This was my first Historical Novel Society conference and I was unsure of what to expect, and as a newbie was rather nervous about meeting people. I needn’t have worried.
Highlights included Conn Iggulden’s keynote address and Lindsey Davis in conversation with Jerome de Groot.
A key part of the Society’s remit is to encourage writers of historical fiction, and two awards were given during the conference.
Elizabeth Chadwick presented the inaugural HNS Indie Award to Linda Proud for A Gift for the Magus.
The HNS Short Story Award for 2014 was presented by Ian Skillicorn (founder of Short Story Week) to Lorna Fergusson for Salt
I’m hoping that an ebook of the 2014 shortlisted stories will be published, like the 2012 entries were as The Beggar at the Gate & Other Stories.
The panel sessions were in turn
- informative (Selling Historical Fiction: the challenges and triumphs with Matt Bates, Carole Blake (CHAIR), Katie Bond, Nick Sayers, Simon Taylor, Susan Watt) – how important the book cover is.
- fun (‘My Era is Better than Yours’ with Angus Donald (Medieval), Suzannah Dunn (Tudor), Antonia Hodgson (Georgian), Giles Kristian (Viking & Civil War), Harry Sidebottom (Ancient Rome), Philip Stevens (CHAIR)) – Vikings had big axes.
- thought provoking (Freedom, Independence & Equality: Tackling the big issues with Emma Darwin, Elizabeth Fremantle, Margaret George, Douglas Jackson (CHAIR), Andrew Taylor, Robyn Young) – Margaret George refers to her novels about famous women in history as ‘psycho biographies.’
- and fascinating (Confronting Historical Fact with the Unexplained: from myths & the occult to fairytales & the Gothic with Jessie Burton, Essie Fox, Kate Forsyth (CHAIR), Deborah Harkness, Cathy Rentzenbrink, Prof Dianna Wallace) – how fairytale and myth can be used and re-worked successfully.
Another key part of the conference was the opportunity for aspiring writers to pitch their work to agents and editors. Although I was not interested in this, as I don’t write historical novels (yet?), the sessions were popular. I wonder how many of the pitches are actually successful?
I met in person some of those whose blogs I follow and whose books I’ve read, plus many other writers and readers of historical fiction.
To get a feel of what the conference was like take a look at this short video
It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and although I won’t be able to attend the next conference which is in Denver, Colorado next year, (2015 also marks the 1st Australasia Conference) roll on 2016 when the location will once again be in the UK.