Friday, January 17, 2020

Staying Relevant and Creating Timeless Fiction by JoAnn Durgin

Photo of a purse with the playbill for the play Private Lives

Staying Relevant and Creating Timeless Fiction

I’ve reached an age where I feel as though I’m “dating” myself at times by mentioning certain people, places, or events in history—meaning those from my lifetime. I’m not quite as old as dirt—yet!—and I don’t feel old except when met with the blank stares from youngsters. Mind you, I’m talking about 25-year-olds, not children.

Let me give you an example. This past October, I commissioned a one-of-a-kind purse at the annual Craftsmen’s Fair in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The purse features a Broadway Playbill with legendary Hollywood “power” couple Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton (see photo). To anyone else, the purse might be considered a mere novelty, but it’s a true treasure for me and brings back fond memories. Why? Because, like many things in my life, there’s a story to be told.

In brief, back in the early 1980s, my mother and I traveled to Italy. We had a marvelous week there and then flew back into New York where my best friend and her mother met us for a four-day weekend. We somehow managed to get second-row tickets on opening night to a Noel Coward play, Private Lives, starring Taylor and Burton. The play had fared poorly in advance reviews during its trial run in Boston, but no one cared. And we, like everyone else, wanted to see the two legends on the same stage together! The celebrities were out in abundance, and we sat so close to the stage that Richard Burton’s spit actually landed on me!

Let’s switch to movies for a moment. In the newest movie version of Louisa May Alcott’s timeless Little Women, my primary “complaint” is that it sometimes slips into modern vernacular in a glaringly obvious way. By vernacular, I mean the everyday language spoken by people today as distinguished from the literary language I expected. Neither did their behavior always “fit” in with the setting and time period. They were sometimes too open, casual, and modern. Not only does Jo lapse into a “Yeah,” but Amy says “Thank you, thank you very much” in the same way Elvis Presley made famous. That statement jarred me out of the story and had me muttering in my popcorn! A couple kissing in a very public place in plain view of others? An editor requesting a “spicy” novel? I seem to be alone in this opinion (and I enjoyed the movie very much overall), but maybe it’s the fact that I am an author and expected a more faithful interpretation of one of my most beloved childhood novels.

You may wonder how this applies to writing novels. I’ve read historical novels that similarly lapse into modern terms and behavior. While I understand this style might attract more readers by being more identifiable, I believe it’s a personal decision from the author on how to best present their story. On the flip side, contemporary authors will often slide into using an overabundance of pop culture terms (brands, actors, movies, etc.). Not that I believe this is a bad thing (and who can keep up with constantly evolving technology?), but give your characters their proper due in terms of motivations, goals, needs, wants, fears, and insecurities. Because that’s what will ultimately hook and keep the reader connected with your story.

So, how can authors stay relevant to readers of all ages? Write as the Lord leads, keeping in mind as you write that—no matter the genre or the setting—you want your stories to age well. If you can successfully accomplish that while remaining true to the setting and time period, like fine wine, they’ll go down that much easier tomorrow or fifty years from now. And that’s what will make them timeless.

Blessings, friends.
~ JoAnn

How to stay relevant in our novels from USA Today Bestselling Author JoAnn Durgin #seriouslywrite #encouragementforwriters via @Gr8tReads
How to make your writing timeless! Words of advice from JoAnn Durgin #seriouslywrite #encouragementforwriters via @Gr8tReads

Love on Assignment 
in Millcreek
Love on Assignment in Millcreek

Millcreek Christmas Series
Book 1

Lisbeth Lawrence never expected to be catapulted into a snowbank on a bitterly cold December night. Dazed and sprawled in the snow, she looks into the soulful eyes of the boy who’d stolen her heart ten years ago—he just didn’t know it. Rugged and more handsome than ever, he’s now a mystery man who travels the globe and turns up in town from time to time. The only person who knows the truth is one of Lisbeth’s physical therapy patients—and she’s not talking.

Miles Langston is close to personal and professional burnout when he’s given a unique assignment: go home to Millcreek, Connecticut, and regroup, recharge, and reconnect. What he didn’t plan on was accidentally sending a former classmate flying into a snowbank his first night back. “Lis” Lawrence, the quiet “good” girl with the prettiest eyes in school, has grown into a beauty who challenges his heart and mind from the get-go.

Brought together through their mutual love and care for his beloved grandmother, Miles and Lisbeth begin to experience miracles unfolding through the quiet good deeds of the “Millcreek Christmas Elf”…and in their own hearts. Can a man who rarely stays in one place for long find love and contentment with a woman firmly entrenched in little Millcreek?

JoAnn Durgin is a USA Today bestselling author of more than thirty contemporary Christian romance novels, including her signature Lewis Legacy Series. A native of southern Indiana, JoAnn likes to say she’s “been around in the nicest sense of the word” after living in four states across the country before returning to her hometown with her husband and three children. When she’s not writing, JoAnn loves to travel and spend time with their first grandchild, Amelia Grace.

Feel free to connect with her at 
or via her website at