I’m writing a MG novel set in 1965 in Midwest America. While the story is about a little girl who wants a dog, the background story touches upon her brother, and the neighbor’s son, both in Vietnam. We learn about the war through letters written by her brother. Recently, I was told that 1965 isn’t historical, and that the Vietnam war is a black hole in the publishing world. Well, then! Is my novel doomed even though the story isn’t non-fiction, and isn’t only about Vietnam?
Deborah Wiles’ award-winning MG novel Countdown (The Sixties Trilogy) proves there’s a place for historical fiction set in 1960s America. And yes, 1965 is “historical”—it’s three generations removed from your target readers, with a distinct cultural landscape. Not that I’m sure you have a historical fiction project. It could be general fiction, with your focus being on the girl and her dog wish rather than on the war. To Kill a Mockingbird isn’t officially “historical fiction” even though it’s set in 1930s Deep South. It’s a story about people, race, class, and coming of age. Lead with your themes and craft strengths when submitting, not your time period. As for “black hole,” don’t look a gift horse in the mouth! An unexploited spot in the market could be gold. Just ask J.K. Rowling, who shopped a wizard book when wizard books were barely a market blip. You may have a better shot than those in a genre that’s hot but saturated. Doomed? Hardly.