Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sunday Salon: ARRC wrap up - Part 2

After last week's wrap up post of the Friday and Saturday of ARRC 2011, this week I am going to tell you about Sunday, at least what I can read of my notes!

I should note that this wrap up is in no way comprehensive. I am just attempting to give a taste of the sessions that I attended. If I was to type up all the notes I have, I would not only be here all night typing them up, but I am pretty sure I would lose readers!

The morning started at 9.30 on Sunday. I had gone to bed relatively early as I was trying to get my voice back, but I know that there were some hard partyers who struggled to get to the first session on time. It is yet another sign that I am getting old that just thought of that is tiring to me!

Cindy Gerard

Cindy Gerard was the third of the key note speakers, and was our US guest. She is a writer of romantic suspense, and the only one of the key note speakers that I hadn't already read.

She started her speech by declaring that Anna and Nalini had stolen her thunder, as she was going to talk about Australians in romance until Anna did that, and then she thought that she might speak about writing series, until Nalini did!

Cindy was funny and entertaining, and enjoyable to listen to even though she was a bit worried about speaking to readers not only authors. In the end she gave a speech on success. First though she talked a little about her road from reader to published author. She was very naive in that she sent her first manuscript to LaVyrle Spencer because she had answered some fan mail some time before. As a result of the feedback that she was given, Cindy joined Romance Writers of America.

Most of what Cindy talked about was about having the ability to confine, control and dominate self doubt, no matter whether you are talking about being a writer or about whatever avenue you are following in your life. She never knows where in the process self doubt would hit - could be starting a new book, could be in the copy edits, but it happens at least once in every book. What she has learnt is that she thought she was the only writer who felt like this, but it is true for a lot of them.

What she know she should do is eat security for breakfast and self doubt for lunch. the most important thing is to give yourself permission to be who you are and who you aren't.

She finished with saying despite the battle with self doubt she loves publishing, loves other authors, and loves readers. Even with lower than lows and higher than highs she is proud to be a romance writer.

Concurrent Session 3 - Up & Coming Authors

Left to Right in the picture:

Helene Young
Heather Boyd
Shannon Curtis
AB Gayle
Maggie Nash 
Jenny Brassel

This was another small session that ended up having really good interaction between the authors and the attendees, and I have to say that Jenny Brassel did a fabulous job of moderating the panel. She had loads of questions ready for the panel. I am not going to go through all of the responses, but they encompassed topics like

  • What made them want to become a writer
  • Were they a reader or a writer first
  • What would you never write
  • If you were not writing romance, what would you write
  • What is your absolute favourite book and why
  • Describe one of your character that you love
  • What authors influenced you most
  • What is the favourite book you have written?

Some of the conversation related to e-reading, what do readers want to see when it comes to promotion for up and coming authors, how do you find out about new books, what are deal breakers for readers in terms of content and where do you want to be in 5 years. I am pretty sure that one of our panellists wanted JR Rowling to be cleaning her bathroom, but I am not going to tell you which one!

I came away from the session definitely wanting to read more from most of these authors, and having thoroughly enjoyed the interaction between the panellists and the audience.

Concurrent Session 4 - Historical Romance

Anne Gracie
The final concurrent session that I attended was a conversation between Anne Gracie and Anna Campbell introduced by Jenny Brassel, and this was a very entertaining and fun session. You can tell that Anne and Anna are good friends and they just bounced off each other throughout the session. They started the session talking about how they met at a cocktail party where there was no food.

Anne and Anna both talked about the difficulties of getting published. For example, Anna had submitted her books as Regencies and been told that they were no longer being published. What she should have called them in her queries was Regency historicals. One of the most surprising things about being published for the first time was how much promo there was to do, but conversely it is lovely to hear from readers, especially when a story can reach people across the world.

Anne Gracie is a teacher, and she admitted that before she started writing it, she used to dismiss the genre, and even after writing it, she only stopped calling it fluff because she had a letter which showed her that it can touch people in ways you can't imagine when you write it.

As I mentioned in last week's post, Anna Campbell is a very funny speaker, and even in this more intimate setting this proved to be the case, as the audience was left laughing several times

Anna and Anne both talked about where ideas for certain books came from. For Untouched (Anna Campbell) the idea came in the bathroom when she was picturing a Sleeping Beauty in reverse, where the prince was the captive, and for Unclaimed Courtesan she had been reading another book where something happened that just wouldn't happen. She was going through King's Cross (which is an area notorious for gangs, prostitution etc in Sydney) the morning after the night before and seeing the people there had the idea playing in the back of her mind.  Anna thought she was writing romantic comedy (which if you read any Anna Campbell books is definitely not the case).

There is obviously a lot of mutual admiration between these two authors. One thing that made me need to pick up an Anne Gracie book is that she cries at her own writing! I am such a sook myself that this endeared her to me a lot!

Anna Campbell said that she loves that Anne's books are funny, but that they turn on a sixpence emotionally. They are not all funny or all emotional.

Something that struck me as very true is when Anne was talking about the combination of voice and world. She rightly pointed out that even that both Anna and Anne write novels set in the Regency, there is no way you could ever confuse an Anne Gracie novel with an Anna Campbell one.

At this point, the two authors moved on to talking a little bit about the craft of writing. Anna talked about using music to get into the mood for writing, and that each book quite often has just one song (always instrumental) that takes her to that world. Anne said that she generally doesn't have song but for Midnight's Wild Passion there was a Muse song called Undisclosed Desires that she equated to a romance novel in 3 minutes.

Anne does use collage as a tool, and she handed around pictures of some of the collages she has done. The pictures don't necessarily reflect the way the characters look but will definitely reflect their attitudes. She also wrote the novelisation of the Tudors series and so had a collage for that one too.

There was a bit of discussion about titles and covers, and about how they are often changed during the creative process, often to include current buzz words. Some times publishers get covers right, and some times they don't. We did get to see a few international covers, some of which were very surprising!

Towards the end of the session, there was a chance for the audience to ask questions. One that was asked was about historical accuracy in romance. Anne Gracie responded saying that she writes historically plausible rather than historically accurate. One comment from Anna was that our view of the past is sometimes much narrower than actual history, but she has had to change scenes which were accurate but wouldn't fit reader expectations. People like to catch authors out, and some times it does happen. Anne talked about one such example where she got something that she thought that she knew incorrect. She had researched what she didn't know, but it turned out that she didn't know something she thought she did.

Anne Gracie makes jewellery to match up with her books, and as part of the closing of the session some of these were given out, as well as lots of other prizes!

Closing Session

The closing session was one where the delegates got to choose who was on the panel. The lucky authors answering audience questions were:

Anna Campbell
Cindy Gerard
Keri Arthur
Nalini Singh
Lexxie Couper
Helene Young

Questions from the floor were asked including

  • If you weren't a writer what would you do, which had Cindy Gerard bursting into song (and she was very good!)
  • Dealing with deadlines (Nalini - warn editor that might be late and work with them. Don't leave it to the last minute) Cindy did suggest that her excuse this time might be her trip to Australia
  • What couldn't you write? (Keri Arthur couldn't write straight romance - she needs dead bodies)
  • Do they read the last page of a book when they are reading (otherwise known as killing fairies)
  • Do they have a 50 pages rule before putting down a book they are not enjoying?
  • What's the secret to becoming a NY bestseller (CG - luck, timing, fairy dust and need the publisher to step up to the mat. KA - luck and a good story. NS - regular output to build momentum. CG - have to be a consummate professional.)
  • Lexie was then asked about pros and cons of epublishing - really close connections with your readers, but this is time heavy.
  • Social Networking (NS - use intelligently as can be a huge timesuck.
  • What do they like to read, and how many books at a time.

And after a few formalities, that was the end. Certainly most of the delegates that I spoke to were looking forward to the next one, which is a good sign. Here's hoping that there will be ARRC 2013 to look forward to, and well done to the organisers of ARRC 2011.

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


  1. This sounds like such a fascinating experience! I would love to attend something like this. My closest thing to such an event was 2008 Book Expo America in LA.

    For the past two years (maybe more?), it's been in NY, and while I'd love to go there...not possible right now.


  2. This sounds like a you had a lot of fun. I really liked these two questions in the last panel: Do they read the last page of a book when they are reading (otherwise known as killing fairies)? &
    Do they have a 50 pages rule before putting down a book they are not enjoying? I must admit, I'm curious as to their answers. (And yours? Do you read the last page of a book? Do you have a 50 page rule?)

    My Sunday Salon this week is about reading strategies for getting through a huge TBR stack and can be found here:

  3. Thank you for sharing so much of this experience with us!

    Here's my Sunday Salon for today. Hope you will stop by.

  4. What a delightful experience! The questions at the end were very interesting. Thank you for sharing it with us :)

    Here is my version of the Sunday Salon: Suddenly Sunday

    Have a delightful week, Marg!

  5. So many good authors! Lucky you. :)

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