Saturday, October 13, 2012

Road Trips to the Mysterious Midwest


Our weekend guest is Brenda Chapman. Welcome Brenda!

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I have just returned from Cleveland, Ohio and Bouchercon 2012, the American mystery author and fan convention that draws nearly 1500 people from across the continent and the British Isles. This is my second time attending – four years ago, I made the trip to Baltimore where I participated on a writer panel and spent hours being entertained by some best-selling authors that included Harlan Coben, Lee Child, Laura Lippman, John Connolly, Mark Billingham and John Harvey.

I have to confess, I’d never read any of their books and wasn’t even all that familiar with the majority of their names, but four days of listening to them talk about their lives and writing got me hooked. I returned home eager to dive into their books, and soon broadened my mystery-reading horizons. If I am anything to go by, mystery conferences are a worthwhile venture for authors.

The thing that amazed me most at the Baltimore Bouchercon was the fan fervor. During panel Q and A sessions, readers in the audience spoke confidently about characters, plots and settings and asked pointed questions of the authors, sometimes quoting dialogue or discussing motivation as if they know the characters intimately. Some even cited page numbers. These were diehard readers, the likes of which I’d never seen before. By all accounts, Cleveland and the American Midwest is a mystery-reading hub with readers equally if not more knowledgeable, if that's even possible.

I had a small taste of this passion a few years ago when I drove to Muncie, Indiana for a Magna Cum Murder with Mary Jane Maffini at the end of October. En route, we stopped for an event at the Cuyahoga County Public Library, South Euclid-Lyndhurst Branch to be specific, just outside of Cleveland. Before our readings, five or six of the librarians took us for dinner at a very good Indian restaurant. The discussion was warm and interesting – their enthusiasm for us as mystery writers and their love of books put us completely at ease – and they really knew their mysteries.

The library was a treat as well. It was an old converted mansion and with rain slashing against the windows, the ‘dark and stormy night’ ambiance was complete. Mary Jane and I read in the gorgeous fountain room to about forty guests. We were treated like visiting rock stars, particularly Mary Jane, who'd already earned an Ohio fanship.

This time, I was better prepared for what lay ahead in Cleveland – I'd read every book in the Elizabeth George's Inspector Lynley series and she just happened to be the American Guest of Honour. Michael Connelly, one of my favourite authors, also attended, and while he wasn't a guest of honour, he was interviewed and sat on panels. On Friday, I was part of a panel discussing small-town murder, participated in the popular 'Meet the Canucks' event and was a guest of the Cuyahoga Library at a Friday luncheon. The conference provided lots of opportunity to mingle and meet new authors and readers

It was an invigorating few days, for authors and fans alike. I returned home with a new list of authors to read, and hopefully, some of that Midwestern readership now have one or two of my books on their reading list as well.

You never know. Somewhere down the road, it could be my characters those Midwest fans are quoting…
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Brenda Chapman is an Ottawa mystery writer with seven published works for both teens and adults. Her latest novel Second Chances was released by Dundurn in September 2012. You can read more about Brenda's Bouchercon trip to Cleveland on her blog at http://brendachapman.blogspot.ca/

1 comment:

Charlotte Hinger said...

I would love to attend Bloody Words. There is something about these far away places.