Is There Something in the Water?

Reading about Dorothy’s upcoming Five Star Regency, The Nude, made me suck in a fast intake of air. Her premise, if I’m reading correctly, involves an artist and a nude painting. The book-I-just-turned-in ALSO involves and artist and a nearly nude painting. Yipes!

How many times does this happen? We come up with an innovative plot and BOOM! discover someone else has thought of something similar? I think someone else has a Regency that deals with gossip and the newspapers, like my next one, Scandalizing the Ton…can’t remember who at the moment.

I am very confident that Dorothy’s book and my book will each be unique, but it makes me wonder. Why do we authors come up with similar ideas at the same time?

I mean, think about Cara’s My Lady Gamester and my The Wagering Widow. Both were released in 2005.

Here is the blurb for My Lady Gamester:
MY LADY GAMESTER is the story of an aristocratic card-sharp in Regency London—who just happens to be a woman.
Atalanta James is the daughter of the late Viscount James, who bankrupted his family in a single night of cards. Now Atalanta has arrived for a London Season, and seems to be as determined a gamester as her father.
The Earl of Stoke wants above all things to protect his family from the kind of gambling madness that infected both his father and older brother. Why, then, is he so fascinated by Atalanta James? And why does he feel such a strong urge to protect her from the sharks that swarm around her—and even from herself?

Here is the blurb from The Wagering Widow:
Guy, Lord Keating, laden with his father’s debts, elopes with “heiress” Emily Duprey…only to discover she is as poor as he! Now his only hope of saving his family and dependants is a reluctant return to the gaming tables. Emily needs to escape this marriage to a gamester like her father. But she needs more money than she can win as Lady Keating – so she becomes Lady Widow, a card-playing masked seductress! Then Guy recognizes the beautiful Widow as his quiet, mousy wife – and their inconvenient marriage takes an unexpected turn…

There are lots of similarities!

Cara and I are on opposite sides of the country and we have never been critique partners and yet our stories had similar elements. What wisp of creativity was in the air and traveled a whole continent and hit us both?

All of a sudden there seem to have been several Courtesan books out in close proximity. Because books are written one or two years before their release, it isn’t possible that writers were copying each other’s ideas.
The earliest copyright date I found was Julia Justiss’s The Courtesan (2005)but there are more, like Anna Campbell’s Claiming the Courtesan (2007). Again, the stories are not the same, but something was in the air telling writers to write Courtesan books.

What do you think? Do you see these waves of similar topics? Or am I nuts…..

(Next Monday I’ll be in San Francisco, a pre-conference visit with my niece. I’ll give you all a report!)

About diane

Diane Gaston is the RITA award-winning author of Historical Romance for Harlequin Historical and Mills and Boon, with books that feature the darker side of the Regency. Formerly a mental health social worker, she is happiest now when deep in the psyches of soldiers, rakes and women who don’t always act like ladies.
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25 Responses to Is There Something in the Water?

  1. Deb Marlowe says:

    LOL, Diane, my cp and I call it “In the ether” Just yesterday we had a long critique session. When we had her book all plotted and planned, we talked about what was next for us–scary similarities, with no previous conversation about it!

    Same thing happens with movies. Remember when there were 2 big asteroid blockbusters at the same time?

  2. I prefer to think of it as “great minds think alike” and I would NEVER say that the Divine One is crazy!!

    I have read both My Lady Gamester and The Wagering Widow and although the basic premise may sound similar the two books are very different and very fabulous.

    This is an interesting phenomena. I wonder how many others have fallen into this cycle. Maybe the historical market is controlled by some great mystic muse of the Regency and writers are tuning in to her vibe to write what SHE wants to read. Hmmm. Conspiracy theory on a muse level.

  3. Lois says:

    I think it just shows that old adage there is no such thing as a new idea. But then, one of the things people always ask about romances is what’s your favorite plot lines, anything from the secret babies to the dukes as spies to whatever your favorites are. . . it’s all a matter of how different authors make them! 🙂


  4. Linda Banche says:

    I’m certain current trends influence authors when they write–they influence all of us. So you will see a spate of similar-seeming books at the same time.

    But just because two books have the same general premise, and even if they have the same title, doesn’t mean they will be the same.

    I have an example. Of one of the pairs of similar-sounding books Diane mentioned (and I will not name them), I read one book and loved it. I returned the other to the library unfinished (I’m so glad I didn’t buy it!) because I’ve hated few books more than that one.

    Thank God for differences in authors.

  5. What is it that Carl Jung calls it? The collective unconscious? Think of all the teenage girls who become vampires right before their proms books that came out a few years ago. Its just something that happens. Diana Peterfreund did an interesting thing a few years ago, she gave a group of writers a similar premise, and they had to come up with a plot, it was amazing how different the stories turned out to be.

  6. Ladyhawk says:

    I also like the idea that great minds think alike. Consider that this happens in many varying areas. I was watching a program on PBS. If I remember correctly it was about stars. There was a particular premise (and I wish I could remember the details but can’t), however, I do remember that three different people, in totally different areas of the world, were all working independently on the same theory from only slightly different perspectives. They did end up working together and proved their theory. There are various examples throughout history, in regards to electricity, diseases, etc, where different people, unknown to each other are working on the same things. I’ve read both books, and loved both of them.
    ~Judy T

  7. Wasn’t there a Christina Dodd book a few years back about a nudie painting? And maybe a trad Regency, too. I can’t remember.

    I think the old adage that there are only a set number of actual plotlines is true, to an extent–I don’t think I’ve ever read a romance and thought “I have never seen this before at all!” (except when I was first reading them, and it was a whole new world, LOL). On the other hand, I’ve almost never come across two books that were alike in tone and theme and character, even when the plot outline was similar. It would be very interesting to trace how the ideas all came about, though…

  8. Diane Gaston says:

    Wasn’t there a Christina Dodd book a few years back about a nudie painting? And maybe a trad Regency, too. I can’t remember.

    Here’s where I can be confident in not unconsciously picking up a premise from another author. As the World’s Worst Read Writer, I can say in truth that I never read it!

    The thing is, Cara and I wrote lady gamester stories in the same year without knowing the other was doing it! How? There weren’t a glut of gamester books out at the time and if there were, I didn’t read them.

  9. Deb Marlowe says:

    You know, I think there is a historical anthology coming out soon that addresses this: 3 or 4 authors are starting a story at the same point (a night at a tavern or something similar) and ending up with all very different stories.

    I’m operating on a vague recollection here, anybody know anything else about it?

  10. Santa says:

    Having not read any of the comments I’ll just throw this out to you.

    I don’t think it’s so much that there is something in the water. I do agree with Louise that it is a matter of great minds thinking alike – just not only on the writer’s side. I would have to say that it may also be agents and editors talking amongst themselves and leaning towards fresh ideas as presented to them by their peers.

    Do you think I’m off on this or is it also a plausible explanation? I know that when I’ve pitched my book the buzz is that food and sex are hot. Good news for me….if I can get someone to go for it!

  11. My CPs had to talk me down from the ledge just the other week after I read a review of Naomi Novik’s newest Temeraire book. I knew there would be some similarities to my WIP, but the review made it clear that there were more than I’d anticipated. I was panicking for awhile there, but my CPs convinced me that my different style and themes, along with my lack of dragons and real-person protagonist, made my story different enough that I can keep writing it.

    I just hope an editor will agree!

  12. Cara King says:

    I agree. A certain plot point or concept may be what’s on the back cover (and even what captures the attention initially), but it’s generally other things that actually shape a novel and give it its flavor — things like character, voice, etc etc…

    For example, in Diane’s WAGERING WIDOW, one of the most memorable things is the heroine stepping outside her shell, taking risks for once and experimenting via a masquerade (and mask) with being someone she never thought she could be…and therefore discovering new sides to herself (and new experiences.)

    My heroine in MY LADY GAMESTER, on the other hand, has spent years turning herself from an open, warm-hearted creature to an icy gamester who is extremely self-disciplined.

    So though our heroines are both gamesters, they’re sort of following opposite paths! 🙂

    As for ideas being in the ether — I do think it sometimes happens. Sometimes, multiple authors are inspired by the same thing — a movie, a trend, a nonfiction book, an actor — and write books that have a handful of similarities (but of course are always very different books.)

    But beyond the ether idea, is the plain fact that certain things were a major part of Regency life. Pretty much every research book talks about the huge amount of time and money that all classes in England at the time spent on gambling…so it’s only sensible to have gambling in a lot of stories! (And it’s not just “research” books — plays, novels, and letters of the time are full of games. Heck, Austen’s characters are constantly playing cards!)


  13. Cara King says:

    Santa, I think you have a point, particularly about the sweep of a trend. I think sometimes when something new comes out and does quite well, then the next time an author is chatting with her agent/editor and says “I’m toying with these three ideas,” the response may be “love that second one! why don’t you go with that — that’s very marketable right now.”

    Though I’m not sure how much this would affect things that aren’t that, um, trendy. (Not sure how else to put it! I mean “trendy” like the vampire-at-prom books cited.)


  14. Diane Gaston says:

    I still think there’s something in the water or in the air!!

  15. Santa says:

    Oh and yay me! I won! I’ll write lindsey about her prize, too!

  16. Todd says:

    Deb Marlowe wrote:

    Same thing happens with movies. Remember when there were 2 big asteroid blockbusters at the same time?

    Don’t remind me (shudder). And the time there were 2 big volcano movies out at the same time? (Double shudder.) And The Matrix at the same time as The 13th Floor? And…


  17. Kalen Hughes says:

    I notice it with names. I’ll struggle with finding just the right name (something original, but historically accurate) and then I’ll find out that some BIG NAME author has a book out right about the same time and their hero or heroine has the same name. *sigh* It’s happened to me with both my books.

  18. Elizabeth, you might wish to check out Candice’s anthology with Balogh, Laurens, and d’Alessandro: It Happened One Night. They did the same thing: Chose a common premise and then wrote their stories with no further discussion.

    I also like the idea of a collective unconsciousness, like an idea whose time has come. 2008-2009 is seeing a rise of stories set partly in British India.

  19. Susan/DC says:

    christina Dodd’s book was about a woman artist who did a sculpture clearly recognizable as one of the male leaders of the ton. The sculpture was scandalous because it was nude except for the rquired fig leaf, and the size of the fig leaf implied a very small body part underneath — not what is usually ascribed to Romance heroes. She had never actually seen him (or any man) nude. Needless to say, he did not take kindly to this misrepresentation, and she had to absent herself for several years. Don’t know if any of this matches either of the two upcoming “nude” books, but as has been said, it’s all in the execution.

  20. Diane Gaston says:

    The sculpture was scandalous because it was nude except for the rquired fig leaf, and the size of the fig leaf implied a very small body part underneath

    Oh, how funny, Susan!
    My premise isn’t remotely like that one but I wish I’d thought of it!!

  21. Xtina is such a hoot. Very clever to use the size of the fig leaf to give away the important secret.

  22. M. says:

    what about ‘your scandolous ways’? that one is about a courtesan, though not made explicit in the title

  23. Lana says:

    Ooh, I’ve been looking for artist heroes and heroines in romance novels all over the place (they’re a favorite of mine), so personally I’m thrilled as anything that there might be two brand-new ones I should be looking for. Could you be persuaded to share titles?

  24. Diane Gaston says:

    Dorothy McFalls, The Nude, is coming from Five Star/Gale/Cengage in May 2009. And my as yet untitled artist story is coming sometime in 2009, so you’ll have two, but you’ll have a bit of a wait. Deb Marlowe has an artist heroine in her novella, part of our Diamonds of Welbourne Manor anthology, also out May 2009
    I wish I could think of some others….

  25. Anonymous says:

    Lana, you might also look for THE PAINTED LADY by Barbara Metzger — the hero’s an artist. And if a heroine who’s an interior decorator of sorts would interest you, there’s Deb Marlowe’s SCANDALOUS LORD, REBELLIOUS MISS.

    Cara (who can’t get Blogger to behave and show her profile)

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