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Category: Writers

The HNSA Conference 

The HNSA (Historical Novel Society of Australasia) Conference was really interesting — quite different from Romance Writers’ conferences, and I really enjoyed it. Romance writers’ conferences are mostly about the craft of writing and business and publishing, and I always enjoy them. The HNSA Conference was more about ideas — issues to do with research and people’s lives, research challenges across eras, truth and lies in crime fiction, historical fiction screenwriting, sources of inspiration, and much more. You can find the full program at this site. (Sorry, I tried to put a direct link to the program but Mad Mimi won’t allow it.)

One of my favorite speakers — and also a favorite writer — is Jackie French. She was guest of honor and was interviewed on the first morning. Fascinating and inspiring. I’m a huge fan of her work.

It was both refreshing and inspiring, listening to people talk about historical writing from such varied points of view. As well, so many of the speakers and panelists were natural storytellers, and were so interesting I wanted more, and bought their books. I learned things about history — mostly Australian history, but also South African and NZ and other times and places — that I had no idea of.

Thinking about all these different stories and aspects and approaches to history stretched my brain, in much the same way that a good brisk walk along the seashore refreshes mind and body. (Though all the conference sitting didn’t do a lot for my back.)

 

On the left is the “Feminine Mystique”panel, discussing the writing of strong female characters. From left,  Kirsty Murray, Juliet Marillier, Elizabeth Jane Corbett and chair, Sophie Masson.

I was chairing one panel and speaking on another — one on writing historical romance series, and the other on “George and Georgette”  – ie “mad” King George, Georgette Heyer and the Regency. Both went well, I thought. 

 

On the right are the three panelists from the “George and Georgette”  panel — Anna Campbell, Alison Goodman and me. Here we’re sitting out in the sun after the panel was over, and feeling much more relaxed.

Two nights before I was due to fly up to Sydney (and my latest book was due to be sent in) the three historical romance writers on the panel I was chairing decided they were all coming in full historical costume!!!! Because they’d all had Proper Historical Costumes made. Aarrggh!

With very little time to make anything, I decided to go as a dowager in mourning, as I have lots of black — Melbourne is a city where we wear a lot of black. I hitched a long black skirt up under my bust, wore a black jersey singlet underneath as a chemise, and found a tiny net long-sleeved cardigan that I wore many years ago when I was a LOT skinnier, (though, let’s face it I was never skinny.) But I squeezed into it, and buttoned the three buttons, and lo! It looked almost like a Regency-era spencer. I draped myself in pearls, which showed up well against the black — widows in mourning wore no color, only black, silver and white.

I also had some lovely black ostrich feathers that I could use for a head-dress. I twined a silky black scarf around my black netting beekeeper veil to make a turban. With the turban thingy and the ostrich feathers clipped in to my bun, it all looked fine — ridiculous but fine. Rather as though I belonged in a Victorian-era funeral, leading the plumed funereal horses — but fine.

But then just before the panel began, one of the panelists decided we should get a photo taken outside. It was a very windy day, and my feathers were almost swept away. I had no time to refasten them, and ended up chairing the panel looking demented as well as silly. <g>  But the panel went well, and I think the audience enjoyed it. Here we all are in our costumes, including one writer’s historical husband. The writers, from left: Lizzi Tremayne, Renée Dahlia, Elizabeth Ellen Carter, and me.

On the last day, at lunchtime we were treated to a display of sword-fighting through the ages from the Stoccata School of Defence. We sat around outside in the shade — it was a hot, sunny day — while two heroic swordsmen in full fencing gear took us through the history of sword fighting, demonstrating various kinds of fencing and different swords and even pikes. We munched on sandwiches and fruit and delicious little cakes while these two stalwarts sweated for our education. It was wonderful.

I had been planning to do a very small cruise — so many of my friends have been doing cruises lately and this was my chance. A friend had told me there was a ferry up the river from Circular Quay (where all the Sydney ferries leave from) to Parramatta (a suburb of Sydney, where the HNSA conference was held) and it would only take an hour or so, so I decided that would be my cruise for the year. LOL  And the weather was glorious.

Trouble was, by the time my luggage arrived off the plane, and I caught the train from the airport to Circular Quay, the ferry had just left, and the next one was three hours later. So no cruise for me, alas. I turned around and caught the train to Parramatta. And on the way back to central Sydney, after the conference, I shared a cab to the station, and rode the train with two historical writers, and we talked and talked the whole way. So again, no cruise, but a lovely way to finish a conference.

Some of the sessions were recorded, so when they become available, I’ll pop them up on the blog, and maybe write a bit more about the conference later.

Interviewing Sulari Gentill

Today on the Word Wench blog, I’m interviewing historical crime writer Sulari Gentill. In the interview she  talks about her inspiration, her books, ridiculous research rabbit holes and her upcoming US tour.

Sulari writes a crime series set in the 1930’s during the rise of fascism — in Australia, in Nazi Germany and elsewhere in the world. Fascinating history and good stories with likable and interesting characters.

One of the things I really enjoy in her books are little historical “bon-bons” where a  walk on peripheral character will be a real person from history. You won’t recognize them all, but she explains them at the end of each book. Such fun.

Sulari is giving away a book on the word wench blog so if you pop over there and leave a comment, you’ll be in the draw.

Anyway Sulari and three other aussie crime writers are about to head off on a US tour. The schedule is below.

If they’re appearing near you, why not pop over and say hi.
And try her books. They really are fun.

An interview

I’ve been doing a number of on-line interviews lately, and while I can’t share them until after they’re published, it occurred to me I could post some older ones here — assuming you’re interested, of course.

  1. Define “romantic fiction” and “contemporary romance fiction” in your own terms, and offer a distinctive difference between the two terms.

    Anne: Genre romance has the development of the romance as a central part of the story and has a happy (or satisfying) ending, whereas “romantic fiction” is more open, and can include tragic stories where one or both of the romantic couple dies

  2. What is your favourite contemporary romance novel?

    Anne: Do you mean contemporary meaning recently published, or a novel with a contemporary setting? The most recent romance novel I’ve loved was Bec McMaster’s Heart of Iron — it’s steampunk/paranormal romance, set in a fantasy Victorian era. My favourite contemporary romance novel is always changing but I loved Kylie Scott’s YA romance, TRUST.

  3. Who are your favourite heroines and heroes from any romance novel?

    Anne: How long do you want the list to be? <g> Damerel and Venetia from Georgette Heyer’s Venetia, Peabody and Emerson from Elizabeth Peters’s Crocodile on the Sandbank, Daphne and Rupert from Loretta Chase’s Mr Impossible.

  4. What is your favourite sub-genre of romance (such as paranormal, crime, suspense, etc.)?

    Anne: Historical, though I also enjoy paranormal.

  5. How long have you been writing historical and comedy romances?

    Anne: About 15 years.  (Clearly this interview was a few years ago)

  6. What are your opinions on romance novels written by authors such as Marian Keyes and Jane Green, whose novels deal with issues such as alcoholism, depression, domestic abuse and bereavement?

    Anne: I wouldn’t call them romance novels — they’re more relationship novels or women’s fiction. I loved Marian Keyes’s Rachel’s Holiday. I think romantic fiction (and romance) can deal with the tough issues really well. Romance is fantasy, sure, but it can also be grounded in reality — we need both the dark and the light. My own books have dealt with some quite grim issues, but they work their way toward a happy resolution. If it was all skipping through fields of flowers it would be horribly boring. Not to mention twee.

  7. Moreover, what are your opinions on novels written by authors such as Sophie Kinsella and Melanie La’Brooy (i.e. novels featuring successful – albeit flawed – women who are often perceived as “ditzy”)?

    Anne: I love Sophie Kinsella’s non-shopholic novels — I haven’t read Melanie La’Brooy. Kinsella’s novels are fun and entertaining and that’s fine by me. I don’t think novels of any kind need to “be “responsible” or “represent women.” There’s a huge variety of novels out there and I think that’s what represents women — the variety.

  8. Do you think romance novels are criticised for their occasionally unrealistic portrayal of the romantic hero?

    Anne:  I think romance novels do get a lot of flack about “unrealistic expectations” but IMO it’s because they’re written by women for women. People don’t criticize novels by men with heroic characters like Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, or Bernard Cornwell’s Richard Sharpe, or movie heroes like James Bond or Indiana Jones — for being unrealistic portrayals of men —they just enjoy the fantasy and the adventure. I think we should do the same for romance heroes. We’re all grown-ups here — there’s no harm in a bit of fun and fantasy.

  9. What is your opinion on the standard, frilly pink jacket covers for contemporary romance novels? Do you feel that the covers adequately represent the content of the novels?
    To Catch A Bride by Anne Gracie
    Anne: 
    They’re not all pink and frilly, but while they’re not my personal cup of tea, it’s a branding thing. If you don’t signal “romance” on the cover, readers who are looking for a romance novel will miss it. My worst selling book had a “nothing” sort of cover — a browny-yellow background with a  bunch of roses. (On the right)  Yet it was listed on several prestigious “best of” lists in the USA and nominated for several major awards. That cover let the book down because it didn’t signal anything about the story and the sales were dismal. My next book had a bride in a really gorgeous dress (see below) and my sales shot back up. Branding is important.The Accidental Wedding by Anne Gracie
  10. Finally, what does the future of romance fiction look like? Do you think the genre will remain a prevalent genre in wider society? Why/why not?

    Anne: Who knows what it will look like? The genre itself is constantly changing and expanding and has been doing so all the time I’ve known it —most people have no idea of the variety within the genre. As well, the face of publishing is changing rapidly with the advent of easy self-e-publishing, and all kinds of books that would never have been taken up by a publisher in the past are becoming bestsellers—without the aid of a publisher.
    I think romance will always remain a prevalent genre mainly because it is always reinventing itself and growing and changing as society changes. And also because love and the search for love is deeply rooted in the human psyche. It sounds like a cliché but I think it’s true that romance novels speak to people’s hearts—at least the good ones do.