Thursday, July 14, 2016

Christina Hollis—Reading, Writing, Then Talking About It...

This Is Not Lancaster University...
July is the month for conferences. This year, the Romantic Novelists' Association's annual gathering was held at Lancaster University, Bailrigg, in the north west of England.

I live in an old house set in a Gloucestershire bluebell wood. Before getting our puppy and joining the dog-walking community, days could pass without me seeing anyone apart from family members. The thought of spending four days living in student accommodation with well over two hundred other delegates—all within a USB-stick's throw—was a scary prospect. 

Like diving into a pool, after the initial shock I found the conference a fantastic experience. I could choose from over thirty sessions. They covered all aspects of the writing process, from Speed-Dating For Writers in the search for your ideal critique partner,  to Working Effectively With Bookshops, Libraries and Festivals

With Julia Ibbotson (centre) and Dorinda Cass (right)
at the Gala Dinner. Pic: John Jackson
I attended a total of thirteen sessions. While each talk was brilliant in its own way, the stand out presenter for me was Sarah Wendell, of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. In Reviews—getting them, dealing with them and managing them, she explained that for a book's five-star ratings to be taken seriously, it needs reviews from readers who were less than impressed. Glowing reports can always be bought, or squeezed out of your relatives and friends. Bad reviews are more likely to be honest. Some people just don't like some books. If a review is posted by an idiot with a personal axe to grind, it's pretty obvious, and you can discount it.  Sarah's advice included eating so much chocolate your fingers get too messy to dash off a scathing reply to your critic. By the time your hands are clean again (and in my case, when you've run off the calories) you'll have calmed down, and decided to keep silent. Comments by the author cast a shadow over the dialogue between those who read the review, and dialogue means exposure. Nobody wants to think the author is watching, ready to pounce. After hearing Sarah's talk, I'll never be afraid of sending my books out for review again. I might be afraid to read the reviews, but that's no problem. I'll follow another piece of her advice, and get someone else to read them for me!

Find Out More At
The most daring session I attended was Romantic Bondage—facts for fiction. I found out that when it comes to BDSM, not all ropes are created equal. If you want to tie your heroine to railroad tracks (or whatever) you'll need soft, specially treated hemp. Remember, you read it here first!

If you've never been to a conference before, take the plunge. It won't be as scary as you think, and you'll learn a lot. 

If you're an experienced delegate, what's the most useful thing you've taken away from a conference? 

When she isn't cooking, gardening or beekeeping, Christina Hollis writes contemporary fiction starring complex men and independent women.  Her books have been translated into more than a dozen languages, and she’s sold nearly three million books worldwide. You can catch up with her at, on Twitter, Facebook, and see a full list of her published books at
Her current release, Heart Of A Hostage, is published by The Wild Rose Press and available at worldwide, and from in the US.


dstoutholcomb said...

love what you learned about reviews

Christina Hollis said...

Thanks—it was a very useful experience all round. All the delegates learned a lot.

Jane Marsh said...

Very enlightening stuff.

Sara Smith said...

What a commendable work you have done, with simplest of language. Great piece of writing, I really liked the way you highlighted some really important and significant points.

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