During the weekend of the 5th to the 7th of September I took part in the annual conference of the Historical Novel Society which was held at the University of Westminster’s Marylebone campus near Baker Street in London.
Here are a few of my personal highlights:
The conference kicked off on Friday evening with a wine and canapés reception. Richard
Lee welcomed the delegates, many of whom had travelled from across the Pond. The evening was an ideal opportunity to catch up with friends and colleagues before the main part of the conference.
Saturday morning Richard Lee welcomed us to the main part of the conference while delegates helped themselves to a buffet breakfast. This was followed by a panel entitled “Selling Historical Fiction: The Challenges and Triumphs” with Matt Bates (buyer for WHS Travel), Carole Blake (agent, chair), Katie Bond (Bloomsbury), Nick Sayers (Hodder / Stoughton), Simon Taylor (Random House) and Susan Watt (Quercus). After a brief introduction the panellist took questions from the audience, and one question posed was, “Is there a historical period you’d like to see more of?”. The general consensus seemed that the Tudors are still popular. That rules me out, then 🙂
The panel was followed by a keynote address from Conn Iggulden. More on that later.
After lunch 5 authors and their chair battled it out on the podium with an amusing panel entitled “My Era Is Better Than Yours” during which they discussed what had attracted them to a particular historical period.
For Antonia Hodgson (Georgian) it was gin and radical thought, for Susannah Dunn (Tudor) it was an era of strong women, with the many marriages and beheadings like a soap opera. Harry Sidebottom (Ancient Rome) felt that the
plot of a Greek novel was like the plot of many modern novels, for Angus Donald (Medieval) it was the creation of courtly love, and hence the love story, which attracted him. Giles Kristian (Viking & Civil War) said that the lack of written records from the Viking era gives the writer a lot of freedom. And he has a very big axe!
After tea Lindsey Davis, author of the popular Falco mysteries set in Ancient Rome was in conversation with Dr Jerome de Groot, senior lecturer at Manchester University, on contemporary popular history and the historical novel. As expected, she gave him a run for his money!
A perfect day of learning, laughter and book-buying, and as always, it was a superbly organised by Charlie Farrow, Richard Lee (chairman of the HNS) and Jenny Barden.
An excerpt from Conn Iggulden’s inspiring keynote address (mentioned above) can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h3hWzeERuas