I have to admit to having once…
…tried to write a harlequin. It was a very serious idea. I was at the stage where I thought I maybe could make a living with writing, but didn’t quite know what I could write. I mean, I have written some poetry in the past and I write short stories or novellas very frequently, but… um, would anyone be interested in reading them? I hardly doubt it. So I was looking for some ideas what is selling well nowadays. You know, you can write for pleasure, but if you want to make a living with it, and be successful with it, make it be the only/basic thing you do for living as I wanted, you need to write about something that may really interest your readers. So I was researching. And one of the things I’ve read was that harlequins always sell well and are willingly read by women. I have to admit I had no idea about what the harlequin actually is. But I remembered a situation when I was much younger, just starting to write my first short stories that could be really worth something, and I showed one to my group at the boarding school. It was very light, kinda romantic stuff, maybe slightly mawkish, but well, I was like 12-13, certainly not older, and still I think it was pretty good because I settled it in 19th century Ireland and made it pretty realistic, and it was well written stylistically and the characters –
although very schematic, had their unique, well outlined personalities. And there was one of the caretakers with us and after I read it to them, she was like “Wow, that’s good, you could write harlequins!” Until then, I heard the word harlequin only once – my Mum was reading a book and I heard her talking about it with my aunt, and basically what I remember is that she thought it was rather bad “such a cheap harlequin”. So you can guess I felt kinda insulted. I guess she had to saw that I wasn’t very glad with what she said because she started to explain: “I mean, it would be quite a nice business, wouldn’t it? I’ve heard that harlequin writers earn quite a lot for them”. But I still felt rather resentful, a harlequin seemed something very cheap for me, even though I hadn’t a clue what it could actually be, and I was too much of an idealist then to even think about writing for the sake of money.
And then when I saw this thing about harlequins selling so well, I still hadn’t much of an idea what a harlequin is. So I looked it up and I thought, yeah, I could write something like this. It seemed for me like harlequins are basically thousands of alternative versions of Cinderella’s story, what could be difficult about rearranging this story? And the project grew in my head and I decided, yes, I’ll try it.
But first I thought that I could fail at it spectacularly if I won’t read any harlequin myself. I knew Cinderella, but I wanted to see and understand what’s so exciting about harlequins that people read them. So I was looking around for some romances of different kinds and I had quite a pile of them to read. Most of them were… ew, sooo boring and sugary. But I got what is so interesting for people there. Characters are relatable, particularly females – they usually have their fair share of troubles before Prince Charming arrives, like all of us mortals do –
yet they both the hero and the heroine have something that is admirable/unique/fascinating/something we dream of, be it beauty, wealth, kind heart, hard past, or possibly all combined, and then happiness everafter, and some hardships before they finally make it through to that happiness are, I suppose, very welcome, the more the merrier, for the reader I mean. Quite easy thing and I thought, maybe a bit audaciously, or maybe not, that I am capable of doing it.
And then, a bit later on, I discovered historical romances, like all those regency ones, and others. And I had to admit they can be really interesting. Well maybe not the regency ones, although some were well written too, but there’s no one like Austen as for that. Ones that particularly captured my attention were those set in the medieval times. I’ve absorbed dozens of them. I’ve particularly grown to love Viking romances.
So I got an idea of what I’d like to create. It definitely should be a historical romance. But then another problem appeared. There seemed to be NONE historical romances in Polish. I mean, written originally in Polish. All these harlequins I’ve read were in Polish, but they were translations from English. With time, I’ve found a few Polish ones, but it wasn’t quite the same. I wanted to write a historical romance in the style of Rexanne Becnel, or Julie Garwood, or Bertrice Small, but maybe not so very erotic as Small’s, I think I wouldn’t be able to write something as passionate not having much of experience in the area plus you need to be more emotional to do this right, I think, and it just isn’t my style.
I thought about where to place the action for quite a while. Vikings? Mmm, yes, but… no, not Vikings. Britain? That would be the easiest, but… no, same as Vikings, no, none of my most favourite places in the world will work. It has to be something uncommon, yet possibly easy to write… And after some time I came up with Byzantine Empire. At first I thought the whole plot will be set there, but then I decided that only my heroine will come from there. I had a lot of issue with the hero, and finally, after lots of issues, I changed my mind and decided he will be from one of my most favourite teritories in the world and he will be Welsh. Funnily enough, I wanted to call him Gwilym, but now I’d never do it because my current musical crush is Gwilym. I think now I’d go with something like… Aneirin maybe. Nothing that I like too much, but something that I still like and consider a good name for a protagonist, Aneirin could go well, although I feel like something a little little more masculine would be needed. Before though, I wanted him to be a historical/legendary figure and seriously considered Madoc ab Owain Gwynedd, a legendary Welsh prince who was said to discover and colonise America. But I thought it wouldn’t be a good idea, because then I’d have to be really really cautious about historical details and maybe even describe his voyage, which didn’t seem as appealing. So I decided that the hero would be Madoc’s brother, and a pirate. That gave me more freedom. I wanted my heroine to be a love-child of one of Bysantine emperors and during the time when I searched for perfect historical figures as parents for her, or at least a father who’d be a historical figure and lived in years when I decided to set my novel, I’ve learnt a whole lot about Bysantine emperors.
Gathering all the information absorbed me completely and I spent a lot of time doing it, so that I even doubted anyone who usually reads harlequins would read a novel so packed with historical details, so I decided I would use only those that are necessary to make it look realistic and satisfying for my readers, but I still assumed that if you’re an author of a book, you should know more on the topic than you reveal in the book, so I wanted to be as well oriented in all that as possible, plus it just became simply interesting for me, it was then when I discovered that history can be really interesting, if you go a bit beyond all that boring stuff you have to learn at school.
I have a very well-developed draft of the book and a whole big pile of notes for it, I’ve even made up a pen name for myself – a pretty pretentious and snobbish one on purpose, just for fun – but, as you may guess, I’ve never finished it.
Shortly after I started to seriously work on it, I got the opportunity of working in my Dad’s company, so I of course jumped on it and I felt a bit more secure as for my future. And then I found a Polish friend (named, surprise… Jacek! 😀 ) who was completing a degree in Scandinavian studies in Helsinki, which he finally didn’t complete, but that’s another story, and was obsessed with Vikings. And during one of our late night existential talks, he wondered what it would be if the world ended, and there would be no Last Judgment, no heaven, no hell, no purgatory, no nothingness, but the Ragnarok would start and Vikings’ gods would come to judge us. I thought it’s very weird to think about such things at first, but then it captured my imagination and I exclaimed: “Wow! It would be such a fab topic for a book! There is such a boom on Vikings recently! You should write about it, dude!!!” And we were both so zealous and bursting with ideas. We created a conlang, or rather some basics for it, it was based on Swedish and Finnish, we created different worlds where people were going after death. It was so that the Viking gods were very cruel and only those who believed in them consequently could expect a happy, everlasting life in Asgård or Valhalla. The rest either stayed in the Midgård, or went to the other world that we, or actually I, created, called Sorgland (Land Of Sadness/Sorrow). And this conlang was for the purpose of Sorgland people. And there was a couple of young Polish idealists desiring to save all the people from the eternal suffers and they had to do lots of different things and we were making up lots of different adventures for them that they had to go through to achieve their dream. And he started to write it. But sadly he didn’t finish. So I got to all his drafts and other stuff he has gathered for this purpose. Jacek wanted it to be written in Swedish or Finnish, but I don’t feel like my Swedish would be good enough, so sadly that won’t happen. And I forgot almost completely about the harlequin thing.
I’m not saying I won’t come back to it, but now I definitely don’t feel like doing it. I don’t even feel like having enough time and energy for the poor Vikings, and haven’t focused on them more in a while. I don’t have much of a heart for writing this year at all, since I’ve been in a lot of depression most of the time plus all that hustle with finals, but maybe I’ll be more productive now during holidays, I hope so anyway.
But I still have this project and may come back to it in future when I need to.
How would you end this sentence? 🙂