My head is crammed with information gleaned since the four-hour workshop that kicked off this years’ Bouchercon here in St Pete. I’m only down here in my new second hometown for ten days, most of them gone. I miss my husband, so it’s good I’m going home, even though events conspired to get me here. Last year, at about this time, I thought my book might be out and I could sell it at Bouchercon. I’d heard as many readers as writers come to this event.
First crime novel + Home = Synchronicity.
It seemed too good of a coincidence to pass up. If it all came together, and it did. Just barely. My book came out a few weeks before the conference and I was able to get them into Murder on the Beach bookstore. My sweet little home away from home is always ready for me, all I had to do was book a flight and turn the key. The drive downtown every day was a treat as the conference hotel is on the water. Also, it’s a beautiful venue.
Right away I found out that anyone who wants to can suggest their city for Bouchercon. But if you do, you’re agreeing to do all the work required to set up this massive event. This happened when a was writing in one of the many cozy alcoves at the Vinoy and some people came to join me, asking how I liked the conference so far. Everyone at Bouchercon is very friendly. You really can’t find a quiet corner to write, and why would you want to? People are so interesting and I spend enough time with my characters.
Did I say that I met my friend Marla, who I have known on the internet for many years, IRL for the first time? That was fun. When we shared our schedules, we found that we’d chosen many of the same panels. That’s a big difference at Bouchercon: panels, not workshops, rule. Readers want to hear from their favorite writers, as many of them as possible. There were also interviews with super-popular writers like Karin Slaughter and Denmark’s “Queen of Thriller” Sara Blaedel.
During Sara’s interview, I spotted Lee Child in the room. Just like he was a regular person. Earlier I’d seen Karin Slaughter on a panel where, aside from the occasional wisecrack and one or two anecdotes, she mostly kept her head down. Both Sara and Karin said they were introverts and public speaking didn’t come naturally to them. That explained Karin’s demeanor during the panel, otherwise, you’d never know it. They are both eloquent, inspiring and funny.
My biggest take-away was that almost all the mystery writers, and especially the thriller authors, used at least pieces of true crime stories to springboard off and start writing their novels. I felt comforted by this fact, since my crime novel also has shades of a famous Detroit criminal case. I was just like them!
I’m also introverted, like so many writers. We are most comfortable in our writing chairs, working on stories. Or reading books. That was another common theme that came up over and over again: these world-famous best-selling authors read all the time. Novels, poetry, non-fiction. It was something brought up on every panel. If you want to be a writer, you must be a reader. I already knew that and I read more than I write, so again, something in common.
My biggest personal a-ha was realizing that I was happy not to be famous. I would not have been comfortable up there in the spotlight. One famous author confessed to using beta-blockers, and he got plenty of knowing laughs. Many performers use this medication as it masks the symptoms of stage fright. Musicians particularly can’t play their instruments if their hands are shaking with fear and their head is full of panic. I have used beta-blockers myself for migraine, but found that they are equally effective when I popped one for a migraine before I gave a talk at a library.
I don’t like giving talks. I was a teacher for a long time, so I got used to having workshops ( taught creative writing and literature courses). But the ease of teaching doesn’t translate into feeling comfortable on a stage. So I came away from Bouchercon feeling that my own writing career is working out just fine for me. Would I love a million dollar contract, like Karen Dionne (fellow Detroit area writer, who won Best Novel award for The Marsh King’s Daughter) or Michael Connelly (also in attendance) or any of the other stars? Sure. But I’m also fine as I am, and I am for sure not holding my breath.