Tuesday, May 3, 2011
The Ups and Downs of Writing Historical Fantasy
I've been pondering this lately because my work in progress is an historical fantasy that takes place in the context of ancient Egyptian culture, religion, and magic. I wonder where my novel will be shelved if (God willing) it gets published. It's heavily historical, but it's also heavily magical and supernatural.
Historical fantasy is such a vague label. Stephanie Dray's novel Lily of the Nile is historical fantasy, and so is Guy Gavriel Kay's Tigana. Dray's novel is in the Fiction and Literature section, while Kay's is in the Fantasy and Science Fiction section.
I don't like the broad nature of the Fiction and Literature section of many bookstores (yeah, I'm lookin' at you, B&N). It contains such a broad range of fiction, from classics to historical to contemporary to just about any other kind of fiction--even some fantasy! How on earth do they determine what goes where? Does the publisher tell them where it should be shelved? I should probably learn this before I submit to agents so I know as much about the publishing industry as possible.
I really enjoy writing my historical fantasy novel, wherever it may end up in the store. In some ways it's harder than writing a straight-up historical novel. You have to blend the history and fantasy seamlessly. I'm following the rules of ancient Egyptian heka (magic) and religion as closely as possible. Of course, in order to make a realistic novel I do have to break out on my own and make stuff up. Historical fantasy is difficult to write, but it's so much fun.