BEA Time


It’s that time of year.

The one I look forward to nearly as much as Christmas and far more than Untitled 0 00 32-12my birthday: The BookExpo of America at the Javits Center in New York City. Why do I love it so? From all over the world, readers, writers, bloggers, editors, agents, publishing and marketing staff come together for one purpose. To celebrate

cpThe minute I enter the simmering bustle of the Javits Center, I feel electric. The excitement is palpable and infectious. All around me people are buzzing, but not about politics, work complaints, or the latest Justin Beiber scandal. No. They’re talking about literature. More than that, they’re bubbling over with enthusiasm about what is new and upcoming for established best-sellers and promising debut writers.

I’m thrilled to be a part of the major organ through which all books BookExpoAmerica1-e1394405038476flow. To join the streaming throng as I stroll down aisle after aisle of publishers. The fantastic book displays they’ve created do their job and I’m pulled in, time after time. Best of all, I can meet (if only for a minute) some of my favorite authors (fangirl!!) and snag the latest advanced reader copies from them. Score!


Some of our cute new swag!

Most of all, I’m overwhelmed to meet fans, fellow authors, bloggers and editor friends whom I know so well online, yet only see once or twice a year! That is the ultimate treat. This year, I’ll be visiting with my Spencer Hill Press family and cheering on fellow authors as they sign their nalaovels. Additionally, my co-author Joanne Rock and I, will be autographing book #2 in our CAMP BOYFRIEND series, CAMP PAYBACK with the Romance Writers of America. I hope you’ll stop by and see us on Friday, May 30th from 9:00-10:00 a.m. at RWA booth #2551. Trust me. Seeing you will be the highlight of my conference 🙂



How Big a Hammer? Is it important for readers to understand your theme?

The topic this week is books with a theme or message…but I just got back from camping, this is due tomorrow, I’ve got a ton of things I need to do…and an old Writing Tip on the subject of theme, so I’m going to resort to (gasp) reposting.  Though if I say so myself, it’s a good tip!

A friend of mine recently submitted his first novel to my critique group, a fantasy with a deeply spiritual theme and lots of symbolism.  He was somewhat distressed when his theme and symbolism were completely invisible to 90% of his readers, and the following discussion raised some interesting questions—and very few definitive answers.

How important is it for a novel to have a theme?

I’d have to say, it depends on what kind of novel you’re writing.  For literary fiction—very important.  For popular fiction, maybe not.  I can think of plenty of popular fiction, that I enjoyed a lot, that had no discernable theme.

But what about Science Fiction, the literature of ideas?  Or fantasy?

My personal take is that having a theme enriches any novel, but it doesn’t always have to show.  Since my books are mostly for kids and young adults the theme is usually pretty clear, though I try not to hit people over the head with it.  At least, not with too big a hammer.  If your thematic hammer is too big, the reader is likely to find the experience painful rather than enlightening—and your story will suffer for it.

I believe that the presence of a theme can greatly enhance a novel without the reader ever knowing it’s there.  It will probably be your theme that determines the choices your character makes, and how he grows.  It gives the novel a feeling of depth, of being “about” something.  As I told my friend, it could well be his understanding of the theme that gives his writing the luminous, stained-glass quality that lifts it out of the ordinary—even while his intended meaning flies right over my head.

I’d like to say that theme is like an underground river.  (That sounds so poetic.)  But actually it’s more like the water table.  It’s an intrinsic part of the structure of the land, influencing the climate, and the flora and fauna.  It pops up in beautiful, unexpected springs that give life to the surrounding territory.  And when the people who know that it’s there tap into it, it brings them healthy, growing crops, not to mention drinking water.  But I drove from Denver to the coast of Oregon last summer—seven days across southern Idaho and down the Columbia River gorge and five days back through the beautiful deserts of Utah and Nevada.  And driving through plains, along rivers, in coastal rain forests and deserts, appreciating the scenery and the ecosystems all along the way…not one single thought of the water table ever so much as crossed my mind.

So I should put down my hammer, and go for hidden water instead?

 Well, it depends on what kind of novel you want to write….

Hilari’s other Writing Tips can be found for free on her website,, or for 99cents wherever ebooks are sold—and she promises not to do this a lot. Really. Well, mostly really.

Death and Change in Hereafter and Thereafter

This month, Scene 13 members are discussing books with a theme. I’d like to use Terri Bruce’s Hereafter and Thereafter for my books. They trace the post-life adventures of Irene Dunphry, who died in a car crash after a night out with her friends. Although Irene held a managerial job when she was alive, she was also shallow and selfish, neglecting her mother and holding no strong passions for anything other than partying. However, as she experiences existence after death, she comes to realize the lost opportunities life represents. But just because she’s no longer living doesn’t mean she’s fixed in that same state for all eternity. As Irene tries to figure out how to move on in the afterlife, she comes to care for people and grow as a heroine, even though she’s not sure how much of Irene will be left once she reaches her final destination. If I had to state the theme for this series (and I obviously have to for this post), it would be that “it’s never too late to change.”

Have you read any books with a similar theme? What types of themes do you like to read about?