I’ve been doing a lot of reading recently and one thing I’m beginning to notice more and more in the world of gay historicals is that some books are seeming very familiar.
It’s a bit of a worrying trend, and while it’s not “wrong” per se, it’s not exactly something I’m keen about, and something I really hope doesn’t continue.
What seems to be happening is, as writers think “what shall I write next?” or “I’d like to write gay historicals, but what about?” some are taking pre-existing ideas and simply converting it to “the gay.”
This impatience with this trend has been growing in me for a while, and it reached a head this week when I was reading “Checkmate” which is about gay musketeers. Now – if I had tackled this subject, I’d be very conscious of the huge fanbase of the Dumas books and the great (and the not so great films). I think I’d probably write about one musketeer, on the fringes perhaps, who meets someone in the course of his duties–defnitely being careful not to take more than “he’s a musketeer” from the era. But what the authors of this book have done is to have – no surprise – THREE musketeers who meet another man who (shock) isn’t a musketeer. The three amigos are hard drinking, hard shagging types too – and one of them has a Dark Past™. Sounds familiar?
Now, while I haven’t read further than that, and I’m pretty sure that the plot won’t include the Queen’s necklace, the Duke of Buckingham and a mysterious ex-boyfriend of the musketeer with a Dark Past™ with a fleur-de-lys tattoo, you can’t be too sure…
What I’m saying is that no book is original, unless you are some kind of mega genius, and within the Romance genre it’s pretty hard to do something that hasn’t been done before. If you are writing hetero-romance, particularly historical hetero-romance then it doesn’t matter what era you choose, Vikings, Romans, Pirates, Civil War – it’s all be done before. But it doesn’t mean that you take “Gone With The Wind” and make your book about a feisty southern anti-heroine who has a crush on a man she can never have and gets married a bazillion times before finding the man she truly loves only to lose him. Or in the case of gay historicals that you take GWTW and simply keep the main plot but make it gay.
I know that this sounds obvious, but as I say, I see more and more of it. Without naming more names and offending more people, I’ve seen almost direct copies of films and books galore (including The Gay Witness, a contemporary book I reviewed for Jessewave recently) and it makes me a little sad.
Look – I’m not saying that any of my books are original. Standish is probably stuffed full of images and tropes etc that have stuffed themselves into my head during my life. Every Gainsborough film, every Austen book, every historical mini series, I’ve probably taken aspects from them and put them into the book. There’s a duel in the Bois de Bologne, complete with a misty dawn and horses clinking their bits. There’s Venice and love in gondolas. Transgressions has star-crossed lovers who end up on different sides in a Civil War. Familiar aspects, yes – but the over-arching storyline is mine.
After all, people don’t write “The Straight Charioteer” do they?