/6/2011 10:28 AM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
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Very, very interesting article.  Thanks for posting the link, Letty.  One book that was mentioned with a non-marquee character that I read and found fascinating was The de Lacy Inheritance by Elizabeth Ashworth.  The main character is a leper - now who would expect that to be such a likeable character in a very readable novel??  And there is a definite connection to a real incident in history.  I loved it.

Linda

Date Posted: 6/7/2011 8:31 AM ET
Member Since: 5/19/2007
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This was a fascinating article.  I love all kinds of characters, up to and including the royals.  But...you know I do enjoy EC's books, very much.  But when she announced her new trilogy on Eleanor of Aquitaine, I cringed a little bit.  I've met SKP's Eleanor, and many others...and I'm not sure I really need another set of books about her, you know?  But since it's EC, I'm sure I'll read them..

Poor C.W.!  He wrote about a queen...just not one well-known enough!  Publishers need to back off a bit and listen to the reading public!  

Date Posted: 6/7/2011 8:48 AM ET
Member Since: 3/14/2009
Posts: 9,174
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I agree that the publishers really need to start listening to readers.  I wonder if they have staff haunting PBS, Good reads and the like.  If they don't they should hire me and pay me a fortune for it.devil

Seriously I think that site like ours give the publishers a unique view on what readers want and think.

Vicky, I thought that too about Chadwick, but she is going to cover the early years (in at least one) I have yet to read a novel about Eleanor as a girl and as Queen of France that wasn't either salacious or biased.   She is one author I trust implicitly to weave the facts into an engaging story, and whether you believe in it or not her used of the Akashic record seems to really add flavor to a much told story.

I would like to read about the everyday people  but the publishers are playing it safe and it is a shame that they are.  So many stories are going untold.

Date Posted: 6/7/2011 11:45 AM ET
Member Since: 7/22/2009
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Seriously I think that site like ours give the publishers a unique view on what readers want and think.

The problem is that we (i.e., the HF Forum members) are probably not representative of the general reading public who determine best-sellers. I would venture that most of us choose to read HF based on the author's ability to bring historical people and/or events alive, not on whether a "marquee" name is used. In fact, for those of us who read lots of HF, we're probably tired of marquee names -- as the article suggests, how many of us complain about being "Tudored-out?" We're generally happy when authors focus on more obscure historical figures. And, of course, once we've found an author whom we trust, do we really care about whom they write? We're going to read Chadwick's books regardless of whether they feature well-known Eleanor or lesser-known Matilda. (And, I'm hanging out with Richard Sharpe whenever or wherever he's about!)

However, it's interesting to look at lists of recent best-selling historical fiction which include The Help, Water for Elephants, Sarah's Key, Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, and Gabaldon's Outlander series. None of these feature marquee names. Of course, except for Gabaldon's books, none of these are set earlier than the 20th century.  So, maybe publishers are much harder on authors who wish to write  pre-20th century historical fiction until they've established themselves. Again, using Chadwick as an example, I will be interested to see what happens to her sales when she comes out with the Eleanor books. Obviously, she is a huge name among us HF folk, but (sorry to say) she does not have the name recognition among the general reading public as Philippa Gregory.

This issue of giving voice to the non-elite in historical fiction is fascinating. But, despite evidence to the contrary, I remain convinced that thoughtful, well-written historical fiction will rise above the dreck, regardless of the main characters' stature -- of course, I'm not a publisher -- I'm just an optimist!

(ETA: But, Letty, I'm with you -- the publishers should hire us as advisers!)



Last Edited on: 6/7/11 9:52 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 6/7/2011 12:15 PM ET
Member Since: 3/14/2009
Posts: 9,174
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But, Letty, I'm with you -- the publishers should hire us as advisers!)    ...and pay us a fortune!   Don't forget that.cheeky

Date Posted: 6/7/2011 1:18 PM ET
Member Since: 7/22/2009
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  ...and pay us a fortune!

Oh, but of course -- and now that you're making a name for yourself in the book world (interviewing famous authors, reviewing books, and leading book read-alongs), I expect that you should be able to get us hired as a team. Just give me a call when it's time to sign that multi-million dollar contract!

Date Posted: 6/7/2011 1:20 PM ET
Member Since: 3/14/2009
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LOL  But of course!  laugh

Date Posted: 6/7/2011 1:45 PM ET
Member Since: 7/15/2008
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The problem is that we (i.e., the HF Forum members) are probably not representative of the general reading public who determine best-sellers 

Bingo. Outside of Daphne, most of the main stream blogs I see that do post about new HF releases, all you see on those are the latest Tudor/Boleyn/R3 fluff pieces. I suspect that is what the *mainstream* HF/PG reader wants to see and we are very much in the minority. I know it's mostly in fun, but as much as we criticize PG, the masses at large adore her books and they sell like hotcakes. That's what the publishers want, and don't seem to care what's inside the pages. Look at Auel's latest book. How in the h*** that got past an editor's desk I'll never know, but it did. Although this time the masses were pretty darned ticked off.

As for Eleanor, I weary of it as well, but I have faith that EC can pull it off and bring us something fresh and new.



Last Edited on: 6/7/11 2:26 PM ET - Total times edited: 3
Date Posted: 6/7/2011 3:23 PM ET
Member Since: 3/23/2008
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Very interesting article...we do seem to be in the minorty here as compared to the general public.  Just gotta keep the faith I guess.  I agree that I totally trust EC to bring a fresh and interesting viewpoint on Eleanor though.

Date Posted: 6/7/2011 7:40 PM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2008
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Once upon a time we had great authors who wrote about unknown or not so well known people during a specific time period. These were authors like Alexandre Dumas and Henryk Sienkiewicz, Lawrence Schoonover et al. And then there was Mary Shelley, Louisa May Alcott and Zoe Oldenbourg, et.al. They have gone down in histories of their own due to the greatness of their work. What has happened? (IMHO) I guess it has to due with mass media - getting the word out about certain authors and letting people think that their work is so fabulous, whether it is or not. It discourages me that so many people are like sheep - just following the trend and this leads to these lesser qualified authors becoming so popular. I, for one, am very happy that the works of the former greats are still available and I look, as do many of you, for the newcomers who do not follow the current trends. Yep, we are in the minority, but I sometimes wonder why, even in this forum, we don't have more people reading the old HF classics? I'm guessing that it may be because the language is rather foreign to us, but still, it is a shame that they aren't out there, front and center.

Date Posted: 6/8/2011 7:33 AM ET
Member Since: 5/19/2007
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What a great conversation here, all!  Jerelyn, that's a good point about EC covering Eleanor's early years.  And I have to say that she's probably the only author that could get me to pick up another Eleanor book right now.  

I'm wondering if publishing trends follow current social conditions the way film production trends do?  For instance, whenever we're at war, our movies are The Good Guy American Hero Conquers All type of films, or light fluffy Make Them Laugh and Coo films.  I've never thought about this until right now (and without the benefit of caffeine yet) but perhaps the trend now, in these hard economic times, is to focus on royalty because who wants to read about hard working peasants who have a terribly hard life and never get ahead?  I'll have to mull over this theory a bit...

 I sometimes wonder why, even in this forum, we don't have more people reading the old HF classics?   Jeanne, the oldies are the goodies, that's for sure. Maybe it's the age of our crowd here?  We've already read them?  

 

ETA:  Now it sounds like I think we're all crones or old bags.  That's not what I mean!  I just mean...as 'mature' readers, with which age helps, we have already experienced those classics in our reading lives.  

Vicky<------decides to just step away from the keyboard and go find coffee aka The Elixir of Life. 

 



Last Edited on: 6/8/11 7:37 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 6/8/2011 10:32 AM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2008
Posts: 10,478
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You have a point Vicky, about the age of some of our members and the fact that many of us have read a lot of the oldies. I haven't read them all, by any means. Like Linda said in a previous post somewhere, that she is getting into Alexandre Dumas, that is what I am doing with Sienkiewicz and I had no idea how much he had written, since most people know him as the author of Quo Vadis only. I'm beginning to think that thanks to the resurrection of the classics (due to Kindle/Nook/etc prices and reprints?) we have easier access to them and there they are! Look at the Georgette Heyer books and Sutcliffe - it's amazing what is available now!!! And they don't cost an arm or a leg. yes smiley