Apparently, and completely unbeknownst to me, as well as my fellow historical romance writers and thousands of readers around the world, historical romances are "dead." Or thus sayeth one writer at a conference. And so comes the hand-wringing and cries of despair.
Now, are historical romances the flavor du jour among romance readers? Are they getting lots of buzz?
Are they the new "hot" thing in romance, so romance publishers are falling all over themselves to buy, buy, buy?
Are they selling at all? Are they making bestseller lists?
Are they selling in the numbers they used to?
Based on the number of authors deserting the genre, I think not.
But does that mean historicals are "dead?"
Well, somebody's buying all those historicals on the USA Today list, so I think it's a bit premature for anybody to pronounce my sub-genre "dead."
What I would say, though, is that historicals are FUTR (flying under the radar), at least for now.
But I honestly don't believe the genre will ever be completely "dead," and here's why:
Historical romances are the Lincoln Logs of the romance world. (Lincoln Logs are small wooden logs you can use to make little cabins, etc. My grandmother had them for us to play with; my niece delighted me by giving me a set last Christmas.) Lincoln Logs aren't as flashy as some of the new toys. They don't make noises or talk or have flashing lights.
What they are, though, is timeless. Classic.
As with Lincoln Logs and toys, romance trends may come and go, but for many readers, knights, castles, pirates, ships, balls and carriages and gowns are romance.
I also believe much of the perception that historicals are dying is based on the absence of an internet presence or chatter. If you were to go by the amount of talk about my books on blogs and message boards, yep, my books are deader than a twenty-year-old corpse on CSI.
But that's only on the internet. I suspect most of my readers, and historical romance readers in general, don't spend a lot of leisure time at their computers discussing their reading preferences. They know what they like, they buy it, end of story.
Or maybe I'm just in serious denial, fiddling while Rome burns. Maybe my readers will all decide, en masse, to abandon my historicals for those new kids on the block -- brooding vampires or Navy SEALs.
However, if that's the case, I still think it will only mean the death of Margaret Moore historicals, not the genre in general.
What will it take to "revive" the genre? Well, let me say here and now that I find the notion that it's only going to take one "super" historical to suddenly enliven the market quite insulting. Are my books and those of my fellow historical authors currently being published responsible for the downturn? Do all our books stink? I certainly don't think so, but that's what that notion implies to me.
What it will take is a combination of factors, the most nebulous and unpredictable being the mood of the buying public. It's like trying to build a bonfire: if you don't have tinder, kindling and the right configuration of logs, no number of matches will make it burn. But if you do? Bingo. Unfortunately, nobody can predict the future and what will affect the mood of the buying public.
That means publishers can only go by what's sold well recently, which explains the number of Regency-set romances available now.
So what's an author to do? In my case, I put on the blinkers and write what I like. If I don't make lists or one day can't sell books anymore because of my choices, so be it.
But that's only my books, and my sales, based on my choices. Historical romances were around before I started writing, and I honestly believe they'll be published long after I've stopped.