RWA member Renee Dahlia attended Genre Con 2017 in November, and spoke on a panel called ‘What Writers Get Wrong’. The event is put together by Queensland Writers Centre in conjunction with the State Library of Queensland, to celebrate writers across all genre fiction. Nearly three hundred people turned up to the biggest ever Genre Con this year, more than double the size of the first conference held five years ago. Renee gives us the low-down on her Genre-Con experience.
Q. Why Genre Con?
I heard about the conference via my publisher Kate Cuthbert of Escape Publishing, and thought it would be a good opportunity to grow my networks in the writing business. I submitted a proposal for a session. My initial idea was rejected by the committee, however, they proposed a variation on it which evolved into a panel session called ‘What Writers Get Wrong’.
Q. Tell us about the panel.
Chaired by Gary Kemble (paranormal crime writer), the panel had three experts in different fields. My background is horse racing, Steve Vincent (political thrillers) is an expert in terrorism, and Amy Andrews (romance) discussed medical details.
Q. That’s quite a range of people and topics. How did it go?
I’m probably an unreliable witness as to the success of the panel. It was my first event in public as a writer, having my debut novel published earlier this year, and my hands were clammy with nerves. Each of us started by discussing the things we see in novels about our areas of interest that annoy us – horses that act like dogs, noisy ventilator machines, etc. For the most part, the panel tended towards discussing craft, rather than technical details. One of the key points that I found useful was that writers can spend too much time down the research rabbit hole, and this turns into a dull info-dump on the page. No one cares about the finer details of a particular type of gun, just call it a gun.
Q. Did any questions surprise you?
A few fantasy writers asked about travel times with horses. “If you are marching an army from elf-town to dwarf-town, how fast can you go?” Moving armies isn’t my specialty, and I would recommend people look up pre-WWI army supply chain information, however, on a basic note, a horse can travel all day if it is fit, and if it goes slowly, only slightly faster than a human’s walking pace. In regency romance, horses were changed every ten miles, and even then, they didn’t go quickly. As a benchmark, a racehorse at full speed is approximately 70km/hr and can sustain that for about 1,000 metres. Any further, and they go slower – for example, the five miles of the UK Grand National is run at around 50km/hr. Please don’t gallop your horses all day in your books.
Q. That sounds like a topic in itself.
Yes, several writers suggested that I should create a few permanent links on my website that answer common questions about horses – travel times, feed, common injuries, carriage types in historic romance, etc. Coming soon!
Q. Any other highlights from the rest of the conference?
The academic presentations on the Friday were fascinating. I come from a science background, and the contrast between my experience of academia and the literary one really opened my mind to new possibilities. Of the other panels over Saturday and Sunday, two stood out. The panel called ‘Writing Sex and Sexuality in the 21 st Century’ with Jodi McAlister, Kate Cuthbert, Meg Vann, and Rowena Specht-Whyte started with an excellent rundown of romance over time, from the 1970s bodice rippers through to Fifty Shades of Grey, and now what Kate Cuthbert calls the ‘post-50 Shades’ world. Kate discussed how she’s seen a rise in poor representation of consent in her slush pile, as writers try to push the boundaries of erotica, but do it poorly. The take out was ‘Consent matters, it’s hot.’ The other panel I enjoyed was the Plenary Session discussing what publishers are looking for:
Alex Adsett: “A book that makes me forget I’m reading.”
Angela Meyer: “I want to get lost in the story.”
Emily Lighezzolo: “A fresh new voice that brings a convention that’s been done before, but does it in a unique and genuine way.”
Kate Cuthbert: “A story needs to have ‘lift’. Does it lift off the page? Also, I need to see how I can package it for an audience.”
Renee Dahlia’s debut series is published by Escape Publishing. To Charm a Bluestocking was released in March 2017, and In Pursuit of a Bluestocking was released in October 2017. You can find her at her website, follow her on Facebook, and connect with her via Twitter @dekabat.
To Charm a Bluestocking
She wants to be one of the world’s first female doctors; romance is not in her plans. Available here.
In Pursuit of a Bluestocking
When he goes hunting a thief, he never expects to catch a bluestocking. Available here.