Please welcome LISA REGAN, author of Finding Claire Fletcher!
In October, I attended my very first writers conference in Cleveland, Ohio. Bouchercon, or the Anthony Boucher Memorial World Mystery Convention is named after writer, editor and reviewer, Anthony Boucher. Pronounced boucher rhymes with groucher, as in Oscar the Grouch.
|Besties Lisa Regan and Nancy S. Thompson at the BoucherCon |
The most special part of this conference for me actually had little to do with all the wonderful things offered by the conference. For the first time, I got to meet my best friend and fellow thriller writer, Nancy S. Thompson. We met online in 2010 through Nathan Bransford’s forums. We were both looking for critique partners. I instantly fell in love with Nancy’s book, The Mistaken -- even in early drafts it was quite amazing. After a few months of critiquing each others’ books, we parted ways, and I found that I really missed getting emails from Nancy. So I dropped her a line to see how she was doing. The rest, as they say, is history. We became very close through email, then Facebook, then texting and talking on the phone. We are in contact on an almost daily basis, and Nancy has become one my closest and most treasured friends. We live on opposite ends of the country, and Bouchercon was our chance to meet for the first time. It was epic. We had the best time. We roomed together and got along in person as easily as we do via text and internet!
I also got to meet my writing idol, international bestseller Karin Slaughter. I babbled like an idiot! I’ve been reading Slaughter’s books since she started writing. She is what I aspire to as a writer. Meeting her was pretty incredible even though I was completely incoherent and the whole thing only lasted about ten seconds. I only wish I had been less nervous and more collected. I also got to meet a lot of amazing writers that I’ve long been a fan of like John Connolly, Jennifer Hillier, Meg Gardiner and Linwood Barclay. Every single one of them was warm, kind and welcoming. Even super, mega-bestselling authors are just really nice people. It was very exciting!
What I really loved was being surrounded by so many like-minded people. Other writers who just “got” it. What I didn’t realize was that Bouchercon is open to readers of the mystery/thriller genre as well as writers. Readers came out in droves. Many of them belong to book clubs or work in bookstores. In fact, I met a group of fabulous ladies from my own neighborhood who belong to book clubs in my area! A couple of them live just a few blocks from me. We hung out with them a lot while we were there, and a few of them promised to come to the Finding Claire Fletcher launch party on the Sixth!
Another very exciting part of being at Bouchercon was that Nancy and I got to speak on a New Author Panel since both our novels were being released this year. One of my blogging buddies, the incomparable Mark Pryor was also on the panel. The New Author panel was an honor, but it was also quite nerve-wracking. There were roughly fifteen of us, and they scheduled the panel for very early in the morning. We didn’t even realize we had to get up and speak at a podium until we got there. We had originally thought it was a meet and greet. Lucky for Nancy and I, both our last names are near the end of the alphabet so we had some time to mentally prepare for our 2 minutes of speaking time. We both got up and talked about our books. We weren’t sure anyone would attend the panel since it was so early in the morning but there was a decent turnout. We were certainly in amazing company.
The best writing tip I got was one I heard on the What a Thrill panel and it came from Linwood Barclay. He basically said that if you want readers to connect to your main character, you’ve got to make the character a regular person. Make them worried about the same things that your readers worry about. Keeping their job, raising their kids, dealing with in-laws, etc. Put them in the same mundane situations that your readers are in all the time. This way the readers can identify immediately with your main character. When you want to raise the stakes, put someone or something your main character cares deeply about in jeopardy—and make sure it’s something a majority of readers will relate to. Children, for example. Any parent can relate to the terror of their child being in jeopardy. Job stress. Many people can relate to a fear of being fired or losing their income. This was interesting since it is exactly this quality about his books that draws me in again and again.
In terms of advice on attending a conference, I have two tips:
You must have swag! Luckily, I had had postcards made to send to friends and family that featured my book cover, blurb, website address, etc. to give out to people or leave out for people to take. All throughout the hotel there were tables covered with peoples’ bookmarks, postcards, brochures and other creative promotional materials used to market their books. I spent a great deal of time at these tables and went home with a big stack of materials that featured books now on my TBR list. So if you’ve got a book coming out, don’t go to a conference without some kind of swag to hand out or leave around. Also, a business card is a good idea to give to other writers you may want to reconnect with after the conference.
The hotel bar is where it’s at! Not because writers are a bunch of lushes, just because believe it or not, amongst their own kind, writers are very social beings. Everyone congregated at the hotel bar hung around well into the night. It’s also a good idea to stay at the hotel where the conference is being held. This way, if you’re hoping to run into your idol or just other like-minded writers (or agents or editors), you’re likely to run into one of them on the elevator or at the bar.
All in all it was quite an amazing experience. I hope to do it again in 2013!
Thank you Lisa!