Thursday, 24 April 2008

Historical Novel Society Conference, York, 12 April 2008

Here's a brief report and some photos from the Historical Novel Society Conference which took place 0n 12 April 2008 at the National Railway Museum in York, surrounded by vintage locomotives, some of which were being put through their paces on the tracks outside, complete with authentic sound effects.

Appropriately enough, one of the speakers was Andrew Martin, a native of York who writes historical mysteries set on the Edwardian railways starring Jim Stringer, the Steam Detective: The Necropolis Railway, The Blackpool Highflyer, Murder at Deviation Junction, The Lost Luggage Porter and the latest, Death on a Branch Line. Andrew's father was a railwayman and Andrew grew up at the end of the age of steam, recalling with pleasure the free rides to London he took as a boy, for the pure pleasure of going on a long railway journey. He is also fascinated by the details of life in Edwardian times, from the tweed suits that even workmen wore, and the elegant language so rarely found in speech today ("and so he kept silence.")

Suzannah Dunn spoke of her novels about various Tudor women including Anne Boleyn (The Queen of Subtleties) and Catherine Parr (The Sixth Wife). Her forthcoming novel is The Queen's Sorrow, about Mary Tudor. She was billed as "not a historical novelist" but it turned out that what she meant was that she didn't do the stilted dialogue and heaving bosoms style of historical fiction. Her characters talk in modern language and this serves to reflect how modern people like Anne Boleyn were. You can read more here and see if you agree.

Crème de la Crime is a newish publisher of crime fiction. Its founder, Lyne Patrick, told us all about setting up a small independent publishers with only a few permanent staff, including herself, the rest of the work being undertaken by freelancers. Crème de la Crime recently introduced a historical crime strand and two of its historical authors were at the conference: Gordon Ferris, whose latest novel

The Unquiet Heart

set in ration-book London and defeated Berlin, was launched during the conference lunch and Roz Southey, author of Broken Harmony, set in 18th-century Newcastle with a musician protagonist. Roz was on an after-lunch panel discussing what the future holds for historical fiction, along with Sarah Bower, author of The Needle in the Blood (beloved of book bloggers, including Woman in Black author Susan Hill - and me) and Russell Whitfield,whose first novel Gladiatrix was published in March. The conclusion: more Ebooks, more from small independent publishers like Snowbooks (Sarah Bower), Myrmidon (Russell Whitfield) and Crème de la Crime (Roz Southey) who are giving the big boys a run for their money.

At the same time as this, another panel featuring Melinda Hammond (author of romantic historical novels such as A Rational Romance and The Belles Dames Club), Jude Morgan (see below) and Mary Sharratt, author of The Vanishing Point and A Light Far Shining, a forthcoming novel about the Witches of Pendle, talked about writing women back into history and concluded that this was happening already, and not before time either.

Jude Morgan spoke next. He used to write historical mysteries set in the 18th century under the name of Hannah March. His detective was a man and Jude told an amusing story about a reviewer who said he couldn't get on with the novels because Hannah March couldn't write men convincingly. Jude Morgan now writes fictional biographies. His first was The King's Touch, about Charles II, which was followed by Indiscretion (a stylish Regency tale of love and the impoverished Miss Fortune), Passion (Byron, Shelley, Keats and the women who loved them), Symphony (Berlioz and his muse) and his latest,

An Accomplished Woman

An Accomplished Woman (a witty homage to Regency romances and Jane Austen). His next novel is about the Brontë sisters and is due out early next year.

The last speakers were Elizabeth Chadwick, author of early medieval historicals, and Alison King, who's an akashic consultant. After explaining what an akashic consultant is (someone who can, apparently, tune into an ethereal level where she can communicate with the dead), she and Elizabeth did a session, demonstrating how tuning into the akashic records has helped Elizabeth research the real-life characters in her recent novels about William Marshal (The Greatest Knight, The Scarlet Lion) and his father (A Place Beyond Courage). Personally, I wasn't convinced by either the idea or the demo, but who knows?

And finally, some photos of the day here.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Thanks for writing up the report, Sarah! I enjoyed reading it and looking at all the photos. I had known that "Hannah March" was the pseudonym for a male writer, but not that he also wrote as Jude Morgan. I wish he had a US publisher that knew how to promote his work properly, because he's a wonderful writer who's not known at all here.

Whenever authors make comments like "Historical fiction is too often costume drama, it seems to me, rather than real – human - drama" (per Suzannah Dunn's website) I wonder how much historical fiction they've actually read. (Examples, please!) Earlier in her website essay, she says she's not a reader of historical fiction, so there you go.

I haven't read the other authors (aside from Mary Sharratt and Eliz Chadwick) though have Sarah B's novel on the TBR pile. Sounds like it was a great time!