I’ve never read a Harlequin or Mills & Boon romance, and it’s approaching forty years since I read anything by Eleanor Hibbert (alias Victoria Holt, Jean Plaidy, et al.). In addition, I’ve spent most of that interval reading and writing scientific and medical non-fiction. That’s why, when I began writing Irish Firebrands, I was amused by how easily writing melodramatic language flowed (later on, I discovered that’s how many Irish journalists write, but that’s another story).
My selection of the Contemporary Romance genre for the initial publication of the book was a decision by default. Confronted by the woefully inadequate BISAC publishing category options, I figured that Irish Firebrands was probably most like a Boomer-Lit take on the will-they-won’t-they, boy-meets-girl, so that’s what I went with (BISAC doesn’t include a Fusion Fiction classification for novels that cross several genre lines, the way Irish Firebrands does).
A baker’s dozen of thorny topics are woven within the story (listed in no particular order):
Irish neutrality during the Second World War
Child abuse in Irish industrial schools
Irish government-sanctioned discriminatory practices
The romantic fiction genre undoubtedly has dealt with many such controversial issues, although perhaps not quite as many at once, between the covers of one book. But I’m an organic writer, which means I didn’t plot or plan any of the content. I wrote by the seat of my pants, never knowing what I was going to write until the words appeared on the page. It was an exciting experience, because I exercised control only over the story’s delivery, by editing and proofreading, to prepare it for publication.
The inclusion of one or more of the sensitive subjects listed above undoubtedly will inspire some readers to pan the book, as well as ensure that reviewers, agents and traditional publishers won’t touch it with a barge pole, and I’ll probably never see it on a bookseller’s shelf – not even in a second-hand bookshop. (There’s a lengthy preview of sample chapters at Smashwords, which is as close as I can come to providing the bricks-and-mortar bookstore-browsing experience.)
To those who prefer the look of life and books to be tinted by rose-colored glasses, all I can say is caveat emptor. But for love-story gourmets who like chewy subplots served with a classic storytelling sauce, my hope is that they’ll consume Irish Firebrands with the same enthusiasm I felt when I was cooking it up. Bon appetit!