Panel Spotlight – Personal Histories versus History and Mystery

I have to admit that I’m leaning toward one of the Sunday 9am panels over the other. I am worried I’ll be missing out on something interesting though and I’m dithering just a little on which panel to attend.

My current work in progress is a three-book series (book one already published) dealing with “narratives of women living in modern and past times”. It also “draws on the personal to weave tales into a wider historical context” and “draws upon family legend”. Okay, the family legend part is more fictional than actual genealogy (my family line hides no skeletons or controversies that I know of). You see what I mean? Choosing the Stream 1 – Personal Histories: in conversation with Nicole Alexander and Ella Carey seems an easy decision.

Nicole Alexander, Ella Carey, Irina Dunn

I might add that I love sweeping epics that invoke the wide-open landscapes of Australia. There’s something raw and appealing, and edgy about these settings and sagas in the Australian outback. Listening to Nicole Alexander talk about her works would be quite inspiring. I must remember to pack an extra notebook or three. I’m not sure the battery on my I-Pad could keep up.

I also have a “thing” for stories set in France, especially from the feminine point of view so Ella Carey would be interesting to hear. The female narrative is often lost in history lessons; glossed over, if not outright ignored, by the media–past and present. Recapturing some of this lost story is high in my personal learning curve. With Irina Dunn hosting this panel on female narratives, French connections, Australian landscapes, writing journeys, and inspiration, I wonder if fifty minutes will be enough time to get through it all…

Malla Nunn, Felicity Pulman, Tessa Lumney, Katherine Kovacic

I can’t ignore the Stream two panel on at the same time. I usually pick up some crime fiction when I take a break from writing historical fantasy (I save my sweeping epics for in between manuscripts). One day I hope to add crime fiction to my CV so History and Mystery: weaving a web of truth and lies in detective fiction could be valuable to my plans. Especially, as I’m not sure how to go about it. For instance, how do you plot a crime with enough clues, twists and turns to keep readers engaged? Is historical crime fiction easier to write than contemporary? There must be different ways to work it. Different themes to incorporate. I love a good Agatha Christie story as much as anyone. Historical crime fiction is growing in popularity every year. How much influence does film has over writing in this area? Phryne Fisher (Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries) is a force to be reckoned with. Does such popularity (and such wonderful outfits) impact new works?

This panel of authors cover a broad range of experience, settings, topics, and histories. Felicity Pulman (author, speaker, teacher) leads Malla Nunn, Katherine Kovacic and Tessa Lunney in this panel to find out how to get the balance right, how to plan and plot, and how to stick with the facts.

I’m reconsidering my options. This will not be as easy as I thought. I may need to take a week off to contemplate everything I’ve heard and learned from the two days of panels at the conference, and to recover from all this decision-making. Perhaps, more than a week.

Patricia leslie

Patricia Leslie is a member of the Social Media Team for HNS Australasia. Her novels mix known and hidden history with magic and myth. Her 2018 release, Keeper of the Way, mixes it up in Sydney 1882 exploring social history, magical traditions brought to the Colony from Scotland and Ireland, and the destruction of the Garden Palace. Learn more at

Once again, historical fiction writers and readers can gather for a three stream program on the weekend of 26-27 October including our extended Academic stream on Sunday 27 October. This time there’s also a Craft & Publishing program on Friday 25 October with craft workshops, masterclasses and manuscript assessments with top class tutors. Our Guest of Honour is Jackie French. Keynote speaker Paula Morris will address our theme: History Repeats.

Among the 60 acclaimed speakers are patrons Kate Forsyth and Sophie Masson, Catherine Jinks, Ali Alizadeh, Lucy Treloar, Pamela Hart, Nicole Alexander, Jane Caro, Alison Goodman, Kelly Gardiner, Michelle Aung Thin, Meg Keneally, Majella Cullinane and so many more.

Enjoy a delicious meal at our conference dinner on Saturday 26 October where Anna Campbell will entertain us. You’ll also hear who’s won this year’s ARA HNSA Short Story Contest with a $500 prize, and the HNSA Colleen McCullough Residency.

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