Weekly Musing: Southern Kentucky Writers Conference and Book Fest Part II

Last week I not so briefly discussed the first day of my experience at the Southern Kentucky Writers Conference. This week’s post, shorter I promise, is about the second day of the event which had more panels, a book fair, and featured Charlaine Harris as the guest speaker.

Once again the day started at 9am and the first event was an hour long talk and Q & A session with Charlaine Harris. I’ll admit I’ve never read any of her books but I have watched the True Blood series and knew who she was. This was the first big author I’ve ever heard give a talk and it was fun sitting in the audience eavesdropping on people around me who were big fans. Of course as soon as she came out, the cell phones went up so people could take her picture but as soon as the talk began people were considerate enough to put their phones away.

Ms. Harris is a warm, down-to-earth Southern lady and you could tell she truly enjoys what she does. She gave a brief background of how she got into writing (her husband encouraged her to quit her job and write full time in addition to raising children) in addition to her latest book and what she has coming up.

Most of the hour, though, was Q & A. During the Q & A I learned about what her typical writing schedule is. She says she writes about an averages about six to eight pages of new material each day, edits other works, and spends a lot of time answering e-mails and other business related items. As can be imagined, most of the questions she answered were about the Sookie Stackhouse books so all those went over my head. One thing I found refreshing was when she was asked if she could go back and change anything she’d written in the series, would she and she answered yes. The most memorable question to me was when one fan asked about Ms. Harris’ thoughts about changes the show True Blood has made from the books. I’m paraphrasing her response but essentially she isn’t made aware of changes and said it’s sometimes a treat for her to see what’s going to happen on the show since it is different from her books.

That got me thinking about changes the show Game of Thrones has made from the book series A Song of Ice and Fire . I’ve read all the books and while I sometimes don’t like the changes in the show, part of me does appreciate the show taking the risk with those changes. There has to be that balance between pleasing book readers and show viewers. How do you hold the interest of both groups? Hearing from an author’s thoughts about changes from book to TV show was food for thought.

After the Q & A, she did a book signing but I didn’t go because that is when the panels for the day started. Also I didn’t have a book to sign and figured later in the day I would stop by and purchase the graphic novel she mentioned but by that time she was gone.

The first panel I went to was about historical fiction. Hooray! Some of my people! I was most excited about this panel because it’s a genre I love to read and write in. Unlike the day before, Saturday’s events were panels rather than workshops. What that means is a group of authors of the same genre, usually about three to four, sit in a room with a moderator who asks some questions before turning it over to the audience.

The authors on the panel were: Phil Dunlap, Regina Jeffers, Sharon Lathan, Jacinda Townsend, and Eddie Price . Most of the authors write about various time periods within the 1800s with the exception being Ms. Townsend whose book is set in the 1950s. Three of the panelists wrote books set in America while the other two write Jane Austen inspired books. Each talked about his or her background which was as varied as the subjects of their books yet what united them all was a love of history and the people and places that made up the past. Each also talked about what inspired them to write in those specific time periods.

A bit topic of discussion was about each of their research methods. Many of them have actually traveled to the places mentioned in their books. Each talked about taking the opportunity to immerse themselves in the food, music, and culture of the time period, as well as relying on books and primary sources, like letters, rather than the internet for accuracy. Unfortunately the moderator spent most of the time asking his prepared questions which only left time for one question and it wasn’t one of mine.

While the panels ran the gamut from sports to historical fiction to civil rights to young adult to science fiction, the only other panel I attended was one of two general fiction panels offered. Unlike the other panels this one had two authors, Angela Jackson-Brown and Alma Katsu , as the other scheduled panelists were unable to make it.

Since this was more of a general fiction panel rather genre specific, the author’s responses were more varied. What was nice about this panel was hearing the differences in each woman’s approach to her work as well as their writing schedules. Each also talked about how their own experiences influenced their work. Ms. Jackson-Brown used something from her own background in her book as a way of therapy whereas Ms. Katsu’s work as a government analyst helped her shape the villains in her books. Again I was unable to ask any questions since the moderator’s own ate up most of the time allotted.

After the panels I did some shopping at the book fest but felt too shy to approach any of the authors there. Since I really hadn’t heard of any of the authors until I picked up the newspaper handed out by the conference, I wasn’t sure what the etiquette is. Have them sign the book anyway? And of course my mind goes completely blank when I’m around strangers so any questions I had leave me.

Overall I think my experience was a really valuable one. I learned some new techniques and I brought back the big message of whatever works best for me. There is no right or wrong way to writing and the path to getting published is as varied as the shelves in a book store.