So it has been a week since the Historical Novel Society 4th North American Conference ended. It doesn't feel like it was that long ago. I will kick this off by saying that I had the most wonderful time! FYI this is one of those marathon posts and there is a giveaway at the end for HNS swag!
My flight out to San Diego was a long one. I had to get up at 3:30 AM (Eastern time) to catch my flight out of Hartford, CT. That went very smoothly. After about an hour and a half flight, I changed planes in Detroit - of course I had to go from gate 68 to 11 and had 20 minutes to do so before boarding. I got my workout in for the day! Then the long part of the flight - just over 4 hours to San Diego. I have to say, despite the bad press that Delta is getting these days - I was extremely happy with my 2 Delta flights. We were served ample snacks (and had several things to choose from), I purchased a very tasty breakfast meal, and I was happy with the service - so I'm not complaining.
So it was around 11 AM (Pacific time) when I finally got to the hotel room. It was on the 7th floor and had a great view of the parking lot and a few buildings - we were not on the side with the waterfront, which was right across the street. I shared a hotel room with Allie from Hist Fic Chick - we hadn't seen each other since BEA 2010 - so you can imagine we had a lot to catch up on (but she didn't get there until 7 PM so I had some time on my hands).
I napped a bit to get caught up on the time change and then met with Christy English for a coffee/soda before the registration for the conference. We chatted for about an hour about everything from Eleanor of Aquitaine to my tornado experience to where we are from. She is the nicest person. We would meet up several more times throughout the conference.
Afterward there was registration and a cocktail reception - I met so many different authors and people from various aspects of the publishing world. While I was in line for a glass of wine I ran into Laurel Corona, Anne Easter Smith, and Susanne Dunlap. It was so cool to hear "hey, this is one of our bloggers!". After mingling for a while it was time for dinner - I sat at a table with Susan Higginbotham, among many others, and Allie finally arrived! The keynote speaker was Henry Turtledove - who I had no idea who he was - who spoke about alternative history. A new addition to the conference schedule was Friday Night Fight Scenes - several authors got up and read from their fight scenes. We only stayed for the first one, since fight scenes are not really my thing when I am reading. After that, it was off to our hotel room to chit chat, read, explore our swag bags, and listen ALL NIGHT to the trains coming into the train station 2 blocks behind our hotel! That sucked just a bit.
Saturday morning started bright and early at 7 AM - and I was still feeling the effects of the time change. We had breakfast with Christy English et al and honestly we skipped the first panel to walk around and just get our bearings together (it was early!) then we were off to our first panels. The first panel we viewed was Historical Fiction and the Fantastic. This was featuring Mary Sharratt as moderator and Cecelia Holland, C.C. Humphreys, Shauna Roberts, and Christopher Cevasco as panelists. The basic discussion of the panel was about the drawing on belief and superstition of a people when writing about them. C. C. Humphreys made some of the most poignant statements on this panel - "magic happens to people who believe in magic" when discussing the beliefs of the people who are writing about. Also, that the fantastical elements can bring young men into the historical genre and bridge that gap between fantasy novels and historical fiction.
Our second panel was Are Marquee Names Really Necessary? This was a panel that I was very interested in hearing the opinions of because I have often wondered the same thing. I have enjoyed novels that feature marquee names and those that don't, but wondered how well they did. Allie and I sat with Kate Quinn, who we had met at dinner the night before. This panel was again moderated by Mary Sharratt and featured Susanne Dunlap, C.W. Gortner, Vanitha Sankaran, and Margaret George. As you can imagine the panel was split on this one - Sankaran and Dunlap haven't really used marquee names while Gortner and George have. I learned that a marquee name isn't just limited to a famous character but can also be a famous place, setting, or event - at least that leaves a little more wiggle room. Gortner stated that the use of a marquee name is driven mostly by the publishers while readers are happy to read about a wide subject range. George added on to that by relating that she had been told by an editor that the marquee name has to be in the title. I could understand both of these statements because they are looking for the thing that will reach out and grab the readers from their spaces on the shelf. An interesting difference is within the YA genre - Dunlap stated that it seems that YA readers are looking more for the exciting story as opposed to the marquee name, possibly because the names are not as entrenched in their minds yet.
After this panel we went off to lunch - we sat with M.L. Malcolm and several other authors and chatted away. The keynote speaker was Jennifer Weltz from the Jean V Naggar Literary Agency. Her speech was awesome. If you want to read it in its entirety you can here (and you really should because it gives a great insight into an agent's job, just beware it is LONG!). Off to our next panels!
The next panel was a one woman show - Susan Vreeland discussing her various novels and reading excerpts from them all. This was interesting as I have several of her books but haven't read them yet. The last panel of the day that we went to was Whose Side Are You On? Turning the Antagonists of History into Sympathetic Protagonists. This panel had several heavy hitters in my opinion. The panel was moderated by Elizabeth Kerri Mahon and featured Emma Campion, Anne Easter Smith, Susan Higginbotham, and C.W. Gortner. Allie and I had the chance to meet Sandra Worth who was featured recently on this HFRT site. She was so sweet and thanked us for hosting her. I thought it was funny that Smith and Higginbotham were seated side by side since they write from different perspectives on the Wars of the Roses. I loved these quotes that the authors made about their various sympathetic protagonists - "I was drawn to her [Catherine de Medici] because she had this reptilian, woman in black portrayal" (Gortner); "her story just didn't hold weight, this doesn't make sense" (Campion on Alice Perrers history); "Margaret of Anjou was this totally evil woman with no redeeming qualities what so ever" (Higginbotham); "Richard III was definitely one of our bad kings" (Smith on what she was taught in school about Richard III).
The panels were followed up by book signings (where I got Mistress of Rome signed by Kate Quinn and my ARC of Before Versailles signed by Karleen Koen). If only I could have brought my books with me from home because I had books by so many of these authors I could have had signed! We also had the chance to stop and talk with Mitchell James Kaplan.
There was another reception and then dinner. During the reception we chatted with C.W. Gortner and Michelle Moran - both of whom I was very excited to meet as we have exchanged emails in the past. At dinner we sat with Gillian Bagwell, M.L. Malcolm, DeAnna Cameron, Lynn Sheene, Marci Jefferson, Kevan Lyon, and Deann Smith. This was a great group of ladies to sit and chat books with. The keynote speaker this time was Cecelia Holland - a short speech but it cut straight to the point and earned a standing ovation. This was followed by a Historical Fashion show - the host was hilarious as she introduced each person - an author wearing garb from one of their novels.
Following the fashion show, Allie and I went and joined Kate Quinn and C.W. Gortner to listen to the most scandalous part of the conference - Saturday Night Sex Scene readings! Yes, it is exactly what you are thinking - authors read sex scenes from their novels. There were awkward moments, moments that made you bust out laughing, and those where you were a little horrified - but we couldn't have been sitting with better people to enjoy this show. Then it was off to our hotel rooms - where a group of us got stuck in the elevator for awhile before it finally decided to let us out on a floor we hadn't chosen!
Sunday morning started out with packing up my bags, figuring out how to get all of these books home, and breakfast. During breakfast with Mitchell James Kaplan and Christy English, Laurel Corona asked us if we had any lunch plans for after the conference ended, we didn't, and we were invited out to lunch with a group - I will return to this story later.
The last panel that we attended was Fact in Fiction or Fiction in Fact - this was another heavy hitting panel and probably the one I was most looking forward to. Jennifer Weltz was the moderator and Donna Woolfolk Cross, C.W. Gortner, Karleen Koen, and Sandra Worth were on the panel. By this point, I had stopped taking notes but it was a wonderful panel. Afterward we went and finished packing, checked out, and met the group to head to lunch.
I went back to the hotel with Susanne Dunlap and Deb Grabien and we sat in the hotel restaurant and talked for a few hours - Susanne and I had several hours to kill before our flights left that night. After hanging out at the airport for awhile I caught my red eye to Charlotte, NC. Luckily I slept some on the plane there, because by the time I get to NC it was 7 AM. I had breakfast, caught my flight to Hartford, and then drove the hour home from there. You can probably imagine what I did next - slept for a few hours. It took me two days to get back on the correct schedule (I even called out of work on Tuesday because I was still not a functioning human being.) It was an absolutely wonderful trip and I wish I had more time to explore more of San Diego and meet some more of the people there. Allie and I have since talked with Sarah from Reading the Past (and an organizer for the conference) about a blogger/social networking panel for the 2013 conference. I had several authors ask me why there wasn't one (I don't know!) - so we will see where that goes - but I hope to be able to attend again in 2013!
Whew! Told you it was going to be a marathon post! Hope you enjoyed the ride!
Now for the giveaway!
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