I’m currently writing two new historical romance series for two different publishers. How do I tell them apart?
They’re set in the same period, the 1750’s, but the premises are very different. One is straight-down-the-line historical romance. The “What if…?” that kicked the series off was plausible. What if the Jacobites continued to plot in the 1750’s? What if a new threat appeared, a branch of the Stuart family with a legitimate claim to the throne and more plausible heirs than the Young Pretender and his brother? By the 1750’s, Charles Stuart had degenerated into a bitter, fat, drunk, and his brother Henry had become a Cardinal in the Catholic Church. But what if more lurked, somehow?
That series started with a family. A duke and his five sisters decided to name their children after the Roman emperors. So their outlandish names led to them banding together. And when the Jacobite threat came – well, the gloves came off.
My other series, Even Gods Fall In Love has a completely different “What if…?” What if the gods of ancient Rome returned to Georgian Britain? This was prompted by a contemporary remark in a letter, that the aristocracy behaved like the Olympian gods, and expected to be treated that way. So what if they really were the gods?
The series takes the premise that the gods are reborn, Dalai-lama style, in new bodies. So some (not all) of the aristocracy are gods. This of course takes the series a completely different way, into the historical paranormal category.
I want the historical details in both series to be right. Even if the gods weren’t there, even if there wasn’t a branch of Stuarts, I wanted both ideas to fit into a genuine eighteenth century context. So the research I do for both series is broadly similar. When I wanted a whorehouse for Connie to take shelter in for “Rogue in Red Velvet,” I went to Covent Garden and took pictures, chose the house and took note of the doors, windows and general placement. If I hadn’t been able to do that, I’d have gone to Google Maps and the history books, as I do when I write my American-set contemporaries.
But the series have turned out to have very different feels. I thought the Emperors of London would be deadly serious, but the twists and turns have given me characters who don’t always want serious. They want to live and breathe, and have their laughs as well as the tears. That’s one way I differentiate. If I make the characters as real as I can, then they breathe the life into the series. They might walk the same streets, eat the same food as the gods, but they don’t behave the same way.
I didn’t want these series to interact. I’ve done that before, and it can get messy! So the series are separate. You won’t find Olympian gods in the streets walked by the Emperors. It’s possible that Bonnie Prince Charlie might turn up in a gods book, but he was a real character. One of the people I created for the series never will appear.
The gods series has also created its own character. It’s a trifle darker, and the high concept has given it a character of its own. I’ve just created a London club for it, which will be mentioned in the second book and featured in the third, and I have mazes, ichor, and madmen. All of which has to be researched!
I think what I’m saying is that if you pick up an Emperors book, you might like to take a look at a gods book, but don’t expect the same people to turn up!