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


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.

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


Sarah Penner

Querying writers, listen up! This session is for you, or indie authors who want to pursue traditional publication. We’ll be reviewing multiple tech tools for identifying, researching, and querying literary agents, including: Query Tracker, Publishers Marketplace, online pitch contests, Manuscript Wishlist (#MSWL) resources, and more! This isn’t just an overview; instead, we’ll navigate these tools *live* on-screen during the session. No longer will these digital tools intimidate you! We’ll also be giving away one FREE annual subscription to Query Tracker (a $25 value) during the session.

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

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


Denny S. Bryce, Piper Huguley, Vanessa Riley

Untold, compelling stories starring Black historical figures and events are manifold, but only recently has this genre come to light since Black authors have just gained the opportunity to tell these stories. The authors on this panel will discuss the historical figures that inspired their novels and their contributions to the Black history canon. These rich stories cannot be researched using conventional methods, so they will discuss their approach to understanding a people with a largely oral culture and what to do when resource material is written by those who neglected to consider the humanity of their historical figures.

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.

Piper Huguley, two-time Golden Heart ®finalist, inscribes and celebrates the ancestors to give voice to their stories. Her “Migrations of the Heart,” a historical romance series, spanning 1915-1935, is based on her family’s history of the Great Migration, the largest internal migration in US history. Huguley is also the author of the “Home to Milford College” series, which follows the building of a fictitious HBCU during Reconstruction. Her debut historical fiction novel about Ann Lowe, the Black designer of Jackie Kennedy’s wedding dress, will release in Winter 2022 (William Morrow). She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and son.

Vanessa Riley, Ph.D., Southern, Irish, Trinidadian author, writes Historical Fiction and Historical Romance (Georgian, Regency, & Victorian Eras) featuring hidden histories, dazzling multi-cultural communities, and strong sisterhoods. Her books have been reviewed by the AAMBC, Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly, NPR, Publisher Weekly, and the New York Times. Her debut Historical Fiction Island Queen (July 2021 William Morrow) recounts the remarkable life of successful entrepreneur Dorothy Kirwan Thomas, a formerly enslaved woman, who battles the unfair taxation of free colored women in British colonies. Riley is represented by Sarah Younger of the Nancy Yost Literary Agency.

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


Autumn Bardot

Does the word symbol make you shudder? We all know that words are powerful magic, imbued with nuance, subtext, connotation, and emotions that reside deep within our collective consciousness. Words impart meanings the readers respond to on a visceral level, that extend beyond the literal meaning. Shake up what you know about symbols and discover all the ways they can provide thematic, foreshadowing, contextual, plot, and characterization beyond the superficial. We will look at four elements; blood, topography, architecture, and fire & water, and ways to amplify conflict, theme, emotion, and character your way.

Autumn Bardot writes historical fiction and more about fearless women and dangerous passions. She has taught advanced literary analysis and writing for more than sixteen years. She has two traditionally published historical erotica and three indie historical novels. She is currently writing her next novel and making videos for new writers on her YouTube channel. Autumn has a passion for history and a special affinity for the unsung courageous females that history neglects or misunderstands. Autumn lives in Southern California with her husband and ever-growing family. She wishes she was one-tenth as brave as the women she writes about.

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


Gill Paul, Weina Dai Randel, Heather Webb

Should you rush to write Regency romance since Bridgerton is such a huge hit? Do readers want ‘up lit’ in lockdown? Is finding a previously untold World War Two story the route to the bestseller list? Problem is, when choosing a novel’s subject we need to predict what readers will want two years from now, so should we just choose the period, characters, and stories that speak to us and hope others will share our enthusiasm? Our panel will explain how they choose novel subjects with the market in mind – and there’s not a crystal ball in sight.

Gill Paul is the bestselling author of ten historical novels, many of them describing real women she thinks have been marginalized or misjudged by historians. Jackie and Maria looks at the way Jackie Kennedy’s and Maria Callas’s lives began to overlap as they became rivals for Aristotle Onassis, and her forthcoming novel The Collector’s Daughter, due out in September 2021, is about Lady Evelyn Herbert, a remarkable woman who was part of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb. Gill lives in London with her partner, who is a light artist, and loves wild swimming year-round.

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.

Heather Webb is the 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.

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


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.

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


Jeffrey Blount, Rebecca Bruff

We’ve all heard that we should write “what we know”, but historical fiction demands more. What are the challenges and opportunities of writing what we don’t know from personal experience? Can a man write from a woman’s point of view? Can an anglo write from a Black point of view? Can a privileged person write from an oppressed point of view? Authors Jeffrey Blount and Rebecca Bruff will discuss questions of representation and misrepresentation, appropriation, why they matter, and the possibilities and responsibilities of writing beyond conventional boundaries.

Jeffrey Blount is the author of three novels, the most recent being The Emancipation of Evan Walls, winner of the 2019 Readers Favorite Book Award, winner of the 2019 American Bookfest Best Book Award and a Shelf Unbound 2019 Notable Book. He is also an Emmy award-winning television director and a 2016 inductee to the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame.  During a 34-year career at NBC News, Jeffrey directed a decade of Meet The Press, The Today Show, NBC Nightly News, and major special events. Born and raised in Smithfield, Virginia, he now lives in Washington, DC.

Rebecca Bruff heard the undertold story of Robert Smalls on her a trip to South Carolina. Enslaved, Smalls liberated himself and others in a life-or-death escape, was the first Black hero of the Civil War, and a 5 term US Congressman. Bruff was so intrigued that she moved across the country to research and write Trouble the Water. Originally from Texas, she now lives in Beaufort, South Carolina where she writes, volunteers at the Pat Conroy Literary Center, plays a little tennis, travels when she can, and loves life in the low-country with her husband and an exuberant golden retriever.

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


Nancy Bilyeau, Stephanie Renee dos Santos, Laura Morelli, Kris Waldherr          

Women driven by spirit and the pulse to create have shaken up, challenged, and broken every social, economic, political barrier and taboo throughout history. SHEstories of the past inspire and inform the present. Join us in this panel-discussion exploring artist-rebel-mystics: how to uncover SHEstories, special considerations, the current marketplace and demand for these stories of female groundbreakers and luminaries of the past.

Nancy Bilyeau is a novelist and magazine editor. She has worked on the staffs of Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and InStyle magazine. Her Joanna Stafford trilogy is set in Henry VIII’s England. She followed that with The Blue, set in the porcelain and art workshops of 18th century England and France, and Dreamland, a mystery set in 1911 Coney Island. Her next novel, The Fugitive Colours, a sequel to The Blue, will be published in 2022. She lives with her family in the Catskill Mountains of New York.

Stephanie Renee dos Santos is an artist and writer. She is author of art-inspired historical novel Cut from the Earth set in the 18th century Portuguese tile trade during the “Cycle of Masters”, and forthcoming Passion to Paint, story of a South Asian rebel female painter from the 1930’s. Cut from the Earth was short-listed for the 2019 Chanticleer International Book Reviews “Chaucer Book Awards”. She has published in literary journals American Athenaeum and Lalitamba, and written features for the Historical Novel Review and the Historical Novel Society.

Laura Morelli holds a Ph.D. in art history from Yale University and has taught college students in the United States and in Italy. As a historical novelist, Laura’s passion is bringing the stories of art history to life. Her award-winning books include The Gondola Maker, The Painter’s Apprentice, and The Giant: A Novel of Michelangelo’s David. Laura’s latest historical novel, The Night Portrait, is based on the creation of one of Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous portraits and its theft by the Nazis during World War II.

Kris Waldherr’s many books include Bad Princess, Doomed Queens, and The Book of Goddesses. Her debut novel The Lost History of Dreams (Atria Books) received a starred Kirkus review and was named a CrimeReads Best Book of the Year. As a visual artist, Waldherr is the creator of the Goddess Tarot, which has over a quarter of a million copies in print. She is also a tarotist who teaches the tarot to writers and other creatives. Learn more at

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


Susan Meissner

The best historical novels are a transportive hybrid of fact and fiction that weave the hallmarks of a great story – plot, characters, and motivation – with the most compelling elements of the past – setting and tension. Here are 10 tried and true insights for crafting an unputdownable read that dovetails historical details with a compelling storyline.

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.

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


Leslie Carroll, Nicole Evelina, Leanna Renee Hieber, Elizabeth Kerri Mahon

Whether your goal as an historical novelist is to “shake up” your writing career, expand your readership, or continue to stay “in contract” (or get one) during these uncertain economic times, one path to success is through the genre of narrative nonfiction. Think of it as historical fiction where you can’t make ^&$&^$ up. Join a quartet of HNS authors who have successfully published historical nonfiction as they discuss the whys, hows, and how-tos of expanding your HF career into the world of nonfiction.

Leslie Carroll has authored 21 titles in three genres (including historical fiction, under the pseudonyms Amanda Elyot and Juliet Grey). Her novels have been optioned for film and TV and translated into 12 languages; and she’s the author/narrator of two audio guides to the State Rooms of Versailles, soon to be released. She’s a frequent commentator on royal relationships, appearing on Travel Channel and Canadian History Channel docuseries, the 2020 documentary “Grace of Monaco, Hollywood Princess” for Britain’s Channel 5; and global media discussing the Windsors. Leslie’s also a professional actress and award-winning audiobook narrator, specializing in historical fiction.

Nicole Evelina is a USA Today bestselling author of historical fiction, non-fiction, and women’s fiction whose six books have won more than 40 awards, including four Book of the Year designations, the North Street Book Prize and the Sarton Women’s Book Award. One of her books, Madame Presidentess, was previously optioned for film. Her fiction tells the stories of strong women from history and today, with a focus on biographical historical fiction, while her non-fiction focuses on women’s history. Both share the stories of unknown or little-known figures.

Leanna Renee Hieber is an actress, playwright, tour guide and award-winning, bestselling author of Gothic, Gaslamp Fantasy novels such as the Strangely Beautiful, Magic Most Foul, Eterna Files, The Spectral City series and forthcoming work with Serial Box. 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 from Kensington Books. She crafts Gothic and Neo-Victorian accessories, works as a ghost tour guide for Boroughs of the Dead and has been featured in film and television on shows like Mysteries at the Museum.

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon is a native New Yorker, former actress, and history geek. Her first book, Scandalous Women, was released in March 2011 to enthusiastic reviews. Her second, Pretty Evil New York, will be released in September 2021. In 2011 she was also named RWA NYC’s Author of the Year. She has been featured in the H2 show How Sex Changed the World, as well as The Travel Channel’s Monumental Mysteries and the Investigation Discovery show Tabloid.

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


Margaret George is the award-winning author of eight epic biographical novels, focusing on the Tudor era (Henry VIII, Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth I), and the ancient world (Cleopatra, Helen of Troy, Mary Magdalene, and Nero), six of these New York Times bestsellers, with twenty-one foreign editions and over two million sold internationally since her debut in 1986. Her The Memoirs of Cleopatra was made into an Emmy-nominated ABC-TV miniseries in 1999.   She has also written a children’s book about tortoises. She has been a speaker at Hampton Court, the Tower of London, and the Folger Shakespeare Library, as well as being interviewed on A & E and the History Channel, and twice has been invited to the National Book Festival at the Library of Congress. See her website at

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


Thelma Adams, Jodi Daynard, Jane Healey, Joy Jordan-Lake

In this panel, we will discuss how as historical novelists we gather, choose, and incorporate the facts we include in our fictional worlds. How do we cull these facts? Which ones do we consider sacred, and which are we willing to bend a little (or a lot)? How does one include historical information without overwhelming the story? Four bestselling American historical novelists—Jane Healey, Joy Jordan Lake, Thelma Adams, and Jodi Daynard—weigh in on their personal practices and pet peeves, and offer practical tips on how to work with historical facts in every area of a narrative.

Thelma Adams is the author of the Amazon Bestseller, The Last Woman Standing, the #1 Amazon bestseller in Jewish Historical Fiction, Bittersweet Brooklyn, and the contemporary comedy of manners Playdate, an O: The Oprah Magazine pick. A career journalist, her essays and culture writing have appeared in The New York Times, Vanity Fair, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Marie Claire and She is a Top Critic on Rotten Tomatoes and former chair of the New York Film Critics Circle.

Jodi Daynard is the author of the bestselling trilogy that began with The Midwife’s Revolt. Her fourth historical novel, A Transcontinental Affair, was published in 2019. She is also the author of many published essays and stories and book reviews, which have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Paris Review, The Village Voice, The New England Review, and elsewhere. She has taught writing at Harvard University, at MIT, and in the MFA program at Emerson College. Ms. Daynard has just completed a new novel, details to be announced soon.

Jane Healey is the Amazon Charts and Washington Post bestselling author of The Secret Stealers, The Beantown Girls and The Saturday Evening Girls Club. When her daughters were young, Jane Healey left a career in high tech to fulfill her dream of writing historical fiction about little-known women in history. It was a passion that has turned into something much more. Jane shares a home north of Boston with her husband, two daughters, and two cats. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, running, cooking, and going to the beach.

Joy Jordan-Lake, although born in Washington, D.C., spent her childhood reading and tromping through woods on the Tennessee mountain where she grew up. With a Ph.D. in English lit., she taught for years, which she loved, but now relishes writing full time. Her eight books include two historical novels, the #1 Amazon bestsellers Under a Gilded Moon, set at the Biltmore Estate in 1895, and A Tangled Mercy, a dual timeline set Charleston, and an Historical Novel Society Editors’ Choice; as well as Blue Hole Back Home, winner of the 2009 Christy Award for Best First Novel.

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


Lynn Downey, Kathryn Pritchett, Linda Ulleseit

Historical fiction writers often come to their genre through family stories. Intrigued by ancestors’ trials and triumphs, they’re inspired to turn a handful of anecdotes into a full-blown novel. But creating a compelling work of fiction out of a few facts can prove challenging—especially when writing about women and other marginalized groups whose stories were rarely recorded. Also, strict adherence to an ancestor’s story can prove tedious to a larger (non-related) audience. This panel will focus on ways to fill in family history gaps through research and how to enliven stories of underrepresented female ancestors.

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.

Kathryn Pritchett grew up on a potato farm in Southeastern Idaho but has spent most of her adult life in the San Francisco Bay Area. After years writing and blogging about design for print and online publications, she’s now writing historical fiction. Kathryn is currently seeking representation for her first novel, The Casket Maker’s Other Wife, a fictionalized account of her Swiss ancestor’s 19th century polygamous marriage and work as a frontier midwife in Utah and Idaho. She is working on her second novel, Maude and Early, which features actress Maude Adams, J.M. Barrie’s muse and the original Peter Pan.

Linda Ulleseit is the author of three Young Adult historical fantasies that are about flying horses in medieval Wales as well as Under the Almond Trees, a historical novel set in pioneer California, and The Aloha Spirit, set in territorial Hawaii. Linda believes in the unspoken power of women living ordinary lives. Her books are the stories of women in her family who were extraordinary but unsung. Linda is a retired elementary school teacher Linda now writes full time in between traveling with her husband, walking her dogs, and visiting with her two adult sons. She lives in Northern California.

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


Michaela Carter, Alex George, Kerri Maher, Whitney Scharer

Modernism.  Surrealism.  Journalism.  Paris was where every important writer, painter, and photographer went to develop their talents between the wars–and as a result, some of the most important artistic movements of the 20th century were born there, shaking the establishment to its core in ways that still impact us today.  This panel brings together novels about the white-hot moments when these movements were developed in cafes, bedrooms, and salons: Whitney Scharer’s The Age of Light; Kerri Maher’s The Paris Bookseller; Michaela Carter’s Leonora In the Morning Light; and Alex George’s The Paris Hours.

Michaela Carter is a writer, painter, and award-winning poet. She is the author of the novels Further Out Than You Thought and Leonora In the Morning Light. Her poetry won the Poetry Society of America Los Angeles New Poets Contest, has been nominated for Pushcart Prizes, and has appeared in numerous anthologies and journals. She is the cofounder of the independent bookstore the Peregrine Book Company in Prescott, Arizona, where she lives with her husband and two dogs.

Alex George, a native of England, has published seven novels which have been translated into ten languages. His sixth, Setting Free the Kites, won the Missouri Award for Fiction in 2018. His most recent, The Paris Hours, was released in May 2020. It was a Book of the Month Club pick and a national bestseller. In addition to his novels, Alex’s writing has appeared in The Washington Post, Literary Hub, and other publications. He’s also an attorney.

Kerri Maher is the author of The Kennedy Debutante, which People called “a riveting reimagining of a true tale of forbidden love,” and The Girl in White Gloves, which was an HNS Editors’ Choice and Library Reads selection. Her forthcoming biographical novel, The Paris Bookseller, is about bookshop-and-library owner Sylvia Beach, who opened the original Shakespeare and Company in Paris in 1919.  A professor of writing for many years, she loves to talk about the craft of writing.  Learn more at

Whitney Scharer is a writer, teacher, and graphic designer who lives just outside Boston. Her first novel, The Age of Light, was a national bestseller and named one of the best books of 2019 by Parade, Glamour Magazine, Real Simple, Refinery 29, Booklist and Yahoo. Internationally, The Age of Light won Le prix Rive Gauche à Paris, was a coups de couer selection from the American Library in Paris, and has been published in over a dozen other countries. Whitney is the recipient of a 2020 Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellowship, and a co-founder of the Arlington Author Salon reading series.

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


Sara Wigal

You’re done with your draft and ready to send that query to agent. It’s just a simple letter away, right? Not quite. Emerging authors are often kept busy with the most obvious task at hand— preparing their manuscript for submission to agents, or for the self-publishing path. But what many writers don’t understand is that establishing brand and platform is an essential part of the publishing process that must begin prior to trying to snag that publishing deal. A good query and a complete MS are just part of getting that deal. This presentation will answer questions like: What is an author brand and how can a writer start to develop one? What do agents mean when they talk about “platform” and how can I make mine? What types of digital activities will help me with my brand and platform? How can I use my time wisely to further my writing career? A nuts-and-bolts approach with tangible applications will be offered to help authors in the early stages of developing their careers start things off on the right foot.

Sara Wigal is an Assistant Professor of Cinema, Television and Media and Director of Publishing at Belmont University. Wigal trained under literary agents, magazine editors, and a major publishing house’s marketing department, finally working in literary PR, beginning as an assistant and working her way up to a Senior Manager role. She has been published by Library JournalThe Tennessean, Publishers Weekly, and Writer’s Digest, and was a featured interview in the Writer’s Digest “Guide to Literary Agents” 2019 edition. Wigal is the Fundraising Chair for the Next Chapter Society which supports the programming made possible by the Nashville Public Library Foundation. She is the founder of the Nashville Publishing Meetup, which connects publishing professionals. When she doesn’t have a book in hand, you can find Professor Wigal snuggling with her two dogs, dancing salsa, or doing DIY projects on her cottage home in Nashville, TN. She is an aspiring historical novelist.

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


Carrie Callaghan, Samantha Rajaram

Every story is political. Whether we’re writing about court intrigue or interpersonal romance, the power dynamics behind the characters and their world are political. But politics in the past can be devilishly difficult to write, particularly when the complex details are foreign to contemporary readers. This presentation will explore the role of politics in historical fiction and allow writers to understand how their own views of politics inform their writing. You’ll deepen your understanding of the role politics plays in all types of historical fiction, and we’ll discuss concrete tools for writing engaging politics in our own manuscripts.      

Carrie Callaghan is the author of the novels Salt the Snow and A Light of Her Own (both from CRP/Amberjack). She lives in Maryland with her family and three ridiculous cats. She’s something of a political junky, though she hates to admit it.

Samantha Rajaram is the author of The Company Daughters (Bookouture). Her essays and short fiction have been published in Catamaran Literary Reader and India Currents, and she was a contributor to Our Feet Walk the Sky, the first South Asian-American anthology published in the US. She lives in the Bay Area with her three children.

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


Patricia MacEnulty

The single most important quality of a piece of fiction is the power of the narrative voice. It is the voice – a distinct, individual style of writing – which reveals the characters, drives the plot forward and, most importantly, entices the reader to keep reading. This presentation/workshop includes a discussion of the characteristics of narrative voice along with examples of unique and distinctive voices from current historical fiction, as well as exercises designed to let participants explore techniques for discovering their character’s own unique voices.

Patricia MacEnulty holds a doctorate in English from the Florida State University. She has published four novels, a short story collection, and a memoir with Profile Books, Livingston Press, and the Feminist Press of City University of New York. She is currently working on a series of historical novels set in the early 20th century.

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


Patricia Finney

Fact: on average each human being produces about a quart of urine and a pound of feces (liter and half-kilo) every single day. From the first cities to the present, decisions have to be made about what to do with the smelly stuff. This is the story of what the Elizabethans did.

Patricia Finney has been a published writer since she was 18, a long time ago. Her first book was about an Irish harper who killed a king. Twenty-four books later, she has three grown up children and is thoroughly enjoying lockdown. She has had many day-jobs, including newspaper columnist, office cleaner, coffee shop entrepreneur, and stand-up historian. She has lived in Spain and Hungary. Her talk started from the fascinating research she unearthed for Gloriana’s Torch, her novel of the Spanish Armada. She probably won’t be able to resist writing a non-fiction book about it all.

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


Pamela Sheppard

Who knew that good COMP titles could help build your marketing plan, provide keywords, improve your SEO, and position your book against the competition? Pamela Sheppard outlines the process of finding great COMPS and mining them for the kind of information you need to market your book effectively.

Pam Sheppard has spent over 25 years in Sales and Marketing with Simon & Schuster, Random House, and Crown Publishers. Those years of experience and 17 years of editing and consulting equip her with a literary ear and street-smart instincts for her clients’ projects. New applications of her COMP Analysis Reports have supported the marketing efforts of authors and independent publishers alike.

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


Susanna Calkins, LA Chandlar, Colleen Gleason, Gabriel Valjan

Four writers of historical crime fiction share how they bring critical period details to the foreground to inform and shape their mysteries. Whether it’s the United States’ Capitol building in the Civil War, a 1920s Vanity Kodak camera, The Savoy in New York’s Art Deco era, or stolen typewriter ribbons in Cold War Vienna, the familiar becomes significant. The panelists will share how they used specific objects and locations to anchor their plot points as well as explore larger cultural, social, and political issues in their respective historical eras.

Susanna Calkins is the author of the Lucy Campion Mysteries, set in 17th century London, and the Speakeasy Murders, in 1920s Chicago. Her books have been nominated for multiple awards, including the Anthony, Agatha, Mary Higgins Clark, the Lefty and the Macavity. Dr. Calkins holds a PhD in history. Born and raised in Philadelphia, she lives in the Chicago area with her husband and two sons. She is also the current president of the Sisters in Crime Chicagoland Chapter.

Laurie Chandlar writes and loves everything Art Deco. Like her heroine Lane Sanders, Laurie is fond of her red Mary Janes and a fan of a handcrafted cocktail and the inexhaustible Mayor “Fio” La Guardia. A finalist for the Agatha, the Anthony, a Lefty, Macavity, and the Silver Falchion, Laurie netted the Guides Association of New York Award in 2020. Laurie lives in New York City with her family and two cats named Monty and Maverick.

Colleen Gleason, a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, has dipped her pen in several genres, from paranormal romance, mystery and suspense, YA, and, of course, historical fiction. She has a book for every taste and reader. Colleen has written stories set in the Middle Ages, the Regency Period, Lincoln’s nineteenth-century America, and even an alternate Victorian London. Colleen lives somewhere in the Midwest with her family and dogs, fingers furious on the keyboard on her next novel.

Gabriel Valjan is the author of the Roma and the Company Files series (Winter Goose Publishing) and the Shane Cleary Mysteries (Level Best Books). Whether it’s contemporary Italy, a Cold War mystery, or Seventies Boston with Shane Cleary, he is known for a turn of phrase and crisp spare prose. His Naming Game was a finalist for the Agatha Award for Best Historical Mystery and the Anthony Award for Best Paperback Original in 2020. Gabriel is a member of the Historical Novel Society, ITW, MWA, and Sisters in Crime. Shane’s cat is named Delilah, but Gabriel’s feline is called Munchkin.

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


Nicole Galland

Even if you don’t know or care who said, “To be or not to be,” knowing how Shakespeare’s plays were originally performed throws vivid light on the material, economic, and social history of Tudor and Jacobean times. Details about costumes, accents, performance venues, admission prices, music, censorship, what audiences snacked on, how indoor shows were lit, the role of boy-players . . . In this presentation, Nicole Galland will discuss how these details highlight what we know—and what we don’t—about daily life in early-modern London.

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.

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


Nancy Johnson, Leslye Penelope, Rita Woods

Three award winning novelists, Rita Woods, Nancy Johnson and Leslye Penelope, will discuss ways to weave history through story, while simultaneously honoring culture and entertaining. They will also address code-switching in literature and in life.

Nancy Johnson is a native of Chicago’s South Side and a graduate of Northwestern University. Working for more than a decade as an Emmy nominated, award winning television journalist at CBS and ABC affiliates nationwide, Ms. Johnson writes at the intersection of race and class. Her much heralded debut novel, The Kindest Lie, is available now.

Leslye Penelope is an award-winning fantasy and paranormal romance writer. Equally left and right-brained, she studied filmmaking and computer science in college and sometimes dreams in HTML. She hosts the My Imaginary Friends podcast and lives in Maryland with her husband and furry dependents. Visit her at

Rita Woods is a writer, a Board-Certified Internal Medicine Physician actively practicing as the Medical Director of a large medical center in Suburban Chicago and a trustee on her local Library Board. Her award-winning debut novel, Remembrance, named one of NPR’s Best Books of 2020, came out in January of 2020. Dr. Woods lives outside of Chicago with her family and house full of cats.

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


Join Guest of Honor Lisa See for an hour-long discussion of her 2005 novel, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. Attendees may submit questions for Lisa in advance and during the discussion.

In Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa See takes us on a journey back to a captivating era of Chinese history and delves into one of the most mysterious of human relationships: female friendship.

In nineteenth-century China, in a remote Hunan county, a girl named Lily, at the tender age of seven, is paired with a laotong, an “old same,” in an emotional match that will last a lifetime. The laotong, Snow Flower, introduces herself by sending Lily a silk fan on which she has written a poem in nu shu, a unique language that Chinese women created in order to communicate in secret, away from the influence of men. As the years pass, Lily and Snow Flower send messages on the fan and compose stories on handkerchiefs, reaching out of isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments. Together they endure the agony of footbinding and reflect upon their arranged marriages, their loneliness, and the joys and tragedies of motherhood. The two find solace in their friendship, developing a bond that keeps their spirits alive. But when a misunderstanding arises, their relationship suddenly threatens to tear apart.

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


Erin Cox, Rae Anne Parker

Chat with a buyer and bookseller from Parnassus Books (Nashville, TN) to discover how independent bookstores are shaking things up. Hear what they’re seeing from their unique vantage point as on-the-ground ambassadors for books in their communities. Find out what goes on behind the scenes at your local bookstore, as well as how they’re adapting to everything from COVID protocols to changes in readers’ buying habits. Learn some best practices for authors who want to build good relationships with their local bookstores.

Erin Cox is a bookseller at Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee. Before moving to Nashville, she worked in marketing at Simon & Schuster and Macmillan in New York City. She also managed the development program for a national nonprofit literacy organization. Erin has an M.S. in Publishing from New York University and B.A. in History from the College of William & Mary in Virginia.

Rae Ann Parker is the Director of Books and Events for Young Readers at Parnassus Books, an independent bookstore in Nashville, Tennessee. She is the program director for the Nashville chapter of the Women’s National Book Association.

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

SHAKE UP YOUR STORY WITH ART! (COZY CHAT – Attendance limited to 50 people)

Paula Butterfield, Amy Maroney

In this workshop-style chat, co-hosts Paula Butterfield and Amy Maroney, authors of historical fiction about women artists, will lead a discussion about how to use art to enhance your writing. No matter what genre your WIP falls into, art can be used as a tool for backstory, a memory-trigger, character development, and more. Art can reveal mood, build a setting, and expand a theme. The co-hosts will provide examples from their own novels and others, and we’ll brainstorm possible solutions for your plot holes or sagging middles, one-dimensional characters, or generic settings.

Paula Butterfield lives with her husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon. She is a film fanatic, a dance devotee, and a pasta aficionado. Paula has been a travel enthusiast since her first plane flight on her own at age five, and she excels at creating an awesome itinerary. She writes historical fiction about women artists and is currently working on a novel about rival Abstract Expressionist artists in post-war Manhattan.

Amy Maroney lives in Oregon, U.S.A. with her family. When she’s not diving down research rabbit holes, she enjoys hiking, drawing, dancing, traveling, and reading. Amy is the author of The Miramonde Series, an award-winning historical fiction trilogy about a Renaissance-era female artist and the modern-day scholar on her trail. Amy uses her author platform to raise awareness about the existence of female old masters. She is currently working on a new series set in medieval Rhodes and Cyprus.

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


Zenobia Neil

Witches, gods, magicians, and vengeful ghosts all have their place in historical fiction. Historical fantasy combines two difficult elements of writing: Creating realistic historical worlds as well as adding the worldbuilding of magic. We will discuss what incorporating supernatural elements adds to historical novels, pitfalls to avoid, and how to create a cohesive historical world where jinn lurk in the shadows of bathhouses or vengeful ghosts haunt warriors. Participants will have a chance to deep dive into the topic and discuss what makes historical fantasy special.

Zenobia Neil was born with a shock of red hair and named after an ancient warrior woman who fought against the Romans. In college, she studied Ancient Greece, Voodoo, and world mythology. She writes historical fantasy about the mythic past and Greek and Roman gods having too much fun.              

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


Jennifer Hallock

Romance novels sell billions of dollars of words each year by investing readers deeply in their characters. No matter whether sex is on or off the page, intimacy sells the story. If done right, these scenes advance the plot and provide raw and honest characterization. If done wrong, a sex scene fail will jolt the reader right out of the story—or worse, garner you the Bad Sex in Fiction award by the Literary Review! Come join this cozy chat on the practical dos and don’ts of writing intimate scenes in historical fiction, no matter your level of sensuality.

Jennifer Hallock writes sex scenes that have been described as “a master class,” making readers “feel squiffy in the stomach,” and organically happening “without making sex the focus of the story.” She is the author of the Sugar Sun historical romance series set during the Philippine-American War. She spends her days teaching American, Asian, and military history, and her nights writing historical happily-ever-afters. She has lived and worked in the Philippines, but she currently writes at her little brick house on a New England homestead—kept company by her husband, a growing flock of chickens, and a mutt named Wile E.

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


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.

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


Wind down at the end of the day with trivia time around your favorite subject! Have some laughs, dazzle friends and strangers alike, and best of all, win prizes!

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