by Christine Wells
At a recent writers' festival where Anna Campbell and I sat on a panel about historical fiction, a man in the audience asked us what was the appeal of Regency-set historical romance. Anna instantly quipped: "Men in Boots".
Now, of course that was a (largely) flippant reply, but I will be the first to admit it is part of the appeal.
Having heard from wonderful writers like Jenny Crusie and Anne Gracie how effective collaging has been for their creative thought processes, I gave it a try for The Dangerous Duke. I'm not sure I have the hang of it yet, but it certainly helped capture the mood of the story. I'd look at the chart I'd made and fall into that world--a welcome change from staring at a blank page.
I often envy contemporary writers their ability to walk into a thrift shop or somewhere and say 'oh, that's the jacket my heroine wears in the first scene'. You can touch the fabric, try it on to see how it would fit across someone's shoulders. As an historical writer you can't do things like that so easily, unless you live near collections of period garments or stately houses. I should be so lucky!
Finding pictures of Men in Boots for my collages is a challenge. I want men who look like they could be a hero in my novel, or even a villain. The typical male model you see in magazines is tanned and muscled from gym workouts which sculpt him into a different shape from an English aristocrat of the Regency era, no matter how much riding, fencing, manual labor, etc the aristocrat might have done. And let's face it, many models, however gorgeous, have absolutely nothing going on behind their eyes. They don't project the sort of personality you want in a hero.
Usually, I look for actors in period dramas for my collage heroes. And thanks to the resurgence of Austen and Bronte adaptations, there's an increasing number of images to be found.
Most often these men don't really look like my hero at all. There might be an expression, an aura, a tilt of the head that's just right, however, and that's enough.
If you're a writer, have you tried collaging? How has it worked for you? If you're a reader, who would you cast as hero in your favourite romance? URLs if possible, please, so we can check them out--ahem, I mean judge whether they are of the right calibre for heroes in a romance.
One random winner will score chocolate and a signed copy of The Dangerous Duke.