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.

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