This past weekend, I had the pleasure of traveling down the New Jersey Turnpike into Maryland with the lovely and talented Laura Bradford to the annual Malice Domestic convention. (And for any of you ‘80s-music devotees out there, does anyone else think of The Jam song, “A Town Called Malice”? I do.) As always, it was a wonderful time, filled with the nicest mystery writers and the most wonderful readers, people who are so devoted to the genre as to have encyclopedic knowledge of every book every written, it would seem.
Laura and I couldn’t be more compatible as roommates: she likes the room cold like I do, goes to bed early like I do, and is always willing to listen to my latest hare-brained idea concerning a new book or plot twist. Oh, and she loves pretzels, just like I do! I couldn’t have asked for a better person to share the experience with, right down to our delightful Burger King meal at a rest stop on the Turnpike, which she managed to make enjoyable.
Sara J. Henry, a debut novelist who won the Mary Higgins Clark Award—an award for which I was a judge—at the Edgars prior to the convention for her novel LEARNING TO SWIM, also won the Agatha for Best First Novel. If you haven’t read this book, get it. It’s fantastic. It begins with a woman on a ferry who sees a little boy being thrown overboard and it takes off from there. A fantastic read.
I was on a panel that was geared toward sports-related mysteries, a result of my last book—PHYSICAL EDUCATION—being set in the world of women’s college basketball. Alan Orloff made a fine moderator—or shall we say “referee”—for the panel which included Beth Groundwater, Sasscer Hill, and Laura DiSilverio. Although I didn’t have much to say about my less-than-illustrious CYO basketball career, I was able to relive the moment that I hit a walk-off grand slam in our town’s softball playoffs. Good times.
Laura crafted a panel moderated by Aimee Hix that exposed the “dirty little secrets” that writers have including who they model their murder victims on, what the eat when they are on deadline, and how they come up with their ideas. For the record, my answers: 1) no one you know (not that I would ever tell); 2) pretzels; 3) while driving.
If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times: writing is a solitary, sometimes lonely profession. To be around five hundred people who all love the same thing—mystery—is exhilarating and fulfilling. I leave Malice every year energized to finish that first draft or start something new and to everyone who attended and contributed to that feeling, I say “thank you.”