Saturday, February 21, 2009

Time to Change the Marquee

The market research poll has been closed for a few days now and I've had some time to digest the results and the many comments left here and over at Historical Fiction Online. First, let me say thank you to all my regular readers and to those who traveled here from other sites in order to vote. One hundred readers participated! It's really useful to have such a broad sample to base a discussion on. Special thanks to Lucy Pick and Sarah Johnson and to anyone else who directed their readers to the survey, as well as to all those who responded to my announcement on the HFOnline and Absolute Write Historical Fiction forums.

Here are the final numbers:

52 readers (52%) said they buy hf by a new author based on their interest in the era or setting;

34 readers (34%) said they base their purchase on the promise of an intriguing plot, whether or not the book features "marquee names";

11 readers (11%) buy solely on their recognition of/interest in an historical main character;

3 readers (3%) buy based on the book's peripherals: cover art, title, author blurbs.

The evidence is overwhelming: it matters to only 11% of historical fiction readers that the main character(s) be names/personalities they recognize from history. Yet more and more, authors on submission hear that editors are only interested in acquiring manuscripts that feature "marquee names." Even established authors are "encouraged" to follow the trend. Why?

Before examining this question, I'd like to highlight various comments voters made about their choices. It is important to recognize that the divisions between my four choices were necessarily more absolute than they are in real life. Many commenters pointed that a combination of factors influences their decisions. When interpreting the data, therefore, it is important to keep in mind that it is the entire "package"--setting, plot, characters and peripherals--that influences a reader to buy a new book. Nevertheless, it is interesting to see which of the four factors readers care most about in an absolute sense and why.

Peripherals

Covers, as we've discussed elsewhere on this blog, matter greatly to readers, especially in the initial impulse to examine a book. In the case of historical fiction, covers must not only designate the book as "historical fiction" but present clues about the book's setting and era. Potential readers search out covers that correspond most closely to eras or settings that interest them. I know I myself look for artwork or lettering that signals "Renaissance Europe" when I browse in a bookstore. Conversely, covers provide an easy way to weed out time periods or locations in which a reader has no interest. One reader remarked that, in complete opposition to current cover trends, she specifically avoids covers that feature a woman in a beautiful gown dated between 1500-1900. 

Several readers noted the importance recommendations by established authors play in their decision to purchase a book by a debut author. To these readers, blurbs from well-known authors assure a certain standard of writing and guarantee that the purchase of a debut book won't be regretted. Others emphasized that reviews or recommendations from trusted readers, choices not specifically mentioned in the survey, play a very important role in their assessment of a new novel.

Characters

One reader remarked that she is for the most part interested "in people who actually lived and breathed"; another said that although the characters don't have to be well-known historical figures, she does prefer her fiction to be about historical people. Someone remarked that if the book is about a real person, she wants to read about an unknown aspect of that person's life, an original take on the standard version of the character. Other readers remarked that the more they know about a historical character, the less likely they are to read the book, since any discrepancies or wild interpretations will annoy them too much. Another reader says she avoids any novel that reads like a fictionalized biography. Several readers said they do like historical personages to function as secondary characters in their novels. These token appearances of real people root the story in the time period and give a sheen of authenticity to the fictional characters. Most of the respondents, however, said it matters very little to them whether the characters are real or fictional. A couple of readers at HFOnline noted that they are tired of "novels about Henry VIII's wives, Lady Jane Grey, Mary, Queen of Scots and any other well-known Tudor era person!"

Plot

More than a third of the survey respondents say that it is the promise of an intriguing story that carries the day for them. The status of the characters and even the setting matter little if the story looks interesting. One reader said, "If I'm interested in the story, I'll read the book, no matter what." Another claimed, "[L]ike everyone else, I'm a sucker for a great plot." Maybe in a future post we can discuss how readers assess a plot with nothing more than the summary on the back cover of the book--what, exactly, do they look for? In any case, several commenters noted that although other factors contribute to their decision, they won't buy a book about an era or a character they're interested in if the story looks dull or overly familiar. It is also worth noting that many respondents claimed that it was hard to choose between plot and setting; although they ultimately voted to setting/era, plot was a very close second. The two choices are inextricably tied in many readers' minds, making the rejection of marquee names doubly strong.

Setting/Era

More than half the respondents replied that the setting/era is the most important factor in their decision to buy new historical fiction. Readers seem to have a favorite era/setting about which they'll read just about anything, or they have gaps in their knowledge of specific times or places and search for fiction to repair that lack. However, once a setting feels overused (based on comments, Tudor England is fast approaching this state), surfeited readers turn away. Unfortunately, despite the fact that so many readers chose setting/era, few left comments explaining why this factor was such a draw for them. I hope some voters will elaborate on their choice in the comments to this post below.

One reader made an interesting comment regarding setting/era: although she doesn't care about whether the characters themselves are marquee names, she does prefer fiction that depicts recognizable historical events (for example, the Great Fire of London or the storming of the Bastille). Building a story around a notable event can provide a hook, similar to that of the marquee name, compelling enough to draw potential readers in.

Conclusions

Both published authors and authors with historical fiction manuscripts on submission encounter a strong preference for marquee names among editors. One published author expressed his frustration: "The marquee factor is unfortunately hampering both published and unpublished hf writers; and it goes beyond that, into gender. It seems that unless it's about Henry VIII; you tie in a strong female POV; or you're Bernard Cornwall, male protoganists are not strong selling points in hf right now." The problem apparently doesn't stop at "fictional versus historical characters" but which subset of historical figures may rightfully claim the title of "marquee name." Yet, according to readers, centering historical fiction on a marquee name does little to entice them to read a book, and can, in fact, actively turn them away. Why, then, do editors feel that the presence of such characters is necessary for the success of an historical novel in today's market? 

I believe their conviction is little more than a reflection of society's current obsession with celebrity. Actors, sports figures, reality show contestants catapult to stardom because the public's desire to know every detail of their lives--a desire fed by the immediacy of today's media--keeps them in a constant spotlight. They become famous for being famous; whether or not merit they merit the attention, the public becomes fixated on their words, actions and appearance and read/watch/listen to/buy the products that record them. This naturally spills over into the world of book publishing. Tomes penned by celebrities crowd bookstore shelves after garnering huge advances--editors know these books will sell on the sole basis of the author's name, whether or not they are well-written. Perhaps the same promise of guaranteed sales lures editors of historical fiction. Readers of magazines and newspapers want nothing more than to follow the sordid shenanigans of celebrities--don't readers of historical fiction want the same? Unfortunately, this outlook reduces historical fiction to little more than dated scandal sheets.

Readers of historical fiction want more--much more. As one respondent said, "I'm interested in reading stories about the human condition with splashes of drama and trauma, not just about someone's past 'tabloid' life in particular." One of the aspects of historical fiction that draws readers to the genre is the depiction of the texture and complexities of past times and places that are so different from our own. Focusing on the scandals of a particular person often limits the focus and excludes much of this richness. Sometimes the best strategy for an author of historical fiction is to create fictional characters based on historical models but broadened to embody specific aspects of the cultural milieu. The author is not bound to the particular details of a single life but can draw on different sources to provide rich and varied possibilities to the reader. Theme rather than trivia takes center stage; the work illustrates the human condition, rather than one human's condition, at a specific moment in history. Time and place become characters in their own right, forces that shape destinies and determine the futures of nations and peoples. The genre's broad scope and attention to underlying philosophies is what appeals to many readers of historical fiction and what they look for in the novels they read. But they certainly won't find it if historical fiction becomes nothing more than celebrity biography packaged in an antiquated veneer. The question, I suppose, is how to let editors know what we, as readers, want. 

29 comments:

Ms. I said...

This was very interesting and I hope publisher/agents will read this. We are tired of the Tudors and we want something else :) Or maybe I'm just tired of the Tudors!

Ms. Lucy said...

What a great survey- and the information is totally relevant. It sis so true, as you say, 'historical fiction readers want so much more'. Thanks for this important survey and post!

lucyp said...

Interesting survey and thoughtful summary. I suspect editors think that if they can get good plot + interesting setting + marquee name, they attract every single HF reader. If they leave off marquee name (which is the least subjective catagory --- people who are famous, are famous, while my interesting setting and plot may be different from yours) they lose people they can't afford to lose.

If you want a novel that combines all four categories, may I recommend to your readers David Blixt's Master of Verona, which I just finished reading last night. Marquee name (Dante)! Great plot (astrology, battles, feuding cities and star-crossed lovers)! Great and little-used setting (medieval Italy)! And a cool cover.

Margaret Donsbach said...

This is such valuable information. Thank you for doing this, Juliana, and for your insightful commentary as well. It occurs to me that publishers may be aiming for a market that represents a cross-section of popular culture as a whole rather than for the true market for historical fiction. People who love to read, and in particular, people who love to read historical novels are thoughtful people who appreciate depth and ideas that challenge stereotypes. We like books that stimulate us to think and to feel something about what we're thinking.

You've posed a very interesting question about what readers look for in a setting/era. It might be one of those "I know it when I see it" things. But in thinking about my own favorite eras, I realize I look for time periods that give characters scope to act and think in ways my own society discourages. On the whole, our society has been quite shallow in recent decades, obsessed with material possessions and status. Too often, religion has been about adhering to a very specific dogma that excludes thoughtful spiritual exploration. I've been especially drawn to novels set in the pagan Celtic world, which emphasized a more mystical approach to spirituality. Many of these novels were also set during a time of transition between paganism and Christianity, allowing them to explore questions of how these approaches to spirituality differed. That's just one example, but this post is getting too long.

Thanks again, Julianne. I'm going to print out your post for future reference!

Catherine Delors said...

Thanks, Julianne, for summarizing the responses to a question that is of the utmost interest to readers and writers alike!

Yes, our celeb culture may have spilled over to HF editors. Who are you if you don't write about, say, Marie-Antoinette or Anne Boleyn?

The thing to remember is that in literature, there are no rules.

Julianne Douglas said...

Catherine--I hope you didn't take offense at anything I've said. I should amend my post to assure readers that I in no way disparage authors who do write about marquee names and do it in an artistic and thought-provoking manner. I only hope to broaden the field a bit about what's an "acceptable" subject and perhaps prompt editors to consider taking on more books with fictional characters or about lesser known people. You did a beautiful job in your novel by combining fictional characters with real people--that's probably the best strategy these days.

Julianne Douglas said...

Margaret--Thank you for your insightful comments. I, too, believe that exploring the "otherness" of past times and cultures is one of the main reasons readers turn to historical fiction. I guess that's why I get disappointed when hf novels focus too much on specific personalities--we are so bombarded with the "cult of the person" nowadays that I don't really want to spend my time reading books that idolize people from the past in the same way.

I don't have a lot of time now, but will post more thoughts on the importance of setting/era later...

Lucy--I do believe you're right. The marquee name hopes to attract readers who might not normally read hf, and eds have to try to hook the largest audience possible. I'll keep on trying until I hit a happy conjunction of all the factors, including names! Blixt's book has been on my tbr pile for a while now; I'll have to move it up. Thanks for the recommendation.

Keep the comments coming, everyone!

Shauna Roberts said...

Julianne, I read your post with great interest because my first novel, a historical set in ancient Mesopotamia, will becoming out within the next year. Thank you for doing this poll of readers. It gives me some clues to what to emphasize in my own marketing efforts.

Catherine Delors said...

Oh no, Julianne, you didn't offend me a bit. As you know, I never (so far) used a prominent character as a protagonist. Not that I think there is anything wrong with it, I simply don't feel like it. For my own novels I prefer protagonists that are ordinary people. I have prominent historical characters (Marie-Antoinette in Mistress, Napoleon in For The King) only make cameo appearances. I also greatly enjoy (as a reader) novels where a major historical figure is the protagonist. Again there are no rules.

What makes me more than a little mad is the set of artificial rules that are imposed on HF fiction writers, and therefore readers: sex scene mandatory, romance ditto, female protagonist must be a queen/princess/empress, no prominent male figure except Henry VIII. Where does this come from? It flies in the face of even good marketing. One of the major bestsellers in the HF genre was Aztec: male protagonist, ordinary guy, huge historical documentation, way too long by publishing standards... Still a runaway best-seller, and an excellent read at that. And what about Conspiracy of Paper, or The Alienist?

Sorry for the rant, but it is cathartic...

Julianne Douglas said...

It's a vicious circle that's hard to break. One book with a certain set of "rules" does well and publishers want to repeat/copy the success. So they actively look for books that are similar. Readers buy them, intrigued for a while, so the "rules" become even faster. Soon different types of books are shut out, since readers are still buying. But my question is, how can readers buy anything different if nothing different is offered? If all that is offered in hf is royal female protagonists, readers who want to read hf are forced to buy those books or switch genres. Their reluctant purchases make it look like they WANT to read books about royal female protagonists. The cycle continues on this false assumption.

I also understand that publishing is a business, and publishers use marquee names as a way to capture a broad audience (including readers who might not normally buy hf but see Marie Antoinette on the cover and say, "I recognize her--what's that about?"). However, I believe they're doing themselves a great disservice if they're alienating their base, those readers who read solely or mostly hf and read a lot of it. Many of these readers seem to be tiring rapidly of marquee names. It would seem to me that it would be more profitable in the long run to keep these readers happy and buying instead of fishing for casual walk-bys.

Jackie Hodson said...

Hi Julianne

Can I add a little something?

What provision, in this day and age, is being made for that fictional character who enters the global psyche as 'Real'?

What publisher/agent would not love to claim another Sherlock Holmes, Lymond, Kate the Shrew, Mr Darcy, Romeo, Heathcliffe, Jane Eyre, Scarlett....

Add your own.

They were not marquee names but many actually believe that these were Real People.
So - now they are saleable.

Who has the guts to take that gamble today - Harry Potter besides!

Confession here - I'm not a 'normal' person - as in, I can make up my own mind about what I want to read. Regardless.

Non- fiction writers who revisit known characters are now called Revisionists.

I resent the narrowing of that chance to learn anew.

Julianne - You've opened a can of worms.

Thank you :o)

Margaret D. said...

With this in mind, I just took another look at my personal list of "Ten Best" historical novels I read in 2008. Only one of the ten (Sharon Kay Penman's The Sunne in Splendor) included a celebrity main character (Richard III). Four had important secondary characters who might or might not be considered celebrities by some readers (John Donne, Lorenzo de' Medici, John Winthrop, King Henry II of England). In another one, a well-known historical figure (Oliver Cromwell) makes a cameo appearance. The others are about fictional or obscure characters.

Sarah said...

I've been reading all of the comments and am not sure I have anything substantial to add (maybe I'll think of something by the time I finish this!), but thanks again for doing this survey, Julianne! It is reassuring to know that those who consider themselves HF readers are looking for something beyond the marquee names that are so prevalent. It makes me wonder what scholars decades from now will come up with when they look back on the early 21st century and try to analyze why we were all (seemingly) so obsessed with royal women and the Tudors.

I believe Margaret and Lucy must be right about publishers aiming for a larger cross-section of the reading population than those who consider themselves HF readers. There are undoubtedly many who are discovering these marquee characters for the first time and can't get enough of them. I'm remembering the makeup of the audience when I went to see the Other Boleyn Girl film (some didn't know how it ended!), plus looking at the sheer number of reissues of Tudor novels I read a long time ago. Whereas those of us who have been reading HF for a while are ready to move on to something new... but are faced with seeing the same characters and time periods again and again.

Re: Conspiracy of Paper and The Alienist... I think those are two examples of books that inspired new trends rather than followed existing ones. Such things are hard to predict, but publishers obviously took a chance on them, once upon a time. I hope we might see more such risk-taking in the future, so that HF's core readership will have a greater variety of things to choose from.

Ellen said...

Thank you for the consideratons you wrote after compiling the survey. Clearly there is a discrepancy between what readers say they buy a historical fiction for and what they do buy it for. I presume publishers keep their eye on what is sold. Nonetheless despite the self-evident attraction of what you are calling "marquee names," plot, characters, and the usual attractions of a novel come next, intermixed with some reaction to the cover (undisclosed but probably partly the result of the individual's identity politics).

Ellen Moody

Julianne Douglas said...

I think so much of it comes down to marketing. It must be MUCH easier to market a book with a famous name character than a book about a random fictional one. In today's competitive market, pubs have to grab their readers from the get-go. I totally understand WHY they prefer marquee names--I only wish it weren't so, and it seems that a lot of readers feel the same way.

One thing that still puzzles me is why readers who want to learn about a particular person turn to novels instead of biographies. IMHO, even marquee name characters in an historical novel are hardly less fictional than the totally imagined ones. Despite the research, they are still creations of the writers imagination and might not resemble their real models at all. Having them be at the right castle on the right date or fighting in the right squadron at the right battle or even sharing the historical figure's professed aversion for scrambled eggs doesn't mean the created personality in any way corresponds to what the real person was like. If I wanted to learn something about a person, I'd turn to biography first. Historical fiction has different presumptions and different goals, which, in my mind, makes the difference between "real" characters and carefully crafted, "authentic" fictional characters slim.

Julianne Douglas said...

Shauna--I'm glad you've found the survey useful! Best of luck to you as you launch your new novel.

Margaret--When I get a chance, I want to compare the pub dates of the books on your list with the type of main character. It would be interesting to know whether more recent books feature marquee names, while older books have fictional mc's.

lucyp said...

Something that SC told me a few months ago may explain why marquee characters are popular. She said that HF readers want a good story, but they also want to learn something about history. I take this to mean that they don't just want to explore a historical society, they want to actually learn some information about historical events and actors. When they pick up a "marquee" book, it offers some promise of delivering that, especially the fictionalized biography of a powerful figure. When they read about wholly or mostly fictional characters, I suspect their enjoyment is clouded by ," But is this really true?" thoughts.

That offers hope for those of us who don't want to write about marquee characters. I think we can avoid the big names, as long as we include the big events. I think Catherine's book was a great example of how that can work. I'd never call it "about" Marie Antoinette. Instead, I'd say it was about the French Revolution. Readers got a wonderful story with interesting, original characters, but at the same time, they could feel like they were absorbing the major events and turning points of the Revolution.

Dara said...

I don't know why editors and publishers insist on pushing the marquee names. .

As a writer, I think writing about only real people--and well known people at that--greatly limits the creativity aspect since I have to stick to the main story of their lives. I much prefer writing a fictional character set in a certain time or place because I have more options to work with.

Matterhorn said...

What a lovely blog, I have just discovered it. Very interesting article too. Thanks!

You are welcome to visit my blog, at :

crossoflaeken.blogspot.com

(on Belgian royalty)

Suzanne said...

I followed a link here from Catherine Delors' blog, not intending to comment, but given some of the response, I feel compelled to do so.

Perhaps I am alone in feeling this way, but I view historical fiction as a creative extension of history. As such, to me, good historical fiction always has to be plausible--and for people who know the period well! Reading a novel is a ghastly way to try to learn history, because without prior knowledge, one can never tell how much license a given author is taking.

So, as far as my personal reading preferences go, I almost always avoid novels set in periods I know little about. But as far as tiring of a specific period goes, while I'm as sick as the next reader of the Tudors, I can't say I ever liked them much to begin with. But I could read well-written and researched novels about the French Revolution or the Roman Republic until the cows come home.

Likewise, perhaps I'm an oddity here, but while "marquee" names are important to me, my list of names is very different from the ones being marketed. To put it schematically, I'd rather Robespierre than Marie-Antoinette, Cicero or Brutus than Caesar.

And beyond that preference even, if there is one genre I am truly sick of, it's the ever popular stock French Revolution novel wherein the French and the Revolutionaries are demonized and the British and the aristocracy are not only glorified but given a disproportionate role. They're nothing but copies of A Tale of Two Cities and The Scarlet Pimpernel, which were never very good to begin with and are frankly downright insulting to those who know anything about the period in terms of accuracy.

The French Revolution is the first time that the common people really have a voice. If I'm going to be reading historical fiction about that period, I want it to reflect that. As I said above, I'll read any plausible and well-researched novel set in that period, no matter who the protagonist is. But that's not where my preference lies.

If I wanted to read about the aristocracy, I choose a book set sometime in the Ancien Régime. There's no lack there of interesting stories to be told there involving aristocrats and I certainly don't begrudge anyone for wanting to tell them, or to read them. But they're just not what I stop off in the Age of Enlightenment and Revolution for.

I may read historical fiction almost exclusively, but marketers, it seems, don't care about me. And I don't expect them to: my preferences are not, to my knowledge, widely shared. But it's their loss, really, because I'm not going to pay to read a book about Anne Boleyn just because I know who she is, and I'm certainly never going to do so for any book that egregiously distorts history to make it more "interesting."

I should mention, by the way, though you can probably infer it from the above, that I find what you write about your goals in writing historical fiction to be laudable. 16th century France is a secondary interest of mine, though I feel I don't know the period well enough yet to be able to appreciate fiction written in that era. When I do, I will assuredly look up your books!

Julianne Douglas said...

Jackie--I'm sorry I missed responding to your comment. I think you've got a great point about fictional characters who become "real." I think any of us authors, and the editors who publish us, would LOVE for us to create characters who do just that!

Ellen--I agree there might be a discrepancy between what readers SAY they want and what they DO buy, but I think part of this comes down to the fact that they have to buy something of what is offered. If all that is offered is marquee named hf, then they'll have to buy it or change genres. We can't always find what we want to buy, so we buy the next best thing.

I am curious about your comment regarding the reaction to covers as the result of the "individual's identity politics." Could you explicate a bit?

Lucy--I think you're right about the value of substituting marquee events for marquee characters. Your observation about readers' worries about "Is this true?" reminds me of the disclaimer Salman Rushdie put at the beginning of ENCHANTRESS OF FLORENCE: "This is a work of fiction. A few liberties have been taken with the historical record in the interests of the truth." Hmmm, I feel another blog post brewing...

Julianne Douglas said...

Dara--I agree with you. As a writer, I much prefer creating fictional characters than fictionalizing historic ones. For me, it's not only a matter of having to respect dates, etc, but the uneasy feeling that I could be seriously misrespresenting the personality/thoughts/motivations of the real person, despite my best efforts at researching them.

Matterhorn--Welcome to the blog! I'm glad you're enjoying it. I will visit yours, too.

Suzanne--Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I'm so glad you did, for as you say, your preferences do run a bit contrary to the norm and it's important for us to hear all sides. One thing I noticed is that the type of marquee characters you say you'd prefer (Robespierre, Brutus) but can't find are male, reflecting editors' current preference for female protagonists, which several respondents decried. Your taste for "the common man" also flies in the face of the prevailing obsession with royalty. That's one reason I liked Catherine Delors's novel so much--her cast of characters covered quite a sweep of the social ladder and didn't deal exclusively with the upper class. I hope things begin to change, for the danger I see in focusing solely on female royal women is that historical fiction will start to become indistinguishable from historical romance.

My question to you is this--if you read mostly books about periods you are very familiar with, do you find it hard to find books that are a satisfying read? If you know quite a lot about the period, I would think errors and inconsistencies would be quite noticeable and very irritating to you. Does the pool of satisfying books dwindle, the more you learn? How do you deal with this issue?

Jackie Hodson said...

Julianne...A personal story here that your poll has got me thinking about again! A few years ago I sent my HF manuscript to a publisher in the US. She loved it and said she would definitely publish it -- on one condition –- that I changed the main character from Marie de Rohan to Anne of Austria (more marquee, therefore easier to market?)
I declined. A hard decision to make at the time but one I don’t regret, even though it meant throwing away a chance to be published.
Have other writers done this?
Does it matter?
And – following on from the comment you made to Dara above about your preference for writing fictional over real characters and the reasons for it...
A couple of days ago I was mumbling through my own ‘uneasy feeling’ about perceptions of historical characters via Anne of Austria.
http://weaveagarland.blogspot.com/

It bothers – but I was taught that you can’t write a book half-heartedly. Readers ALWAYS know.

BTW - Mary Renault terrorised her editors and publishers. They were not allowed to change a single comma.
Her books are still adored by millions ;o)

Suzanne said...

Julianne,

In answer to your questions, I do indeed find it difficult to find historical fiction that I find satisfying, with the result that I do not read as much of it as I would like to be able to.

That said, there are different levels of inaccuracy and there is much I am willing to overlook in the way of detail if I feel that an author has really managed to capture the spirit of a personage or an era. Conversely, I also enjoy reading novels in which an author pays scrupulous attention to facts but presents a different interpretation of them than mine.

Nevertheless, this still limits my choices immensely and often I find I exhaust the available literature on a given period fairly quickly, which is why I'm always so excited to see new novels being published, even if they don't necessarily meet my ideal criteria in every particular.

Failing that, I just read straight history and biography, which I enjoy greatly, but which, I find, lacks the novel's evocative power. It's a pity, really, that there can't be more room for a broad range of subject matter in historical fiction...

--Suzanne

Julianne Douglas said...

Jackie--Just curious about the editor's request...How could you change your main character so drastically without writing a completely different book? And I'm not sure I understand why she'd think Anne of Austria was any more recognizable to an American audience than Marie de Rohan.

Suzanne--I hope the range of acceptable subject matter in hf will begin to change. It certainly seems, from my limited poll, at least, that readers wish it would!

Jackie Hodson said...

Hi Julianne - My point exactly! The story, plot, motivations etc would completely change. Your poll made me rethink the reasons for such a request.
One is a victim and one a fighter.
Shrug - I don't know for sure. Anne is a much more 'romantic' character maybe.

Adam said...

I share the same views. Liked your blog very much.

Susanne said...

What a great survey. I'm sending this to my agent and my editor, and I'll link to it on my fan page and have already tweeted about it. Thank you, Julianne!

Julianne Douglas said...

Wow, thanks, Susanne! I sure appreciate it. The survey's a year old now, but I doubt things have changed too much.