University of Love rolls into town

amy matthews
Dr Amy Matthews with her latest historical romance book. She will cover the appeal of the heroine in historical Western romance fiction at the conference.

The University of Love swoons into Adelaide this week to give ‘happily ever after’ insights into the $1 billion global market for romance novels.

Leading international writers and academic authorities in the serious big business of love and romance will kiss and tell at a free public event on Thursday, 18 August as a prelude to the Romance Writers Australia ‘Ain’t Love Grand’ 2016 annual conference (18-21 August).

Flinders is co-hosting the forum, Representations of Love and Romance: Scholars and Authors in Conversation, at the Stamford Plaza Hotel, 288 North Tce, Adelaide on Thursday (4-5pm). To register book here.

Among the speakers attending the conference are popular romance writers:

Heather GrahamNew York Times best-seller author who also writes as Shannon Drake

May McGoldrickJan Coffey (pen names for Daphne du Maurier award-winning writing team of Nikoo McGoldrick and her husband, medieval historian Professor James McGoldrick)

  • Hollywood author and script writer Michael Hauge
  • University of Alabama Professor Catherine Roach (better known as romance writer Catherine LaRoche), the author of Happily Ever AfterThe Romance Story in Popular Culture
  • Dr Danjiela Kambaskovic and Professor Stephanie Trigg, from the Australian Research Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions, will join Flinders University academics Dr Amy Matthews, Dr Gillian Dooley, Dr Erin Sebo and Dr Eric Parisot and guest speakers from other Australian universities.

So, why all this fuss and the worldwide appetite for love and romance?

Why is romance one of the largest and most successful part of the publishing world, with thousands of books sold every month?

Conference co-convenor, Flinders University creative writing lecturer Dr Amy T. Matthews, is a strong advocate for the genre.

“Romance novels are not just about escapism. They also fulfil a deeper more serious role,” she says.

“They actually meet a deep-seated need among women to validate and challenge their place in society.

“Whether it’s the old-style Mills and Boon, women’s fiction or the contemporary erotic (Fifty Shades of Grey et al) novels, it’s mostly about women writing for women about relationships, family, friendships and the tensions they experience in our culture.

“The romance community writes about housewives, single women, working women, pregnant and divorced women, the choices they make and how they are treated in relationships.

“In the end it’s about us all being accepted as individuals. It matters to be a woman, whether you’re a wife and mother, a single parent, working in or outside the home: you matter.

“Romance is a mixture of conservatism and progression which gives us all insights into our lives.”

On the one hand, Dr Matthews writes both ‘serious’ literary fiction and non-fiction books (her Holocaust account, End of the Night Girl, won the Adelaide Festival Unpublished Manuscript Award) as well as  historical romantic adventure stories under her “alter ego” Tess LeSue.

Her latest rollicking commercial romance, Bound for Eden (Harlequin, 2016), set on the Oregon Trail in America, is the first in a planned series of four “hopefully best-sellers”.

“It takes me about five years to write a serious book, but I can write and publish many more romance novels in the same timeframe,” Dr Matthews says.

“Literary fiction is a much smaller and highly competitive market, so it can take up to 10 years between serious book projects.”

The conference is open to both romance writers and the public. Among the Australian romance writers taking part are Adelaide bestsellers Fiona McIntosh, Trish Morey and Victoria Purman, Melbourne’s historical romance queen Anne Gracie, and Perth rural romance powerhouse Rachael Johns.



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