Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sunday Salon: ARRC wrap up - Part 1

I am determined that today is going to be the day that I do my wrap up of the Australian Romance Reader's Convention which I attended in Sydney a couple of weeks ago. I have posted about the my Thursday adventures including the Book Blogger Meet up which was on the Thursday night before, and I have posted the loot that we got, but nothing about the actual convention. Actually, now that I have started writing the post I think I will do two separate posts - one for Friday/Saturday and another for Sunday, otherwise this post is going to be huge!

Now that I have located my notes, I realise how illegible my handwriting is most of the time, but never mind! Funnily enough I said the same thing last time. Also the same as last time, my photos are terrible! I need to remember to sit as close as possible if I intend to use my own photos in these wrap up posts.

View from the roof of Swisse Grand
ARRC 2011 was held at Swisse Grand Bondi. While I had been to Sydney quite a few times, and have been to some beaches like Manley, this was my first visit to Bondi which is one of the most famous beaches in Australia.

Friday night reception

The convention started on Friday night with a cocktail party/get together which was a lot of fun. There was lots of catching up with people from last time, glimpsing authors. It soon become apparent that we needed to add our Twitter IDs to our conference badges, because there were quite a few "OMG you are @Margreads" moments, along with at least one where an author said I read your blog, at which point I was a bit gobsmacked!

I should mention that I had started to lose my voice and sounded terrible (felt okay though) so all through the weekend this hindered my communication just a little bit.

After the reception, we all traipsed back to Kat's room, where she had a whole box of books that she was giving away, and I was very pleased to get my hands on one of the only two Lisa Kleypas books I haven't yet read. It was awesome to be in the same room chatting face to face with many of the same people who I chat with regularly on Twitter!

I started Saturday morning with a walk along the beach. It was  bit drizzly but it wasn't that cold, followed by a buffet breakfast that had some really nice little pastries (which kind of meant the walk was obsolete but never mind!)

Credit: Robyn Hills
Anna Campbell - Key Note Speech

The first session feature Australian Author Anna Campbell. If you love her books and you ever get the chance to go and hear Anna speak, then you should definitely do so because she is funny, warm and gregarious and started the more formal sessions off with a bang.

Anna's talk was about how Australian Romance is conquering the world! A perfect example - Stephanie Laurens who has had more than 20 New York Times bestsellers! Two other examples - news had just come through that Marion Lennox and Kelly Hunter had both been nominated for RITA awards (the romance equivalent to an Oscar).

Anna took us back in time, using images of covers to remind many in the crowd of their long ago reads to some of the earliest Australian category romance authors, including the author that started her romance journey as a young reader  - Joyce Dingwell. Anna was hooked on the development of the relationship between two characters. One of the characteristics that we do well is strong, proud heroines that authors likve Valerie Parv and Emma Darcy wrote. (As an aside, Valerie Parv was just given a Pioneer of Romance award at the RT conference which is currently on in Los Angeles). More modern day examples include Sarah Mayberry, Marion Lennox, Miranda Lee and Bronwyn Jameson.

Moving on from category romance, there are many Australian authors that are doing exceptionally well in single title romance led by authors like Stephanie Laurens, but also for example an author who I wouldn't say is particularly well known here by the name of Anna Jacobs, who is apparently second most popular library loan in the UK and writes historical saga style novels. The other day I was at Kmart and saw one of her book available there for the first time. It was the third in a trilogy so have requested the first one with the intention of trying her books.

Anna Campbell also discussed the fact that we sit somewhere between the US and the UK in terms of culture helps us in particular in historical romance and for historical accuracy.

Another area where Australian authors are doing particularly well in is paranormal, with authors like Keri Arthur, Mel Scott, Tracy O'Hara, Denise Rossetti leading the way, and so to are Helene Young and Bronwyn Parry in romantic suspense.

In summary, we are reaching out from Australia across the world!

Helene Young - Launch of Shattered Sky

Speaking of Helene Young, the next segment was a launch of Helene Young's second book Shattered Sky, or more precisely a meet the author session as the book had been launched a few times before. I don't normally read a lot of romantic suspense but straight after this session I went and bought her first book (mainly because the characters in both books are connected and I have to read in order.)

Helene has been a pilot for more than 20 years, and in these first two books she takes that knowledge and uses it in the story.

When asked why she wanted to write romantic suspense she said it was because she loved to read romance, and also loved to read mysteries, starting with books like Trixie Belden (a woman after my own heart). She likes to write women with perseverance and tenaciousness that help them through obstacles.

Helene also talked about technology (her book was the first to be released simultaneously in print and ebook by Hachette here in Australia) and social media and how readers want to feel a sense of connectedness to authors.

Bronwyn Parry, Michelle Douglas, Christina Lee being introduced
Concurrent Session 1 - Outback and in Love

There were three options for the first concurrent session  - Paranormal, This One Time (author anecdotes) and the session I chose to attend Outback and in Love which was asking the question "Is rural lit the next big thing?". I enjoyed this session, especially seeing as it was intimate enough in terms of numbers to turn into a two-way conversation between the authors and delegates.  On the panel were

Amy Andrews
Karly Blakemore-Mowie (who under the name Karly Lane has just released North Star)
Bronwyn Parry
Fiona McArthur
Christina Lee (from Harlequin Australia)
Michelle Douglas

Other than answering yes, or we hope so, the authors talked about rural lit being built upon the Thorn Birds legacy, and also that the Outback as a setting has been strong in category romance for a long time. Now, helped along by TV shows like McLeod's Daughters and The Farmer Wants a Wife this kind of story is going more mainstream. Rural categories have always sold well, but it has taken longer for this translate into single title sales.

In the past rural romances tended to always be a farmer hero and city heroine, but now can be the other way around. This is a really good way to challenge the alpha hero by putting them in a different environment to the one that they are used to.

Whilst there is a strong Australian voice, there are US counterparts, for example, Linda Lael Miller and Diana Palmer.

One of the things that was discussed was the fact that digital publishing may make it easier for changes like publishing more rural lit to occur, and also the ability to easily access and author's back list.
Karly Lane, Amy Andrews and Fiona McArthur

The authors were then asked about authenticity:

Amy Andrews wondered how did authors write before Google. She intimated that you didn't have to have a country background, but it certainly helped.

Michelle Douglas talked about setting some of her books in places like the Kimberley, a place that most Australians haven't been to but it is quite possible to romanticise the setting and make it feel like we know it. She also talked about having the characters in isolated settings because the characters then have nowhere to run to except to each other.

Bronwyn Parry is an author who is based in the country, and talked about having plenty of places to hide bodies, which is handy for a romantic suspense author!

Some discussion then followed on how sometimes research isn't enough but that it needs local flavour, but that doesn't always translate well. One of the authors told a story about a book where it had been translated to another language so that there was a koala in the tree in the backyard that the heroine goes out to feed each day, something that would likely kill the koala. The other thing that is a factor is words with different meanings even in the English speaking world. For example, Australians tend to wear jumpers, not sweaters, and using utility instead of ute etc. There was some discussion of this as dumbing down for US readers in particular, which I know can be a touchy subject, but also leads to feedback to the publisher about the language etc.

Other topics that were discussed include the basic premise of a love story - everyone wants to be loved, even the strongest, most independent women, but without respect there can be no love, the joy of linked books (as a series addict I can't agree more), strong rural mythologies (the handsome, strong hero who can turn his hand to just about anything) and the fate of local bookstores.

The session ended with each of us being given a copy of Paycheque by Fiona McCallum.

Concurrent Session 2

I was volunteering on the registration desk so didn't attend any of the sessions in this times slot. The options were Romantic Suspense, Erotic and Publishing Ins and Outs.

Nalini Singh Key Note Speech

Nalini Singh's key note speech in the afternoon was all about writing ongoing series, and would have been interesting to both those interested in writing a series, and those who are fans of the two series that she currently authors.

She started with a bit of an explanation of how she came to be writing two series.

Originally Nalini was writing two books a year, and still maintaining a job but she decided to become a full time writer. Her plan was to continue to write the two books a year, but add in a standalone book as well because she was going to have lots of extra writing time. She submitted the manuscript for the standalone series to her editor who promptly said that they wanted to buy book two, and suddenly she was writing two series.

Writing interlinked series will only work if the over arching plot line is coherent. The Psy-Changeling series does have a definite end, but for Nalini herself it will never end. At this stage she is planning to do tangent books.

The Guild Hunter series is structured very differently from the Psy-Changeling series, with more scope for emotional growth and different because the focus is on the same couple during the first three books. She did also talk about the fact that she has to be careful about the language that is used in each series. As an example, she can't see the Dark Angel Rafael cuddling!

When it comes to the how of writing a series, Nalini gave a few tips about staying consistent. It was easy to keep the facts about characters in her head for the first book but not so after that.

  • Alphabetical list of names so that there is an even distribution of names across the alphabet.
  • Keeps a searchable file for each couple filled with details. 
  • File includes a timeline so suddenly don't have an 11 month pregnancy or some other inconsistency.

She then moved onto the world building. Nalini explained that she doesn't sit down and build the world first, but if she finds that she has changed something in a book compared to the earlier books in the series then that change must be logical and explainable.

Finally, Nalini said that she gets joy out of writing series, but at this stage, she is not intending to start writing another series.

Book signing sessions

Queues were long for Nalini Singh and slightly less so for Cindy Gerard, but wonder how awkward it is for other authors to sit around in the room for that length of time! I got a couple of books signed, but I hadn't bought many with me because I either already had them signed, or didn't want to take the risk of excess luggage! It was probably a good thing I didn't because it was seriously a close thing in terms of luggage weight on the way home.

Silent auction.

During the Saturday, it was possible for everyone to wander around and check out most of the items that had been donated for the silent auction which was being held in order to raise funds for the Queensland Flood Appeal. There were many items that were very desirable, and I put bids down on a few of them, but I knew I would have to have some self control.

I was on duty in the Silent Auction room for the last few frantic minutes before it closed. It was fun to watch people constantly checking their bids to see if they got the items they really wanted

I ended up winning two items:

In the end, more than $6000 was raised, which is just amazing!

Awards dinner

The awards dinner was held in the ballroom, and it was great to see everyone dressed up. In theory, there was a bling off, but to be honest we were all well and truly outclassed in the bling department by author Christine Darcas who outblinged us all!

For a full wrap up of winners, photos etc, I am going to direct you to Bookthingo's post about the evening! One thing I would mention is that it was awesome that all the winners of the awards were in the room this year. It certainly added to the buzz of the night.

I was at a table with Erica Hayes, Denise Rossetti, Jacq from Bookbites amongst others, but because of the fact that I could barely talk it made it very difficult to chat with others at the table!

And there we have it. The first day of the ARRC 2011 conference. The plan will be to post about the Sunday in next week's Sunday Salon.

P.S I am also claiming this post for Aussie Author Month, as with the exception of Nalini Singh, all the authors mentioned in this post are Aussies!


  1. What absolutely awesome events you attended! You only make me want to visit Australia EVEN more, but until then, we can travel there via the books....

    Setting romance in the Outback sounded especially captivating to me.

    Good job sharing!


  2. You certainly enjoyed this experience. Makes me wonder why I always sum up a four day conference in a couple of sentences.

    Here is my Sunday Salon, a wrap-up of my New York experience with the spring readathon (summed up in a few sentences, of course).

  3. Sounds like a great experience and a very full schedule, no wonder you'll be breaking the conference into two wrap-ups (and the view from that hotel is stunning!).

    Congratulations on your silent auction wins, and on the total raised for flood relief.

  4. Laurel-Rain, there are quite a few authors now writing this rural lit. Another couple of names are Fleur McDonald and Fiona Palmer.

    Deb, I wish I could sum up a conference in a couple of sentences! I just don't seem to have it in me.

    Dawn, the view was amazing. I should have taken the photos on the sunny day. It was gorgeous!