Thursday, November 8, 2018

Where the Past and Present Collide With Faith by Candice Sue Patterson

When I began seriously pursuing publication seven years ago one of the first things I was told was that every author needed a brand, a punchline that tells readers what to expect about their books. I fretted over this for some time, as I wasn’t really sure what overall theme my books would contain. A few titles later I settled into it: Modern-Vintage Romance—where the past and present collide with faith. Since I write contemporary romance with threads of nostalgia weaved in, it fit. 

Then last year I let one of my critique partners talk me into joining her and five others in a proposal to Barbour Publishers for a collection of historical romances involving Great Lakes Lighthouses. But I write contemporary, I thought. Writing a historical is intimidating, I thought. When will I ever have time for all that research, I thought. But we’ve been critique partners long enough that she knows I love a challenge, so she dangled the idea in front of me like bait. (Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration.) 

Was it intimidating? To me, yes. 

Did it require a lot of research? Absolutely. 

And I loved it! 

My first historical, Beneath a Michigan Moon, is part of the Great Lakes Lighthouse Brides Collection that released November 1st. As an author of both contemporary and historical romance, I wanted to share some of the challenges I faced writing in two different time periods. 

First, you need to understand that I was doing extensive edits to my contracted contemporary novel How to Stir a Baker’s Heart (book #2 in my Cadence of Acadia series) while I was writing the first draft of Michigan Moon, while plotting my next contemporary series. 

(Conclusion: I’m crazy.) 

Challenge #1: The Romance Trope 

I’ve always wanted to write a marriage of convenience story. I love the tension it creates between characters and that fact that their relationship blossoms into real love through their daily journey together. This is easy enough to write in a historical because it was common for people to marry for necessity back then. Mail order brides, widows without family and no means of caring for themselves, arranged marriages, etc. Writing this trope in a contemporary, however, isn’t as easy. So when I started writing a new series set in South Dakota using this trope, I had to get creative. Gmail took the place of the postal service for word that the hero was looking for a bride. Both the hero and heroine enter into an agreement needing what the other is offering. And it all plays out on prime time television. While the director continually throws in surprise after grueling surprise. 

Challenge #2: Communication 

Nowadays, we have many ways to communicate. So in my contemporary romance How to Stir a Baker’s Heart, the hero and heroine chat through text, cellphone, email, and face-to-face. At times, the technology doesn’t work the way it should (especially along the coast of Maine where the book is set) and it causes issues. 

In Michigan Moon, it was much harder to get messages back and forth. When the heroine (light keeper at New Presque Isle Lighthouse on Lake Huron) starts to run low on supplies, she receives a telegram that the supply train derailed, and she’ll have to ration what she has until another shipment can be sent out. This accident happened days before, so had there been faster modes of communication on all sides she would’ve been able to ration sooner, keeping her from having to rob old supplies left in a nearby abandoned lighthouse. But it worked to my advantage because this scene turned out to be a pivotal moment for the hero and heroine. 

Challenge #3: Clothing

I’m familiar with today’s styles: midi-dresses, skinny jeans, joggers, flyaway get the idea. I dress my contemporary characters accordingly. However, I was fairly ignorant of the terms for historical items: reticules, chemises, chignons, frock coats. Historical romance is my favorite genre to read, so where I’d heard those terms before I had no idea what era they fell in, or what items were layered over what. This took extensive research both online and books from my public library. I didn’t want to receive any bad reviews simply because my timeline was off. 

Will I continue writing historical romance? I’d like to. I think being hybrid would keep me on my toes, help keep my writing fresh. I enjoy taking modern themes and fitting them into an old-fashioned world. Just like I enjoy taking contemporary settings and lacing history into the plot. 

The Great Lakes Lighthouse Brides Collection featuring Beneath a Michigan Moon is available now in print and eBook at all major online retailers. Amazon Buy Link

Look for How to Stir a Baker’s Heart, releasing April 2019 from Pelican Book Group. 

To keep up to date on my latest news you can find me on Facebook as Candice Sue Patterson-Author or visit my website at 


  1. Good morning, Candice! Thanks for guesting on Seriously Write today. I've been tinkering with writing a period piece, so I found this particularly helpful. Historicals have always been slightly intimidating to me. Research! But of course contemporary fiction has its fair share of research as well.

  2. Thanks for visiting, Candace. I love how you've crossed genres and embraced the needed research for historicals (something I've been hesitant to do), though my crit partners all write it). Starting with a novella for a compilation sounds like the perfect way to begin. Thanks for sharing your advice and experience with us!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Annette! Yes, starting with a novella was a great way to test the waters. Go for it!

  3. Nice to meet you, Candice! I too write both contemporary and historical romance. I especially love writing in the time slip genre where modern characters learn life lessons from history (and sometimes encounter a mystery from history as well). A couple of my buddies from Backcountry Brides were your co-authors in Lighthouse Brides. Best of success with your collection and the future of writing multi-genre. Sending you friend invites. :)

    1. Great to meet you, Denise! Isn’t mixing the past and present fun? Thanks for connecting on social media. I look forward to getting to know you!

  4. Hi, Candace! I started writing contemporaries, but I loved reading historical romances. I also felt intimidated by the research that would go into writing them, but I got an idea for a historical and decided to go with it. I've published 3 historical romances, and I love writing in that genre! But, I'm also thinking I might like to write some more contemporaries too. ;-) I think I can still stay within my brand while writing both because of similar themes - finding purpose and pursuing our dreams.

    1. Great theme! Congrats on your books. Glad you went for it. How often we hold ourselves back because of fear. Thanks for stopping by, Dawn!

  5. You’re a great writer, Terri, so I think you should go for it! It’s daunting at first but so worth it.


We'd love to hear your thoughts! Please leave comments. We'll moderate and post them!