Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Armchair BEA 2015: Introduction

I'm delighted to participate in Armchair BEA 2015. For those who are unfamiliar with Armchair BEA, it's the web-based conference for those who can't go to New York City for Book Expo America, which is a massive book exposition and conference. Armchair BEA has developed into a vibrant online event in its own right. (See FAQ for more deets.)

Per today's theme, here's my intro. If you're participating in Armchair BEA, please link your intro in the comments so I may be sure to say hi!

In brief: I'm Audra. I'm in my mid-30s and I live in the Boston area with my wife and now 6 month old baby. I do communications work for a liberal religious organization.

When I'm not reading, I enjoy knitting and tarot (like books, I'm a tarot deck hoarder!). I'm at work on a historical novel set in the 1850s during the Bleeding Kansas conflict.

What is your favorite genre and why?

One of my favorite genres is historical fiction, which is pretty apparent from this blog. It's a genre I've loved since I was a child -- Island of the Blue Dolphins, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, the Vesper Holly books -- and it's been a pleasure to become more involved with the genre through my blogging and the Historical Novel Society.

But I'm also a huge fan of classic noir -- Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Dorothy B. Hughes -- as well as modernist lit -- Djuna Barnes, Virginia Woolf, H.D. -- although neither genre appears much on my blog these days, sadly.

What does diversity mean to you?

I've been really excited by the We Need Diverse Books campaign and the conversations being had by bloggers about diversity in reading and publishing. Almost a decade ago, I made a commitment to focus on reading women over men, and accomplished that easily -- but my reading remained rather white and European/North American. My goal is to read more authors of color this year and to be more intentional about the books I'm reading.

While historical fiction can seem very white and European/North American, there's a growing interest in telling stories of people and populations outside "the norm". In 2013, I was part of a panel at the Historical Novel Society US conference that discussed historical fiction "off the beaten path". We lifted up hist fic that took place in unusual eras or featured non-traditional locales and characters and assembled (with lots of help) a list of releases that hit some of those notes.

I think it's important to encourage and support diversity in reading and publishing. Books save lives, and people need to be able to see themselves in their reading. Some experiences are universal, true, but there's something magical about opening a book and seeing a part of yourself in the narrative.

What book are you most looking forward to reading this summer?

I'm looking forward one million reads, including Kate Forsyth's The Wild Girl, Nalo Hopkinson's Falling in Love with Hominids, Patricia Park's Re Jane, and Chantal Thomas's The Exchange of Princesses.

How about you -- what are you most looking forward to?


  1. You had me at Tarot. I am quite intrigued by Tarot readings.
    Happy ABEA!

  2. It seems like a long time since I've read any historical fiction. Nothing like a good historical fiction chunkster!

    Enjoy ABEA!

  3. That's interesting about your novel. I have read several about Bleeding Kansas in the past two years. It's an interesting subject.

  4. I love Tarot cards too. I keep meaning to actually learn how to use them, but so far haven't. But some of the decks being made are so gorgeous! I have a few variations and I like to pull them out just to look at the beautiful artwork.

  5. How did I not know your novel was set in Bleeding Kansas!?!? Even more excited now as a sixth-generation Kansan:-)