Saturday, March 16, 2019

Why I write in the historical romance genre by Kaye Spencer #SweetheartsoftheWest #historicalromance #amwriting

An author interview question I often encounter asks why I write in the historical romance genre.

While I am drawn to the historical time periods of the Old West, Roaring Twenties, and 1950s more than other historical settings, I have written a few contemporary (or near-contemporary) stories. However, I don't spend much time in the here and now with my storytelling, and there are three reasons.

Reason 1—Research

Every historical romance I write allows me to follow rabbits down research rabbit holes. I’ve discovered the most intriguing and amazing tidbits of history in my historical research Wonderland. It’s important to me to have the details in my stories as historically accurate, but I temper the accuracy with the need to tell a good story. I am, after all, writing fiction as entertainment, not creating a historically accurate documentary.

 Reason 2—Living vicariously in the past

While I’m writing a story set in the past, I get to travel to a different place and time and live in someone else’s shoes and view the world through their eyes and perspectives. I’m like Anthony Marston in Quigley Down Under: “…Some men [women] are born in the wrong century.” When I’m researching, I'm on an adventure that can take me anywhere my imagination wants to go.

Reason 3—Challenge of overcoming inconveniences

I like writing stories that lack modern day conveniences. Without the amenities we’re accustomed to nowadays, there are so many juicy complications for the characters to face, deal with, and overcome that otherwise could be written away with a call on the cell phone or by hopping an airplane.

Let's explore Reason 3.

*Communication: When the hero and heroine have to depend upon letter writing and telegraph messages, both of which were slow (relatively speaking) and could more easily be intercepted or even lost, the villain has the opportunity to weasel his way into the heroine’s life and console her. Perhaps the heroine thinks the hero jilted her at the altar when he doesn’t show up for their wedding when actually the villain intercepted the telegram, which explains the legitimate reason for the hero’s delay.
*Transportation: Transportation wasn’t necessarily convenient or terribly comfortable. Horseback riding was functional, but for long periods of time over great distances is exhausting and full of plot-enhancing dangers and challenges. Stagecoach travel was cramped, dirty/dusty, really hot/really cold, and could be dangerous. It lacked privacy that women need. Obtaining a decent meal could be an on-going problem. Generally, stage travel was a grueling test of endurance.

Just imagine, the heroine might be kidnapped by a drop-dead handsome train robber or find herself stranded on the Texas prairie with nothing but a scoundrel of a gambler as her companion along with the one surviving horse from the stagecoach team after the Comanche attack.

Traveling by train was limited to where the tracks were laid, and it shared many of the same drawbacks as stage travel, plus the additional discomfort of soot and cinders coming into the passenger cars. Little sleeping privacy or comfort. The food wasn't the greatest or even available at times.

 *Contraception: Without our modern-day contraceptives, the possibility of pregnancy looms in historical stories as an ever-present consequence of a romantic dalliance. This is a great plot device for building the emotional tension between the hero and heroine. Fear of out-of-wedlock pregnancy and the real threat of dying in childbirth both add another layer of anxiety to the romantic relationship.
*Medicine: Sophisticated antibiotics as we know them were virtually nonexistent back in the ‘olden days’, which makes the recovery difficult and, sometimes, the character’s very survival tenuous given the physical torture/wounds/injuries we, as authors, inflict upon them. Lack of modern day pain killers and antibiotics makes the situation all that more dire for the hero when the female doctor extracts the arrow from his thigh.

Gladstone doctor's bag
puuikibeach, Gladstone bag made of ox leather, CC BY 2.0

As I don’t send a newsletter, you might consider following me on these social media venues:

Until next time,

Kaye Spencer
Writing through history one romance upon a time

NOTE: Images, other than Gladstone bag, are courtesy - author purchased license to use


  1. Great post, Kaye! All of this rings true for me too. I always enjoy your work for the reasons you mentioned. I love your attention to detail!

  2. Cheryl,

    The challenge to overcome the non-contemporary obstacles can be daunting at times, but it's a fun ride along the way.


Thank you for visiting Sweethearts of the West! We are very sad to require comment moderation now due to the actions of a few spam comments. Thank you for your patience.