2014 Historical Novel Society conference - Part Deux

Diana Wallace, Essie Fox, Kate Forsyth

Diana Wallace, Essie Fox, Kate Forsyth

Maybe it was adrenaline, but I started the second day of the HNS conference with an energy surge. Maybe the coffee was stronger than I thought. After chatting with friends, I set up the indie table for the day. Managed by the inestimable Helen Hollick,  it showcased the finalists’ books for the HNS Indie Novel Award plus a selection of other good quality self-published books and cards from many more. The buzz around the table was fairly constant…

The first session that morning was confronting historical fact with the unexplained, from myths, and the occult to fairytales and the Gothic. Under Kate Forsyth’s able chairmanship, we learnt about ‘historical empathy’ (Deborah Harkness) where fantasy, myth, history and science fiction met. Here were the non-winners in the occult versus natural sciences debate.

Jessie Burton, Deborah Harkness

Jessie Burton, Deborah Harkness

Jesse Burton (The Miniaturist) took us into magical realism where a cabinet-sized replica of the heroine’s new home brings surrealism and danger. Professor Diana Wallace drew attention to the Gothic novels written by women well before Walter Scott’s Waverley which had been seen as the first historical novel. Perhaps women’s writing was not seen as ‘serious’? Was it still the case? Essie Fox urged us to read the fiction produced at the time we were writing about; it would give us a unique insight into the concerns of that day. The idea of historical truth was not a fixed one…

Alison Morton and Sandra Alvarez

Me with fellow workshop giver Sandra Alvarez

After another stint on the indie table, it was my turn to give a workshop on social media, and with Sandra Alvarez of Medievalists.net. Sandra outlined how essential it was for authors to be present on the social network. As a professional blogger, Sandra received hundreds of books to review and was frustrated when an author had no social media links for her readers to progress to after reading the review. Digital signposts were crucial to increase a book’s visibility. She outlined some of the channels such Twitter, Facebook, Google+, website, blogging. Tumbler and Pinterest.

Our workshop group who enjoyed hearing about social media for writers.

Our lovely social media group (compiled photo)

I gave my experience with each from the author point of view, (I’ll do a separate post!), and included the excellent opportunities offered to readers and authors by Goodreads – ‘Facebook for books’. Giveaways, author programme, segmenting, book groups and the ease of re-posting your blogs, videos and, of course, your books! Amazon author pages on at least the UK and US sites were essential and very easy to add text, photos and videos, and edit. But the push behind all this was publicising yourself: selling yourself as a brand as a precursor to selling your books. Questions from a lively and thoughtful audience about websites, blogging, FB personal profile v. page, time to spend on social media, rounded our session off.

Jon Watt, Anthony Riches, James Heneage, Cathy Rentzenbrink

The fun quiz of audience v. Roman author Anthony Riches, Ottaker’s founder James Heneage and The Bookseller’s Cathy Rentzenbrink, compered by Jon Watt of the Historical Fictionalist, tested our knowledge of when some popular historical fiction was set. I was slightly  disconcerted when not a few of the audience plumped for 1st century AD for G.Julius Caesar’s assassination, but on the whole, we guessed accurately.

Novelists Henri Gyland, Charlotte Betts

Novelists Henri Gyland, Charlotte Betts

Sadly, that was the last session of the conference, but over a sandwich lunch and back at the indie table, I talked myself hoarse about all things books and was still meeting friends even at this stage. The organisers Richard Lee, Charlie Farrow and team have my warmest congratulations for an excellent event which gave us fun, knowledge and buzz.


Next year it’s in Denver. Mm, is a trip to the US on the cards?

Read about the previous day…

‘Bonus’ photos


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers, INCEPTIO, and PERFIDITAS. Third in series, SUCCESSIO, is now out.

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