So, I’ve covered my biggest issue with the 2015 Australian Romance Readers convention in Canberra, but here is some more general stuff.
There were three or four sessions running a number of times a day, with authors speaking about particular genres and themes. I mostly attended the sessions about suspense, rural romance and historical romance.
There were plenty of other activities, but I wasn’t having any part in author speed dating, poker or bingo! In fact (sorry, Christina Brooke!) at one point I felt so awkward I didn’t even go up to collect a prize I won! There were morning and afternoon teas and lunches with authors, but I could not for the life of me figure out how any of that worked!
Romance is an odd genre, because it is almost exclusively about girls and women from their mid-teens to their mid-thirties. We still live in a world where a happy ever after means to almost everyone that you marry and have babies, and because of this there are restrictions on the ages the characters can be.
This convention could really have done with some input from women in those demographics, but I guess the way it’s structured didn’t attract many people under forty. It’s a shame, because these younger readers really do exist – me, for example. Half the romance readers I interact with online are in their twenties and thirties.
You’re writing books about us. You’re reading books about us. But you forgot to invite us to the party!
It would have been nice if sessions on YA and NA books, for example, could have been attended by the target audience.
This could possibly be achieved by allowing people to buy tickets to individual sessions rather than charging a few hundred dollars for people to attend everything, as there were definitely parts I was uninterested in and skipped, and I’m sure there were even fewer attractive events for women younger than me.
There was also the issue of marketing. You’re not going to reach us by advertising the event the way you did. Hell, I LIVE IN CANBERRA and I only heard about it at the last moment – and only then from my sixty-three year old mother.
There were a hundred authors attending the convention, some from Canada, the United States and New Zealand.
The four keynote speakers were (in order) Helene Young, Kelley Armstrong, Victoria Dahl and Sylvia Day.
I already knew plenty about Helene Young before this. I enjoy her books, liked her speech, found her panel interesting, and was happy (in a twisted way!) to hear one of her books was inspired by the 2003 bushfires here in Canberra.
From the moment she turned up beside me at the welcome drinks (and BOY, didn’t I do a double-take when I read her nametag! – she’s much prettier in real life, so I didn’t recognise her immediately!), I decided Kelley Armstrong was great.
I’ve strayed far from paranormal and urban fantasy books in recent years, but a basic conversation – and an inspiring keynote speech – encouraged me to pick up her books again, and to get going on the TV show that has been made from them.
I don’t know whether it was the author or my changed tastes, but I’m really enjoying them this time round. More than the first time.
I have to duck for cover when it comes to Victoria Dahl, as I missed her speech and didn’t attend the session she was part of. So I can’t comment!
Now, I’ve not really jumped on the Sylvia Day bandwagon. One novella and a DNF’d historical (I found it too anachronistic) are all I’ve tried so far when it comes to this author.
However, she’s a fascinating, classy person to listen to, and I have a lot of respect for her having listened to her talk about her work.
Maybe I’ll give her Crossfire series a go, even though it’s as far from my favourite genre as you can get!
There was plenty to like about ARRC 2015, but I can’t help wondering if the romance community can’t see the forest for the trees. Much more engagement is needed with MUCH more variety in the type of people such events are attracting (this goes for age, race, everything). Younger readers need to be engaged, included and LISTENED TO. This is, after all, a genre entirely about them!