The BLUSSH Romance Festival Romances Readers

March 1, 2024

Love was in the air from February 22nd to 25 th right here in my hometown of Brisbane with the advent of the new BLUSSH Romance Festival. She Society knew we were in for a treat as soon as we arrived at the impressive Angelika Film Centre at South City SQ for Opening Night, which was filled with well dressed filmmakers, actors, authors, film buffs, social media influencers and all kinds of lovers of love. Under the sparkling chandelier, surrounded by colourful film murals, guests supped on champagne and signature Mymosas before heading into two full cinemas to enjoy a meal from Los Felix and share in an advanced screening of romance comedy, One Perfect Match.

The BLUSSH Romance Festival is the brainchild of Kylie Pascoe and Sue – Anne Chapman who had a strong desire to bring together their love of films and books under one festival umbrella. The fact that Queensland are producing more romance films and publishing more romance books than anywhere in Australia was the catalyst.

In only two months these powerhouses managed to source an array of films, contact local romance authors and produce a kind and all – encompassing festival where everyone was welcomed warmly.

A diverse range of rom coms, from classics to more recent releases and premieres were playing throughout the weekend, with this writer delightedly taking in every author talk at the festival and even being proudly invited to speak on an author panel. I may have bought home a stack of new books from the convenient pop-up bookshop manned by Kat, owner of Wooloowin’s bespoke bookshop, Shelflovers.

On Friday I attended the On Fridays, We Read Fantasy panel where fantasy romance authors, H.M Hodgson and Stacey McEwan shared a snapshot of their genre with experienced moderator and outstanding local rom com author, Ally Blake. These roman-tasy writers shared the creation of their unique worlds peppered with mythological creatures, winged Adonis’ and enchanting magic and mermaids.

H.M Hodgson delivers her spicy romance with a dash of magic and intrigue. Throughout her ten published books magic moves her readers to another world. She is best known for her Relics & Legends trilogy. This urban – fantasy trilogy tells of a rogue witch, Evangeline, looking for a missing relic with the help of sexy investigator, Raph Smith. Look out for her beautiful hard bound collectible books. Hodgson told us she has always enjoyed creating enchanted worlds and left the corporate world to pursue a full-time writing career. She has self published her books but will soon have two titles coming out with British publisher, Wild Rose Press.

Stacey McEwan is a former primary teacher from the Gold Coast who began creating book videos during the pandemic. These took off and she now has a huge following. Her followers begged her to write down her story ideas and her debut fantasy romance trilogy Glacian was born. The first book, published in November 2023 is Ledge, a story of survival, sacrifice and revenge. McEwan writes these spicy romantic fantasies for Penguin books. You can find Stacey @stacebookspace Saturday saw a panel on Progressive Prose which shared inspiration from a new writer, ME, an emerging queer romance author, Jordan Clayden – Lewis and the established author of 49 books in the historical romance genre, Anna Campbell. We were expertly moderated by Andrea Lewis from Gold Coast Storyfest.

My story It Happened in Paris is inspired by travel and is a contemporary romance. It tells of the love story between Australian archaeologist Crimson and French businessman Jean Luc. Filled with food, fashion and history it shares many of my favourite things. These two lovers are hindered by cultural differences, a fiery ex – girlfriend and a meddling mother. I write the types of books that I love to read and my own travel journals are never far from my side as I write. My stories are published by Serenade Publishing, which is a boutique publisher based on the Sunshine Coast. I shared my thoughts on romance writing, my novel arc, path to publication and writing process with our audience.

Jordan Clayden – Lewis is published by Canadian press, Deep Desires. His debut novel When Things Happen Together tells the story of two travellers on the ultimate Australian road trip. British traveller Thomas meets Bruce and the more time this pair spend together, the more they start seeing the numbers 1122. Are the numbers a coincidence or is something greater at play? Is Bruce really who he says he is or is there more to him than he’s letting on? This adventure shows these men seizing then day and embracing love. Jordan’s second novel Such a Small World will be out mid year.

Anna Campbell needs no introduction as Australia’s Queen of Regency Romance. Anna only started writing at the age of forty – five and has an impressive array of romance books and novellas. Her dashing dukes, ladies and lords hold her readers captive in sizzling scenes with stories full of history and adventure. Anna says her books develop organically and are the types of stories she has always loved. Anna’s books have won many awards, and she will soon publish her 50th novel; The Last Duke She’d Marry. I’m sure champagne will be popped in celebration.

Sunday brought us the fabulous Amy Andrews in a conversation with 4BC’s Olivia Kwitowski titled, ALL LOVED UP. Sipping on mimosas these two talents discussed Amy’s writing career: her journey from paediatric nurse to author of over 80 + novels. Amy began by writing medical romance before branching out into many genres including contemporary, sports, sexy, small town and even a quirky ghost story. She is a USA TODAY bestselling author who has won many awards and is a lifetime member of the Romance Writers of Australia.

I was pleased to hear that Amy is what we in the writing world call a ‘pantser’ as opposed to a ‘plotter’. She writes in a linear fashion and sees scenes in her head. (This is exactly the process I follow). She began writing during a long London winter. It took her twelve years to be published by Mills and Boon and since then her workload has been prolific. Today she writes for many imprints. Amy now lives in beachside Yeppoon and is known for her kindness in mentoring and helping other writers, so much so she has her own course, How to Write Love, with three other very experienced romance authors.

The main takeaways from all of these writers are to be a good writer you must read and of course you must write. Learn your craft, join writing groups and join writing organisations like the Queensland Writers Centre and Romance Writers of Australia. Stay true to your authentic writing voice and look for opportunities to write and seek out publishers who align with you.

You never know, next year it could be YOU sharing your stories at the annual BLUSSH Romance Festival. This author simply can’t wait to do it all again. If you want to learn more, you can follow BLUSSH Romance Festival and Romance Club. It’s for all the lovers, the dreamers and the creatives, of which Queensland has many. BLUSSH Romance Festival was a fabulous celebration of love and kindness and I think all who attended flitted home with a rosy hued glow. It was enough to make you blush with joy.