Monday, 11 July 2011
RNA Conference 2011
An excellent conference in the beautiful hills of Caerleon, Wales. I went to so many sessions, my head is spinning but here's a snapshot of what went on... Liz Fielding (photo below in the yellow top), long term Mills and Boon author talked about how putting subtle humour into her books, juxtaposed with more serious subjects has added tone and colour to her very popular stories. Mills and Boon books aren't romcoms, but readers still like a lightness of touch. Jane Wenham-Jones (photo above) chaired an excellent session with Jill Mansell, Louise Allen and Elizabeth Chadwick which covered a variety of issues. The thing I picked up on most was the different methods really successful authors have to come up with the goods. There really is no right or wrong - Jill writes on the sofa, with the telly on, in long hand and plots on the longest piece of paper you have ever seen using coloured post-its. Wonderfully low tech, but it works for her. I was very encouraged at two different talks (firstly by Mills and Boon editors including Flo Nicoll with whom I had a one to one earlier, and secondly by MIRA editors) to hear publishers who were still keen to have submissions which is always nice to know. The MIRA editors made a point of saying how many Mills and Boon authors had gone mainstream and that they were always looking for new slants on established themes - a recent acquisition by MIRA of a werecat (as opposed to werewolf) paranormal was an example of how, if you are inventive, you can create new interest in genres that might otherwise appear to have peaked.
Fiona Harper gave an excellent talk which included tips on how to dig deeper into your characters' motivations to provide a more emotional story and create heroes and heroines who are real and believable. The main thing I got out of this was that you have to know your characters inside out and that it is useful to identify a single phrase with which to sum up a character, eg 'live life to the max'. Then of course you have to dig deep to decide why that individual has that trait. So, for example, they might have lost their parents at a young age which makes them feel that they have to grasp every moment as if it were their last. That though would be just one layer, you always have to dig deeper....
A fun session was given by Louise Allen (seen in the blue t-shirt below) who writes Regency romances and has a wonderful collection of prints from the period. Not cheap (she buys most of them on Ebay), these provide invaluable insights into the period not just the clothes that people wore, but insights eg into how people were grouped. For example one lovely print showing the entrance to Oxford Street near Tyburn in London. Louise explained how she looks with a magnifying glass at these prints many of which are small and very detailed, to get the maximum information and essence of the period out of them. All sorts of things can be of interest, such as curiously the fact that ladies often held their parasols with the handle facing down, presumably to keep delicate silks and other fabrics away from the dusty streets. I couldn't help buying a copy of her book on Regency walks through London even though I had promised myself I couldn't carry another thing.
A warm thank you to Jan Jones and Roger Sanderson of the RNA for a wonderful, inspiring conference with lots of good food and good company.