Monday 31 July 2023

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

Welcome back, everyone! It took over a month after the close of the Historical Novel Society North America Society conference in San Antonio, Texas, for me to finish listening to all the recordings—a testament to the wealth of great information about historical fiction on offer. I already published Part 1 and Part 2 posts detailing some of my favorite quotes from the event. Today, I’m concluding the series with a third and final roundup.

On the ground at #HNS2023!

Writing craft:

“Don’t die on the hill of being right. If a word sounds modern, even if it isn’t, it ruins the illusion,” Annette Lyon (writer)

“If the structure of your novel is like layers of cake, your characters are the filling and the frosting,” Robin Henry (librarian & book coach)

“Backstory is summary. Flashback is scene,” Sophfronia Scott (writer)

“I always have a big outline that I’m really proud of and I never stick with it,” Elise Hooper (writer)

“Don’t cling to a mistake just because you spent a long time making it,” Patricia Hudson (writer)

“Don’t base your revisions on one person’s point of view. Wait until you hear a couple of people saying the same thing. You’ll see patterns,” Joy Calloway (writer)

Fictionalizing history:

“Never let the truth get in the way of a great story,” Lisa Wingate (writer)

“For me the fiction is what happens around the facts,” Madeline Martin (writer)

“If we can’t entertain, the history part will fall on deaf ears,” Margaret George (writer)

“We are translating past events with the present in mind,” Marianne Monson (writer)

“Look to what’s known and apply it to what isn’t known,” Judith Starkston (writer)


“I am primarily using social media to pull readers off the social media platforms and onto my mailing list, which is the only thing I control,” Laura Morelli (writer)

“There are stores that don’t want to stock books unless they’re big on TikTok, which is alarming,” Crystal King (writer)

“There are zero barriers to entry for podcasting,” Carol Cram (writer)

“Have beta readers for your website, just like you would for your book,” Tema Frank (writer)


“When you want to include historically underrepresented characters in your book, my question is why are they important to your story,” Denny S. Bryce (writer)

“The reason I choose not to write real characters is because I want creative freedom to deviate from what really happened and send them where I want them to go,” Meredith Jaeger (writer)

“What would your character do if they have five minutes left to live?” Alana White (writer)

Religion in fiction:

“If you have very strong orthodox, pure adherence to your own faith, it’s going to be very difficult to write about another faith, especially if you believe that your faith is the only way to get to heaven,” Nicole Evelina (writer)

Did we meet at HNSNA 2023? I’d love to stay in touch! Sign up to my monthly newsletter here. Alternatively, tweet @SVictorianist or contact me via Instagram or Facebook.

Sunday 9 July 2023

Theatre Review: Being Mr. Wickham, 59E59 Theaters, New York City

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Austenites never tire of new takes on Pride and Prejudice (1813), so last month I joined JASNA NY’s outing to 59E59 Theaters to watch a one-man play about one of the novel’s most infamous characters. 

Being Mr. Wickham brings us George Wickham on his sixtieth birthday, still married to Lydia (nee Bennet) and reminiscing about the dramas of his youth. The play was co-written and performed by Adrian Lukis, who was the young Wickham in the beloved 1995 BBC adaptation of Austen’s novel, so it really did feel like we were all watching a familiar character age before our eyes. 

Revisitations of Pride and Prejudice range from the canonical (see, for example, my review of Janice Hadlow’s 2020 The Other Bennet Sister) to the more daring (check out my review of Katherine J. Chen’s 2018 Mary B), and this one-act play was firmly in the former camp. Audience knowledge of the source material was assumed as Lukis regaled us with updates on what has become of the other characters from the book, but there were no shocking revelations about the original story gained from entering the villain’s perspective. 

The set and sound design were smart, keeping the play visually interesting and giving us musical interludes between parts of the play respectively, and this helped keep the crowd engaged throughout—no small feat in what’s essentially a lengthy monologue. Lydia’s off-stage voice and a side plot about a drama Wickham is watching through the window gave the impression of a world beyond the stage, and I appreciated parts of the script that spoke to the wider historical context around Austen’s novel (e.g., war and politics). 

This is linked to what I found most interesting about the play, which was otherwise merely an entertaining trip down memory lane. Lukis and his co-writer Catherine Curzon turn Wickham into the poster child for the Regency period itself—a lover of romance and Romance, who models himself on Byron, and approaches life with a total dedication to having fun. The character’s frustration at the prudishness of the Victorian age he now finds himself living in was well-done and Lukis’s comments during the after-show conversation suggested he found parallels between Wickham’s reaction to a period of increased sincerity and his own responses to society and the direction the arts is taking today.

Have you watched Being Mr. Wickham, whether in New York or elsewhere? I’d love to know what you thought of it! Let me know what plays with a nineteenth-century connection you’d like to read me review next—in the comments, via Instagram, on Facebook, or by tweeting @SVictorianist. Want monthly updates about my blog and other writing straight to your email inbox? Sign up for my newsletter here.