Contemporary/Historical Label Researched

In response to this post, Tristi asked:

I don’t see how 1974 isn’t considered historical. Isn’t the Vietnam era historical? Isn’t anything that happened in the past considered historical? If not, this blows my current WIP out the window — it’s Vietnam era and I’ve been calling it historical. Silly me.

Rather than replying in the comments section, I’m talking about this here because Tristi brings up a good point. What do you call your novel? You need to be clear about this because that classification will determine where you submit the novel for publication. So.

Remember the fuzzy line I mentioned? A story about the Vietnam Era is right in the middle of that fuzz. It happened less than 50 years ago, yet there is definitely a historical aspect to it.

So how do you decide what to label it? Research!

Research is not hard, especially if you use the Internet. I found an answer in less than 10 minutes, and I suspect Tristi already knows what that answer is because she writes historical fiction and therefore, is no stranger to research. But for writers who have never done this type of research before, the idea of it can be daunting. I hate it when I have to do something new and I don’t even have a clue of where to begin. So, because I am so kind (and also because I’m procrastinating getting started at work today), here’s what I did.

First, I know that Tristi’s previous novels have a large medium dollop of romance in them, so I’m looking for historical romances set in the Vietnam War.

I went to and looked up vietnam romance. I also went to* and typed in historical romance vietnam. I did some clicking around in both places and came up with two important clues.

#1: Tree of Smoke, by Denis Johnson, is an espionage thriller set in the Vietnam War. It was published September, 2007. It won the fiction category in the National Book Awards. Amazon classifies it as Thriller; Genre Fiction: War; Genre Fiction: Historical. This is a good hint that the Vietnam War era is considered historical.

#2: At, browsing by time period, I found the Vietnam War era listed. Good sign. It lists two books in that time period—one by Danielle Steele and one by Lindsay McKenna. I don’t know who Lindsay McKenna is, but everyone has heard of Danielle Steele. If her romance set during the Vietnam War can be classified as a “historical romance” then we’re on the right track.

You could do more research if you wanted to, but based on this, I think it’s safe to call a novel set during the Vietnam War a historical novel—especially if the war is an intrinsic part of the storyline and not just a fluffy backdrop.

*In some situations, is a better search engine than Google.