HerStory: Shana Galen – A History of Dreams

Celebrating Women’s History Month at Read-A-Romance!

Since some of my favorite books are set in a variety of historical time-periods, I thought it would be fun to check in with some great authors in romance and women’s historical fiction, and explore their connection to history. Since the female perspective in history and fiction has been ignored so often, for so long, I find it heartening to see so many books representing romance and/or women’s history, telling such mesmerizing stories against the backdrop of some of the most intriguing and pivotal moments in time. I hope you find these essays as fascinating and fun as I do. You can see the full calendar of HerStory posts here.

Did you miss Read-A-Romance Month in August? Be sure to check out all the great “Joy of Romance” essays at the 2015 Calendar and if you’d like, you can follow RARM  on Facebook.

Not Your Grandmother’s Romance

I’ve always been a feminist. I learned that women have to fight for what they want at my grandmother’s knee. I Kissed A RogueBorn in 1918, my grandmother wanted to become a doctor. She went to college, worked to pay her own way, and took lots of science classes, in which she excelled. When she declared her major as pre-Med, more than a few of her professors raised eyebrows. Several pulled her aside.

“You don’t want to be a doctor. You want to get married and have children.”

“I want to do both,” my grandmother said.

“It’s unseemly for women to become doctors.”

“Then I suppose I’ll be unseemly,” my grandmother replied.

But it wasn’t easy for a woman who was barely twenty to stand up to revered male academics in the 1930s. My grandmother was determined and persistent, but she’d also been taught to respect her elders.

When her biology professor returned her test with a grade of B+ on it, my grandmother reviewed her work and the grade. She realized her professor had made a mistake in tabulating her score, so she approached him after class. When she pointed out his error, noting she should have received an A, the professor told her that if he’d given her an A, she would have scored higher than some of then men in the class. He couldn’t allow a woman to make the highest score in the class. It would make the men feel inferior. When my grandmother Rogue You Knowprotested, the professor argued with her and demanded she give up her foolish dream of becoming a doctor. My grandmother refused, and the professor took his pen, crossed out the B+ and wrote a C on top of it. From then on no matter how well she did, she was always marked lower than the male students.

Under the constant pressure, my grandmother finally gave up her dream and became a science teacher, a job in which she excelled. No doubt she taught many future doctors and scientists—both male and female.

I like to think there’s a little of my grandmother in every heroine I write. Not all of them have to push against stereotypes and gender expectations, but each of my heroines is strong and persistent and determined, like my grandmother. She didn’t realize her goal of becoming a doctor in real life, but my heroines can realize their dreams for all of us who have ever been told we can’t do something, we shouldn’t, or we’d better not.

Writing is empowering. Writing romance is seriously empowering. In my books I have the power to change the world. Women and men can live as equals. Wrongs are righted. The villain is always defeated. And, in the end, love wins the day. That’s the power of romance, and the power my grandmother taught me.Earls Just Want to Have Fun

When I was older I once asked my grandmother if she was angry at her professors. If she ever went back and vented her frustration and fury. Her reply? “I forgave them a long time ago. If you have hate in your heart, there’s no room for love.”

I hope we always have room in our hearts for love.

Shana recommends:

One of my favorite newer authors is Sally Orr   –  www.sallyorr.com  –   If you haven’t read her, put her on your list ASAP. Her debut book was titled The Rake’s Handbook (Including Field Guide) and it’s just as witty and wonderful as the title suggests. I love her humor and am impressed by her research and the way she deftly weaves history into her books. I always come away from one of her stories both educated and amused.

Questions for the Author:

Tell us about a moment when you felt a deep connection to history. 

Since I write so much about Regency England, walking past places I have written about, in particular Berkeley Square and White’s club, was really meaningful to me. I remember standing in the cold London afternoon, closing my eyes, and I could picture my heroes entering the club. I could picture my heroines walking through the park. My stories are always real to me in my head, but that was the first time they felt almost tangible.

Do you have a specific place or sound that makes you feel connected to history? Why? 

Listening to opera always makes me feel connected to history. Opera isn’t as popular as it once was, but hundreds of years ago, opera was the people’s Netflix. When I hear an aria by Mozart or a cantata by Vivaldi, I feel as though I share the love of that music with everyone who has every heard it through the ages.

What is your (or a) favorite historical era or event?france

My favorite era is the French Revolution. I find it endlessly fascinating. The tragedy of the deaths of the royal family, the promises of liberty that never materialized for the peasants, the lesson for us all that not only does power corrupt, but it corrupts absolutely.

Is there a moment in your research when some specific historical moment or event came to life for you? Tell us about it.

In the late 1990s I visited Scotland after reading all of the Outlander books that had been published at that time. I’d read several account of the Battle of Culloden, but nothing could compare to the feeling of sorrow and loss I experienced when I walked it. It seemed so small for such a momentous place, and it seemed so lonely and forlorn. I could almost sense the pall of tragedy still hanging over it.

And for fun ~ Tell us about your Favorite Historical Crush. ;o) (This can be either a historical or fictional crush.) shakespeareWhy?

Oh, it has to be Shakespeare. The more of his work I read, the more I am impressed by the depths of his understanding of human nature. He is both witty and profound, crass and eloquent. I don’t think there ever has or ever will be a writer as amazingly talented as he.

Shana is generously giving away  a complete set of the Covent Garden Cubs series (Earls Just Want to Have Fun, The Rogue You Know, I Kissed a Rogue) – US readers only, apologies to international readers.

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below or on the Facebook post you’ll find here (or both – Share the Love!) ;o) by 11:59 pm March 16 PST . Good luck!

Color Shana Galen L-R-2118Shana Galen is the bestselling author of passionate Regency romps, including the RT Reviewers’ Choice The Making of a Gentleman. Kirkus says of her books, “The road to happily-ever-after is intense, conflicted, suspenseful and fun,” and RT Bookreviews calls her books “lighthearted yet poignant, humorous yet touching.” She taught English at the middle and high school level off and on for eleven years. Most of those years were spent working in Houston’s inner city.

Now she writes full time. She’s happily married and has a daughter who is most definitely a romance heroine in the making.

Learn more:

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