I is for Imagination

Juli Page Morgan, author of Romances that Rock

One of the things I love best about reading fiction is imagining the story in my head as I read.  The author will describe the characters and the setting to give me a general idea, and then I’m free to “see” it all in my mind’s eye.

Fiction takes you places you’ve never been, and places you’ll never be able to actually go.

I’m asked a lot why I set my books in the middle of the 20th Century, and it’s because I would have liked to experience this time the way my characters do.  Crimson and Clover takes place from 1968 to 1971.  While I was around in 1968, I was freshly enrolled in first grade that year so there was no way I could have left everything behind for a new start in London the way my character Katie did, and I like to imagine the world the way she saw it.

I’ll admit that sometimes I get a little – well, surprised at the fixation on the time period for Crimson and Clover.  Maybe it’s because there aren’t a lot of romance novels set in the 60s and 70s (and eventually 80s.)  But it confuses me when I hear someone say, “Oh, well, I wasn’t around then so I don’t know if I’d be able to relate.”  That honestly leaves me flummoxed.  Because the book isn’t about the 60s.  It’s about a girl and boy and falling in love, and that’s a story that transcends time and place.  Readers of Regency Romance don’t shy away from it because they weren’t alive then.  Fans of books set in 18th Century Scotland don’t avoid those books because they weren’t around then.  The on-going popularity of Gone with the Wind shows that it doesn’t matter if the reader was alive in the 1860s.  The setting is important, don’t get me wrong.  But it’s there to enhance imagination, to make the reading experience fuller and richer and more rewarding.  At the end of the day, though, it’s the love story that’s the heart of the book.  Don’t be afraid to pick up a book that’s different from what you’ve read before just because you’re unfamiliar with the setting.  Take a chance and get lost in a new world, one that sparks your imagination.

One of the most rewarding comments I’ve heard about Crimson and Clover was from a reader who said she wasn’t sure about the book at first because she didn’t know anything about the 60s.  But after reading it, she said it came to life for her.  She could “see” the world in which the characters lived; she felt she was there with them.  And that’s what a book set in the past – any past – can do for you.

So I’ll continue to forge a new path in romance, one I’m going to call Mid-Century Romance.  (Look at that! I’ve just created a new sub-genre!  🙂 )  My next book is set in 1975, and the one after that in 1982.  Come along with me and imagine a new world, one you’ve never seen before.  Let me spark your imagination!

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