by Kay Kendall
Five years ago I left my public relations career of three decades and devoted myself to writing full-time. I thought I knew what this would be like, but I was so wrong. My expectation was that my life would be solitary, with little outside contact. My world would shrink and my conversations grow few and far between—held mostly with my husband, my dog Wills, and our three house rabbits. Well…wrongo!
Instead, my friend list—both real and virtual—has multiplied like crazy. I converse with new people all the time and have never been happier. Sure, I do spend hours in what I fondly call my writer’s lair, dreaming up mystery plots and scheming villains. But when I need a break, I go online and talk to my virtual friends all over the continent or attend an author’s event. If it’s my own, I hang out with my readers, and if it’s for other writers, I talk to writers I admire.
I don’t know if this is true for authors who write in categories other than mystery/thrillers, but in this genre, the writers are fantastically warm and welcoming. I expected the readers to be generous, but the friendliness of other mystery authors was a wonderful surprise.
A case in point was a signing event last night at Houston’s great Murder by the Book. T. Jefferson Parker talked about his latest novel, FULL MEASURE. He has written twenty acclaimed mysteries over the course of his thirty-year writing career, and I’ve read and enjoyed many of them. I first met him at the annual ThrillerFest conference held by International Thriller Writers each July in New York City. That was in 2013 when my debut mystery was released. We shared experiences of writing a book with the Vietnam War as a background. I talked to him again at ThrillerFest in 2014, introducing myself again because I didn't expect him to remember me, even though we had emailed a few times. He said, “Of course I remember you, Kay.”
His opening words at last night’s event were, “Great to see you, Kay.” Well, if one of your writing heroes says that, of course your sense of well-being soars. We talked about books, and he shared the genesis of his new book, his first literary novel. A young Marine returns from hard duty in Afghanistan to find his America riven by discord and his family farm under threat from the economic collapse of 2008. I’m eager to read what this wonderful author has to say on these important subjects. (He is only one of three writers who've won more than one Edgar Award.)
Some of my new friends are writers on this blog. As a matter of fact, I am a participant because Linda Rodriguez invited me into the Stiletto Gang after I met her just briefly. Gang member Majorie Brody and I did a book tour together in Alabama and met another gang member at Killer Nashville a few months ago, Debra H. Goldstein. So far other gang members are online friends whom I hope to meet some day soon. Again, mystery authors are wonderful! My life is now quite literally a dream come true.
Lest you think it’s this way with all groups of writers, I hear it is NOT so! A mystery novelist on a Bouchercon panel a few years ago said he often went to meetings with his wife, a poet, and when poets gather, it gets downright chilly, and even vicious. Therefore he was stunned at his first attendance at Bouchercon to find all the mystery authors so welcoming. That was my first Bouchercon too, and I had just put my toe into the big ocean of mystery authors. I can’t speak for poets (Linda Rodriguez can though), but I guarantee you, mystery/thriller authors are wonderful people.
Have you had similar experiences with mystery authors or readers? I hope you have, and if so, I'd love to hear your tales. Please share.