Our own WW Lady, Michelle, is the Cub Reporter today who attended the Love is Murder Conference in Chicago. Michelle also works part time at Barnes and Noble.
In lieu of the written page I spent the weekend with the creators of whose worlds I lose myself in so often. It started with a panel on How to Write and Maintain a Series Character. Tasha Alexander explained her novels have two stories, the story that is the plot and the story of the character. As a series goes along you learn more about your characters. Joe Finder talked of how character transformations are different in a series versus a stand alone. In a standalone the hero’s life is completely transformed, series characters evolve over time. July Hyzy talked of how a series is propelled by what the character is striving for, almost like the series continues because the characters haven’t gotten to where they want to be yet.
Next was a lively Author Chat moderated by Libby Fischer Hellmann. Libby’s book Doubleback was a book I blurbed on last year which sparked conversation of her new release Set the Night on Fire. Jon Land, who is on the board of Thriller Fest in New York, talked passionately about scene development and the process of writing. He believes that he is not writing to the conscious mind, but to the reader’s imagination. He shared the advice he got from his editor once, “Every scene you write, know where the light is coming from, that is how you will write your scene.” Shane Gericke talked of visualizing exactly what he is writing as if it is real life. Being able to see, hear, taste and smell the scene helps with his descriptions.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has been such a literary sensation that I just had to go to the Librarian Book Discussion with Monique Flasch, Susan Gibberman, Marlene Leonardi and Patricia Ruocco. Questions of morality were the topics as the book’s main character is a computer hacker. Can a hacker have morals? The reader starts to justify the actions of the heroine, but the reality of people other than Big Brother watching us certainly leaves one wondering what is really safe in cyberspace.
The afternoon concluded with a discussion led by Rhys Bowen who has won numerous
awards including the Edgar and the Agatha. Rhys talked of reading a Tony Hillerman novel some years ago which inspired her “to write what I like to read, a story that takes you some place.” She shared how she experienced Ellis Island and the emotional overload she felt, “A place that has known great joy and great sorrow. I wanted to get a feel of this in a book.” Thus began her Molly Murphy series. A very inspiring and successful author who shared that “you have to get it right” when researching for novels. She admits that only 1/10 of what she researches makes it into a book, but the fact that she knows the other 9/10 makes it a stronger book.
After dinner we retired to the hotel bar where we laughed and enjoyed the company of Libby Hellmann and Deb Brod. We met Jon Jordan the publisher and editor of Crimespree Magazine, which happens to be produced in my home town of Milwaukee.
On Saturday, the morning began with a youth fiction round table that included Jennifer Turner, Keir Graff, Claudia Whitsitt, Kathleen Ernst, Amy Alessio, B.A. Binns, Albert Bell and F. Paul Wilson as the moderator. Young adult fiction has become very popular so the question of why do you write YA generated a vast amount of discussion. Albert shared that he enjoyed reading with his kids when they were younger which led to his interest in writing YA. Paul wanted to write something his grandson could read so he took his Repairman Jack character and started writing about him when he was 14, leading to the present day man in his series. B.A. writes for the “reluctant reader.” She feels that her protagonists can have a lot of problems in the stories because young people get that people have problems and don’t mind reading it. Claudia spent 31 years as a special education teacher and talked of the kids that find reading difficult or who are reluctant. They are the ones will identify with the characters and there is a healing that occurs for them. Kier talked of respecting the intelligence of kids at any age. Jennifer’s son begged her to write something he would read which started her endeavor into YA.
So what logically follows a YA discussion? Yep! Sex and Death! Sherrill Bodine, Laura
Caldwell, Patricia Rosemoor, J.L. Wilson delved into their world of sex and intrigue while a sometimes tongue tied Tom Schreck tried to dig deeper into their erotic undertakings. Ann explained that sex and violence needs to change the story, otherwise it doesn’t work. She talked of there needing to be an “emotional crescendo.” Patricia, author of 89 novels admits that writing sex scenes are emotional and that she needs to be in a certain mood to write them. Sherrill goes as far as champagne, chocolate and low lights to set her mood. All the ladies agreed there is a difference between love scenes and sex scenes.
The theme continued with a panel discussion of Naughty in History with Tasha Alexander, Rhys Bowen, Francis McNamara, Sarah Wisseman, and D.M. Pirrone as moderator. Discussion started with how a writer needs to know the rules of the time. Tasha, whose novels take place in the Victorian Era, notes that people often married for business and had affairs which were discreet but acceptable. Rhys who writes in Edwardian times talked of King Edward having numerous mistresses and his only rule was they had to be married. This way if there was a child conceived it wasn’t an issue. Ottoman women were found to use the items of their oppression (veil) to gain freedom. It was easy to meet a lover in public because no one could see their face. The panel also discussed the social attitudes and language changes over time and how important it is to get the information accurate as a reader will be easily turned off by a discrepancy.
After lunch it was on to thrills and Horror: How to get the Oh! No! Marcus Sakey talked of his love of making the lives of his characters bad, beating them up and then making their lives even worse. He tells the story in two parts, what happened before the bad thing, and what happens after the bad thing. In his writing of the ‘bad guy,” he doesn’t feel they think of themselves as bad guys, it’s their willingness to go through anyone to get what they want which is the pure evil. F. Paul Wilson talked from a series standpoint that the reader knows the main character will survive, so you need to build other characters to have bad things happen to. Jamie Freveletti shared that she will be writing under a cover of the Robert Ludlum Estate and working within their framework.
James Strauss was the guest speaker at the Love is Murder Tea and he had me wondering just how far of a reach does Big Brother have. Having experience with the CIA and writing espionage thrillers his words are compelling. He was a writer on the HBO series Deadwood, now writes for the TV show House and three years ago wanted to become a novelist. He shared with the audience his prediction for the future of books, eBooks and marketing. To resist technology, a writer won’t be successful. He talked of making yourself findable with Facebook and Twitter. He predicts that storytelling isn’t going away and that people will continue to pay for stories, it is about how to reach the readers that will impact a writer’s success. His other tidbit for success was to be entertaining, and entertaining he was!
The evening ended up with Those Were the Days Radio Players doing a live performance of Old Time Radio. Then J.A. Konrath hosted Quiz the Stars. He stumped the panel of authors by reading passages from their novels and seeing who knew their own work. F. Paul Wilson is still convinced he didn’t name a character Mackenzie.
The conference was a wonderful experience. The passion they have for their work is so inspiring, as well as their perseverance.
Bottom Line: The insight of the authors is invaluable and I will take the memories with me.