Why I don’t write fiction set in Portugal

For those of you who have no idea why I’m answering this — there is a rather long (if polite) question in Portuguese a few entries back and because it is a polite question — for Portugal almost excruciatingly polite — it deserves an answer.

Considering I write historical fiction and that, if history were oil, Portugal would buy and sell the rest of the world, I imagine this looks odd to people from Portugal or of Portuguese descent.  Unfortunately I have many reasons not to write fiction set in Portugal — and this is not strictly true.  I sold a Portuguese History story to The Book Of Final Flesh and I sold a Henry the Navigator story to the Mammoth book of Historical Detectives (#3, I THINK.)  And one, very recently, to Universe.  And I’ve written several others.  I’ve just never published them.  But no, I haven’t tried to sell novels set in Portugal.  Unfortunately because, of course, if Portuguese History were oil, I’d have a fast track to becoming a multi-millionaire.

So, this post will set out, in generality, the reasons I don’t write fiction set in Portugal.  I will expand on this in other posts.  In fact, this post is little more than an outline.  There will be a post immediately after this expanding on point 1.

1 – Because no one will buy it.  And no, it’s not those racist Americans.  (First of all, get a grip on reality.  Which self-respecting racist sets out to hate whites belonging to the mediterranean sub-race.  Gee.  There are cogent reasons it doesn’t sell in the US, unless literary or small press and they would apply to practically any other country not Portugal.  Well, maybe Portugal too, but I doubt it.  You could knock me with a feather when I found out recently Portuguese are a protected minority.  To anyone out there intending to protect me, kindly stop it.  I have hands and feet and a nasty disposition.)

2- Because sources of reference for Portuguese history purely SUCK.  They’re better in the US than they are in Portugal as are most purely historical scholarly books — unless you’ve tried to buy in both countries, kindly shut up — but they still SUCK.

3 – I don’t write things set in Portugal in general because I know nothing of current day Portugal.  I’m fairly sure my parents think I abandonned the country.  I’d like to submit to them and you that the country left me behind.  I truly don’t recognize most of the places I grew up in — they’re paved and covered in stack-a-prole apartment buildings.  The only way for me to go home would be a time-traveling machine.  If anyone has one of those speak up.  I’d give ALL my current worth and a good part of my future for another hour with my grandmother.

4- I don’t generally write about past Portugal because I know nothing about past-Portugal.  I don’t mean historical.  One of the advantages of historical writing is that no one can pop up and say “I lived through the Spanish takeover, young lady, and the Spanish takover was nothing like that.  We didn’t FEEL like that, and that’s not what it was like in Freixo de espada a cinta.”  They CAN do this for my lifetime — the last almost half-century.  And they would be right and I would be wrong.  Part of this is that i left Portugal very young — 22 — and never lived in it as a self sufficient adult.  Part of it is that, while still in Portugal, I bought Heinlein’s Stranger In A Strange Land on the title alone as “Oh, Lord, that’s how I feel.”

Okay, part one after I shower and have coffee.  Part one I’m afraid will have to go into “What a writer has to do in terms of where you set up the story and themes for it to make cogent sense and sell.”  Or “Sarah’s little book of secrets about marketing to editors.”  Mind you, given my track record of marketing to the public, the well-informed will take it with a barrel of salt, but this has been my experience as a professional writer.  Your mileage may vary.

Be Right Back.

One thought on “Why I don’t write fiction set in Portugal

  1. It’s a funny thing about being “ethnic”, this weird pressure to reflect to the outside world an exotic stereotype that may have absolutely nothing to do with the truth.
    I’m Kimberly, by the way!! 😀 I discovered your writing through the Dreams of Decadence vampire anthology. “The Blood Like Wine” is the only compelling story in that book, and yes, I know if I keep making criticisms like that I’ll never be published, but oh well. “Blood Like Wine” was the only story with a memorable character–the French courtesan clawing her way up the social ladder had me riveted. But the rest of that book was a sleep aid on par with two glasses of cheap Sangria and a Nytol. I read some more of your stories and now I’m here polluting your LJ!! Goodness.
    I’m half-Japanese, but I’m an adoptee who grew up for the most part 100 percent white-bread American. I have many Japanese features, but Japanese culture is totally alien to me. Nevertheless, when creating a musical persona I capitalize on my Japanese heritage because that’s what people seem to like, at least for now.
    As a writer, I could care less about my Japanese heritage. Though I probably should, sometimes it seems that every Asian-American woman that kvetches about being sexually fetishized gets a book deal. But I don’t write race-angst. When I write, horror comes out. So that’s what I write.
    So I’m with you on staying away from Portugal, literally and figuratively. There is no homeland for any of us, I think we all feel sometimes that we were born in eggs from other planets.
    Thanks for letting me do my little tap dance!
    Queenie/Kimberly Steele

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