historical fiction books | historical romance books


By Ana Brazil
January 3, 2020

This Friday we put away the last of the holiday decorations and look forward to re-dedicating ourselves to our WIPs bright and early on Monday morning.

And yet, we put down our tinsel and tissue paper for a moment because Linda really wants to know “What’s the toughest criticism you’ve received as an author? What’s the best compliment?”

Linda shares that “My first book was a Young Adult fantasy about flying horses set in modern California.

It was tough to hear that my critique group readers didn’t like the modern setting. One even told me I should ditch the flying horses for dragons! I ended up rewriting it in medieval Wales, and it ended up working much better (and inspired fan art!)

I enrolled in an MFA program hoping to finish The Aloha Spirit as my thesis. During the two year program, I received detailed critical feedback from one of the professors. When I submitted my finished chapters for my thesis, that same professor told me my work was the best student work he’d read since he’d been with the program. I still beam when I read that!”

C.V. says “As a budding novelist, the hardest criticism has been that my first chapter, while having interesting elements, moves too slowly.

Now after having re-written that chapter probably more than 50 times, hopefully I’ve finally got it right. As of this writing, I haven’t had this latest version critiqued.

The best compliment that I have received is that my setting description puts the reader right into the story world. The other compliment has been that my characters are likable and that readers can’t wait to read more to find out what happens to them next.”

For Kathryn, “The toughest criticism—usually about an early draft–is that the reader lost interest.

I try not to take it personally, but be grateful for the feedback. As a writer, it’s easy to become so immersed in your story that you overlook the gaps a reader has to overcome. Conversely, you can get lost down an information rabbit hole—a real temptation with historical fiction.

The best compliment is when a reader tells me they couldn’t put my book down. This happened recently with one of my beta readers—a Dutch woman who read THE CASKET MAKER’S OTHER WIFE on a beach vacation in Bali!”

Ana laments, “When my agent wasn’t able to sell FANNY NEWCOMB to New York publishers a decade ago, he sent me a list of the declining publishers and their reasons.

Many who gave reasons said “It’s not for us”, which reads and sounds very benign, but it really broke my heart for a while. Specific, tough criticism would have been so much more helpful, although my heart might still have been broken.

The best compliment was when I won the 2018 Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) Gold Medal for Historical Fiction. I didn’t know that my publisher had submitted the book to the IBPA until the finalists were identified and I was one of them.

What a thrill! And then I actually won the GOLD for historical fiction! I was over-the-moon and felt like Sally Fields accepting her Oscar.”

And finally, Katie adds that “The toughest criticism was that one of my male characters was basically a jerk.

I was trying to portray him as clueless, not as a person, but unaware of the deeper machinations of the plot. In my edits, I tried really hard to balance his support for the heroine and also show him as frustrated by his lack of inclusion by the heroine. 

The best compliment wasn’t one compliment in particular, but rather a string of them. I applied to the Hearts Through History Romance Through the Ages contest this last summer. It’s a contest for the first 5000 words of a historical romance, categorized by time period. I write Regency, which is a pretty thick field. I was feeling pretty low about my stuff since it isn’t the usual Regency topic: I write about women’s boxing. I submitted the first 5000 words of The Boxer and the Blacksmith, which will be second in my Pugilist Regency series. After the first rounds, you get scores returned, where you can make edits, and then resubmit if you like. One of the judges–and I don’t know who, because it is judged anonymously–loved it. Every comment she had was encouragement not just for my character, a female boxer, but how it was such a refreshing take on the Regency romance. What had made me feel so inadequate was what she loved. Honestly, it was her enthusiastic comments (and ultimately winning the Legends: a Man for All Time award) that made me pursue self-publishing.”

Ana Brazil
Written by Ana Brazil

Ana Brazil writes historical crime fiction celebrating bodacious American heroines. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, the Historical Novel Society, and a founding member of Paper Lantern Writers.
Ana’s latest historical mystery is THE RED-HOT BLUES CHANTEUSE, which features murder, mayhem, and music in 1919 San Francisco. Her award-winning historical mystery FANNY NEWCOMB & THE IRISH CHANNEL RIPPER is set in Gilded Age New Orleans.

View Ana’s PLW Profile

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