I'm sure you have; how else did that phrase "Why re-invent the wheel?" get coined? I don't know about you, but I've never been much for using someone else's leavings. And so it should come as no surprise that I recently had my lovely Restoration England novel idea pooh-poohed when I discovered that another novel featuring my historical figure is about to come out.
I'll come right out and say it, I was planning on writing a novel about Frances Stuart, the Duchess of Richmond and Lennox. Known as "La Belle Stuart" she was the one woman that evaded King Charles II. Yes, she refused to become the mistress of a king. In fact, she was so beautiful that Samuel Pepys made several notations about her in his diaries. Charles was so mad for her that when she secretly eloped with the Duke of Richmond, they were bascially persona non grata with the king for many years. But sadly, I found out yesterday that another historical fiction writer has written about Frances. The book has been released in the UK and is days away from reaching the shelves in the US. She's a cracking good writer too as I read her novel about John Donne and his wife Anne. So, I suspect that I will be picking up a copy of The Painted Lady and dreaming about what could have been. I know that having a rival book out there doesn't neccessarily spell doom for me, but Frances Stuart isn't Anne Boleyn or Marie Antoinette. Her life is not subject to various interpretations and so I feel that it is best to tackle new ground.
I was pretty bummed about this revelation yesterday but I woke up with renewed determination this morning and I think I have found a new subject. This historical figure will take me to Georgian England, an era that I'm a bit more comfortable venturing into. Hopefully no one else has stumbled upon this character!
So what about you? Have you ever started researching (or writing) a novel only to discover that it's been done?