Conference 2010: Romantic novelists do it with passion.
Report published 28 July 2010
Katie Fforde presents the NWS award to Lucy King
Katie Fforde gave a warm welcome to everyone, with special thanks to Jan Jones and Roger Sanderson for organising a fabulous ‘fiftieth year’ Conference. Amongst a host of noteworthy achievements, Sarah Duncan was congratulated as the first romantic novelist to be made a Royal Literary Fund Fellow for Bristol University, and Kate Hardy for the publication of her 45th novel with Mills & Boon.
There were smiles all round when Lucy King was presented with the Joan Hessayon trophy (after being unable to attend the Summer Party because of an imminent ‘new arrival’). Lucy is now doubly proud to be mother to a little boy as well as NWS prize-winner.
Jenny Haddon chaired the Author Panel, ‘Romantic Novelists do it with Passion – for 50 Years’, featuring members representing each of the RNA’s five decades: Mary Nichols, Marina Oliver, Jan Jones, Julie Cohen, and Jean Fullerton. In their uproarious potted biographies, Mary spoke of receiving a ‘Probationer’s’ report beginning: ‘This is not a romance,’ only to later have her novel accepted by Robert Hale as just that. Jan described her relief at the abandonment of the RNA’s old ‘three strikes and you’re out’ rule, since it took her nearly eight years to get published after re-joining. Julie’s path to publication was given a boost after she ran the first workshop on sex at an RNA Conference and, two weeks later, sold her first novel to Mills & Boon!
RNA President, Diane Pearson, set the questions rolling with one on Alan Boon: ‘Who had met him personally?’ Jenny described a lunch well-lubricated by vintage champagne in which her astute observations on the money-market were met with the remark: ‘I told you she knew too much.’! In response to another question, she gave a hilarious account of being told by an editor that: ‘There needs to be more sex in this scene – go into that office and write it.’
The consensus was that constraints on writing steamy material have lessened, though demand depends on the market: ‘We’ve come a long way since Lady Chatterley’s Lover.’ Julie passed on advice from Rachel Summerson to: ‘Banish your inner mother.’! Other top tips were: ‘Keep on revising,’ (Marina), ‘Send it in; all you’ve got to lose is the postage,’ (Jan), while Jean urged all newcomers to: ‘Try and be dispassionate about taking criticism.’
The most formative influence in establishing heroes was acknowledged to be reading in early adolescence. Jan opted for Mr Darcy (even pre-Colin Firth!), while Marina picked out Charles II, and Jean named Ross Poldark. Jane Holland put the last question: ‘How has the perception of romance changed over the decades?’ Marina’s view was that romance has become much wider and established across the genres, while Mary suggested that it was more accepted (though still the victim of some snobbery). Jan concluded that romance is now better known and better respected. On that happy note, everyone dashed off to don their glitz for the Gala Dinner.
Written by Jenny Barden