Thursday morning I was up early for breakfast at a café across the road from the hotel with some of the ‘newbie’ writers for Harlequin Mills & Boon/Silhouette. The conference is so busy, sometimes you have to schedule the get-togethers at the oddest times!
To the left is Desire author Tessa Radley and Modern Heat/Little Black Dress author Julie Cohen, and below is new Romance signing Barbara Wallace, with Presents/Modern Romance authors Lynn Raye Harris and Kate Hewitt.
After breakfast, I made my way back to the hotel for the opening session. The guest speaker was best-selling author Janet Evanovich, who had some pearls of wisdom (and some great one-liners) to share with us mere mortals.
- “I enjoy writing for an hour and a half in the morning…and then it’s like haemorrhoids.”
- Janet says she’s not a fast writer (I find that very comforting) and that she thinks more than she writes.
- She likes silence when she writes and often wears the earmuffs she got when she learned to shoot (research) to cut out audible distractions!
- She puts all the ingredients into the book and cooks it and cooks it until she is left with the essence of all the things she put into it. She tries to boil her stuff down so that, instead of pages of narrative, she has just a few sentences that tell her all she needs to know about that character or location. (Love this! As writers, I think we all need to ‘boil’ more.)
- The secret to a page-turning book is seamless transitions – moving the reader from one place to the next without them even noticing it.
- Her best writing advice? Don’t hold anything back, thinking you’ll save it for the next book. Put it in the book you’re writing now (and hope to God that something fills the gap!)
- As soon as readers know you have an agenda, a message to give, you’ve failed.
The next major event was the Keynote Luncheon, at which Linda Howard was the speaker. She had us laughing right from the opening lines of her talk, recounting the story of how she allegedly got ‘duped’ into standing there. She said she’d been told to say something inspirational, but had replied that she didn’t have any inspirational stories – only cow stories, as her husband raises cattle. How Linda feels about cattle, was fairly obvious from her one comment on the subject, given in her Southern drawl: “Cows are the devil’s handmaidens.”
She said the only other stories she had were about her family. And on that subject, she said: “Every nuthouse has its keeper, and I am the keeper of the nuts.” She then went on to give us anecdotal proof.
The story in which her brother and sister-in-law decided to get some much needed fresh air after both being wheelchair bound (I’ve forgotten why!) by travelling round the neighbourhood with him on his ride-on lawn mower with her wheelchair attached to the back with a length of bungee cord was so funny that I swear I stopped breathing a couple of time I was laughing so hard. Tears were streaming down my face and I lost all my mascara – waterproof mascara! I can't wait to get my conference DVD of all the sessions so I can listen to it again.
She said the inspirational message in her talk was that if she can build a successful writing career under such circumstances, that it ought to give us hope. Her final piece of (inspirational) advice was: "Hang in there, do the best you can and, when the nuts are falling, take cover!"
More on Thursday soon…