Friday 23 June 2023

The Historical Novel Society North America Conference 2023, San Antonio, Texas—In Quotes (Part Two)

Welcome back. Two weeks ago, I attended the Historical Novel Society North America conference in San Antonio, Texas, and shared some of my favorite quotes from the sessions I listened to live at the multi-day event. Today, as promised, I’m back with more words of wisdom from the speakers I caught later via the on-demand recordings. There was so much great content available that I still have a few sessions remaining, so expect a Part Three of this blog in the next few weeks…

On location in San Antonio, TX

AI & Technology:

“ChatGPT is a terrible writer. It’s boring. It will learn and become a better writer, but for now it’s not going to take your writing jobs,” Katie Aiken Ritter (writer)

“We’re not seeing any originality of expression from ChatGPT—things like word choice that writers are known for,” Sarah Johnson (librarian)

“ChatGPT is good at getting rid of ‘BS jobs’,” Jonathan Putnam (writer)

“As storytellers, we’re about to experience a renaissance. Our options for how we carry out our work as storytellers are expanding at a dizzying rate,” Libbie Grant (writer)

Fiction vs. Journalism:

“I wanted the freedom to make things up. Journalism didn’t give that to me. I can always tell when someone is writing fiction who was a journalist,” Weina Dai Randel (writer)

“I found that as a journalist I had to strip myself down and build myself up again. Non-fiction is much denser. Fiction is about character,” Nancy Bilyeau (writer)

“The transition from writing journalism to fiction is a nightmare,” John Jeter (writer)

Specific Periods:

“The Renaissance was the era of unexpected alliances,” Karimi Alavi (writer & educator)

“The big problem with seafaring books is that women didn’t have a significant legitimate role on commercial or naval vessels until the late 20th-century, except as passengers. Romantic heterosexual relationships do not flourish in this genre,” Mary Malloy (writer)

“WWII fiction remains popular as WWII was the last great war that was fought for noble reasons and high stakes,” Maryka Biaggio (writer)

Writing Craft:

“You don’t have much time to convince readers to come on a 400-page journey with you,” Susan Meissner (writer)

“The concept of a story world is very familiar in fantasy and science fiction writing, but historical fiction writers are creating worlds as well—it just happens to be a world based on something that happened in the past. If it’s not a world that exists now, we have to build it,” Mark Baker (writer)

Doing the Work:

“I encourage my students to see writing as a job, whether it’s full-time or part-time,” Joyce Wagner (writer)

“There’s no such thing as writer’s block. If you think there is, go get a job at a newspaper and go tell your editor you’re just not feeling inspired today to write,” Glen Craney (writer)


“A character doesn’t have to be admirable—at the start at least—for us to want to follow them,” James Scott Bell (writer)

“As a writer and a researcher, I want to know more about the women who were at the center of history but are often ignored to the point of becoming non-existent,” DeAnn Smith Stead (writer


“Primary sources help you get, not just to the facts, but to the attitudes,” Addison Armstrong (writer)

“Avoid unforced food history errors in your writing,” Amanda E. Herbert (academic)


“Works are in the public domain if they predate copyright law, if the copyright term has expired, or if they are un-copyrightable. Works published in 1927 came into the public domain in 2023,” Emily Lanza (writer & lawyer)


“It’s not always a conscious choice to write fiction. We’re drawn to it,” Vanitha Sankaran (writer)

Are you also still listening to the great recordings from HNS 2023? I’d love to hear what your favorite sessions were. Let me know—below, by tweeting @SVictorianist, or by contacting me via Instagram or Facebook.

Love all things historical fiction? Sign up to my monthly newsletter here.

Sunday 11 June 2023

The Historical Novel Society North America Conference 2023, San Antonio, Texas—In Quotes (Part One)

I’m currently on my way home from the Historical Novel Society North America’s first in-person conference since 2019, which was held in San Antonio. For several days, IRL and virtual attendees enjoyed an array of talks, panels, and masterclasses from authors, agents, and editors in the historical fiction world. Those of us in Texas also enjoyed socializing and signing books at the readers’ festival, which was open to the public. 

In today’s post I’ll be sharing some of the most memorable quotes from the presenters I heard in action, organized by theme. Stay tuned for a Part Two post once I catch up on other recorded sessions virtually!

Reporting live (almost) from HNS 2023!

Writing Craft:

“Write like you’re in love. Edit like you’re in charge,” James Scott Bell (writer)

“There is nothing worse than a confused reader,” Denny S. Bryce (writer)

“Your point of view character should be determined by the climax of your book,” Kimberly Brock (writer)

“Prologues exist because readers are impatient,” Mitchell Waters (agent)

Publishing Industry:

“Stories aren’t complete until we share them,” Lisa Wingate (writer)

“Readers, not publishers, are the ones who determine which books deserve to be read,” Libbie Grant (writer)

“There are fewer and fewer people working on more and more books,” Marcy Posner (agent)

“Especially on kidlit, what I’m hearing is that editors want books about LGBT characters that aren’t about trauma but are about joy,” Shannon Hassan (agent)

Our Genre:

“History tells you what happened. Historical fiction tells you how it felt,” Jamie Ford (writer)

What to Write:

“American readers want to read about the topics most pertinent to them,” Weina Dai Randel (writer)

“I’m fascinated by the staff’s point of views, especially overlooked women,” Mariah Fredericks (writer)

Sex Scenes:

“Sex can reflect agency or loss of agency,” Laurie Lico Albanese (writer)

“Many book club readers skip the sex scenes. Proceed with caution,” Heather Webb (writer)


“We are always writing retellings. When we write new takes on classic tales the source is just more obvious,” Kris Waldherr (writer)

“For me, retellings are always about exploring different perspectives on a story,” Molly Greeley (writer)


“Witches are a powerful symbol for marginalized people,” Paulette Kennedy (writer)

“We are righting a wrong and reclaiming the title of witch,” Alyssa Palombo (writer)

The Arts in Fiction:

“As writers we know what it feels like to create, so we can transpose these emotions onto other arts,” Carol Cram (writer)


“It helps me to walk the walk and take photos of places my characters would have been,” Nancy Bilyeau (writer)


“TikTok is a hot mess. No one knows what will go viral. What works on Instagram doesn’t necessarily work there but I post it on TikTok anyway for the content,” Vanessa Riley (writer)

If you were at HNS 2023 I’d love to hear what quotes and advice stood out to you from the conference—let me know below, by tweeting @SVictorianist, or by contacting me via Instagram or Facebook. Reading this later and on the fence about joining us for HNS 2025 in Las Vegas? I, for one, would love to see you there.

Love all things historical fiction? Sign up to my monthly newsletter here.