The Versatile Writer versus Stoking the Flame. Which panel will I choose?

Have you ever felt you’re swimming in circles? Been at a fork in the river and not sure which stream to follow? You are not alone! For me – an avid reader of historical novels, an aspiring author (and admittedly also a Pisces) – trying to decide which stream to choose at the forthcoming HNSA Conference is no easy matter. I’m treading water here while I try to make up my mind.

Take for example the 11.20am slot on the Saturday of the 2019 HNSA Conference. The two concurrent panels I’m torn between are The Versatile Writer and Stoking the Flame

Stream 1: The Versatile Writer: In Conversation with Sophie Masson and Kelly Gardiner

Roanna Gonsalves is in conversation with Sophie Masson and Kelly Gardiner. Who wouldn’t want to overhear that chat? Both authors have glittering literary credentials. They’ve written for children, YA, and adults. Sophie has published more than 60 novels, she’s also an essayist and a highly-regarded short story writer. Her career and services to the Australian literary world saw her recently distinguished in the Order of Australia Honours List. Likewise Kelly Gardiner has had numerous novels published, and written travel articles, and features, and does that great podcast ‘Unladylike’. Both women have versatility in abundance. What’s more, Robert Gott is an equally accomplished author himself. Having attended a panel talk with him previously, I reckon, especially with his investigative hat on, he’ll unearth the secrets of Sophie and Kelly’s success.

Kelly Gardiner and Sophie Masson

Every writer needs to be versatile in this day and age, right? I need the skills to duck and dive, adapt and flex my writerly fins. I have to be honest, as an aspiring author, I’m not exactly sure what this really means! There is so much to consider: social media, networking, marketing, finding your audience, your voice, your feet …. 

For a small fry like myself, the idea of picking up a few of their rainbow scales, is compelling reason enough to dive into this stream.

But hold on.  It would be foolish, not to consider the other stream before taking the plunge, especially as I know romance authors are some of the most savvy, most business-focused, most lovely and supportive authors I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. Let’s be honest, they know how to take the punches and still come up looking fresh as a daisy, smelling of roses. I love a dash of romance. I’m not averse to a flash of sizzle. And, if I could master writing a series that would make streamlining sense.

Stream 2: Stoking the flame: maintaining the sizzle factor in historical romance series. 

Anne Gracie, Renee Dahlia, Elizabeth Ellen Carter and Lizzi Tremayne

So how exactly do the likes of Anne Gracie, Elizabeth Ellen Carter, Renee Dahlia and Lizzi Tremayne keep their readers coming back for more? What are the pros and cons of writing a series? How do you sizzle ‘on the page’, as opposed to in the frying pan? How do you make the most of what you’ve already written? I need to learn how to engage readers and keep them hooked. Capitalizing on research and world-building is the stock-in-trade of the historical romance authors on this panel and I’ve a lot of questions I’d like answering. 

Fortunately for me, I’ve attended workshops and talks with the inimitable Anne Gracie before and I know I can put my trust in her: Anne is sure to get to the heart of the matter.

So perhaps it would be better to concentrate my energies in one area after all. 

Okay, so this is the stream for me. 

Isn’t it? 

But what about being versatile? 

I’m back where I began: not just floundering, starting to feel gutted. If only I could attend both sessions, I would swim happily ever after!

If you see me looking lost and shoal-less at the conference, please give me a friendly nudge in the right direction, whichever direction that may be …

This panel spotlight was written by Lou Greene, winner of the HNSA First Pages Pitch in 2017. Since then she has continued to work on her debut manuscript, The Book Lovers, which was also long-listed in the Richell Awards. Lou is a recent recipient of an ASA Mentorship Award. Find out more about Lou’s writing at

HNSA 2019 Conference

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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