Tomorrow I’m going to Malice Domestic, the annual gathering for those of us who love the traditional mystery. Although it’s billed as a fan conference, Malice is more of a yearly party where readers, writers, and lovers of traditional mysteries renew their relationships. This year Malice will be particularly spectacular because it’s like a special gathering of the Femmes Fatales! Elaine Viets will be honored as Guest of Honor, Marcia Talley will be our Toastmaster, and our own Charlaine Harris will be recognized for her Lifetime Achievement. (Although I’m not too keen on that title because it sounds like she’ll be honored and immediately kick the bucket. Charlaine, do NOT take this title literally, okay?)
At my first Malice—which I attended even before I had a contract--I heard an interview with Charlaine. She was witty, charming, and funny. Most importantly, she did not talk too much about her book, but I couldn’t wait to buy a copy because I liked her so much. That was a huge lesson. Since then, I’ve been to many author events where the writer bores the audience to tears with a recitation that goes like this: “So my story’s about this person who does this, and then this happens, and then that happens, but first she does this, and oh, I forgot to tell you about…” Somewhere along the line, the faces in the audience glaze over, like freezer burn on a pound of hamburger.
At my next Malice, I learned the importance of being enthusiastic. My first book – Paper, Scissors, Death – had just been published. I sat on a panel with other first time authors. The moderator asked, “How did it feel when you sold your book?” One woman said (in a totally deadpan voice), “Uh, well, I’d forgotten all about it. See, I just put it in the mail and didn’t think about it anymore. So, it kinda came as a surprise.”
Whoa, Nellie! And boy, didn’t we all want to run out and buy a copy?
I skipped a few Malice conferences in between. The trip from Florida seemed like such a hassle, and I always have tons of stuff I need to do. But last year, a reader sent me an email. “I missed you at Malice. Aren’t you writing anymore?” Yet another lesson learned. If you’re going to be part of an industry, you better show up where people expect to see you.
So yeah, tomorrow I’ll attend with Malice Aforethought, an Afterthought, and a Happy Thought. Tomorrow I’ll party with my fellow Femmes, and I’ll beam with gratitude for the many lessons they’ve taught me. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but Malice suits me just fine.
PS I read this to my friend, Linda Gordon Hengerer, and I asked, “Does this sound too fan-girlie about Charlaine?” and she said, “Is there such a thing as too fan-girlie about Charlaine.” Nope. I guess not.