Pat here, pulling a question from Ye Old Wench Question Basket. Kathy Blush is the winner of a recent Patricia Rice book for asking: As an author, is it more satisfying/challenging to create a story that is based in your own "reality" (i.e., region where you live/grew up, current times, etc.) or one that is based completely outside your personal realm (i.e., fantasy, historical, etc.)?
Fun question and one requiring my thinking cap! I’ve written contemporary romance, historical romance, books that border on fantasy with magical and super humans, and I’m also playing with books that are pure urban fantasy with mythical creatures.
And I think the basic answer to your question is that each book contains some part of my own reality, but most of the books are the world inside my head—and I’m not certain that’s real or even sane!
Historicals, obviously, are based in true history. I can take a piece of the past that interests me and research and form a book around it. I can visit the area I’m writing about, use authentic characters, and do everything possible to ground my romance in the real world, but it’s still fiction. Every iota beyond those tidbits of history comes from me saying “What if…” I love the research, but I love the freedom of letting creativity roam, too.
The closest I’ve ever come to writing “what I know” was the Carolina contemporaries (http://www.awriterswork.com/rice_patricia/rice_patricia.asp). I loved being able to write about contemporary people and problems and the beauty of the area I lived in. It was fun driving down the road and saying “that’s where that scene took place.” And research made a wonderful excuse to go to the beach! But in a way, those were probably the most challenging books I’ve written. They were modern fantasies about cartoon artists and archeologists and movie stars meeting everyday folk, but the contemporary world I grounded them in changes daily. The topics I wrote about then were old news by the time the books were published. Romance doesn’t change, but technology creates iPads and ebook readers and 3D televisions faster than I can write! I’ve been reading over books I wrote a decade ago, as I put them up in digital format (they’re available on Kindle and B&N now), and I’m amazed at how the world has changed since I wrote them. But people and love always remain steadfast, thank heavens!
I write romance for the fun and joy of falling in love over and over again. But in the contemporaries, I wanted to play with the realities of the times just as I do with the historicals. While it’s possible to write a book about people on the moon, readers need some connection to those people. We need a reality that we recognize, whether it’s the characters, their emotions or interactions, or the setting. So my contemporaries included people losing their jobs, getting divorced, falling in with the wrong crowd… Anything that worked within the story. Those topics are close to the heart but no different than the problems people suffered two hundred years ago. It’s just easier to make people believe the fantasy of a lonely spinster marrying an earl than an ex-con marrying a wealthy cartoon artist!
So I think each type of story has its own level of reality—historicals are steeped in history, contemporaries in real people and settings, and urban fantasy probably in injustice and other social topics. Each one offers a different opportunity to stretch creative wings.
Those of you who write, am I coming close to how you look at it? And for readers, how grounded in reality do you want your books? You don’t have to stick to romance. We read everything here!
And as a PS: my Magic series ebooks will be pulled from the stores by the first of January so they can be reissued in print and with new covers. It may be years before the whole set is available again, so if you're missing a volume, buy now! http://www.bookviewcafe.com/index.php/Patricia-Rice/Novels/ Those were books set against a historical period, and I even tried to make the "magic" scientific!