ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. - Genre fiction readers: Your next potboiler will likely involve a hurricane.
That's because dozens of indie authors — writers who eschew the traditional publishing world and self-publish directly to sites like Amazon — are gathered at a Hilton hotel outside Orlando, riding out Hurricane Matthew this weekend.
I'm one of those authors. By day, I'm a correspondent for The Associated Press. By night, I'm a romance author. This was supposed to be my week off, and part of my vacation plans involved hanging out at the Altamonte Springs Hilton for three days with dozens of other writers, talking about words and marketing.
But then Hurricane Matthew hit, and I had to switch from fiction to non-fiction.
Like any good piece of fiction, whether it's romance, mystery or western, there must be conflict to drive a story forward — and Hurricane Matthew is providing that for us in spades. Authors and book bloggers and readers travelling from around the country have had to cancel, while others decided to hunker down at the hotel rather than stay in their homes along Florida's Atlantic coast.
"I think after this, there's going to be a glut of hurricane novels," joked Tawdra Kandle, a contemporary romance author and the co-organizer of Indie BookFest, as she quickly ate a bowl of soup before braving traffic and rain to pick up the conference's keynote speaker.
The conference has been planned for months, and everyone's been eagerly anticipating the fun. The Paris-themed party on Friday. The zombie-themed party on Saturday. The days of marketing and business workshops on how to sell books and market your author brand in a crowded field.
Now everyone is wondering if they should have brought extra flashlights and whether they should fill their bathtubs with water so they can flush toilets in case the water is shut off.
"The bellman assured me that this is hurricane-resistant glass," said contemporary romance author Susan Thatcher of St. Augustine, Florida, pointing at the window Thursday afternoon.
Thatcher is looking forward to hanging out with other writers at the bar as the storm rages outside. And she figures there's a captive audience for her books.
"The hotel is full, and the front desk is going to be steering people to us," she said with a grin.
Tony Awtrey, a male author of romantic suspense who also writes under a female pen name, sat at the bar with his two kids. He ordered himself a beer and offered his kids up to help any author with luggage.
Awtrey, who lives in Orlando, brought his wife and kids to the hotel because there's a generator and ice. The worst thing so far, he said, was that he can't get water for the breathing machine that helps with his sleep apnea. Every store he went to was sold out of gallon jugs.
Unlike Thatcher, he hasn't written a hurricane into his story.
"This could be a very inspirational weekend."
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