Two weeks ago I attended my first Bouchercon, a convention named for one of its founders, Anthony Boucher. For those of you who have never heard of Bouchercon, it’s a volunteer-driven convention focusing on mystery and suspense novels and thrillers. Since it is a convention that attracts both writers and readers (and most, like me, a combination of the two), I thought I’d divide up my impressions into what I got out of this almost fifty-year-old gathering.
One of the highlights of attending for me as a writer was a revolving ‘panel’ of writers not participating in other panels. The panel was known as the “Continuous Conversation.” I wasn’t sure what to expect when I was scheduled, but it turned out to be a pleasure to be interviewed by the moderator with one other author for almost an hour. (A couple of authors skipped their slots which allowed me to stay a little longer.) We ended up with a small but enthusiastic group who heard us talk about what inspires us, where we get our stories, the value of workshops for us, and other topics.
Several workshops, too many for me to attend them all, dealt with craft—setting, research, social media, and, apt for a mystery conference, crime scene investigation. Markets were discussed on several panels. I’m not currently a reader of “cozies,” mysteries with less edge and absent of gruesome violence, but I learned that food related cozy mysteries are very popular and demand is good.
One of my favorite sessions was on “Corsets and Crime,” a panel made up of writers of historical mysteries. Many of the panel members—Tasha Alexander, Laurie King, Lyndsay Faye, C.S. Harris, Deanna Raybourne, and Susanne Calkins—are historians or very adept at historical research. A couple of the useful tips for someone writing fiction came out of this panel. Laurie King, known for her bestselling novels of Mary Russell and her husband, Sherlock Holmes, said her strategy was to research only as much as she needed to know to draft the novel, then fill in the blanks. Authors should avoid being drawn into the “research vortex,” when the research becomes so interesting they can’t stop themselves. Several panel members confessed to having to struggle against this, especially when historical research is part of their training. I not only learned how successful authors of historical mysteries do it, I found some new authors whose books I look forward to reading.
I have a police procedural sitting in a drawer and I’d like to take it out someday and revise it for possible publication. Unfortunately, the only disappointing session I attended was one on weapons. I’d expected to hear about different weapons and how an investigator investigates their use, but I didn’t receive much information on this topic in the workshop.
I’m happy to be on the volunteer committee of the 2019 Bouchercon in Dallas, the 50th anniversary of the convention. This meant that I spent some time staffing the Bouchercon table, and will order session downloads of some of the sessions I missed. I’m looking forward to our opportunity here in Dallas to take on this convention that has become an institution. We’re already in the process of planning, and hope it will continue to be an opportunity for writers as well as readers to find plenty that enhances their work.