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Friday, October 15, 2010

Guest Post by Jeannie Lin

Please help me welcome author Jeannie Lin to The Maiden's Court.  Jeannie has a new book called Butterfly Swords out that you should check out if you are interested in historical fiction set in China.  Take it away Jeannie...

Walk the Line

Guest Post by Jeannie Lin, author of 
Butterfly Swords

I watched Inception the other night.

As usual, I’m behind the times. Everyone was raving about this movie about three weeks ago. Instead, I go see it at a ten o’clock showing in a nearly empty IMAX theatre by myself. I sat back in the huge seat, looked up at the curvy screen, and let go for two hours.
In one scene, Leo is training the new gal to architect dream levels. She decides to be a bit of a smart-ass and starts messing with the physics. Unlike The Matrix, where such antics are considered note-worthy, in Inception, the bending of reality has consequences. No one’s subconscious likes to think it’s being messed with. The subconscious starts to lash out in anger until the point when all of the dream people rebel and form a lynch mob.

From the very start of my submission process with Butterfly Swords, I kept hearing one word: “Risky”. Asian settings don’t do well in historical romance. There’s no market for it. It’s a hard sell. It’s risky.

It wasn’t that publishing was antagonistic and fearful of change. These unknown settings were risky for readers. Who wants to pick up a book and feel lost and confused? To not be able to connect with the characters? And then to be told, but you need to understand this culture, as if it’s their fault they didn’t come in with a couple of history courses and an atlas?

Somewhere along the process, I learned how to walk the line. This is something that fantasy and paranormal authors have to do all the time. Heck, I think it’s something all authors have to do. How do you create the “storyspace” of your book and keep readers from being jerked out of the dream?

Therein lies the alchemy. The voodoo.
The rules of a historical romance are inherently different than one of a paranormal or fantasy. It’s the balance of historical fact and fantasy. Ai Li is a swordwoman who comes from a long line of warriors. Many readers are drawn to that. A tough chick can be pretty cool and swords are flashy. But if she starts stomping all over the historical settings without any care for social norms or period expectations, the subconscious would rebel.

As the architect gal says in Inception, it’s not so much about getting down every little detail as it is getting the feel of it.

As a writer, you have to lay down the details, walk the line, and play delicately with the fabric. Then put the story in front of readers and hope they buy into the dream. If they don’t, they may very well rebel by throwing the book against the wall. But if they believe, what an adventure it can be.

You can visit Jeannie online at her website for more information about her books.

Copyright © 2010 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. Thanks for having me! I really enjoyed the movie and this post.

    Darn it though...I think I meant to title this "Walk the Line". I proofread the blog but not the article. LOL

  2. I haven't seen Inception so I am super behind the times. I don't know many HF is Asian and I think that's why it would do well. It's a country that hasn't been explored yet. I'm certainly interested. Great post and congrats on your novel. I will certainly read it.

  3. Jeannie - Thanks for taking the time to prepare this post and dropping by. I think it was my fault with the title, oops, very sorry! I have corrected it now. My mind must have been somewhere else when I was prepping it to go up!

    Jenny - It's good to see you! You have to see Inception! I too think that Asia is a relatively unexplored part of HF and if publishers were more willing to venture there, the readers would follow!

  4. @Jenny Girl - I highly recommend Inception. My sister said I had to see it on the big screen. I think it will hold up on DVD too though.

    @dolleygurl - thanks! I like traveling vicariously through my reading so the more variety the better. I'm sure many readers feel the same way; especially now when the world is becoming a "smaller" place through internet and travel


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