Wendy Dunn, author of Falling Pomegranate Seeds, talks about writing and the HNS
I cannot remember when I first joined Historical Novel Society – or how I even first became aware of this society for readers and writers of historical fiction. I do remember I became a member of HNS before my first novel, Dear Heart, How Like You This? (A Distant Mirror, 2002) found its first publisher. Thinking back, I suspect my initial membership came out of belonging to the Historical Novel Society Yahoo Group. This was a long, long time ago – a time when I wrote a Tudor column for Suite101, once a popular web community of writers but now long gone into the realm of memory. I suspect the same thing can be said of the Yahoo group. The arrival of Facebook soon made those groups defunct.
Let’s return to my memories. By 2000, I was not only a passionate reader of historical fiction but also determined to claim my mantle as a writer of history. Twice a month, I wrote a Tudor inspired column and continued to submit my first Anne Boleyn novel twice yearly to publishers for its twice yearly rejection. But most of these rejections were so encouraging, and they only increased my efforts to become a published author.
To achieve this ambition, it made sense to join Historical Novel Society. Writing can be, at times, a lonely business. Only another writer really understands the struggles, the frustrations, the agony and ecstasy of writing. HNS was clearly my writing tribe. By 2000, I had already learnt the importance of networking, and, more importantly, that writing groups help you grow as a writer, simply because writers learn best from other writers. This is one of the reasons why writing conferences are important and valuable – and why, in 2015, I put up my hand to help establish and grow the HNSA conference.
Australia is a long way from England and USA – the two places alternating as destinations for the annual HNS conference. I was fortunate to attend my first, and only, HNS conference in London in 2012. My primary reason to finance an expensive overseas trip was that I wanted to ensure my research for my second Tudor novel, The Light in Labyrinth, was done as thoroughly as possible. I try to do this with all my novels. In 1993, my first ever visit to England, I drove my family crazy by including places known to Anne Boleyn in our travel plans because I was writing Dear Heart. In 2007, I spent three wonderful weeks in Spain, when I had already started work on the first version of Falling Pomegranate Seeds, a novel series about Katherine of Aragon. This time, with careful planning, I was able to include attending the HNS conference just prior to my return home.
At the HNS conference, I met Diana Gabaldon (author of the Outlander series) – and thanked her for her novels, novels that had allowed me to mentally escape for a time during a long hospital stay when my fourth and final pregnancy became a battle of survival. I met other wonderful authors, and also pitched The Light in the Labyrinth, my second Tudor novel, to two publishers.
I returned home inspired by the conference, excited that a big publisher was now considering The Light in the Labyrinth (Silly them. I received their rejection twenty weeks later. The publisher of Dear Heart then offered to published it. It sold so well that it funded my next trip to England in 2016) and extremely reflective about the difficulties faced by the average Australian writer of Historical fiction to attend the HNS conference. Not only is overseas travel expensive, but few Australians enjoy the twenty-three hours or more of travel time it takes to get to England. For myself, I would only be interested in going to the HNS conference in England because I could tie it into research for my Tudor novels.
So, when Elisabeth Storrs started the ball rolling to establish the Historical Novel Society Australasia, I put up my hand to help out. The inaugural conference was held in Sydney 20-22 March 2015. We showcased 40 speakers over those two days, in what was a truly wonderful event. So wonderful, there was no question in the mind of the executive committee – which then included Elisabeth Storrs, Chris Foley, GS Johnston, Diane Murray, and myself – to do it again in 2017.
You can meet Wendy Dunn
While I recently resigned from the committee due to my own writing commitments, I am looking forward to taking part in one of the panels:
Saturday 9 September
11.15-12.15 – How to transmute research into compelling historical fiction
A passion for research doesn’t always translate into creating compelling fiction. Gillian Polack discusses the challenges of converting historical facts into page-turning novels with Wendy J Dunn, Barbara Gaskell Denvil, Stephanie Smee and Rachel Nightingale.
As well as chairing an academic panel on Sunday at 10 am:
‘THE LIE OF HISTORY’: HOW THE MIRROR OF THE PRESENT SHAPES THE PAST FOR ITS OWN PURPOSES – PART 1
There is no question that we are constructions of our own times, and the writing of history is always shaped by those who recount the past for their own purposes. How does the mirror of the present day reflect and dictate the telling of history? Do we filter a version of history that tells more about us than the times of long ago through what we choose to reveal and erase? Dr Wendy J Dunn will discuss these questions with panel members Drs Glenice Whitting, Diane Murray, Gillian Polack, and Cheryl Hayden.
Do hope to see you there!