Program Schedule: Friday, June 25

Friday, 7:00-9:00AM (CT)

CONVERSATION ROOMS        

One of the best things about a conference is meeting like-minded people who share your interests, and this year is no different! Check out the themed Conversation Rooms in our Histfic Hub.


Friday, 9:00-10:00AM (CT)

CREATING CHARACTERS WHO BELONG WHERE YOU PUT THEM

Janet Benton, Nicole Galland, Aimee Liu, Jennifer Steil

One of the hardest things about writing stories set in the past can be creating female characters with real agency, given how little agency women have historically been allowed. How do we balance creating a believable woman of the time with giving her the agency necessary to make her interesting and to achieve what a narrative requires of her? This is just one of the challenges we will discuss in this panel about how to create context-sensitive characters who are believable in a given fictional world, characters who don’t feel anachronistic.

Janet Benton’s novel Lilli de Jong was published by Nan A. Talese/Doubleday. Kirkus Reviews called it a “monumental accomplishment,” Library Journal and NPR named it a Best Book of 2017, and it remains an editors’ pick on Amazon. Benton has written for the New York Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Writers’ Digest, and more. She edited and co-wrote award-winning TV documentaries for a series on Philadelphia history, The Great Experiment.  She holds an M.F.A. from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and a B.A. from Oberlin College. She has taught writing at five universities. She mentors writers through The Word Studio.

Nicole Galland is the author of the historical novels I, Iago; Crossed: A Tale of the 4th Crusade; Revenge of the Rose; Godiva; and The Fool’s Tale. (She’s also written two contemporary romantic comedies, On the Same Page and Stepdog.) Her most recent book, Master of the Revels, is a Shakespeare-themed time-traveling sequel to the New York Times bestseller, The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O., which she co-wrote with Neal Stephenson. She has been an invited speaker at events such as the Key West Literary Seminar and the Hay-on-Wye Book Festival. Mostly, she’s a Shakespeare nerd.

Aimee Liu is the bestselling author of the historical novels Glorious Boy; Flash House; Cloud Mountain; and Face, as well as the memoirs Solitaire and Gaining. Her books have been translated into more than a dozen languages. Honors include the Barnes & Noble Discover Award, Bosque Fiction Prize, and Literary Guild Super Release. Her essays have appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Los Angeles Times, and elsewhere. She has also written or co-authored more than ten books of popular non-fiction. Aimee teaches in Goddard College’s MFA in Creative Writing Program at Port Townsend, WA.

Jennifer Steil is an award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction. Her newest book, Exile Music (Viking, 2020), is the first novel in English to explore the lives of Austrian Jewish musicians who sought refuge from the Nazis in Bolivia in 1939.  Her two previous books are The Woman Who Fell from the Sky, a memoir of her experience running a newspaper in Yemen, and The Ambassador’s Wife, a novel about a hostage crisis inspired by Steil’s experience. She currently lives in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. She is now writing a novel about an underground Bolivian community of LGBTQ artists.


Friday, 9:00-10:00AM (CT)

THE CLASSICS REVISITED: SHAKING UP THE BRONTES

Finola Austin, Bella Ellis (Rowan Coleman), Syrie James, Michael Stewart              

In this session, the first of two sister panels on 21st-century responses to the grandes dames of historical fiction, four historical novelists will share how they found inspiration in the works and lives of the Bronte sisters.

Finola Austin, also known as the Secret Victorianist on her award-winning blog, is an England-born, Northern Ireland-raised, Brooklyn-based historical novelist and lover of the 19th century. Her first novel, Bronte’s Mistress, about the “wretched woman” who “corrupted” Branwell Bronte, the Bronte sisters’ brother, was published in 2020. By day, she works in digital advertising. Find her online at www.finolaaustin.com.

Bella Ellis is the Bronte-inspired pseudonym for Sunday Times and New York Times bestselling author Rowan Coleman. Rowan is the author of 15 novels including The Accidental Mother, The Day We Met and We Are All Made Of Stars. The Bronte Mysteries is a new series of novels that blends fact and fiction to imagine that before the Bronte sisters were world renowned authors they were amateur sleuths.

Syrie James is the bestselling author of 13 critically acclaimed novels published in 21 languages, including many award-winning works of historical fiction. Dubbed the Queen of Nineteenth Century Re-imaginings by Los Angeles Magazine, Syrie is a huge fan of Jane Austen, the Brontës, Dracula, and All Things English. A produced screenwriter and playwright, Syrie has given keynote and breakout addresses and served on author panels across North America and in England. Find Syrie on Facebook, Twitter, and at www.syriejames.com.

Michael Stewart’s debut novel, King Crow was the winner of the Guardian’s Not-the-Booker Award. Other books include Couples, Cafe Assassin and Mr. Jolly. His latest novel, Ill Will: The Untold Story of Heathcliff was inspired by Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. His next book, Walking the Invisible, a hybrid memoir about the Brontes’ lives and landscapes, will be published in July 2021. He is also the creator of the Bronte Stones project, four monumental stones situated in the landscape between the birthplace and the parsonage, inscribed with poems by Kate Bush, Carol Ann Duffy, Jeannette Winterson and Jackie Kay.


Friday, 9:00-10:00AM (CT)

HISTORY IN HISTORICAL FICTION: MAIN INGREDIENT OR ICING ON THE CAKE?

Margaret Skea

An illustrated exploration of the relevance of history to historical fiction, considering the role history plays as Inspiration, Context, providing Plot, infusing Colour, acting as a Constraint and as a Prism through which to view our 21st century world. This session will provide practical tips and techniques for researching and examining history to show how approaching it from differing angles will bring vitality and authenticity to the story; breathe life into the characters, both historic and fictional; and above all, provide a rooted, immersive, ‘you are there’ experience for the reader.

Margaret Skea is a multi-award-winning historical novelist and accomplished speaker, workshop presenter and creative writing tutor. Growing up in the violence of “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland, much of her writing is concerned with living within conflict, and the pressures that places on families, relationships, and on personal integrity. She is passionate about authenticity in historical fiction and her novels are all set in real history: A Scottish trilogy focusing on a notorious clan feud called the Ayrshire Vendetta and a two-book, fictionalized biography of Katharina von Bora, the escaped nun who married the reformer Martin Luther.


Friday, 9:00-10:00AM (CT)

NOT A DUKE AGAIN: CHANGING THE HERO IN REGENCY ROMANCE

Emily E K Murdoch

Dukes, dukes, everywhere! It’s almost impossible to read any historical romance without stumbling across at least a dozen. They are literally everywhere! Why do we, as authors, do it? After all, there aren’t that many dukes in real life—there never have been. Only 26 dukedoms were ever created in England, at least. Historical romance author Emily E K Murdoch investigates why dukes are so prolific, why readers are desperate for them, and how we can change the heroes in our books going forward without losing any of those readers.

Emily E K Murdoch is a historian and historical romance author. With a Masters in Medieval Studies, she has over 37 historical romance books published. Many of those have been heralded by academic journals for their detailed accuracy, and her genres span from medieval to Westerns to Regency, with different heat levels but—of course—happily ever afters.


Friday, 10:15-11:15AM (CT)

HOW TO NAVIGATE THE WILD WEST OF AUDIOBOOK PRODUCTION

Faith L. Justice

Audiobooks are the fastest growing segment of the publishing market. But how do you get your piece of the pie if your publisher doesn’t want to exercise that option? Or you’re a hybrid or indie author on a limited budget? It’s your time or your money. Join Ms. Justice for an informative discussion on the paths to market: from print publisher does everything to author-managed outsourced process to author “do-it-yourself.” With eight books out in audio, she’s done it each way and can talk about the pros and cons.

Faith L. Justice (www.faithljustice.com) writes award-winning fiction and articles in Brooklyn, New York. Her work appeared in such publications as Salon.com, Writer’s Digest, and The Copperfield Review. Her most recent book Dawn Empress: A Novel of Imperial Rome (from Raggedy Moon Books) is the second in The Theodosian Woman series and is available at all the usual places in all formats. Faith is the co-chair of the New York City chapter of the Historical Novel Society and Associate Editor for Space and Time Magazine. For fun, she likes to dig in the dirt—her garden and various archaeological sites.


Friday, 10:15-11:15AM (CT)

SHAKE IT UP: WHEN YOUR MAIN CHARACTER IS “UNLIKEABLE”!

Pamela Binnings Ewen

In the literary world, a constant meme is that readers prefer a female protagonist to be likeable—someone to cheer for in the story. But fascinating history is often created by difficult, often unlikeable, women.  Many of these complicated women prepared the way for feminism today. In this discussion we will explore ways to create these difficult protagonists without compromising truth, and without prosecuting or defending. I will use characters from my novels and other literature as examples. Although the characters I will utilize in this discussion are female, to a great extent the information covers difficult male characters as well.

Pamela Binnings Ewen is the author one non-fiction book and six historical novels, her most recent being The Queen of Paris, a novel of Coco Chanel, which was ranked No. 1 in Hot New Spring Releases in 2020 historical fiction by Amazon Kindle. Before retiring, she practiced law with the international firm of BakerBotts, LLP.


Friday, 10:15-11:15AM (CT)

ART IN HISTORICAL FICTION

Carol Cram, Syrie James, Jeanne Mackin, Laura Morelli

Four authors of historical fiction inspired by the arts share how they draw upon real and imagined stories of artists, musicians, authors, and more. Join Syrie James, author of novels inspired by Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, and Bram Stoker; Jeanne Mackin, author of The Last Collection about the rivalry between Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli and The Beautiful American inspired by the photographer Lee Miller; Laura Morelli, author of five arts-inspired novels, including The Giant and The Night Portrait; and Carol M. Cram, author of three novels inspired by women in the arts: painting, theater, and music.          

Carol M. Cram from Vancouver, Canada, is the author of four novels, including the Women in Art Trilogy (The Towers of Tuscany, A Woman of Note, and The Muse of Fire). Carol is also the author of over sixty bestselling college textbooks in computer applications and communications and was on faculty at Capilano University in North Vancouver for over two decades.

Syrie James is the bestselling author of 13 critically acclaimed novels published in 21 languages, including many award-winning works of historical fiction. Dubbed the Queen of Nineteenth Century Re-imaginings by Los Angeles Magazine, Syrie is a huge fan of Jane Austen, the Brontës, Dracula, and All Things English. A produced screenwriter and playwright, Syrie has given keynote and breakout addresses and served on author panels across North America and in England. Find Syrie on Facebook, Twitter, and at www.syriejames.com.

Jeanne Mackin from New York is the author of six novels; the most recent is The Last Collection: A Novel of Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel, which has been translated into five languages. An earlier novel, the award-winning The Beautiful American, is based on the life of photographer Lee Miller, and mysteries written under a nom de plume have been translated into Japanese. She lives in central New York in a two-hundred-year-old farmhouse complete with a few wandering spirits.

Laura Morelli from Georgia holds a Ph.D. in art history from Yale University and has taught college students in the United States and in Italy. She is a long-time trusted guide in the world of cultural travel and authentic shopping, known for her Authentic Arts guidebook series that includes Made In Italy and other guides. She has been a columnist for National Geographic Traveler and Italy Magazine, and has developed lessons for TED-Ed.


Friday, 10:15-11:15AM (CT)

SHATTERING THE MYTH OF WOMEN IN THE WEST

Wendy Voorsanger

You know the familiar myths of women in the old West: The helpless barmaid waiting around a dusty saloon for a brave cowboy or lawman to rescue her and make her an honest woman. Or the hysterical, violent vixen slinging a gun. Authentic historical novels of the Old West include female characters inspired by real women who enjoyed laws not granted to women in East. Those women owned property, made contracts, got divorced, kept custody of their children, and worked at a variety of jobs to build the fast-growing society of the West.

Wendy Voorsanger, born and raised on the American River in Sacramento, has long held an intense interest in the historical women of California, which she chronicles in the blog SheIsCalifornia.net. Prospects of a Woman, her debut historical novel, published in October 2020. She earned a BA in journalism from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo and an MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is a member of the Castro Writers’ Cooperative, the Lit Camp Advisory Board, the San Mateo Public Library Literary Society, and Historical Novel Society. www.wendyvoorsanger.net.


Friday, 11:30AM-12:30PM (CT)

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Elizabeth Chadwick

Elizabeth Chadwick is a multi-award winning top selling historical novelist with 27 novels in print translated into 18 languages. Her novel The Greatest Knight is a New York Times bestseller and has been optioned for film and TV, and her novel The Scarlet Lion was included in founder of the Historical Novel Society Richard Lee’s top ten novels of the decade. 


Friday, 1:30-2:30PM (CT)

RECENT DEBUTS TELL ALL: THE INSIDE SCOOP ON THE DEBUT EXPERIENCE

Denny S. Bryce, Elizabeth Everett, Sarah Penner

No secrets allowed: hear from this panel of 2021 historical fiction debut authors as they “tell all” about their debut experience! These authors are traditionally-published across three separate publishers, which makes for a great industry overview. Topics for discussion include what they wish they’d known before their book deals; the truth about interactions with editors and publicists; the financial realities of a book deal; and debuting in a pandemic. The session will end with plenty of time for FAQ; don’t hold back on those burning questions you’ve been scared to ask!

Denny S. Bryce, an award-winning recipient of the RWA Golden Heart®, was a three-time GH finalist, including twice for Wild Women and the Blues, her debut novel. She also writes book reviews for NPR Books and entertainment articles for FROLIC Media. Additionally, the former professional dancer and public relations professional is a self-proclaimed history geek. She credits this obsession to her maternal grandmother, Ella Elizabeth Joseph, who immigrated from Montego Bay, Jamaica, to New York City in 1923. Recently, Denny relocated from Northern Virginia to Savannah, Georgia. She is represented by Nalini Akolekar, Spencerhill Associates.

Elizabeth Everett lives in Upstate New York with her family. She likes going for long walks or (very) short runs to nearby sites that figure prominently in the history of civil rights and women’s suffrage. Everett is a passionate advocate for the romance genre and would like for anyone about to cast a stone to read a romance novel written in the past ten years. A Lady’s Formula for Love is her first novel in The Secret Scientists of London series, inspired by her admiration for rule breakers and belief in the power of love to change the world.

Sarah Penner is the debut author of The Lost Apothecary (March 2021, Park Row Books/HarperCollins), which has been translated into more than fifteen languages. She lives in St. Petersburg, Florida with her husband. When not writing, Sarah enjoys running, cooking, and hot yoga. To learn more, find Sarah on social media or visit www.SarahPenner.com


Friday, 1:30-2:30PM (CT)

CROSSING TIMELINES: WRITING THE DUAL-NARRATIVE NOVEL

Marty Ambrose, Jeannette de Beauvoir, Susan Meissner, D.M. Pulley,

The dual narrative is a storytelling technique that has been used effectively throughout literature to deepen and expand plotlines, characters, and context. Multiple timelines or points of view create a more flexible story structure and opportunities to cross genres with heightened mystery, suspense, and intrigue. Join four authors who use the technique as they discuss examples of dual narratives and narrators, share tips and pitfalls, and help you determine if it’s right for your project.

Marty Ambrose has been consumed with the world of literature, whether teaching in the MFA Program at Southern New Hampshire University or creating her own fiction. She completed her M.Phil. at the University of York (England), specializing in the British Romantics poets; and her fiction writing career has spanned almost fifteen years, with eight published novels. Marty’s first book in a historical trilogy, Claire’s Last Secret, (Severn House, 2018) combines memoir and mystery in a dual narrative of the Byron/Shelley “haunted summer.” Her second novel, A Shadowed Fate, came out this past spring, earning a starred review by Publishers Weekly.

Jeannette de Beauvoir is an award-winning author of mystery and historical fiction—and of books that combine the two genres. She herself lives and writes in a cottage in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and loves the rich history of Land’s End. She’s a member of the Authors Guild, the Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the Historical Novel Society. She also teaches writing courses both online and onsite. Find out more—and read her blog—at her website, jeannettedebeauvoir.com. You can also find her on Facebook, Instagram, Patreon, Amazon, and Goodreads.

Susan Meissner is a USA Today bestselling novelist with more than half a million books in print in fifteen languages. Her critically acclaimed works of historical fiction have been named to numerous lists including Publishers Weekly’s annual roster of 100 best books, Library Reads Top Picks, Real Simple annual tally of best books, Booklist’s Top Ten, and Book of the Month. She attended Point Loma Nazarene University and when she’s not working on a book, she volunteers as a writing workshop facilitator for Words Alive, a non-profit dedicated to helping at-risk youth foster a love for reading and writing.

D.M. Pulley, before becoming a full-time writer, worked as a Professional Engineer rehabbing historic structures and investigating building failures. Pulley’s survey of a vacant building in Cleveland inspired her debut novel, THE DEAD KEY, winner of the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Since then, Pulley has sold over a half a million books worldwide, and her work has been translated into eight different languages. Pulley’s historical thrillers shine a light into the darker side of life in the Midwest during the twentieth century. The abandoned buildings, haunted houses, and buried past of the Rust Belt continue to inspire her work.


Friday, 1:30-2:30PM (CT)

ABA OR CBA: WHICH IS RIGHT FOR YOU?

Sarah Loudin Thomas

Christian fiction has often been labeled as boring, preachy, and tame. But as Christian publishers tackle more issues and edgier material, authors may wonder whether their writing is a better fit for the ABA (American Booksellers Association) or CBA (Christian Booksellers Association). This discussion will explore the differences between the two, will openly discuss what likely will (and won’t) fly in Christian fiction, and will give authors some tools to help decide where their writing will be most at home. We’ll chat about all the topics including cussing, sex, and violence!

Sarah Loudin Thomas is the seventh generation to grow up on her family’s farm in West Virginia and her fiction celebrates that Appalachian heritage. A fund-raiser for a children’s ministry, Sarah has time to write because she doesn’t have children of her own. She is the author of the acclaimed novels The Right Kind of Fool and Miracle in a Dry Season–winner of the 2015 Inspy Award. Sarah has also been a finalist for the Christy Award, ACFW Carol Award and the Christian Book of the Year Award. She and her husband live near Asheville, NC.


Friday, 1:30-2:30PM (CT)

WHAT HAPPENED OR WHAT IF? CHOOSING BETWEEN BIOGRAPHICAL AND NON-BIOGRAPHICAL HISTORICAL FICTION

Marie Benedict, Jasmion Darznik, Greer Macallister, Heather Webb

We’re all inspired by history, but when you’re deciding to write a new novel, how closely do you stick to that initial inspiration? We’ll talk about the choice between writing biographical historical fiction and the kind of historical fiction that’s more loosely inspired by real-life events and/or figures. What are the benefits and drawbacks of each? Which do publishers want to see? What do readers prefer? Our panelists will each share their experience drawing inspiration from history to concoct original plots and characters as well as writing biographical novels about real-life women from history.

Marie Benedict is on a mission to excavate from the past the most important, complex and fascinating women of history and bring them and their contributions into the light of present-day. She is the New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of The Mystery of Mrs. Christie, Lady Clementine, The Only Woman in the Room, Carnegie’s Maid and The Other Einstein. Her first co-written novel, The Personal Librarian, with the talented Victoria Christopher Murray, will be released on June 29, 2021. Her books have been Indie Next Picks, Library Reads Picks, a Target Book Club Pick, a Costco Book Club Pick, as well as a Barnes & Noble Book Club Pick—and have been translated into multiple languages.

Jasmin Darznik is the New York Times bestselling author of The Bohemians (April 2021), a novel that imagines the friendship between photographer Dorothea Lange and her Chinese American assistant in 1920s San Francisco. Her debut novel, Song of a Captive Bird, was a New York Times Book Review “Editors’ Choice” book and a Los Angeles Times bestseller. Darznik is also the author of The Good Daughter: A Memoir of My Mother’s Hidden Life. Her books have been published in eighteen countries and her essays have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times, among others.

Greer Macallister earned her MFA in creative writing from American University. Her new book, The Arctic Fury, was named an Indie Next and Library Reads pick and an Amazon Best Book of the Month. Her debut novel The Magician’s Lie was a USA Today bestseller, an Indie Next pick, and a Target Book Club selection. She is also the author of Girl in Disguise and Woman 99, optioned for TV by Made Up Stories and Nina Dobrev. A regular contributor to Writer Unboxed and the Chicago Review of Books, she lives with her family in Washington, DC. www.greermacallister.com.

Heather Webb is a USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of historical fiction. In 2018, Last Christmas in Paris won the Women’s Fiction Writers Association STAR Award, and in 2019, Meet Me in Monaco was a finalist for the Goldsboro RNA award, as well as the Digital Book World’s Fiction prize. Up and coming, The Next Ship Home is a novel of Ellis Island’s dark secrets and the women who confronted a corrupt system to alter their fate as well as the immigrants who came after them. To date, Heather’s works have been translated to over a dozen languages.


Friday, 2:45-3:45PM (CT)

SETTING THE SCENE: EXPLORING HISTORICAL SETTINGS THROUGH GENRES

Ana Brazil, Edie Cay, Lynn Downey, C.V. Lee

Setting is so much more than just a time and a place. For historical fiction genres like romance, mystery, family sagas, and westerns, setting defines and sets expectations for both characters and plot. In this craft panel, four historical genre authors share why they love their chosen genres, how they build their specific worlds, and how the settings of their genre are both universal and unique within historical fiction. A fresh way to look at, enjoy, and possibly write historical genres.

Ana Brazil is the author of the historical mystery Fanny Newcomb and the Irish Channel Ripper (Sand Hill Review Press) and writes historical crime fiction that celebrates bodacious American heroines. Her short stories include “Kate Chopin Tussles with a Novel Ending” (Fault Lines anthology), “Miss Evelyn Nesbit Presents” (Me Too Short Stories: An Anthology), and “Mr. Borden does not quite remem–” (Kings River Life). Her work-in-progress features a bodacious vaudeville singer beset with murder, mistaken identity, and multiple romances in 1919 San Francisco. Ana lives in Northern California.

Edie Cay’s debut novel A Lady’s Revenge won the Golden Leaf Best First Book Award, hosted by the New Jersey chapter of the Romance Writers of America. The second in the series, The Boxer and the Blacksmith, won the 2019 Legends Award from Hearts Through History.  Drawing on the history of women’s boxing in nineteenth century London, Cay uses themes of found family and relatable misfits. She is currently at work on the third in the series, A Lady’s Finder, as well as a literary novel titled Square Grand, set in North Dakota at the turn of the 20th century.

Lynn Downey spent her childhood in Marin County, California and now lives in the beautiful town of Sonoma, where her great-great-grandparents settled in 1913. She retired from Levi Strauss & Co. in 2014 and today works as a consulting archivist, historian, and lecturer for libraries, museums, and corporations. She is the author of Dudes Rush In, the first of a dude ranch series, as well as Arequipa Sanatorium: Life in California’s Lung Resort for Women. Lynn is now writing a cultural history of dude ranching for the University of Oklahoma Press, which will be published in 2022.

C.V. Lee is new to the writing world although the seed for her work-in-progress, Roses & Rebels, set during the era of the Wars of the Roses, was planted 20 years ago. She writes historical family saga, featuring real people whose lives were shaped by the events of their day. Her next WIP, Helier, now in its infancy stage, will follow the same family through the years of the Renaissance and the Reformation.


Friday, 2:45-3:45PM (CT)

WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION ABOUT NATIVE AMERICANS

Danielle Apple, Elizabeth Bell, Michael Ross

This panel will describe the challenges in writing about Native Americans in the areas of research, language and culture, obtaining cross-cultural help and cooperation, effectively transmitting oral histories, and dealing with the publishing industry for Native American stories.

Danielle Apple is publishing her debut gothic saga this year. A “new” author and Cherokee language learner, she gives some insight as to how a person with limited funds can grow personally and professionally. While her own project includes 1800’s Cherokee characters, Danielle seeks to inspire people to learn more about our nation’s history from Indigenous authors. When she’s not pursuing research bunny trails, Danielle is reading. Her happy place is cozying up on the couch with her dog and a 19th-century gothic novel, but you’ll also find her hiking and exploring ghost towns and forgotten graveyards.

Elizabeth Bell chose a pen name at the age of fourteen and vowed to become a published author. After earning her MFA in Creative Writing at George Mason University and after nearly three decades of research and revision, she published her Lazare Family Saga about a multiracial Catholic family struggling to understand where they belong in the young United States. The first book in the series, Necessary Sins, was a Finalist in the Foreword Indies Book of the Year Awards. The second and third books were Editors’ Choices in the Historical Novels Review. Visit Elizabeth online at https://elizabethbellauthor.com.

Michael Ross has released two novels in the Across the Great Divide series. The Clouds of War was a finalist for book of the year in the Coffee Pot Book Club and an Amazon bestseller and his latest novel focuses on Red Cloud’s War and the Shoshone culture. He is a member of the HNS Board and blogs regularly on American history.


Friday, 2:45-3:45PM (CT)

SHAKING UP TIME’S FLOWING STREAMS: WRITING ANCIENT & MEDIEVAL HISTORICAL FICTION

Tinney S. Heath, James Conroyd Martin, Judith Starkston, Eileen Stephenson

Shaking up preconceived ideas about the lives of those who lived before 1500 reveals a colorful mosaic of intriguing characters. Ancient and medieval periods are rich sources for compelling stories that bring to life the people who lived long before us. Many imagine that ancient and medieval people lived in mud huts or marble cities, that they were all illiterate peasants, their lives nasty, brutish and short, or glittering royalty in fancy dress with easy lives. This panel will discuss how to ferret around in some of history’s dustier corners to discover unexpected and lively tales to enthrall modern readers.

Tinney Sue Heath’s background is in journalism, but now she writes fiction set in medieval Italy. When she is not writing, you will probably find her playing medieval and Renaissance music on a variety of peculiar early instruments. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin with her husband but travels to Italy as often as possible, for research and other pleasures. Her first novel, A Thing Done, won the Sharp Writ Book Award. Learn more about her work at www.tinneyheath.com.

James Conroyd Martin is the hybrid author of Push Not the River, a novel based on the diary of a countess in 1790s Poland; Against a Crimson Sky, which continues the family saga into the Napoleonic era; and The Warsaw Conspiracy, detailing the young Polish cadets’ rising against the mighty Russia. His most recent novel is Fortune’s Child, the first of a duology based on the life of Empress Theodora. The second one is due later this year. In the Chanticleer International Book Awards Fortune’s Child won the 2019 Grand Prize, Book of the Year 2019.

Judith Starkston has spent too much time exploring the remains of the ancient worlds of the Greeks and Hittites. Early on she went so far as to get degrees in Classics from the University of California, Santa Cruz and Cornell. She loves myths and telling stories. This has gotten more and more out of hand. Her solution is her brand: Fantasy and Magic in a Bronze Age World. Hand of Fire was a semi-finalist for the M.M. Bennett’s Award for Historical Fiction. Priestess of Ishana won the San Diego State University Conference Choice Award. Find out more at www.judithstarkston.com.

Eileen Stephenson, a lifelong ardent admirer of ancient and medieval history, is the author of three books about the Byzantine Empire. The first was the short story collection, Tales of Byzantium. The second was the novel, Imperial Passions: The Porta Aurea, the first of two books about the life of Anna Dalassena, the mother of the first Comnene Byzantine emperor, short-listed for the Chanticleer International Book Awards Chaucer Award in 2018. Her most recent book was a non-fiction history, Byzantine History in the 11th Century: A Brief Introduction, about the Byzantine Empire during this pivotal century.


Friday, 2:45-3:45PM (CT)

WHY READ (OR WRITE) HISTORICAL FICTION?

Larry Zuckerman

As readers or writers, we each come to historical fiction from differing perspectives and passions. That much seems too obvious to merit discussion. Yet this presentation proposes that despite varying tastes and sensibilities, we’re all looking for the same thing: what makes us human. Comparing historical fiction to a house that feels lived in, reviewer, editor, and author Larry Zuckerman will suggest, with examples and artwork, what builds that house—empathy, contrast between past and present, recognition of who we are and how we got that way, respect for our forebears, and understanding what can change our world.

Larry Zuckerman, for the past six and a half years, has reviewed one historical novel a week on his blog, Novelhistorian. During much of that time, he has also reviewed for Historical Novels Review, of which he has served as an editor for the past year and a half. A published historian, he has turned to writing historical fiction, most often setting his novels during or around the First World War, on which he is an expert. He is also a former editor, having worked for book publishers, magazines, and a business newspaper. He lives in Seattle.


Friday, 4:00-5:00PM (CT)

SOCIAL MEDIA FROM SCRATCH: CRAFTING YOUR ONLINE PRESENCE

Elizabeth Blackwell

Whether you’re an indie author or traditionally published, all writers today are expected to have a social-media presence. But where should you start? This presentation covers the pros and cons of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for promoting historical fiction and connecting with other writers online. Using real-life examples, we’ll look at how authors are tailoring their messages to different platforms—and inspire you to do the same.  

Elizabeth Blackwell writes about women who reinvent themselves after surviving dramatic historical events.  She is the author of Red Mistress, On a Cold Dark Sea, In the Shadow of Lakecrest and While Beauty Slept. A former magazine editor, she lives in the Chicago suburbs with her family and an ever-growing stack of must-read books.


Friday, 4:00-5:00PM (CT)

CONNECTING MAINSTREAM AUDIENCES TO UNFAMILIAR HISTORICAL PERIODS

Janie Chang, Jeannie Lin, Weina Dai Randel, Lisa See

Historical novelists always grapple with the challenge of making our characters and time period come alive for readers. There’s an extra challenge when it comes to engaging readers with what could be an unfamiliar culture and history. How do authors deal with issues such as names, cultural expectations, family dynamics, and use of language? Join four award-winning and bestselling authors of Asian-set historical novels as they share their experiences creating universal narratives with broad appeal that allow audiences to connect and immerse themselves into unfamiliar worlds and cultures.

Janie Chang writes historical fiction with a personal connection, drawing from a family history with 36 generations of recorded genealogy. Her first novel, Three Souls, was a finalist for the 2014 BC Book Prizes Fiction Prize and her second novel, Dragon Springs Road, was a Globe and Mail national bestseller. Both were nominated for the International Dublin Literary Award. Her third book, The Library of Legends, released in May 2020, is a Globe and Mail national bestseller.

Jeannie Lin, a USA Today bestselling author, started writing her first book while working as a high school science teacher in South Central Los Angeles. Her stories are inspired by a mix of historical research and wuxia adventure tales. Jeannie’s groundbreaking historical romances set in Tang Dynasty China have received multiple awards, including the Golden Heart for her debut novel, Butterfly Swords. Jeannie also writes an Opium War steampunk series, the Gunpowder Chronicles.  Her historical erotica series, Princess Shanyin, is written under the pen name Liliana Lee.

Weina Dai Randel is the award-winning author of The Moon in the Palace and The Empress of Bright Moon, a historical novel series of Empress Wu of China. The Moon in the Palace was the winner of the RWA RITA® Award, a Goodreads Choice Award nominee, and called one of the Biggest Historical Fiction books of 2016 by Bookbub. Her forthcoming novel, The Last Rose of Shanghai, a WWII novel of love and redemption, will be published in November, 2021. Weina lives in Texas.

Lisa See is the New York Times bestselling author of The Tea Girl of Hummingbird LaneSnow Flower and the Secret FanPeony in LoveShanghai GirlsChina Dolls, and Dreams of Joy, which debuted at #1. She is also the author of On Gold Mountain, which tells the story of her Chinese American family’s settlement in Los Angeles. Ms. See has also written a mystery series that takes place in China. Her books have been published in 39 languages. See was the recipient of the Golden Spike Award from the Chinese Historical Association of Southern California and the History Maker’s Award from the Chinese American Museum. She was also named National Woman of the Year by the Organization of Chinese American Women.


Friday, 4:00-5:00PM (CT)

SAINTS, SEERS, AND HERETICS: EVOKING THE SPIRITUAL WORLD IN HISTORICAL FICTION

Nancy Bilyeau, Glen Craney, Tinney S. Heath, Mitchell James Kaplan      

Novels featuring religious figures risk veering between hagiography and fantasy. Yet the men and women of the past who laid siege to Heaven confronted enemies and perils no less dangerous than those met by statesmen and warriors. Our panelists will discuss the challenges in writing about the Ages of Faith, including: Building authentic interior worlds and describing mystical experiences; creating tension and drama in the monasteries and convents; romance story techniques for the divine relationship; using mysteries to convey theological disputes; mining literary criticism of sacred texts; and explaining ancient and medieval belief systems for modern readers.

Nancy Bilyeau is a magazine editor and author whose books include The Crown, The Chalice, and The Tapestry, a trilogy whose main character, Dominican novice Joanna Stafford, struggles to survive Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries. She has also written The Blue, a thriller about a Huguenot woman painter in the 18th century, and is currently working on its sequel, The Fugitive Colours. She lives in Woodstock, New York, with her family.

Glen Craney is a novelist, screenwriter, and journalist. His fiction has taken readers to Occitania of the Albigensian Crusade, Scotland of Robert the Bruce, and Portugal during the Age of Discovery. The Fire and the Light, a Foreword Magazine BOTYA Finalist, tells the story of the Cathars, a 13th-century sect massacred by the Church. He has explored the religious lives of the 14th-century Culdees and Henry the Navigator’s secretive Order of Christ. A Chaucer Award First-Place Winner and Nicholl Fellowship recipient from the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences, he has served as president of the HNS SoCal Chapter.

Tinney Sue Heath has a journalism background and writes about medieval Italy. Her book Lady of the Seven Suns: A Novel of the Woman Saint Francis Called Brother is based on the life of Lady Giacoma dei Settesoli, an early and devout follower of Francis of Assisi. Saints Francis and Clare figure prominently in Giacoma’s story, as do popes, cardinals, early Franciscan brothers, and secular men and women from all walks of life. When she is not writing about medieval Italy, you will probably find her playing medieval and Renaissance Italian music on a variety of peculiar early instruments.

Mitchell James Kaplan graduated with Honors in English Literature from Yale University, where William Styron encouraged him to become a novelist, and where he won the prestigious Paine Memorial Prize. His novels include By Fire, By Water, set during the Spanish Inquisition, and Into The Unbounded Night, the story of first century Rome and the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. He travels to industrial facilities around the world to help prevent and curtail environmental accidents. A licensed private pilot, he plays classical and jazz flute and lives with his family and their cats in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.


Friday, 4:00-5:00PM (CT)

USING ART TO INSPIRE STORY

Carol M. Cram, Elisabeth Storrs

In a lively, hands-on workshop, historical novelists Carol M. Cram (Women in Art Trilogy) and Elisabeth Storrs (Tales of Ancient Rome Saga) share techniques for using imagery found in paintings, ceramics, sculptures, cartoons, drawings, and objets d’art as inspiration for historical fiction. Topics include using art objects to determine the moral and social priorities of an historical era, identifying the significance of period clothing, using art for plot and characterization, and decoding period-specific symbolism. The workshop includes an interactive component in which participants apply the techniques discussed to “deconstruct” sample works of art.

Carol M. Cram from Vancouver, Canada, is the author of four novels, including the Women in Art Trilogy (The Towers of Tuscany, A Woman of Note, and The Muse of Fire) and Love Among the Recipes. Carol is the founder of Art In Fiction and the Art In Fiction Podcast, the author of over sixty bestselling college textbooks in computer applications and communications, and the founder and Artistic Director of the Bowen Island Writers’ Festival. She was also on faculty at Capilano University in North Vancouver for over two decades and holds an MA in Drama and an MBA.

Elisabeth Storrs is an Australian author who graduated from the University of Sydney in Arts Law, having studied Classics. The three novels in A Tale of Ancient Rome Saga vividly describe the world of Etruria, a sophisticated society which heavily influenced Rome from republican to imperial times. She is the founder of the Historical Novel Society Australasia (HNSA) and the program director for the HNSA conferences. In 2020, she founded the $60,000 ARA Historical Novel Prize. Her novels inspired an archaeologist to feature the books’ characters in an audio-visual exhibition of Etruscan statuary at the Museo dell’Agro Veientano in Rome.


Friday, 4:00-5:00PM (CT)

COLD READS

All attendees at HNS 2021 are welcome to participate in the Cold Reads sessions. Authors can attend either or both sessions. There is no advance signup. Literary agents and/or editors interested in historical fiction will give real-time critique sessions of authors’ opening pages. A volunteer cold-reads the first page aloud for the audience and panel and then panelists provide feedback on what works and what doesn’t work for them and why.


Friday, 5:00-6:00PM (CT)

LISA SEE’S BOOK CLUB

Join Guest of Honor Lisa See for an hour-long discussion of her 2017 novel, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane. Attendees may submit questions for Lisa in advance and during the discussion.

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa See, “one of those special writers capable of delivering both poetry and plot” (The New York Times Book Review), a moving novel about tradition, tea farming, and the bonds between mothers and daughters.

In their remote mountain village, Li-yan and her family align their lives around the seasons and the farming of tea. For the Akha people, ensconced in ritual and routine, life goes on as it has for generations—until a stranger appears at the village gate in a jeep, the first automobile any of the villagers has ever seen.

The stranger’s arrival marks the first entrance of the modern world in the lives of the Akha people. Slowly, Li-yan, one of the few educated girls on her mountain, begins to reject the customs that shaped her early life. When she has a baby out of wedlock—conceived with a man her parents consider a poor choice—she rejects the tradition that would compel her to give the child over to be killed, and instead leaves her, wrapped in a blanket with a tea cake tucked in its folds, near an orphanage in a nearby city.

As Li-yan comes into herself, leaving her insular village for an education, a business, and city life, her daughter, Haley, is raised in California by loving adoptive parents. Despite her privileged childhood, Haley wonders about her origins. Across the ocean Li-yan longs for her lost daughter. Over the course of years, each searches for meaning in the study of Pu’er, the tea that has shaped their family’s destiny for centuries.

A powerful story about circumstances, culture, and distance, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane paints an unforgettable portrait of a little known region and its people and celebrates the bond of family.


Friday, 6:00-7:00PM (CT)

CROSS-GENRE? YOU BET! A COZY CHAT WITH AWARD-WINNING, BESTSELLING AUTHORS ABOUT NAVIGATING MULTIPLE GENRES (COZY CHAT – Attendance limited to 50 people)

Leanna Renee Hieber, Deanna Raybourn

Are you a mystery writer? A historical fiction writer? A fantasy writer? How about romance? If you answered yes to several of these questions in regard to the same book, you’re in good company. That’s what these authors have made a career of: not seeing a sole genre as a limitation. A lifetime of cross-genre books can, however, be tricky. Learn from two authors with a whole lot of books under their belts about the ways to navigate publishing when you’re on more than one shelf, from dreaming to drafting to marketing, and how to embrace all of it!

Leanna Renee Hieber is an actress, playwright, tour guide and award-winning, bestselling author of Gothic, Gaslamp Fantasy novels for Tor and Kensington such as the Strangely Beautiful and The Spectral City series. A Haunted History of Invisible Women, Leanna’s first foray into non-fiction, focusing on women’s narratives in haunted house and ghost stories, will release in 2022 (Kensington). Her work has won 4 Prism awards and has been included in numerous notable anthologies and has been translated into many languages. A Manhattan ghost tour guide, Hieber has been featured in film and television on shows like Mysteries at the Museum.

Deanna Raybourn, the New York Times and USA Today bestselling novelist of the Julia Grey and Veronica Speedwell historical mystery series, is a 6th-generation native Texan. She graduated with a double major in English and history from the University of Texas at San Antonio. Married to her college sweetheart and the mother of one, Raybourn makes her home in Virginia. Silent in the Grave won the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best First Mystery. Her work has been nominated for an Agatha, a Last Laugh, and more.  A Treacherous Curse was nominated for the 2019 Edgar Award for Best Novel.


Friday, 6:00-7:00PM (CT)

REPRESENTING INVISIBLE ILLNESSES IN HISTORICAL FICTION (COZY CHAT – Attendance limited to 50 people)

K. Orme          

Illness is a tale as old as time.  We tend to see these unfortunate characters throughout historical fiction.  Poor Tiny Tim probably had rickets and tuberculosis, according to Russel Chesney.  But there are thousands of people who live ill yet show nothing for it. However, underneath the fair façade, there is an ache. A barren woman with extra weight in the 1700s wouldn’t know she most likely had polycystic ovary syndrome. This presentation will be about representing various “invisible illnesses” throughout historical fiction, focusing mainly on PCOS, POTS, and chronic pain, and all the accoutrements those maladies produce.

K. Orme, the owner of Tea Notes Press, has been writing for over 15 years and still continues to learn and grow in her craft, with a BA in History and Creative Writing. K. has multiple finished novel manuscripts, all ready for some revisions with each in a planned series. Her debut novel, Pondered in Her Heart, is set to be released in early 2021. She has received numerous awards for her writing and accolades from editors at conferences. But, most importantly, she is the proud mommy of Grantaire, her SDiT, and cares deeply about representing invisible illnesses in fiction.


Friday, 6:00-7:00PM (CT)

RIB REMOVAL AND PROPPED-UP CORPSES: MYTHS ABOUT THE VICTORIANS (COZY CHAT – Attendance limited to 50 people)

Susan Higginbotham

Prudes who could not even bear the sight of an uncovered furniture leg. Women so desperate to achieve perfect waists that they had their ribs removed. A culture obsessed with death, yet so fearful of it that when a person died, he or she was photographed as if still alive. Although the Victorian era is extremely well documented, myths like these, some old and some new, abound, and have been given fresh life by the Internet. Led by your corseted hostess, we’ll discuss the origins of these and other fallacies and look for the nuggets of truth buried within them.

Susan Higginbotham turned to nineteenth-century America after writing several novels set in medieval and Tudor England; her latest, The First Lady and the Rebel, tells the story of Mary Lincoln and Emily Todd Helm, half-sisters who find themselves on opposite sides of civil war. A diligent researcher who loves digging through archives, Susan is also the author of two biographies and a number of articles. Having developed a taste for American history, Susan is completing John Brown’s Women, about the wife, daughter, and daughter-in-law who stood behind—and stood up for—the American abolitionist. Susan enjoys traveling and collecting photographs.


Friday, 6:00-7:00PM (CT)

FROM ACADEMIA TO KIDLIT (AND WHY MY PASSION FOR ANCIENT EGYPT MADE THE TRANSITION WORTHWHILE) (COZY CHAT – Attendance limited to 50 people)

Malayna Evans

After earning her Ph.D. in ancient Egyptian history, Dr. Malayna Evans wrote a middle grade adventure novel set in ancient Egypt. The unexpected path taught her how to incorporate historical details and when not to; how artifacts can move a story forward or bog it down; and when to cling to the history and when to let it go. And unlearning the pedantic habits of academia required a rethinking of the truth that animates great historical fiction. For Malayna, sharing her passion for ancient Egypt seemed particularly important in this fraught political climate: the effort was worthwhile.

Malayna Evans was raised in the mountains of Utah and spent her childhood climbing, reading, and finding trouble. Her early fascination with sci-fi—and worlds different than her own she found in books—led Malayna to a lifelong interest in the origins of culture and society. After earning an MA in Greek and Roman history, then Mesopotamian and Egyptian history, she received a Ph.D. in ancient Egyptian history from the University of Chicago. A single mom, Malayna now lives in Oak Park, IL, with her two kids and a rescue dog. Learn more about Malayna at http://malaynaevans.com.


Friday, 6:00-10:00PM (CT)

CONVERSATION ROOMS      

One of the best things about a conference is meeting like-minded people who share your interests, and this year is no different! Check out the themed Conversation Rooms in our Histfic Hub.


Friday, 7:00-8:00PM (CT)

ENTERTAINMENT: MUSIC

What sounds better at the end of the week than decompressing to the sound of live tunes from Curt Locklear in the comfort of your own home? Join us for music straight from our own history books!


Friday, 8:00-10:00PM (CT)

ENTERTAINMENT: HISTORY AFTER DARK

We’re bringing back an old favorite, but shaking it up this time—author readings! Bring us your murder, show us your spookiness, add a touch of mystery to our lives! History After Dark invites you to share your work out loud—published or in progress. Grab your stabbiest scenes!


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