I enjoyed a most interesting conference with RNA this last weekend. The first thing I had to do was take part in a talk about sagas, together with Lizzie Lane, Jean Fullerton and Diane Allen. We all gave some interesting comments on this subject. A saga is generally a multi-generational story, about relationships, a sweeping tale of courage and bravery, pitted against evil. Families lived together in the past, forming close-knit communities. This is something we have lost in the modern world, family members often having to travel far to find work, family break-ups, and partners choosing not to marry at all. I’m sure it was equally difficult back in the old days, but it’s somehow easier to consider such issues back in the nostalgic past. Study the history of the period you choose. The genre should also use a multi-layered viewpoint and a page-turning plot, dealing with universal themes in a small domestic setting, and social history. The setting must be an intrinsic part of the book, a genuine sense of place that we know well and readers can recognise and identify. It’s not simply a question of painting pretty scenery. People love to read about a place they know, but do study the reality of the period involved in your story. I have fortunately written 35 sagas and 11 historicals, which have done well. Always enjoy writing those.
After that we were welcomed by Nicola Cornick, then listened to various talks given by other writers. On Friday evening I was welcomed by the Indie group, having supported them in the past to help them become full members of the RNA. We had a lovely glass of champagne and a good chat. I love to spend time with them and hear about the success of their self-publishing.
On Saturday there were plenty more talks on various subjects, including self-editing, romance, and adding mystery to your history novel. My favourite speaker was Barbara Erskine, interviewed by Nicola. I’ve heard her speak once before and loved her books from her very first one, Lady of Hay, many years ago and lots of others since. We then went on to experience a classic RNA evening meal, provided with a free drink before it. I was seated with a group of my friends, which proved to be delightful, as we kept on chatting till quite late at night.
Then on Sunday my favourite talk was given by Liam Livings and Virginia Heath about sensual love scenes. I generally do try to put some sex into my books, but they gave a reading of a written version that was absolutely hilarious. Such great fun! They then gave us good information and we had time to discuss with each other how to plan such love scenes in our next book. The last talk I heard was given by Patricia Rice, Mary Jo Putney, and Andrea Penrose. All from the US and excellent writers, giving us fascinating details of how they work. Then after lunch it was time to take the train home, which was sad and took quite a while from Leeds. But the whole conference had been excellent. Always good to meet up with old friends as well as remind ourselves how to keep writing.