I recently discovered two fictional series, one in the detective genre, the other in the mystery category. Ruth Rendell’s Inspector Wexford series and James Runcie’s Grantchester series begin in the mid-twentieth century, a decade or two after World War II.
Critics describe both, as going beyond their genres. They are immersed in the social and cultural changes of their eras as they follow the main characters through time. They appeal to me for that reason.
My own novels have changed. In the beginning they tended toward romance, then women’s fiction, but the characters were wedded to the time period of the seventies and eighties. They explored a time period not considered either historical or contemporary. The era of near history is my niche, because it lends clues for how we became what we are in the present. In addition, nobody writes truly “contemporary” fiction. As one is writing the words, the present becomes past.
Time features even more in the series I’m writing now, which follow a man’s life from the late 1970’s into whatever near present I’m able to reach. Few would deny the tremendous changes during this time period.
Why did the changes happen? How did they develop? What do the changes mean to us today? What do they mean to relationships and families? What do they mean to our belief systems?
Another change occurs, too. The novelist is changed as a result of considering the changes to his/her protagonists. It makes for an interesting journey.