#VaLoveFest 2016 at the Virginia Festival of the Book

With the fabulous Eloisa James! Squee!

Two weeks ago, I was privileged to attend the #VaLoveFest panels at the Virginia Festival of the Book, but couldn’t post until now because of an editing deadline. #AuthorProblems.

If you’ve never been to #VaLoveFest, mark your calendars for the next one (March 2017), because WOW do you ever get to see big names (Eloisa James and Maya Rodale, anyone?) and hear amazing insights into all aspects of romance.

Here are a few pictures and quick summaries from each session, for those not able to attend.

Panel 1: Series Writing: For Women, by Women, with Betsy Ashton, Ellen Butler, Avery Flynn, and Tracey Livesay

L to R: Avery Flynn, Betsy Ashton, Ellen Butler, panel moderator Kim Dalferes , and Tracey Livesay
L to R: Avery Flynn, Betsy Ashton, Ellen Butler, panel moderator Kim Dalferes, and Tracey Livesay.

Tracey Livesay on how she plans out a series (or doesn’t):

Betsy Ashton takes a highly organized approach:

Avery Flynn affirmed:

Ellen Butler sometimes writes more in a series because:

These women shared great insights about the joys and trials of series writing. And Avery Flynn summed up how many a writer feels upon completing a book with this gem:

Panel 2: It’s Raining Men, with Grace Burrowes, Cristin Harber, and Marliss Melton

Back row: Panel moderator Kimberly Kincaid and Grace Burrowes. Front row: Cristin Harber and Marliss Melton.

Grace Burrowes nailed the description of a romance novel hero:

And how does a romance author craft the perfect hero? Marliss Melton had this great tip:

Though we were talking men, it’s true every hero needs a heroine. So how does an author choose? Here’s what Cristin Harber had to say:

At the end of the panel, I think authors and audience agreed with Grace Burrowes‘ statement:

Panel 3: Screening of Romance Industry Documentary Love Between the Covers, followed by a talk with Eloisa James and Maya Rodale

Eloisa James and Maya Rodale talk the state of the romance industry following a screening of Love Between the Covers
Eloisa James and Maya Rodale talk the state of the romance industry following a screening of Love Between the Covers.

If you haven’t yet seen Love Between the CoversI highly recommend you seek out a screening. It’s a fabulous inside look at the romance industry; a celebration of a genre written largely for women, about women, and by women (though with male readership at 16% and rising, and an increase in gay romance, we’re not without our male counterparts!).

Both Eloisa and Maya agreed:

and that:

After the documentary, Eloisa and Maya graciously signed books, and I snapped a picture of Regency Royalty:

L to R: Regency romance authors Eloisa James, Joanna Bourne, Maya Rodale, Grace Burrowes, and #VaLoveFest organizer and Regency romance author, Sue London
L to R: Regency romance authors Eloisa James, Joanna Bourne, Maya Rodale, Grace Burrowes, and #VaLoveFest organizer and Regency romance author, Sue London.

Panel 4: Getting Published With Women’s Fiction & Romance, with Jenny Gardiner, Tracee Garner, and Linda Grimes

Tracee Garner, Linda Grimes, and Jenny Gardiner
L to R: Tracee Garner, Linda Grimes, and Jenny Gardiner.

Sunday, we turned our focus even more to the business side of books, discussing paths to publication in women’s fiction and romance.

Tracee Garner encouraged us:

Indie author Jenny Gardiner shared lots of great insight, including:

Traditionally-published author Linda Grimes acknowledged:

Regardless of which path one chooses, all three authors agreed:



We capped off the day with a Crime Wave and Romance Group Book Signing at Barnes & Noble. It was a marvelous weekend!


Thank you so much to all of the authors and panel moderators who gave so generously of their time, energy, and knowledge.

Thank you to #VaLoveFest organizer Sue London, for making it all happen.

And thank you to the Virginia Festival of the Book, for including us in the celebration of authors, readers, craft, and basically all things book!

With the charming Maya Rodale!
With the charming Maya Rodale!

2015: A Year of Giving Thanks, Meeting Romance Idols, & Making New Friends

2015 has been a very good year for me. I am so thankful. 

This year, I:


Eloisa James with Margaret Locke
The ever-charming Eloisa James and I.
The fabulous Sabrina Jeffries!
The fabulous Sabrina Jeffries!
With Pamela Morsi!
With Pamela Morsi!
With the gracious and knowledge-generous Valerie Bowman
With gracious & knowledge-generous Valerie Bowman.
With the exuberantly charming Cathy Maxwell.
Sue London getting silly at the West Virginia Book Festival
Sue London getting silly at the West Virginia Book Festival.


  • met a ton of new people, and, even more amazingly, new fans! I, little ol’ Margaret, now have fans. What, what? But, yes, I do, like the oh-so-fabulous Annie, who even had lunch with me when she was in town.
Annie is a riot, y'all, and we had so much fun at our far-too-brief lunch in October!
Annie is a riot, y’all, and we had so much fun at our far-too-brief lunch in October!
Long-time friends supported me, too, including my grade-school friend Heather, whose animals apparently also want to read A Matter of Time!
Long-time friends supported me, too, including my grade-school friend Heather, whose animals apparently also want to read A Matter of Time!
Some fans read my books out loud to their babies!
Some fans read my books out loud to their babies!
... While others forced their kids to do things like this!
… While others forced their kids to do things like this!
  • solidified relationships and friendships within my Shenandoah Valley Writers critique group and more, and basically surrounded myself with writer friends the whole year through.
Maggie and Rebekah helped me celebrate debut day!
Maggie and Rebekah helped me celebrate debut day!
And these fine characters cheered me on, critiqued my work, picked me up when I felt down, and celebrated my successes!
And these fine characters cheered me on, critiqued my work, picked me up when I felt down, and celebrated my successes!
  • had the loving support of my family, including my very own computer-science-professor-in-shining-armor husband, who read BOTH of my books, just to support me (and help me find typos). He’s that awesome of a guy.
My real-life romance hero.
My real-life romance hero.

Yes, it’s been a very good year. 

And I owe so much of that to you all.

  • Thank You Word CloudThank you to everyone who took a chance on A Man of Character (and now again on A Matter of Time!).
  • Thank you to the friends and family who’ve supported me, and the new readers who’ve picked up one of my books this year.
  • Thank you to the book bloggers and reviewers who graciously gave their time to review my books.
  • Thank you to Tessa Shapcott, my editor, for her invaluable guidance, and to Joy Lankshear, my cover designer and formatter, for making my books look better than I ever imagined they could.
  • Thank you to the fellow writers I’ve met on Facebook and Twitter, whose companionship brightens my day every day, and whose wisdom is lighting this crazy, twisting and turning path I’m on.
  • Thank you to the people who’ve liked my books enough to join my street team, Locke’s Flock, or to review them on Amazon or GoodReads, or even just to tell someone else about my books and/or me. All of those seemingly little things make a HUGE difference.

Simply put, I wouldn’t be here without you, and I wanted to express my gratitude as 2015 closes out and 2016 gets ready to begin.

What does the next year hold?

Writer Wednesday: Margaret Locke, Part Two

Margaret LockeIt’s Writer Wednesday, and this week we’ve got … me, Margaret Locke? Well, sure – that’s one of the benefits of hosting your own weekly shindig: you can, uh, take over that hot seat whenever you, er, want to. Hopefully y’all will stick with me, and we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled roster of awesome writers next week (in fact, next Wednesday the amazing Tamara Shoemaker will be here, so don’t miss it!)

I thought it’d be fun to answer not only some of the questions I didn’t address the first time around, but also to tell y’all a bit about A Matter of Time, my new time-travel Regency romance. So without further ado…

What inspires you to write?

A Man of Character Cover Margaret LockeAs a teenager addicted to historical romance novels, I often had to defend my reading material of choice. I even wrote an essay for my tenth grade English class explaining my love for the genre: I read romance, because no matter what happens (and some pretty crazy things happen), you know those two people are going to end up together, and achieve that coveted Happy Ever After. For this anxiety-prone child of divorce, that was the ultimate comfort. Two flawed people could encounter all sorts of bizarre obstacles, and still stay together, still find everlasting love? Yes, please.

As to why I write it? Because I still seek that hope, that comfort, that security every day. Also, I’m a bit of a control freak. So an encouraging, reassuring story (with funny/witty parts, or so I hope) dictated entirely by me? Sign me up!

Writing allows me to explore my own thoughts and beliefs through watching/learning what my characters do. In A Man of Character, I examined the ideas of fantasy versus reality, perhaps in part because people have long challenged romance as presenting impossible ideals. In A Matter of Time, I delved into whether feminism is compatible with wanting to prioritize love and marriage (for the record, I am an ardent feminist who happens to be madly in love with my husband and who finds my identity in that relationship, and I’m good with that. So my answer to that question is a resounding yes.)

Name one interesting thing you learned in researching/writing your last book.

I spent a lot of time looking up various details about the Regency period, fervently attempting to get everything historically accurate. I’m sure I didn’t, but any errors are my own (still positive I don’t have the title thing down pat, in spite of marvelous help from The Beau Monde).

In addition to history books, I read numerous fascinating blog posts (there are tons of historical bloggers out there – my praise and thanks to them!). One post, from the UK’s Jane Austen website, discussed the making of hot chocolate in the Regency era, a tidbit I found so fascinating I had to stick it in the book. Definitely much more complicated than nuking milk in the microwave and adding powdered mix!

Name two things people don’t know about you.

  1. Hubby and I enjoyed some Bier in Hamburg!

    I’ve lived in Germany twice, and used to be quite fluent in the language (given it’s been fifteen years since I’ve regularly spoken auf Deutsch, I can’t claim that anymore). The first was in 1989, right after high school, in which I spent four months with a fantastic host family in Wülfrath (a small town near Düsseldorf and not all that far from Köln (or, as we say, Cologne)). The second was ten years later, when I’d won a DAAD grant for dissertation research, and I was to spend a year in Hamburg as I tackled the issues of gender and power and how they related to Ottonian queenship. I only stayed four months, but that’s a story for another blog post

  1. I met actor Wallace Shawn once in the Alderman Library on the University of Virginia’s campus. I and a bunch of fellow grad students were so star-struck that at first none of us would approach him. What if we were wrong, and it wasn’t him? (Inconceivable!) Finally I worked up the courage to ask – was he the Sicilian from The Princess Bride? He nodded his head and rather shyly said yes (or perhaps he was just irritated at the question and the crowd.) I was so giddy I just kind of hopped away. I didn’t compliment him on any other movies he’d done, nor did I ask for an autograph. I just ran, grinning like an idiot.

I’d like to think I did a bit better when I met Colin Morgan in 2013, but I probably didn’t – though at least I thought of something good enough to say that I earned a high-five from the man.

What fellow romance author do you recommend reading, and why?

TemptationOf course I have my big three (Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, Sabrina Jeffries), to which I now need to add Sarah MacLean, and then also Valerie Bowman, Tessa Dare, and Erin Knightley, plus oh-so-many more! But those are the very well-know Regency names, the writers most people could find on the shelf in a bookstore.

As I’ve ventured down this authorly path, I’ve been blessed to meet many a romance writer, some who are traditionally published but less well known, or perhaps traditionally published but in e-format only, or, like me, who are indie published.

I highly recommend contemporary romance author Kathryn Barrett’s Temptationgreat book with a premise I hadn’t yet encountered (Amish hero, but not an Amish romance per se). And Katy Regnery is another contemporary romance writer who’s shot up the charts in the last year (in part because I’m convinced she’s secretly super-human, given how quickly she can churn out well-written, emotionally intense novels!).

But there are so many more – check out my Writer Wednesday interview tab to find other great names.

What one piece of advice do you wish you’d had when first starting out?

editorGet an editor.

I didn’t understand at first that there were different types of editors. I didn’t think I needed one, since not only was I fairly decent at the whole grammar/punctuation thing, but I have several marvelous friends and critique group members whose eagle eyes catch all sorts of goofs.

I didn’t realize that what I was thinking of was copy-editing/proofreading, and that there were other levels of editing, including the most global one, the developmental edit (which it turns out my first book really needed!).

I wish I’d hired Tessa Shapcott before I sent A Man of Character out on the query market. My guess is I would have had more success, more requests. Who knows? Maybe I’m wrong, though the original, unedited manuscript did garner some interest and a publication offer. But the version I crafted after receiving Tessa’s developmental suggestions resulted in a much better book.

Having gone through this writing and editing process twice, I know for sure that my developmental editor’s advice is worth its weight in gold, as both of my books are far stronger because of her advice. Not perfect, I’m sure (that burden is mine alone), but stronger!

If you’re a newbie like me, sinking a lot of money into a book is the last thing you want to do if you have no clue whether or not you’re going to make that money back. But here’s the thing: if you’re indie-publishing and you don’t get your works professionally edited, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. If you’re aiming for traditional publishing, you might also be sunk if your work isn’t solid enough to catch an agent or publisher’s attention. Gone are the days when agents/publishers were willing to dig and dig and dig for the diamond amongst the coal. You’ve got to pressure that puppy into a mostly finished gem yourself. Make use of the tools around you – critique groups, beta readers, and mostly definitely an editor!

Front Cover of A Matter of Time by Margaret LockeAnd now … A Matter of Time, a time-travel Regency romance in which a modern-day Austenite’s dreams come true when she lands in the arms of a Regency duke – only to realize some fantasies aren’t all they’re cracked up to be when he proves less than a Prince Charming.

Here’s the official scoop:

Love comes when least expected.

Nobody would blame widowed doctoral student Eliza James for giving up on Happy Ever After; at twenty-nine, she’s suffered more loss than most people do in a lifetime. But Eliza’s convinced her own hero is still out there, waiting for her, just like in the beloved romance novels she devours. Every girl deserves a Darcy, right?

Only Eliza doesn’t dream of a modern-day affair: she wants the whole Regency experience. When a magical manuscript thrusts her back two hundred years into the arms and life of one Deveric Mattersley, Duke of Claremont, however, Eliza soon realizes some fantasies aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, especially when her duke proves himself less than a Prince Charming.

Deveric Mattersley has no interest in women, much less marriage. Determined to atone for his sins after convincing himself he’s at fault for the death of his first wife, he decrees himself content to focus on running his family’s estates, and on raising his son–until the mysterious Mrs. James appears. Who is she? What does she want? And why does she make Dev’s blood run hot in a way no woman ever has?

Can a man with a past and a woman from the future forge a love for all time?

“I fell in love with this book, just as I did with the Jane Austen classics. There’s a new Mr. Darcy in town.” – Annie, ARC reader, reviewer for The Write Review and ChickLitPlus.com.

You can pre-order A Matter of Time today on Amazon for only $2.99! Paperbacks available on official release day, November 30th, 2015.


Margaret LockeA lover of romance novels since the age of ten (shh, don’t tell mom!), Margaret Locke declared as a teen that she’d write romances when she grew up. Once an adult, however, she figured she ought to be doing grown-up things (such as earning that master’s degree in medieval history), not penning steamy love stories. Yeah, whatever. Turning forty cured her of that silly notion. Margaret is now happily ensconced back in the clutches of her first love, this time as an author as well as a reader.

Margaret lives in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley in Virginia with her fantastic husband, two fabulous kids, and two fat cats. You can usually find her in front of some sort of screen (electronic or window; she’s come to terms with the fact that she’s not an outdoors person).

Margaret loves to interact with fellow readers and authors! You may find her here:

Website/Blog: http://margaretlocke.com
Facebook: http://facebook.com/AuthorMargaretLocke
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/Margaret_Locke
Twitter: @Margaret_Locke

Thanks for putting up with this self-centered Writer Wednesday!
We’ll see you next week when we turn the spotlight back to where it belongs – on all those marvelous writers out there! 

Writer Wednesday: Meet Margaret Locke

Margaret LockeHello, and welcome to another Writer Wednesday. A few weeks ago, I noticed no author had claimed this date. As I was prepping to solicit participants, it occurred to me that since my debut novel, A Man of Character, was coming out the day before, I could interview myself! Bwah ha ha … so, well, here it goes: my answers to three of questions, just like I’ve been asking everybody else.

Which type of romance do you love best? Why?

I’m a historical romance lover at heart. They’re the first type of romance novels I ever read, and the ones that suck me in, time and time again. I think that’s because a) I love history, and love learning about / imagining what it was like to live in other eras and places, and b) the distance of time helps render the story all the more magical for me. I’ve always been a sucker for the whole “Once Upon A Time” thing.

Recently I’ve branched out and read a number of contemporaries, because I stumbled across fabulous authors like Katy Regnery and Kathryn Barrett (and many more!) and wanted to read their books.

But my heart belongs to Regency England. I’ll pick up a novel about that era any day.

Name one interesting thing you learned in researching/writing your last book.

I needed a fancy place in New York City to which a wealthy businessman might take a date. Not being a big city person at all, I had no clue, so I asked a college friend who now lives there (thanks, Liz!). “Rao’s,” she answered right away. I’d never heard of it. But I spent an afternoon happily Googling away, learning as much as I could, and thus the fictitious Joey’s was born (yes, that’s an homage to Joey Tribbiani of Friends fame–my husband loves him).

A few days after this restaurant-researching adventure, I went grocery shopping (the boring real life of an author) and discovered Rao’s pasta sauce sitting there among the zillion spaghetti sauce options. Although it was a bit pricey, I had to try it–and it’s now become my family’s favorite sauce. The things you learn.

Name two things people don’t know about you.

1. I skipped first grade. But I’m convinced the only reason I did well enough on the tests to do so is because the man administering the exams was really cute (yes, I remember that!). It motivated me. I was six, people. Guess I knew my heart was in romance from a very early age.

My husband channeling Elvis at our wedding reception.
My husband channeling Elvis at our wedding reception.

2. OK, I’m cheating a bit, because if you know me in real life, you know I’m a ’50s Elvis fan. I didn’t give a fig about Elvis until my senior year in college, though. That was 1995, and because it was Elvis’ 60th birthday, his old movies and Elvis documentaries were playing all over TV. That young Elvis, with his oddly innocent, yet oh-so-seductive face, that voice, and that hip swivel … I was a goner.

Which I was extra grateful for two years later, because if I hadn’t fallen for Elvis, I wouldn’t have made an Elvis website (hey, I needed something to do to escape the stress of grad school, and teaching myself HTML in the baby days of the web seemed ideal). If I hadn’t had that website, I wouldn’t have met my husband. By freaky chance, we met online (way before that was common) when I asked a question about Elvis, and he answered. We emailed. We discovered we were at the same university, both in grad school (what are the chances?). We met for lunch. We kept meeting. I found my happily-ever-after.

Elvis brought my husband and me together. Thank ya, thank ya verra much.

What’s your favorite romance novel of all time, and why?

There are so many books I can name. I tend to fall in love with authors and devour everything they write. LaVyrle Spencer, Johanna Lindsey, Lisa Kleypas, Sabrina Jeffries, Eloisa James, Julia Quinn … give me more, more more. I made a Top Five list once, but kept trying to sneak in more than five.

The book I come back to again and again, though, the one romance I kept when I (stupidly) purged my entire collection in my mid 30s, is Lynn Kurland‘s Stardust of Yesterday. Something about that story just hooked me like no other–probably the time-traveling element, since that idea has always intrigued me, as well as the new-to-me idea of ghost as hero. The fact that the ghost hero and definitely in-the-flesh heroine literally couldn’t touch each other for great parts of the book heightened the romance and tension for me.

So there you have it.


Interested in knowing about my own new romance release (It still feels bizarre to say that!)?

Check out the blurb for A Man of Character, my paranormal romantic comedy in which a bookstore owner learns that the perfect fantasy might just be reality:

A Man of Character Cover Margaret LockeWhat would you do if you discovered the men you were dating were fictional characters you’d created long ago?

Thirty-five-year-old Catherine Schreiber has shelved love for good. Keeping her ailing bookstore afloat takes all her time, and she’s perfectly fine with that. So when several men ask her out in short order, she’s not sure what to do…especially since something about them seems eerily familiar.

Caught between fantasy and reality, Cat must decide which—or whom—she wants more.

Blending humor with unusual twists, including a magical manuscript, a computer scientist in shining armor, and even a Regency ball, A Man of Character tells a story not only of love, but also of the lengths we’ll go for friendship, self-discovery, and second chances.

You can find A Man of Character on Amazon – available for Kindle or in paperback. And if you read it, I’d love to know what you think!

Thanks for hanging with me today! Come back next Wednesday for another exciting (and far less myopically self-centered) Writer Wednesday!

(Fellow authors, I do have openings for Wednesdays starting in June, so if you’d like to participate, just shoot me an email.)

What Is Love? / Love Between The Covers: One Romance Writer’s Adventures (meeting Eloisa James!) at the Library of Congress’ Popular Romance Project Conference

I recently had the privilege of attending the advance screening of Laurie Kahn’s Love Between The Covers documentary (which chronicles the romance community), as well as the day-long What Is Love?: Romance Fiction in the Digital Age conference. Both were sponsored by the Library of Congress and the Popular Romance Project. Both were free. Both were absolutely fantastic.

As a writer working toward publication, nothing feels more encouraging, more energizing, more inspiring, than sitting in a room full of people who are as enthusiastic about romance as I am – if not more so.

The Q&A panel at the screening of the documentary, Love Between the Covers. L to R: Laurie Kahn, William Anderson, Elizabeth Essex, Joanne Lockyer, Beverly Jenkins, Len Barot/Radclyffe, Eloisa James, and Kim Castillo
The Q&A panel at the screening of the documentary, Love Between the Covers. L to R: Laurie Kahn, William Anderson, Elizabeth Essex, Joanne Lockyer, Beverly Jenkins, Len Barot/Radclyffe, Eloisa James, and Kim Castillo

The documentary was amazing – I learned so much, and just delighted in seeing the community, authors, and books I love so well-represented on the screen. A Q&A with director Laurie Kahn and a number of the film’s featured personalities, including Eloisa James, Beverly Jenkins (who is a HOOT, y’all), Radclyffe, Elizabeth Essex, Joann Lockyer, and Kim Castillo followed the screening. The film was warmly received, and listening to the speakers afterward, fantastic. (Yes, I’m full of adjectives, but really, I cannot describe how immensely enjoyable this all was.) Please consider donating to the film; it needs more money for final production, so that it can be shared with the world.

The day-long conference featured four panels focusing on different questions/issues facing the romance community. Each panel had five to six commentators. The caliber of the conversation, both from the intelligent, erudite, and often hilarious commentators, as well as the insightful questions posed by the audience, was top-notch.

I note here my own limited take-away observations from the four panels. Luckily, each panel was filmed and will be available at the Library of Congress. I, like many others, tweeted salient, informational, or humorous (or all three!) points throughout the day under the hashtag #PopRom. Kiersten Krum storified these tweets (all 1100+ of them!), and you may find them here.

1st What is Love Panel Members: Susan Ostrov Weisser, Eric Selinger, Nicole Peeler, Beverly Jenkins, Radclyffe
1st Panel Members, L to R: Susan Ostrov Weisser, Eric Selinger, Nicole Peeler, Beverly Jenkins, Radclyffe

Panel 1: What Belongs in the Romance Canon?
Panelists: Len Barot/Radclyffe, Beverly Jenkins, Nicole Peeler, Eric Selinger, Susan Ostrov Weisser

  • There are perhaps three basic romance canons: the historical canon, the academic/literary canon, and the reader’s canon.
  • Gay/lesbian romance and African-American romance are relative newcomers.
  • Eloisa James posited “Perhaps there is no canon,” that romance changes very fast and reflects the cultural moment in which it’s written.
  • The HEA (Happily Ever After) is the defining aspect of romance. Beverly Jenkins said, “If you’re going to kill somebody at the end, get out of our category.”
  • Women’s sexual empowerment is a key aspect of romance.

Panel 2: What Do the Science and History of Love Reveal?
Panelists: Stephanie Coontz, Eli Finkel, Darlene Clark Hine, William M. Reddy, Ron Walters

  • Modern depictions of love do NOT reflect thousands-of-years old archetypes, as the understanding of romantic love today is a recent construction, stemming from the end of the 19th century.
  • Words are not transhistoric, so can we use modern terminology to address the past?
  • The 12th century marked the beginning of the idea that love makes one stronger, not weaker, and is seen as a pushback against the church, especially since many love stories of the period were written in the vernacular.
  • People look to assuage anxieties and needs through different kinds of novels; for many, it’s romance.
  • We have to be aware of how race/class/gender affect sexual expression and culture.
What Is Love Popular Romance Conference 3rd Session Panelists, L to R: Sarah Wendell, Candy Lyons, Anne Jamison, Brenda Jackson, Robyn Carr, Kim Castillo
3rd Panel Members, L to R: Sarah Wendell, Candy Lyons, Anne Jamison, Brenda Jackson, Robyn Carr, Kim Castillo

Panel 3: Community and the Romance Genre
Panelists: Robyn Carr, Kim Castillo, Brenda Jackson, Anne Jamison, Candy Lyons, Sarah Wendel

  • The romance community is diverse in many ways, except gender: vast majority of readers and writers are women.
  • The romance community is known for its pay-it-forward attitude.
  • Robyn Carr: “Romance is written for women, about women, by women, to reach women on every level.”
  • Romance gives us a place to confront our most vulnerable emotions in a safe place.
  • Frustrations with plagiarism and piracy were discussed, but most authors said, don’t let it dissuade you: push forward.
  • Reader-to-reader interaction and word-of-mouth remain key.
  • The empowering message of every novel is that someone will appreciate you for exactly who you are.
Free book swag from the Popular Romance Project conference.
Free book swag from the Popular Romance Project conference. I can’t wait to dig in!

Panel 4: Trending Now: Where Is Romance Fiction Heading In the Digital Age?Panelists: Liliana Hart, Jon Fine, Angela James, Tara McPherson, Dominique Raccah

  • 24% of all e-book sales are romance sales; romance readers are voracious readers.
  • Readers are transforming publishing, and digital publishing has given us this power.
  • The RWA was the first professional organization to accept indie publishing.
  • Women’s genres shape more of current culture than any other media.
  • Three Digital Elements to watch: DIY media, social media, visual/multimedia.
  • Discoverability – This is becoming harder with the deluge of books; the key is to write more books, write more books, write more books.
  • You need to know who/where your readers are, and what they want.
  • New technologies are changing the way stories are told.

I attended this conference with my best friend, fellow writer Annika Keswick, so the nerves I might have had if I had attended solo were gone. But I needn’t have worried; at the documentary screening, we met several other women and struck up immediate conversations, even walking back to the metro with a fellow romance junkie, sharing stories along the way. The next morning at the conference, after choosing seats near the front (I wanted to see and hear well, and gawk at the romance celebrities, people), we met Regency author Elizabeth Johns, whom I learned also utilizes the enormously talented Tessa Shapcott for editing purposes. Ms. Johns also introduced me to Julie Cupp of Formatting Fairies, and offered other helpful advice regarding indie publishing. “A lot of people helped me,” she said as a reason behind her friendly, pay-it-forward attitude, an attitude discussed in the panels later on as a rather unique hallmark of the romance community.

AKLOC2At lunch, my friend Annika and I scoured the cafeteria for an empty table. No luck. We asked to sit with a woman who was on her own, and again, immediately struck up a friendly conversation, discovering much in common and talking as if we’d known each other longer than a few minutes. Turns out we’d found Kathryn Barrett, a contemporary romance author. She, Annika, and I continued discussing the joys and challenges of writing as we briefly visited the painting of Romance and saw the Great Reading Room of the Library of Congress. When we returned to the meeting room for the second half of the day, we discovered she’d been sitting right behind us!

Eloisa James with Margaret Locke
The ever-charming historical romance author Eloisa James and me.

I also managed to work up the courage to ask Eloisa James for a photo with me. She was nothing but gracious, folks, a warm and welcoming lady who spoke so insightfully on many of the topics of the day (not that I was surprised). Spoke to the room, I mean, not to me – I was too star-struck to do more than grin like an idiot.

All in all, it was a spectacular day, chock full of great discussions, useful information, and wonderful people. Thank you so much to the Library of Congress and to the Popular Romance Project for putting on this program and hosting us all. Well done, and thank you to all who helped put on this marvelous production.