Through the years, I have published three historical novels – slightly unconventional ones, perhaps, but still. And I’ve had six plays staged, five of which are set at some point in the past.
And at every launch, at every book signing, at every performance, some well-meaning soul turns out with The Question: why don’t I write something contemporary? And the funny thing is, they usually mean it as a compliment.
As though writing historicals were some sort of second best, ‘prentice work I’ll have to outgrow, sooner or later. Oh, what a lovely book/play. You are ready now, dear girl. You can go on to write something serious…
And nine times out of ten, it is perfectly pointless to say that I am writing what I want to write, thank you very much. Or that it’s not that I cannot write present-day – it’s just that I don’t like it all that much.
After all, I write historicals for a reason. Several reasons, actually: the difficult task of really grasping past events, a fascination with the things we don’t know anymore, the way legends, clichés and literature grow layer after layer, the pull of century-old lies, the constant tension between period-ness and interpretation… All of which, you’ll agree, is better explored by writing historical fiction.
So, it seems to me that I know what I am doing – and why I do it – but no. Let it be publicly known that I write historicals, and someone is bound to ask: why, why, oh why, don’t I write something contemporary?
Well, maybe because I don’t care to? Because I don’t feel I have much to say or tell in a contemporary setting? Because I’m better at other things?
And I’m not saying I’ll never do it. Apart from the fact that writers have been known to change their minds, I’m never averse to dabbling with genres outside my own, trying something different. Stepping (cautiously) out of my comfort zone… So, who can tell what the future will hold?
Meanwhile, though, nothing contemporary, thank you – and no sugar.