The six authors of Risky Regency romance give Rakehell the scoop on traditionals, historicals, and why they do what they do…
Interview: Risky Regency Ladies
by Cybil Solyn
Rakehell.com was launched in 1998 to create an online community to support the Regency genre – especially Traditionals. Now with Zebra closing their trad line and Signet fast on their heels, I've been horrified by the sudden truth to the rumors that "The Regency is dead." I've been very open about my feelings on this subject, and have launched "Traditional Corner" to support the genre. But it would seem I am not alone in my mission to save the Trad, and support the Regency genre online. The six Risky Regency ladies, all Traditional Regency authors, have joined forces to create a blog called "Risky Regencies" about all things Regency. I was lucky enough to get an interview with the ladies themselves: Megan Frampton, Amanda McCabe, Lauire Bishop, Cara King, and Elena Greene, and Janet Mullany…
Q: What inspired the creation of this blog?
ELENA: A group of us met at this summer's RWA conference in Reno, and discovered we shared both a passion for the Regency setting along with the desire to create stories that explored new or unusual facets of the Regency, or dealt with popular elements in a fresh way. Although we haven't set our sights on the daunting task of saving the traditional Regency genre, we are trying to create a community where we could celebrate the things we love most about the Regency and find ways we can continue to enjoy them.
Q: Whose idea was it?
JANET: I'm not really sure. Megan and I had talked to each other in a vague sort of way about doing some cross-marketing and then I met Elena Greene in Reno and introduced myself as the writer of a filthy regency and she told me she had sex in hers too, but I think Megan suggested a blog, and I said fine, great, let's do it, and meanwhile she'd been talking to the others so it sort of crystallized. We all had books coming out at about the same time so it seemed natural to pool our resources.
Q: I can probably guess, but why Risky Regencies?
CARA: We talked about what our Regencies had in common, and what they didn't. Janet and Elena's recent releases were both very sexy, but not all of our books were, so it didn't make sense to call it ”Sexy Regencies” or anything like that. We realized we were all writing Regencies that were in some way or other risky. Janet's DEDICATION, for example, pushed the envelope as far as sex in a traditional Regency, and my heroine in MY LADY GAMESTER is so fierce and driven that some readers are taken aback by her. These are very different books, but both risky in some way.
Q: And finally, why you six?
ELENA: Well, five of us who were at RWA National started it, and we invited Laurie to join in, since some of us knew her from before and knew she would be another unique voice in our discussions.
LAURIE: I was so pleased to be invited I never asked why!
Q: What do you think separates a Regency romance from a Traditional Regency romance?
LAURIE: I think there are four main factors.
- Setting is paramount in a traditional. It is very important to make the reader feel he or she is in that place and time. Given that we pay attention to detail. While setting is important in a historical, it doesn't need to be as omnipresent, depending on the style and choice of the author.
- In traditional Regencies we are expected to be true to the way things were--attitudes, social norms, daily life. That doesn't mean our characters cannot be different, but we must be very careful to motivate them, and the characters must play within the rules or face the consequences of violating them. A historical can choose from a variety of tones, from that of a detailed historical novel to a more fantasy oriented story. Again, the historical has more range.
- A traditional Regency is more of a mental play between the hero and heroine as shown in active dialog and interaction. It includes sensuality, but not necessarily sex "on stage". A historical engages the physical relationship more as a rule.
- In traditionals, the characters tend to be upper class or nobility, playing out their stories in estate country houses, London, Brighton, and Bath, etc. Historicals are broader in scope, more likely to contain characters of different classes and thus open to different situations. Although traditional Regencies have been pushing the boundaries, they are not yet simply "short historicals." Historicals of course have length--more room for plot elements and development.
ELENA: True, but one could argue that Traditional Regency romances are always "sweet" (the bedroom door discreetly closed), but beloved authors like Mary Balogh have been breaking that taboo for years. One could also argue that Traditional Regencies are more accurate to the time period, which is sometimes true but does disservice to the multitude of excellent longer Regency-set historical romances whose authors often do diligent research. It may be that in a Traditional Regency romance, the Regency setting becomes rather like a character in itself. But in the end, that's yet another irritating generalization. Perhaps it really is just the length and the packaging.
MEGAN: Well, for me, it's the difference between depth of plot and making certain assumptions about your readers' level of knowledge. I think traditionals rely more on the manners of the times, not necessarily the do-or-die plots, and I think the readers know exactly what the manners of the times were.
AMANDA: In a trad, often the manners and mores of the times have more of an impact on the relationship than in many longer regency-set books. also, there is the obvious factor of the length. Trad authors have to be masters of having enough plot to be interesting but not too much so the story seems rushed. Some people think sensuality levels set them apart, but I don't think is true any longer. Many of our "risky" regencies feature sex, either explicit or implied.
CARA: As a long-time traditional Regency reader, and I've seen the genre change and ebb and flow, from the origins with Austen, Heyer, and Cartland, to the beginning hints of an actual genre in the 1960's, through all the changes, booms, and busts in the 1970's, 1980's and 1990's, to today. Regency has from the outset been a remarkably elastic genre, and has always defied rigid rules. So in my opinion, it comes down to the readers. The readers of traditional Regencies want stories that do not insult their intelligence, written with an understanding of the period and a love of the English language--so that's what Regencies have always been. Everything else can vary--traditional Regencies have been short or long, sexy or sweet, funny or angsty (or both), set everywhere from the United States to Russia, but they've always been aimed at an intelligent reader who loves books and enjoys reading about another world.
Q: Laurie, do you feel that this line is changing? When you wrote your first published book "The Best Laid Plans" were the rules for trads
different than when you wrote your last book "When Horses Fly"?
LAURIE: My first book was edited by Hilary Ross, the "Queen" of the traditional Regency. She developed the Regency line at Signet. She retired, and I have since been edited by several different editors--all very good, but I do feel that the focus changed slightly to allow for a more adventurous approach to writing the Regency.
Q: Amanda, I think of your group, you have been penning trads the longest, and with "Lady Midnight" you got to try on one of Signets
new sexy Eclipse covers. What are your feelings and ideas on the
Amanda: I'm sad that the trad lines are ending, of course--I've been reading these books since I was about 10 years old, and I love them dearly. But I definitely think the regency-set book is going nowhere--it's here to stay. People love the period, and the line between trads and historicals have been blurred more and more lately, so I know I'm not losing the period and authors I love. :) I do think historicals in general are going through an "evolving" period. I'm not sure where it will end up, but I'm fascinated to watch (and take part in) the process!
Q: Megan and Cara, you both are newly published traditional authors. What was it like to hear that the trad lines were fading?
MEGAN: It's disappointing, certainly, but where one door closes another opens--hopefully, our next door will open wider, and with more money, than the traditional door.
CARA: The traditional Regency genre has gone through booms and busts before--heck, I remember Dell Candlelight Regencies, and Playboy Press Regencies, way back before either Signet or Zebra even started their Regency lines! It's true, though, the the genre has never before hit a bust quite this extensive. As a reader and an author I think it's tragic--I don't think there's any other type of book quite like a Regency--but I don't give up hope easily! Only a few years ago, the paranormal romance genre was given last rites, wept over, and buried, and now it's the hottest thing in town. Could the traditional Regency genre boom again? It was a huge part of the romance market for decades, so I wouldn't bet against it!
Q: Janet, your first novel, Dedication, has met with excellent reviews. Where does a trad author with one well-received book under her belt
JANET: I've never thought of myself as a trad author--I wrote "Dedication" as a single-title--and I must admit I'm a bit surprised to be published as such. I do care passionately about the language in historicals, so I suppose that puts me in the trad camp by my own definition. I want my characters to sound right and to evoke a different world; I hate reading historicals where the hero and heroine are like Mr. and Ms. Yuppie American in fancy dress. My tottering pile of mss. includes a fairly dark and erotic regency-set historical with a servant as hero--I find the whole issue of upward mobility and class differences fascinating; one and a half regency-set erotic novellas; and some totally brainless funny stuff I refer to as the regency chick-lit. The latter, by the way, has no overt sex, but a hugely sensual undercurrent. I have excerpts on my website, www.janetmullany.com. So, yes, I plan to stay in the regency period but going well beyond the realm of the drawing room and the comedy of manners, not that I was ever there in the first place. I also find the English civil war period fascinating.
Q: Elena, you have two trads published and your most recent was "Lady
Dearing's Masquerade" a Super Regency from Signet. Was there any
difference in the Super Regency from your other trads?
ELENA: Actually, I've had six trads published, the first three with Zebra. As far the Super Regency, I liked the greater length and used it to develop greater angst and sensuality in the story. Both the hero and heroine are widowed and suffering from the effects of bad first marriages. The plot also involves children from London's Foundling Hospital, so there are some elements of grim reality in the story. It was my hope that the warmth of the relationships would keep the story from becoming too dark--and from the reviews so far, I think I succeeded!
Q: What's your take on the Traditional market?
ELENA: Regarding the current market for trads, I have to admit the outlook is bleak. I'm afraid that the readership for what I'd call the "cozy" traditional (sweet, focused on comedy of manners, London Season type stories) has been shrinking. This is not to disparage the "cozy" Regency--I can think of no better comfort read! But I also enjoy varied stories that might include sex, angst, paranormal elements, and/or unusual occupations or settings. I suspect there are readers out there who would have liked more variety, but since almost all trads have been similarly packaged, in terms of titles and covers, the genre suffers a stigma of too much sameness. Fortunately there are still wonderful Regency-set historical romances to enjoy.
Thank you all for your invaluable insights.
Q: I have followed the Risky Regencies blog for a while now. As far as I can tell pretty much anything Regency-ish goes. From your latest books and Christmas wish-lists, to Regency set movies and interesting bits of research you have come across. What gets posted and how do you decide who posts?
MEGAN: We each take a day, with a free-for-all day or an interview. We don't vet our posts with each other before posting, so our reactions to the posts are fresh and, hopefully, fun.
CARA: We also pay attention to the comments that readers leave on the blog. For example, if posts about hunky Jane Austen actors (such as Jeremy Northam, who is so gorgeous that Janet must be insane not to see it) draw a lot of discussion, we will post more on the topic. If posts about terrible covers get readers interested, we'll show more ugly covers, and keep the discussion going. We're also open to suggestions about topics--if you have an idea, just give us a comment on our blog, and tell us what you want us to talk about, and we'll be happy to oblige!
Q: What has the response from fans and readers been like to the blog?
AMANDA: Very positive, as far as I can see! people love to read about and discuss "regency-ish" things, especially with the movies coming out recently, and our hits are increasing. I really love having a fun place to go and talk about "our" period, since I have few "writing friends" who live near me and thus need to get my fix online!
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
LAURIE: We are all saddened by the fading of the Regency, but these things are all cyclic, and I am convinced the traditional Regency will be back. And do keep in mind that it is alive and well overseas! So, I can only add that as the tide goes out, it must come in again.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with Rakehell.
RISKY REGENCIES: Thank you so much for inviting us!
Please visit the Risky Regency Ladies at http://riskyregencies.blogspot.com/