For the second year in a row, I was privileged to attend the Love Fest romance panels at the Virginia Festival of the Book (this year extended to two days, instead of just one – huzzah!).
Spending time in the company of romance authors and their fans is a hoot, y’all. Pretty much every author I’ve encountered has been delightful in person, and many of them have zany, witty, wildly entertaining personalities, as well. I love the romance community.
Day 1 of the VA Love fest was composed of three panels:
Bless Her Heart: Why We Love Quirky Southern Characters in Romance Fiction
Pamela Morsi, Terri Osburn and Kieran Kramer discussed writing those quirky Southern characters we all love. I tweeted from the event (as my form of taking notes). One of my favorite tidbits was this one from Pamela Morsi: “If you’re writing fiction, you’re always writing in a small town, even if your story is set in London.”
They Lived Happily Enough for Now: Challenges in Writing Modern Fiction
In the second panel of the day, panelists Kimberly Kincaid, Tracey Livesay, and Carey Heywood affirmed that contemporary romance plots often look to internal rather than external conflicts, because there are fewer external barriers now. Kimberly Kincaid reminded us that great conflict starts with great characters – and that flawed characters are the best characters, as long as there’s a reason for the flaws.
Wicked, Witchy, & Wonderful: Strong Heroines in Paranormal Romance & Urban Fantasy
Panelists Melissa Marr, Mary Behre, and Jaye Wells discussed kick-ass heroines during the final Saturday LoveFest panel, as well as gender(ed) issues often encountered in romance. Melissa Marr affirmed that she writes strong heroines to show boys and girls that girls are cool. Jaye Wells says she uses magic in her books as a metaphor for power, as a useful way of showing women that they have power, and helping them determine how to use it.
Day Two likewise had three panels:
LoveFest Workshop: “Screaming To Be Ignored” — Capturing the Reader’s Attention
Day Two of the VA Love Fest moved from downtown Charlottesville to Barnes & Noble, where we gathered to hear writers’ reactions to submitted queries and/or sample pages. Joanna Bourne succinctly summed up what does and does not belong in a query (and reminded us that the best and simplest dialog tag really is “said”.). Other panelists included Rachel Kramer Bussel, Terri Osburn, Mary Jo Putney, and Mary Burton.
LoveFest Workshop: Q&A About the Romance Biz After Publishing
Next up, published authors Avery Flynn, Sabrina Jeffries, Mary Jo Putney, Mollie Cox Bryan, and Mary Burton talked about changes on the publishing front, conceding that digital books have driven word counts down, and reflecting on whether the pressure to publish quickly is driving down quality, as well. Mary Jo Putney reminded us to always put the story first: “Do not sacrifice quality for quantity, for readers won’t buy your next book.” When asked whether they would go the traditional or indie route were they newbie authors starting out today, most said they would follow the hybrid model of doing both.
LoveFest Book Signing: Meet & Greet Romance Authors
We capped off the day with a delightful “Meet & Greet” session. I got my picture with Ms. Jeffries for the second year in a row (wahoo!), and also with the fabulous Pamela Morsi, and chatted with many more authors.
I highly suggest you mark your calendars for next year’s Book Fest and join us at the romance panels. It’s worth it!