Losing the History and Sticking With Romance by Anna Belfrage
I’m going to come right out and admit it: the reason I write is because it allows me to indulge the huge romantic streak within, the one that has me sighing happily whenever true love overcomes whatever obstacles crosses its path. This doesn’t mean that I necessarily write 100% pure romances – you see, I get distracted by the historical setting, by the political scene of whatever time I am writing about. It is called context, and it is massively fun and elucidating to research and write. It is also essential when writing historical fiction as people read historical fiction to be transported back in time. Ergo, if you’re writing a love story set in the 14th century then you need not only to get the love and kisses right, you also need to do so without dressing Mr Hero in anachronistic clothes or allowing Ms Heroine to walk about with her hair uncovered and a revealing décolletage—unless Ms Heroine is a lady of the night, of course, in which case I’d suggest you dress her in yellow.
I love history. I love well-written historical fiction. I cringe at historical novels that have people peeling potatoes in 11th century Ireland or lounging on a sofa in the 13th. That beautifully written historical romance, with the beautifully depicted protagonists, loses some of its glow if the context is incorrect. I suppose that may just be me, but incorrect historical facts yank me out of the story so fast I end up gasping like a landed trout. Not a pleasant experience…
So far, I have mostly stuck with combining my romantic streak with my passion for history. Yes, I’ve added a titillating angle in my first series, The Graham Saga, by making one of the protagonists a most reluctant time traveler. Well, she is until she meets Matthew Graham, the man destined to be her other half no matter that they were born three centuries apart.
However: while writing books set in the 17th century, books set in the 14th century, polishing a Work in Progress set in the 13th century, I have all the time been working on a different project. One where romance and suspense takes over from romance and history. All told, I’ve invested twelve years in this particular story, so obviously I must feel it is very good—or important (to me).
It all began with lions. Yes, yes, I can hear you going “Qué?”
It did. It began with these vague images of a young girl with the most amazing set of blonde curls running barefoot somewhere very hot. Red dust rose in her wake, the shapeless linen garment billowed around her as she ran and ran, accompanied by three half-grown lionesses. Very strange. Even stranger was that when I saw that same girl as an adult, that head of curls was tamed in a short edgy haircut, her toned legs encased in black jeans. Plus she was in London and to judge from her attire and the laptop she was carrying, she was a busy something in a financial environment.
Obviously, I had something of a dilemma on my hands. How was I to marry those images of the running child in old-fashioned clothes with this high-flying professional? How to create a plausible context in which lions ran with the girl without snacking on her?
“Plausible context?” Helle Madsen looks at me over her laptop and grins. “Good luck with that one.”
I actually think I have found a good backstory. Helle can’t express an opinion. You see, she doesn’t remember. Nope, she has no memories of her first and very distant life in which her only friends were those three lions—until the day Jason made his first appearance in her life.
“Ah, yes.” Jason smiles, those copper-coloured eyes of his lighting up. “She was for once silent and neat—not as much as a smudge on her garments, not a single wayward curl escaping her heavy braid—standing some feet behind her father. Such a pretty little girl. Such a lonely little girl.”
“I was?” Helle asked, sounding intrigued. “And how would you know?”
Jason just smiles and winks at me. You see, Jason does remember—all of it. And I can tell you that while he is more than happy at having found his Helle again after spending fifty lives or so looking for her, he sincerely hopes his presence won’t nudge all her dormant memories to live. After all, there’s a reason he’s been tumbling through time desperately searching for her and hoping to make amends…
Things are further spiced up by my third reincarnated character, gorgeous but dangerous Sam Woolf. Jason would tell you everything that happened in that first life was Woolf’s fault. So would Helle—if she remembered. So would Woolf. Thing is, he doesn’t care: he set out to destroy them last time round and hopes to finalise that particular task this time round.
So, peeps, how does that sound? Whatever your opinion, I think we can all agree on the fact that this does not qualify as historical fiction, and this in itself leaves me somewhat out of breath. I like staying in my comfort zone. I enjoy the structure recreating a historical setting gives to my stories. Building a framework in a contemporary setting is vastly different from when you’re writing a historical, but one thing does not change: no matter what time you’re writing about, it is the characters who carry the story. Will Jason and Helle be able to carry their story all the way through? Well, IMO they most certainly do. I hope my readers will think so as well!
Had Anna Belfrage been allowed to choose, she’d have become a professional time-traveller. As such a profession does not exist, she became a financial professional with two absorbing interests, namely history and writing.
Anna has authored the award-winning series The King’s Greatest Enemy, a series set in the 1320s featuring Adam de Guirande, his wife Kit, and their adventures and misfortunes in connection with Roger Mortimer’s rise to power.
When Anna is not stuck in the 14th century, she's probably visiting in the 17th century, specifically with Alex(andra) and Matthew Graham, the protagonists of the acclaimed The Graham Saga. This is the story of two people who should never have met – not when she was born three centuries after him.
At present, Anna is working on the third instalment of the series featuring Jason and Helle – a mixture of time-slip, suspense and burning passion. A lot of burning passion…
Anna’s books have won multiple awards among which feature numerous Historical Novel Society’s Editor’ Choice, various medals with Readers’ Favorite and an IPPY Award. She has also contributed to several short-story collections.