Apr 10, 2013

Heart of the Matter

by Michelle Douglas

Last Saturday I took part in a panel entitled Heart of the Matter: Writing Romance at the inaugural Newcastle Writers Festival. And it was the best fun!

The other panellists were:

Deborah Challinor, who writes gripping historical novels with strong romantic elements.

Kaz Delaney who writes wildly funny young adult romances.

Cathryn Hein, who writes the most marvellous and emotional rural romances.

The panel was very graciously, and stylishly, moderated by our own divine Ms Annie West.

From left to right: Michelle Douglas, Cathryn Hein, Kaz Delaney, Deborah Challinor and Annie West

All of us either live in the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie area or have links there. The event itself was held in the Newcastle City Business Centre—a lovely venue. It’s the old National Bank building, and in the photo below you can see the gorgeous ceiling and chandelier.

Of course, while it’s amazing to spend time with other writers, it’s the readers that make an event like this such an amazing experience. At a rough guesstimate there would’ve been thirty attendees, so we decided to leave plenty of time for a Q & A at the end. I swear we could’ve kept going for at least another 30 minutes. And that’s a conservative guess. :-)

We were asked the most amazing questions. What did we think made romance such a popular genre? Why didn’t many men write romance when they could write such wonderful love song lyrics? What were our own enduring personal themes and/or messages?

Man, did that audience make me ponder my writing, consider my own deeper motivations and reflect upon my chosen genre. I know I wasn’t the only panellist who found it a valuable and rewarding exercise.

So my question to you is: As a reader, have you ever attended a similar event? And if you asked a question, what was it?


  1. Michelle, wasn't it a terrific session? I loved the fact that, as you say, we could have stayed on indefinitely answering questions as the group was so interested. A shame we had to vacate the room! I loved the question about what a romance would be for men (westerns?) and especially the last one about each author's underlying themes - hard to pinpoint on the spot but it prompted such an illuminating discussion.

    Plus the venue was brilliant, and so close to the beach and the best ice cream shop...

  2. I really wish I could've been there!

  3. Oh, Annie, the questions were amazing. I wished the whole 30 - 40 of us could've found a cafe somewhere and settled in for an afternoon of continuing the discussion and swapping stories and favourite romances The hour went far too quick.

    Or, better yet, we could've all headed down to the beach to eat ice cream! ;-)

  4. Michelle, sounds like a fabulous event. What a great panel. Wish I could have been there. I love these sorts of events.

  5. Jenn, I love them too and I found that it really fired me up. I keep thinking of questions we were asked and shaking my head. The audience were so clever and engaged!

  6. That sounds like a fantastic panel, Michelle. One of my most favourite activities of all time is talking about books. It's book club night tonight and I love talking about the things I've read and finding some new gems via my book club buddies.

  7. What a star-studded panel! I can totally see you all traipsing off to a coffee shop and talking into the night.

    I happen to be part of a fabulous book club with only two members. In fact, it's probably time that book club started its next book!

  8. I love my book group too, Barb. I love how everyone can have such totally different takes and responses to the same book. It can make for lively (and passionate) discussion. :-)

  9. Ah, but, Rach, I love my two member book club best of all. :-) And, yes, I totally agree that it's time for that book club's next book. :-)

    P.S. BTW, stars don't traipse, we swan. ;-)

  10. Oh, of *course* you swan! I can see it now...

  11. I'll give you swanning lessons at the Fremantle conference if you like, Rach. Every author should know how to swan. ;-)

  12. Sounds awesome.
    I agree with westerns being romance novels for men. Totally nailed it!
    Hav been on a panel with Cathryn before and she's a hoot!

  13. Oh, yes, Amy, Cathryn is great fun!

    Way back in the mists of time I remember my dad reading westerns. It's been a long time since I've seen any on the shelves. I'm guessing they must still be out there, though.

  14. Michelle, I'm going to hold you to that offer of swanning lessons. ;)

  15. Well, now...maybe I should run a workshop? ;-)