Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Musings on Malice and Mystery

Well, the Northern half of Evelyn David and I are back and I’m happy to report that we had a fabulous weekend. Even the food at the banquet was good…not rubber chicken! (It actually might have been, but I was so hungry at that point that I was ready to gnaw off my own arm.)

Since this was my first Malice, I didn’t know what to expect and as you know, faithful readers of the Stiletto Gang, I was expecting the worst. I had convinced myself that it would be a cross between high school and the prison rec yard in terms of the welcome that I would receive as a first-time conventioneer. Nothing could have been further from the truth. The writers and the fans were warm, encouraging, and delightful to talk to. I made several new friends and promise to keep in touch. But the best thing of all about attending was that I got re-energized about writing and about getting further into my fifth book about Alison Bergeron, something I was hoping would happen while I was away.

Mystery fans are a devoted lot, I must say. They know their books, their authors, the characters, and the plot lines. I am awe of how much these people know about series—where they began, where they are going, where they might have ended—and how loyal they are as readers. Evelyn David and I had a long conversation about what authors owe their readers and decided that we didn’t really know. What happens when you kill off a major character? What does that do to your readership? Does it matter? Maybe. I write my books attempting to stay true to the characters and their lives. But, I do give a lot of thought—if not to what the fans might say—but to just how real-life a certain plot point might be or what a certain action will do to the arc of the series. I guess part of that thought process, maybe subconsciously, takes into account what the fans might think. I know that there are successful authors who have killed off a fan favorite and heard about it from their readership. I don’t know if that has affected the writing they do now, but I do know that it probably affected them in terms of the criticism they had to endure.

But I digress. I also had the pleasure of sitting on a panel with Parnell Hall, Rhys Bowen, and Carole Nelson Douglas; we were charge with appearing as our main character, in costume. Well, if you have read the Alison Bergeron series and know anything about me, it is that Alison and I are pretty similar when it comes to what we wear. Evelyn suggested that I appear in a hockey jersey, an homage to Alison’s love of the game. When I got to the panel, I could see that clearly I was out of my league. Parnell was dressed as Cora Felton, aka the Puzzle Lady; Rhys was in a ball gown, blonde wig, and tiara, dressed as Georgie, cousin of King George V of England; and Carole was in black feathers from head to toe, impersonating her feline protagonist, Midnight Louie. I was clearly out of my league. (Evelyn knew it, too. I could tell by the look on her face.) I decided to play the straight man. There was no way I could compete with this crowd. It worked out pretty well, and although I didn’t get the guffaws that my panel-mates did, I think I held my own.

Future promotional activities include a speaking engagement at my alma mater; two bookstore signings with Evelyn; and perhaps a trip to Bouchercon (I’m still deciding on that one). But I’ve left the attic, dear friends. And in the immortal words of Nina Simone, “I am feeling good.”

Maggie Barbieri

4 comments:

  1. I knew you could hold your own on that panel as soon as you announced that you didn't like onions!


    Evelyn

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  2. Sounds like a big success all around. GOOD!

    All I can picture when you write about what you/any writer owe a reader is you, Mags, in a summer-stock stage production (or, perhaps a film "re-imagining"?) of "Misery". You'd be in the Jimmy Caan role, in much prettier form. Maybe you would have been out skating or on your way to a hockey game when you have an accident. Or, wait, you take a puck to the head and pass out, only to wake up in the care of a Murder 101 series version of Annie Wilkes! What sort of animal named "Alison" would YOUR "number one fan" have, hm??!!

    Wah-hah-hah-hah-hah . . . .

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  3. I can't imagine having to dress like one of my characters unless it be the mother of Stacey Wilbur in No Sanctuary. I'm far older than any of them. Of course if Parnell Hall can dress like a woman, I guess I could do most anything.

    Malice is a great conference, went twice and loved it. Next one for me is Mayhem which is one of my very favorites.

    So glad you had such a great time.

    Marilyn a.k.a. F. M. Meredith

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