Romance Rocks Presents…


On Saturday 9th August on Track E, Session 1, Jenn J McLeod shares Small Town Twists and Secrets.

We’ve heard it said: “There are no new plots, just twists on well-loved tropes.” So, what can a writer do to put their own twist on a tried and true plot to make their small town secrets story a standout? With this in mind, I set out to study what makes the marriage of small towns and secrets so popular with readers (and therefore publishers). In 2010 I built a brand around small towns and finished my first novel about small towns keeping big secrets.

Your Presenter – Jenn J McLeod

Extraordinarily ordinary #countrypubdweller who (somehow) secured a four-book contract with Simon & Schuster!

Have you presented sessions at previous conferences, for RWA or other organisations? jennjmcleod_fence_web
I delivered a small version of Small Town Secrets at the 2013 Bellingen Writers Festival.
I love sharing what I’ve learned with others and this topic is very close to my heart. For me, stories about small towns and secrets are like wine and crackers – they go down so well together! Add a book and it’s happy hour heaven for me. Like wine, there are ways to infuse your story with secrets and, like your favourite mixer, adding a twist can make the experience just perfect. Developing my “small town secrets” platform was integral to securing my contract.

What will participants take away from this session?
Learn the secret to a good secret, the ways to use secrets in fiction, and what a writer can do to put their own twist on a tried and true plot by exploring:
• What makes small town stories thrive and what makes them die.
• The importance of authenticity.
• The secret to a good secret and ways to use secrets in fiction.

Which members will benefit most from this session?
Primarily focused on aspiring authors who want to avoid small town traps and clichés when plotting/writing, the information will be relevant to other writers. IMPORTANTLY: my use of the term ‘Small town’ is not solely for the remote and dusty setting. This session will be just as relevant for any fictional group dynamic (eg the small community on the coast, the sleepy out of the way town that sits quietly on a lazy river, a city suburb, or a crammed cul-de-sac. Think Wisteria Lane!)

What is the best part/aspect of conference for you?
The hugs, the buzz, the chaos of catch-ups with old and new online friends (and realising none of us look like our profile pictures!) But this year? Being a ridgy-didge author and attending the book signing alongside my peers.

Any advice for conference first-timers? Simmering-Season-Jenn-J-McLeod-lge-195x300
I know most people are busy preparing for their ‘elevator pitch’. Well, one must also be prepared for the ‘elevator hug’. (That moment you step inside the lift and discover the person you are sharing the space with is someone you’ve been dying to meet.) My first conference, first elevator hug experience, was Melbourne 2011. Right, Helene Young? *wink*

What is your latest/current/upcoming book release and where can members find out more about you?
Simmering Season – The prefect storm is heading Maggie Lindeman’s way and it will blow the lid off a lifetime of secrets. Visit to find out more about my Seasons Collection of four books, to be released by Simon & Schuster.

More Session Info:

  • Beverly Eikli and Bronwyn Parry – A Lady’s Wardrobe Unlocked: Cloth and clothing in Georgian Times

Follow a day in the life of a Lady, exploring the cloth she uses for sleeping, bathing, dining and furnishings, and the layers of clothing and dressing procedures at different stages of her day. Take your historical detail to the next level with authors Beverley Eikli and Bronwyn Parry – also costume and textile historians – as they uncover some little known facts about cloth and clothing in the Georgian era. Dressed in costumes of the period, they’ll explore the Lady’s Wardrobe to reveal the many layers of clothing required by the fashionable lady, and also discuss the Linen Room and other textiles of the townhouse and castle.

  • Rachel Bailey – Conflict: The Key To Your Romance NovelRachelBailey_CounteringHisClaim

The workshop will focus on the creation of strong, believable internal and external conflict between romance heroes and heroines, maintaining that conflict through layering, reinforcing and deepening, then resolving the conflict believably without either character losing or being anti-climactic. Examples will be analyzed from both books and movies and broken down into elements that will be easy to apply in participants’ own work.Create, maintain and resolve the internal and external conflict in your romance novel.

  • Maisey Yates and Jackie Ashenden: It’s Not Just About Ripping Bodices

Learn to write loves scenes that readers just can’t skim. A good love scene should be about more than Tab A into Slot B, or there purely for titillation’s sake. It should be integral to the romance, changing the way the characters interact with each other, complicating the plot and deepening the conflict. It should be a scene that you can’t remove from the book without losing the character’s emotional arc, just as you can’t interchange it with another. Like a support beam in a house, it should hold up the structure and if removed would cause the whole thing to fall down.

  • Christina Brooke – All About Character

Make your characters memorable using techniques every writer should know. Romance novels are all about character and how the hero and heroine interact, grow and change through falling in love. Create wonderful characters and you’re more than half way to writing a fantastic romance that editors and readers want to buy. Join Christina Brooke as she analyzes what makes great romance characters and provides practical exercises to make your characters stronger and more memorable.

  • Professor Karl Roberts – Psychological Warfare

Stalking, psychopathy, domestic violence – learn about the traits and quirks of the darker personalities, and how they can be caught.

Missed any Conference info? Check the RWA Website for more:



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