2005 RWA National Conference
Blythe Barnhill: Day One (July 27, 2005)
For me, the RWA conference started with a feeling of deja vu. The last time I covered the conference, in 2002, I had just come home from a vacation. This time was the same. I hopped a plane to Reno less than 48 hours after arriving home from Utah. I arrived late Tuesday night and was picked up at the airport by my Pandora partner, Linda Hurst. Linda recently moved to the Reno area and was staying downtown for the conference. As I called, she was playing a slot machine and got lucky; one of the first things I heard from her was, "I won!"
The conference starts in earnest on Wednesday night with the Literacy booksigning, so I had most of the day free. As a mom of four kids, I enjoyed the novelty of having no one to answer to, and I arrived at the signing rested and ready. I was able to catch up with a number of authors, some of whom I'd met before, and some of whom I was meeting for the first time.
Jo Beverley told me that she is slowing down a bit with her writing so that she can devote more time to each book. She also sees herself moving in a Fantasy/SF Romance direction (as seen in her novella in the Irresistable Forces anthology). To her, the allure of SF/F is that an author can "make her own box" - as opposed to being boxed in by the rules and events of history.
I caught up with author Mary Blayney and asked her about the demise of the Zebra Regency line. She said that many of her colleagues are considering alternatives like Avalon and Mills & Boon. Others are trying to go in a single title direction. As for her, she has a story coming out in an anthology with J.D. Robb (Nora Roberts). All the stories have some sort of paranormal element, and hers is a Regency with a paranormal twist involving an enchanted coin. Mary also told me I had to try Lois McMaster Bujold's Miles Vorkosigan stories (and told me where to start).
I commiserated with Diane Farr, an author beloved by many AAR reviewers but currently without a contract. We talked about the demise of the Regency in general (and the myth - as we see it - that every historical story has to have sex in it). The good news from Diane is that she's working on a YA novel that has received some interest. (As an aside, YA is one of the subgenres that I heard a lot about this conference. It popped up everywhere).
Rachel Gibson's next book, Sex, Lies, and Online Dating is part of a four book series. While Gibson has written some books that are loosely connected, she's never written a series before. The reason? She's never before had an idea for a series that she could get excited about. This one is about four writers who are friends, all of whom write different genres.
Sitting next to Rachel was Blythe Gifford, an author Lynn Spencer has really enjoyed. Both of us enjoyed meeting the "other Blythe" in the business.
Madeleine Hunter told me that she is sticking with European Historicals for now; she loved writing Medievals, but has added many new readers with the switch. Many of her medieval fans followed her over, and many of her new European Historical fans have gone back and discovered her Medievals. I haven't tried any of her European Historicals yet, but I think she talked me into it. Though they are in a different time period, she says that her books are still darker romances with a lot of moral ambiguity. She calls them "high stakes" romances, and confessed that they are a little easier to write in the medieval period...but also doable in an 1800s romance. Typically, the stakes a political (and she says, "Someone still always dies.")
Julia Justiss (who's written several books I've loved, including Wicked Widow) finally has a new one coming out for HQN: The Courtesan. The cover is beautiful; indeed, Linda and I noticed a lot of really great cover art for books in the pipeline.
By the time I reached Julia Quinn, she was completely out of books (to the chagrin of several disappointed readers). Some have fortunately brought their own copies, which she happily signed. We did talk clothes; she had on a really cute shirt that said "What would Lady Whistledown say?" You can get your own on her website. She can also give out a great bra recommendation. After it came up in the conversation (I can't remember how) she looked at me and said, "This is going to show up in your column, isn't it?" Yep. <g> We did finally get to talk books as well. Julia is almost out of Bridgertons (only Gregory is left to go) but she has plans for a much smaller two book series.
One of the biggest thrills of the evening was seeing former AAR reviewer Marianne Stillings on the author side of the aisle. Marianne was signing copies of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evie (which I'd already read and enjoyed), as well as bookmarks advertising her next book, Sighs Matter, which will be out in March.
Right next to Marianne was Cynthia Sterling author of my most recent DIK, What Do You Say to a Naked Elf?. She has a sequel in the works, as well as another idea for an non-elf alternate reality book.
As the evening was winding down, I stopped to talk with YA author Naomi Nash, who, as it turns out, is a man. I talked with him about the hot YA market, which seems to be getting both more buzz and more shelf space, and told him that my daughter Scarlett loves his books. She has taken to sneaking all the Leisure Smooch books out of my study. Efforts to extract them from her room require planning and strategy worthy of a covert op.
I finally met up with Linda, who was loaded down with books and pretty worn out after an evening on her feet, so we headed back to our hotel. Linda had certainly done her part for literacy (she was able to justify every penny; not only was it for a good cause, but half of the money raised would stay right in the Reno area). All told, authors raised nearly $60,000 for literacy, and the night was a great kick-off to the conference.