I’m off to the meeting of the Historical Novel Society in beautiful Oxford this weekend. (That’s England, y’all; not Mississippi.) This trip is part of my ongoing celebration of my 60th birthday; plus, I had the frequent flyer miles. And I’ve never been to Oxford! All my characters went to Cambridge.
The history of the historical society
HNS was founded in the UK in 1997 to support and promote historical fiction. At the time, the founders felt the genre was getting short shrift*. Apart from holding a truly enjoyable annual conference, they also write reviews. Some are published in the paper journal the Historical Novel Review, which is sent to members each quarter; others are published online.
I’m happy to note that each of my Francis Bacon books has been warmly reviewed by HNS. The Widows Guild even earned an Editor’s Choice star, which puts it on the long list for an award in 2017. That will be in Portland, OR, and I’ll be there.
The conference alternates between the UK and the US. I first learned of the organization around 2013, although I didn’t go to the conference in Florida that year. They met in London in 2014 and in Denver in 2015. I did go to that one, where I met many fellow members of the Historical Fiction Authors Cooperative (HFAC; a great source of well-written, original historical fiction.) I wore my Francis Bacon costume and signed a couple of books. All good.
Actually, I’m writing this post weeks ahead. I don’t usually blog from abroad (although now I have a dandy new tablet, I might surprise us all.) I was going to note highlights of the program from the website when I was reminded that being British, our hosts had us register for the panels we wanted to attend in advance. In the US, we wander from room to room during the meeting, checking out all the speakers and then settling with whichever one meets our immediate criteria. Pros and cons for both methods.
I’m going to learn about Real Life Heroes and Heroines; Writing the Historical Thriller; Reader Appreciation (because writers certainly appreciate readers!); and Streets Through the Ages. I don’t remember what some of those titles mean, but I like surprises.
The most fun thing for me will be hanging out with fellow HFAC members Suzanne Tyrpak and Janet Oakley, and meeting British indie authors like Helen Hollick, Anna Belfrage, and Alison Morton. Oh, and let’s not forget the tea cake. (The fiendish Brits put tea cake out in front of you everywhere you’re liable to stop when you’re tired from sightseeing.)
After the meeting, I’ll spend two weeks tootling around London looking at everything I can think of for upcoming books. Victorian theater, the British Army (especially the cavalry), Elizabethan printing presses, and of course, houses and gardens. I’m going on a backstage tour of the Drury Lane Theater and of the last surviving music hall in the East End, Wilton’s. Alas, the National Army Museum will be closed! But there’s music in churches, Macbeth at the Globe, tea at the Savoy… All in all, a fabulous trip.
Pictures upon my return.
* short shrift: orig. a brief space of time allowed for a criminal to make his confession before execution; hence, a brief respite; to give short shrift to, to make short work of. (OED. I was curious!)