by Christine Lindsay
The British are coming! They said this when the Beatles arrived in New York, and they’re saying it again with the recent success of Downton Abbey. Recently an editor of one of the largest US publishing houses says to expect the British invasion in the Christian world of fiction. With my series Twilight of the British Raj set during England’s colonial rule of India, I love hearing this news.
But can I risk my writing career on this marketing forecast?
The western romance still reigns. My books about Indian women clad in silk saris, or Englishwomen serving cucumber sandwiches in flower laden gardens in British India have been in competition with gals traveling out to the Wild West by stagecoach.
It doesn’t matter that my English heroine in Shadowed in Silk must tuck a revolver into her handbag while she goes to the market. It doesn’t matter than my spunky heroine in Captured by Moonlight slips a bag of snakes into a room to scare off some baddies. A book set in eastern locals is a tough sell in America.
And my heroes in British military regalia, bearing Lee-Enfield rifles, and riding their cavalry steeds to war have been put in direct competition with cowboys and ranches.
Now don’t get me wrong. I love ranches, and I love cowboys. My husband wore a cowboy hat the year we met. He still wears cowboy boots for dress shoes, even on the day our daughter got married. I love a good western romance, but I also like to read about British heroes.
But I pay attention to polls that ask readers what kind of heroes they like. Much of the time readers prefer the American hero wearing denim jeans and flannel shirt with the big old Stetson. Makes sense, I too swoon over that kind of hero. But I also like a hero who speaks with a British accent from an upper crust English school, and whose stiff upper lip keeps his smouldering emotions in tight check.
They say write what you know. And while I dearly love my cowboy-boot-clad hubby, as far as literature goes-I know the British hero better. Being born in Northern Ireland and living most of my life in Canada, I can write from the English or Irish mindset. I wouldn’t dream of writing a novel set in the US South or Texas. The fine differences in speech and culture would trip me up in no time, and readers would discern in no time that I didn’t know what I was talking about.
And I can write about British locals because those stories have flowed through my blood, thanks to my ancestors.
Even though it’s been a challenge to interest readers in a strikingly different setting, I am seeing a growing interest. I think it boils down to authenticity. I’m writing what I know well-not only from stories my family has passed down, but from reams of research.
Gradually a niche is opening up in the market. Readers are starting to discover the subtle differences to an English hero, and finding him as alluring and honorable as the American. Readers are starting to discover that the exotic setting of British colonies was as exciting as the Wild West.
Write what you know. The discerning reader can tell.
Irish-born Christine Lindsay writes award-winning historical novels. In Shadowed in Silk and Captured by Moonlight, Christine delights in weaving the endless theme of the Heavenly Father’s redemptive love throughout stories of danger, suspense, adventure, and romance.
The Pacific coast of Canada, about 200 miles north of Seattle, is Christine’s home.