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04 July 2008

Confessions of an Historical Fiction Writer

My very first book of fiction (after 30+ years of technical writing/editing) was a real labor of love! Set in 12th century Spain, the “cities-of-light” era when Arabs, Jews, and Christians lived together in relative peace, this start-off project was the launch of a new career, I thought. Instead, it brought me to my knees.

Armed with how-to books (How To Write a Damn Good Novel and others), I “learned” my way through 400+ pages of a swashbuckling and adventurous love story with, I hoped, universal appeal. It’s the story of a young novice coming of age in 12th century Spain and the plot involves the Christian girl and a Saracen (Muslim) general who fall in love. At the end of the book they are wed.

I submitted it, unagented, to Harlequin Historicals editor Don A_____ who said he liked it and sent it up to the head editor with a recommendation to buy.

BUT that editor said she wouldn’t touch it. Her exact words were, “What? A Muslim-Christian marriage? It’s a hot potato I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole.”

Now this was in some ways understandable since that was the year Salmon Rushdie fled to London to escape a death threat from Muslims about his current book. Naturally, the Harlequin editor took serious note of the political atmosphere at the time and nixed my wonderful novel. [Of course I would have preferred to get it into print first and then flee to London, but...]

But the story has stuck with me for the last 13 years... and this September the sequel story, Templar Knight, Forbidden Bride, is coming out (To avoid the religious issue I made both hero and heroine Christian.)

And now I am moaning--if only I could now get the first book of the planned trilogy published!

To make this long struggly story short, over the years I have now rewritten that first book (titled Damascene Rose) twelve (12!) times in the process of learning craft.. Now it’s an even better book and, in my opinion, even more relevant to today’s world in light of current East-West squabbles.

BUT: I am quailing at the thought of submitting it again. Granted both editors involved have moved on. And when I researched Islamic law on intermarriage between Muslims and Christians, I found the following:

According to the Koran, a Muslim man can marry a Christian or Jewish [People of the Book] woman, providing that the woman is “proper.”

Even so, I came up with an alternate ending in which the hero/heroine do NOT wed, but instead flee together to Granada to live together in love and happiness. That will probably upset the Christians...

While old stories never die, their authors can fade away...

3 Comments:

Blogger Kalen Hughes said...

Well I sure wish they'd publish that first book! It sounds wonderful.

I think everyone I know has at least one book they love (or the idea for one) that is just too risky, out there, un-PC, whatever for their publisher to take a risk on. :(

9:02 PM  
Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

What a pity, Lynna. That first book sounds wonderful, set in a fabulous era about which all too little is generally known. But congratulations on getting the second one out there this September.

It's so odd, what will and won't be risked. 7 years ago there was consternation in the (editorial) suites over a very mild male homoerotic vibe in my Almost a Gentleman.

7:39 AM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Like Pam, I'm constantly surprised at the things that are deemed envelope pushing in books. But those same books tend to get a lot of buzz when they finally are published. Do send the book out again, Lynna--it's the only way it will find a home, and I want to read it!

9:48 PM  

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