Friday, May 23, 2014

So 2,000 Romance Authors Walk into a Bar ...

I’m writing this blog post on an airplane on the way back from the 2014 Romantic Times Booklovers Convention in New Orleans. If you’ve never attended, it’s a wild, fun, crazy, manic, exhausting extravaganza packed with authors, readers, bloggers, agents, editors, cover models, and every variation and combination of the above. You can attend panels on every topic from Rocking Street Teams to How to Write Hot Sex; or you can hang out at the hotel bar and just watch the elaborate costumes and enjoy the intense conversation.


No one talks as much as romance readers and writers. NO ONE. The decibel level inside the hotel bar was absolutely insane, a constant roar of noise. I happened to drop in at the bar a couple days after the conference officially ended, when the lobby had reverted to its usual state: a quiet place for muted conversation. Such is the madness of RT.

Only at an RT conference will you see huge blown-up pictures of naked male torsos in the elevators. 

Only at RT will you see card keys with more of the same. Only at RT will you see someone in an elaborate black-leather corset devil costume dancing with a dude in white angel wings. I don’t get much chance to dance these days, so I make sure to attend at least one dance party every RT and boogie my little heart out. Only at RT will you see 800 romance authors signing books in one place; this year the checkout line was so long some readers lost patience and abandoned their books. The list of people signing was mind-boggling. E.L. James. Lee Child. Eloisa James. Lisa Kleypas. Kelley Armstrong. Jennifer L. Armentrout. Susan Mallery. And hundreds more. Hundreds. Oh yes, and me too.

Every RT must include a fangirl moment (if not many!) and this year mine was Lisa Kleypas. I’ve been a fan for years, but had never seen her in person. I not only got to chat with her, I got to share a meal and soak in her presence. Just that one encounter alone made the entire trip worthwhile. But there were days of such moments, of reconnecting, soaking in information, meeting new people.

Of course there’s always controversy and drama. Which publisher is doing what with their contracts? What’s going on with the indie authors? When will sales of historical romance bounce back? How long will the New Adult craze last? Sure, many of these topics are discussed on author loops. But being with so many authors and passionate readers in one place creates a special high you can’t get online. It’s like sucking in helium; you want to buzz like a balloon from one conversation to another.

By, my balloon has pretty much lost its air. It’s a good feeling; I left it all on the field. I talked until my voice was shot, I survived on a few hours of sleep a night, I gave away all my swag and all my books. I saw as many people as possible. And I met Lisa Kleypas.

One of the last conversations I had was with a reporter doing a story on people who had traveled long distances to attend RT. I rattled off the reasons I found it worthwhile, and as I did so I realized that the RT conference, with about 2,500 attendees, is fully half the size of the town I live in. That’s a lot of authors and readers in one place, with one shared passion, but an infinite number of ways to express it. Will I go next year in Dallas? Ask me again once I’ve caught up on my sleep. But the chances are good. 

USA Today bestselling author Jennifer Bernard's latest release is FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FIREMAN. Read more at her website here.