ARRC2013 – Saturday March 2 (Part A)

So, as you may have been able to tell from some of my previous posts, I was extremely excited and happy to attend the Australian Romance Readers Convention (ARRC) in Brisbane just over a week ago. Truth be told, I was nervous excited about it at the time because I flew to Brisbane alone, and knew no one but Helene Young (who I had the pleasure of meeting mid last year at a local author event). I didn’t mind being alone, but having never been to a formal conference before, I had no idea what to expect. Which turns out was lucky, because this convention turned out to bigger, better and nothing at all like I had expected it to be. It blew my mind (in a good way) and I can not recommend it enough to fellow readers in 2015 when the next event is held. You won’t regret it trust me.

After having mingled with a number of the attending authors the night before at the Lady Jane’s Salon and then the Welcome Reception, my nervous mind was put to rest. The atmosphere for the entire weekend had been set, as not only was everyone terribly nice and approachable, but the entire room couldn’t stop smiling; it was contagious I swear. The excitement in the air was palpable and everyone was looking forward to the weekend’s events. I had even made a couple of friends in like minded readers who had also made the trip alone!

Largely it’s because of this relaxed atmosphere mixed with some of the nicest people you will ever meet, that I wanted to share my experiences over the weekend with you, because I truly was blessed to be able to attend and would like to share what I learnt with everyone else. And convince anyone who might be sitting on the fence, that they really NEED to go to the 2015 convention! And how do I plan on doing this? Well, unlike anyone else at the convention, I sat through every session I attended with my camera in one hand and notebook and pen in the other (yes, that nerdy  gal was me!) and over the course of the weekend, I took pages upon pages of notes.  I think I have more than enough to share with you all; now back to Saturday…

To start the official day’s events off, we were greeted and welcomed by the ARRC committee and then introduced to the lovely Rachel Vincent, our first of three keynote speakers for the weekend.

For her hour, Rachel had the room bewitched as she spoke primarily about Young Adult novels and why they are increasingly not just for the young (aka teens), but rather the Young at Heart (aka everyone). It was a fascinating hour,in which I learnt a great deal (although already a dedicated YA reader, I didn’t need much pushing in that direction), and I will post more on what each Keynote speaker (Rachel Vincent; Anne Gracie; Kristan Higgins) spoke about at a later date. What I will say now, however is that Rachel made a terrific point when she explained that Young Adults novels become emotional paradox, as they make the reader (specifically the young at heart readers) not just remember specific events (first love, first kiss, first crush etc..) but they force you to re-experience these events once more and that in itself is some beautiful and unique about the sub-genre.

Following Rachel’s talk  we were lucky enough to be involved in Kristan Higgins book launch of The Best Man, where Hayley, the head of publishing at Harlequin/Simon & Schuster, interviewed Kristan about her book, her best and worst dates (keeping in theme with the book of course) and what she looks for in a man. Kristan had the entire room giggling when she professed her fear of becoming a young widow(her husband is a fire-fighter in the US and she lives in constant fear that he won’t come home one day from work) and to combat this fear, she has devised a list – the second husband list, where she lists the current candidates for who would make a great second husband (Hugh Jackman made the list from memory, and so did an American sportsman, I think it might have been a baseball player, but I honestly couldn’t tell you). What had everyone giggling however, was the fact that this list is regularly presented to her current husband in order to look at and he gets a say! He can veto off candidates, but Kristan was quick to point out, he’s say doesn’t always carry much sway, as after all its HER second husband. While to many this sounds like a very depressing and morbid subject to tell a pack of strangers, and more so to have them erupt in fits of laughter, but what you need to understand is that Kristan has such a way with words, with people, and with public speaking, that you find yourself unable to tear your eyes from her as she speaks. She oozes self confidence and this calm essence that simply makes you feel comfortable and as though you’ve known her your entire life, furthermore, she is simply a hilarious woman to listen too. She spoke like an old friend that you simply haven’t seen in a while, chatting away about everything and it quickly became evident to me that there was nothing that off limits for she spoke about having food stuck in her cleavage during a meeting with her publishers and how she once went on a date with a man who didn’t say a word, about her home town and family, and everything in between.

After a quick break for morning tea, we were ushered in to one of four concurrent sessions. On offer this time was a paranormal panel featuring MJ Scott, Nalini Singh, Rachel Vincent and Shona Husk; A meet the authors panel consisting of thirteen authors; Contemporary locations (a panel on City vs Country, followed by a panel on more exotic locations and how well the market receives them); and the final session on offer was The Romance Hour and a half with Anne Gracie, Hope Tarr, Keri Arthur and Kristan Higgins. Although it was clearly incredibly hard to choose a session to attend, I went with the Contemporary locations session given my more recent interest in rural fiction and everything it entails. And at the end of it I couldn’t of been more happier with my decision.

For forty five minutes, Amy Andrews and Paula Roe pitched their city  heroes and locations (pictures and all) against Rachael Johns and Cathryn Hein’s country heroes and rolling hills. With many half naked men, and conversation of who people wanted to do, it was an interesting debate that eventually led to show of hands in favour of the Country, although there was a close tie between Cathryn Hein’s leading male and Amy Andrews London based tycoon. The half naked pictures didn’t sway any of the voters at all (much). The inherent attraction and romance of the country setting was discussed, as was types of alpha male characters suited to both settings and the expectations readers have for narratives set in either a rural or urban setting and how they can restrict the narrative to a point.

Following this, Annie West,  Kelly Hunter, Lisa Heidke and Nikki Logan spoke about their battles to pitch and publish more exotic located romance.  They spoke at length about the pitfalls and pros to setting your narrative in another country and the amount of research that this required. What was interesting to learn across the entire hour and half was the interest publishing houses have overseas in Australian fiction, and their insistent demand that the location need be changed to suit readers tastes. There seems to be a very big push in American for Australian novelists to change their settings to Texas in particular if they wanted to be published overseas. This notion seemed kind of obscene to me, for as a reader I equally love reading novels set in places I know, as well as though set in countries that I’ve never been too.  Finding out about new cultures and places and their customs is part of the reading experience and journey and one I count my self lucky to have experience. So I was curious as to why this concept was shared internationally. For more thoughts on this topic, you should visit the Romance Bandits blog, in particular Christina’s Brook’s article where she poses these questions to American’s readers and authors themselves; their answers are quite informative, and there is hope to getting Australian based fiction successfully published within the main stream American market. Christina Brooks also suggests a number of Australian Romance and main stream authors and novels that readers might like to give a try.

Following lunch we headed in to our second and final concurrent session for the day where the three sessions on offer included two panels discussing Authors as readers (panel one included: Annie West; Helene Young; Hope Tarr and Jennifer Brassel and Panel Two included: Bronwynn Parry; Kristan Higgins; Lexxie Couper and Nikki Logan); from all accounts I’ve heard, this session was amazing, with more often than not, readers coming away with a number of new authors and novels that they simply had to get their hands on. In a way I wish I had been able to attend this panel, but I can almost guarantee my bank balance and ever looming TBR pile are sighing in relief that I missed it. Also on offer at this time was an panel discussing the E publishing revolutionary, and a third panel discussion Historical romances and the great debate of fact vs fiction when and where to use it and when to let your creative juices flow. I attend this third panel and listened for an hour and half to the likes of Anna Campbell, Anne Gracie, Cathy Maxwell, Vonnie Hughes, Beverley Eikli and Christina Brooke’s chat animatedly and often humorously about everything connected with historical romances. I think Hope Tarr best summed up this panel and their discussions when she said “True passions for and of life itself brings regency to life” and that no amount of research can replace this.

Given how long this post is already, I might leave it off here, and post “ARRC2013: Saturday March 2  (Part 2)” tomorrow. So make sure you check back later to read about the two hour book signing event and the Australian Romance Readers Association (ARRA) Gala Awards Dinner. Also covered in “ARRC2013: Sunday March 3” will be a brief mention of Anne Gracie’s and Kristan Higgin’s Keynote address (both of these will also get their own posts as well) and concurrent sessions three and four and some helpful hints I discovered over the weekend just in case you plan to attend the 2015 convention.

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