Different, But More Of The Same by Vanessa Kelly


There’s a well know mantra in the publishing world that says that everyone is looking for something “different.”  Whether it’s the next Twilight or Harry Potter, writers hear all the time that they have to produce something unique that will knock the socks off those jaded, seen-it-all editors.  But whenever you try to nail down exactly what that “something” is, the only answer you’ll hear is, “I’ll know it when I see it.”

Cue the psycho music, as said writer drives herself crazy coming up with something new and different.  And what does that really mean for those of us who write genre fiction, particularly a very specific sub-genre, like historical romance?  Is “different” all we’re looking for?  Or is it more important to fulfill the expectations our readers bring to the genre?

I’d say both.  If a writer can deliver on familiar genre conventions but do it in a fresh and exciting way, then she’s really grabbed the brass ring.

So, how do we do that?  One way is by using the conventions but bringing a new twist to them.  Monica Burns, for instance, blended the conventions of the historical romance with those of sheikh-themed books to produce Kismet.  Loretta Chase wrote Your Scandalous Ways, a Regency romance set in Venice, involving courtesans and spies—a Regency James Bond as it were.

Writers can also bring fresh takes to established genres by playing with the conventions surrounding character types.  Anna Campbell is a master of this, especially in depictions of that classic archetype—the tortured hero.  In her books, Anna often tortures her hero—quite literally.  In Captive of Sin, for example, the hero is a soldier who was ruthlessly tortured and now suffers from PTSD.  It’s a very different take on what we’re used to seeing in a hero, and it really raises the stakes—both in the world of the story, and for the reader.

Different or unusual settings can also be a great way to mix things up.  My latest book, Sex And The Single Earl, is set in Bath, England.  Like any good Regency romance, it contains all those elements that readers love—the glittering parties, the pretty clothes, and the handsome rakes. But only part of the story takes place within this conventional setting.  Bath, surprisingly enough, had a thriving criminal underworld that one rarely reads about.  That captured my imagination.  I was determined to throw my heroine, a well-bred and fairly sheltered young woman, into this different and dangerous setting and see what transpired.  Putting her into such an unusual setting gave me all kinds of room to ramp up the plot, and raise the stakes for my characters.

So, readers, that brings me to my question.  How different do you like your romances?  Do you like unusual settings, characters, or stories?  Or do you read for that sense of comfort and familiarity, looking for those books that totally deliver on your expectations?  One commenter will win a copy of Sex And The Single Earl.


31 Responses to Different, But More Of The Same by Vanessa Kelly

  1. Caffey

    Congrats LLL!

  2. Romance Junkies

    LittleLambLost is the winner of Vanessa’s contest. Shoot me an email at blog@romancejunkies.com so I can send her your snail mail address


  3. Carol L.

    Congrats on your release Vanessa. I remember when your first book was coming out from Candace Hern’s site. Wish you much success.
    I love different story types. I enjoy the characters having to fight for what they want and thier enemies.Struggling for that HEA. And when it comes I love it.
    I also enjoy the comfortable read in a place I’m familiar with. It’s all up to how the Author has the characters play it out.
    Carol L.

  4. Valerie

    I don’t like ‘the same old’…..it’s one reason I read a variety of genres. I like something unusual….out of the ordinary. It can be a small thing…like the setting, or a different kind of hero or heroine, but it should be different. On the other hand, if I haven’t read an historical in a while, the familiar is then ok.

    Sex and the Single Earl looks like fun…I love the cover….yum!

  5. Christy H.

    It depends on what kind of a mood I’m in . . . sometimes I like unusual settings, characters, or stories and sometimes I like a sense of comfort and familiarity.
    Sex And The Single Earl sounds like a fun read!

  6. Quilt Lady

    I love a little of everything! I like to switch around and I love something different in the books i read! Historical are my favorite read and I think I would love this one!

  7. Lisa G.

    I like a bit of excitement in my romances. I want the authors to shake it up, mix it around and show me a surprise or two when I am least not to expect it. I like sub-genres and secondary-character romances too.

  8. Anna Shah Hoque

    I really enjoy reading all the sub-genres of romance and I’m always entranced by the wonderful world building and the incredible creativity behind the stories. I love it when authors push boundaries and create books with unusual settings, characters and plots.

  9. Pam P

    Congrats on the new release, Vanessa, will be reading it soon.

    Different or unusual settings are nice for a change, but that’s really not the main thing for me, it’s more the characters and their chemistry and engaging, witty dialog, showing the emotional connection that does it for me, no matter the setting. I do like the Georgian and Victorian along with Regency, also love medievals. I like characters, either H/h with unusual professions, heros from tortured to the nerdy. Mainly, strong, intelligent characters, with some sense of humor, even dry wit.

  10. peg360

    I enjoy it all it’s just what mood i’m in as to what i read as long as it’s historical

  11. Vanessa Kelly

    Lindy, thanks for stopping by. I’m a huge fan of the comfort read.

    Aw, Pam! That’s so nice of you! I’m really glad you enjoyed MTM. Love your comments about grabbing on to a unique element that makes a book stand out.

  12. Pam S

    Congrats on your latest release Vanessa.. it sounds so awesome :)! I loved Mastering the Marquess – the characters were just done wonderfully.

    As for reading – wow my reading is usually all over the place. I read all heat levels and all genres in romance. I am just as at home picking up a sweet historical as I am a spicy suspense.

    In all of it though, there must be something that grabs at my attention. It could be a unique ability or species (for paranormal/fantasy), a unique personality/character flaw, a unique background of the character’s life, a unique setting. It could also be something it encompasses that I can relate to.

    Above all, I have to feel a connection to the characters and storyline line to count it as a really great read.

  13. Lindy

    I hadn’t really thought about it, but I guess I prefer a comfort read, too. I tend to gravitate toward the same basic settings and eras, and even the same types of stories. I like some variations of course, and the road to the HEA needs to be entertaining, but overall I don’t usually get too exotic with the books I choose.


  14. Vanessa Kelly

    Barbara, it’s amazing how much diversity there is in romance, which I tell people all the time! There really is something for everyone.

    etirv, we love the comfort read!

  15. etirv

    One more vote for the comfort read…. but with strong characters, a wee twist of something different and if a historical romance makes me cry every so many chapters, that’s a keeper for me.

  16. Barbara Elness

    I enjoy the tried and true, and the unique and exotic as well. It’s always fun to mix it up, just as I mix my genres up. I’ll read a nice historical, and then go for a paranormal or urban fantasy. And then I’ll go on a kick and read a whole series right in a row. I’m glad there is such great diversity out there, so we don’t all have to read books set in the same old setting and situation over and over.

  17. Vanessa Kelly

    Lyoness, it always seems to come back to the characters, doesn’ it? All the other elements are secondary, no matter how compelling.

    chelleyreads, I love a good friends to lovers story. In fact, that’s what Sex And The Single Earl is about!

    Julie, I’ve picked up books I didn’t really expect to enjoy because they were so different, and then loved them. Horizons expanded!

  18. Julie

    It depends on what I feel like reading at the moment. I love picking up something new and exciting, something I haven’t read before–it makes me feel like I’m expanding my horizons, haha. But to read something familiar is to know that you’re not going to be disappointed. 🙂

  19. chelleyreads

    i like both: familiarity and the different. there are certain plot lines i’m attracted to and can read the same plot over and over without tiring (i.e., reunion stories, best friends turned lovers). but as long as an author pens a story i can get into and want more of i’m game for any romances.

  20. Lyoness2009

    Characters are the backbone of any story that I enjoy. So, I guess its comfort of the characters. If I enjoy them they usually have a sense of humor, loyalty is a strong suit and I like to see characters in unique settings.

    What a great and neat post. I hadn’t thought much about this before!

  21. Vanessa Kelly

    Caffey, I think the underlying themes are always very powerful. They’re usually there, even with the addition of unique settings or twists. Historicals with a paranormal element are really a great way to mix it up. But I don’t think I’ll be writing steampunk any time soon! I’m still trying to figure out what it is.

    Little Lamb Lost, it’s nice to have so much variety, isn’t it? Then we can adapt our reading to fit our moods.

  22. Little Lamb Lost

    Different can be quite fun and I enjoy reading a variety of settings and am intrigued by less than traditional careers for hero and heroine, etc. That said, sometimes the expected is not a bad thing. It really depends upon my mood when I am deciding what to read next.

  23. Caffey

    Yeah, I’m in!
    Hi Vanessa! I so adore this title! When I saw the title of it, I grinned! I’ve had to send my hubby to pick up books for me due to my surgery and the last time it was one he tells me not to send him to pick up books with ‘no heads and nekkid’ LOL. He’s a great tease. He loves when I read the scenes.

    You know, I like a bit of both. I love so much of those comfort reads that have a favorite them of mine (beauty and the beast, Cinderella, friends to lovers, re-united, etc) See, even if some say they are looking for something ‘different’ we too are looking for those that just make us smile throughout it and have a wonderful feel when reading it! So I often go looking for themes I like to read in my historicals.

    Yep and then there are those unique! Like having a historical regency with a paranormal theme, like vampires! Or the hero being a gypsy or the heroine cursed as a witch! I love the surprises those books bring because they are in my favorite settings of historicals and I so love paranormals too so I’m always surprised what the ‘world’ will be in those stories.

    So for me it is a bit of both! I hope they let you write those great themes as well as some unique ones too! I love this topic. Anything goes for me but horror! I’ve never read a ‘steampunk’ romance yet, but have you thought of writing one? I’m still trying to learn what it is, and maybe that will come when I read one!


  24. Vanessa Kelly

    Sue, I love a good comfort read, too.

    Gabrielle, I find that if I pay attention to my world building, it’s actually easier to develop my characters. I guess I can visualize them more easily if I can see the world they live in.

  25. Gabrielle J.

    A lot of the times I like to be surprised when it comes to the things I read, but sometimes I crave just a little bit of familiarity. I’ve always enjoyed historical romances, and like to connect with the characters sometimes.

    I’m reading G.A. Aiken’s Dragon Kin series at the moment, and I enjoy both the characters and some of the scene descriptions. In many cases as long as I can either connect with the characters in some way or can mentally see the worlds that are introduced to me I usually like the book! I love unique world and stories and I love it when an author talks about a place that makes it seem as if it were real!

  26. Sue A.

    I like to read unusual and unique stories with an element of surprise. But I also like to read category books for the comfort factor too! I just plain like to read.

  27. Vanessa Kelly

    RachieG, I loved The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie. And I agree with you about the Hathaway stories from Lisa Kleypas. They’re great!

    catslady, I agree with you about loving the characters. Nothing really works if you don’t feel invested in them.

  28. catslady

    I like it all, especially when it comes to historicals. Sometimes a comfort read is just what I want and sometimes I’m looking for that variety. As long as I love the characters, everything else is a bonus.

  29. RachieG

    I’m more of an unusual character kind of girl. I do like different locales, but I find a bit of comfort reading the same locations because I’m so familiar with them. The different the character though, the more I enjoy it. “The Madness of Lord Ian” comes immediately to mind. I didn’t think I’d enjoy it and it became one of my most re-read books this year. Lisa Kleypas’ books about the gypsies are fabulous too. I enjoy differing characters but I’m a lover all romance 🙂

  30. Vanessa Kelly

    Karen, I love Eloisa James’s books – she does Georgian and Regency equally well. And she’s a master of stepping out of her comfort zone. Thanks for stopping by!

  31. Karen H in NC

    I like a wide range of story themes set in a variety of places. While I like the Regency Noir, a little of this goes a long way, IMHO. That said, I also like what I’m familiar with too. I prefer the 19th century settings best although Eloisa James has some great stories set in the 18th century. I guess about the only setting I’m not wild about would be the medieval time period. I like it when favorite authors step out of their comfort zone a bit to write something a bit different…keeps me coming back for more!

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