I have a reason for asking.
I’m just back from a most excellent vacation in the States, including an action-packed weekend at the Writers’ Police Academy in Green Bay, Wisconsin with fellow 8 Lady Kay, followed by a few days in picturesque Door County (click here to read Kay’s description of our excursions to the Northern Sky Theater Company).
Before I met up with Kay, I spent an afternoon in Chicago talking all things writing with a developmental editor. Mostly we focused on Alexis, but we also talked about my English/Scottish contemporary romance, which I decided to dust off in time for the next (and final) RWA Golden Heart contest.
The editor gave me the same feedback I heard from a very respected agent a couple of years ago when I tried to shop this book: the writing is strong, but a contemporary British setting, with all British characters, is hard to sell outside the UK. She said that the story offered a kind of insider perspective on life in London and Scotland, which is not what the mainstream American romance reader is conditioned to expect.
In her view, when US readers pick up a foreign-set story, they expect the setting to be either
- glamorously urban; or
- small, close-knit communities where the culture is a large part of the appeal.
My story is international but not exotic, has a quirky, shabby chic urban heroine and a superficially glitzy hero whose appeal is the honorable ordinary man behind the glamorous façade (which in any case isn’t anywhere near shiny enough).
I have to confess, my first instinct was to stuff the pages back in the trunk and forget about the whole thing. Then I decided that I would challenge myself to tweak my pages to accommodate the editor’s comments, partly to see if I could do it, but mostly to see how the story would turn out.
I have to say, so far I’m finding it difficult, and not really enjoying the experience, but that could be because I’m outside my comfort zone. Wide-ranging, quirky, community-driven stories that look beyond the shiny come naturally to me and I expect that’s what I’ll revert to, but hopefully I may learn some new tricks that will make my instinctive choices stronger.
In the meantime, I’m re-imagining Ian and Rose’s story and am very curious to know what you think about contemporary foreign-set books. Do you read them? Enjoy them? Have particular favorites? If you do (or even if you don’t), I’d love to know more.