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September 27, 2013

An Interview with Author Wendy Webb About Her Experiences at Bouchercon

Posted by emily

This year, the 44th Bouchercon --- the world's leading convention for crime fiction readers, writers and others ---  was held in Albany on September 19-22. Wendy Webb, the award-winning mystery author of THE TALE OF HALCYON CRANE (2010, Holt), THE FATE OF MERCY ALBAN (2013, Hyperion) and THE VANISHING (2014, Hyperion), was kind enough to answer a few questions about her experiences as a panelist and an attendee. In this interview with, she talks about all the interesting things she did and saw, including the "liars"-themed panel she herself was on, as well as some of the other authors she most enjoyed listening to --- including Louise Penny and Marcia Clark. This was your first Bouchercon. Tell us about the event, and was it what you expected?

Wendy Webb: I went into this event not knowing quite what to expect. I'd done book conferences before, but never this one. I found it to be a great mix of mystery readers and fans, reviewers and journalists, book professionals like editors, agents and publicists, and, of course, booksellers and authors. The mood of the conference was upbeat and fun --- there was a lot of laughter, socializing, and opportunities to meet and mingle. All of the panels I attended were packed with people --- standing room only --- no matter the topic. People were interested, engaged and excited.

BRC: What spurred you to attend Bouchercon?

WW: Mystery author friends of mine suggested that I attend. I'm very glad they did!

BRC: You were on a panel. Tell us about that and who your fellow panelists were.  

WW: My panel was a lot of fun. It was me, Peter May, Mark Pryor and Frank Muir, moderated by Cara Black. The theme was: Liars. All of us supplied Cara with something that's true about us, half true and an out-and-out lie, and the audience had to determine which was which. Did Mark Pryor really have dinner with Princess Diana? (It turns out he did!) Is Frank Muir really Sean Connery's second cousin? (Out-and-out lie. But he did meet his brother, once.) Did Peter May really set up shop as a private eye and take on cases while researching a book? (Half true. He did it, but in virtual reality.) Did I really come upon the ghost of a young girl when I was walking my dog one cold, snowy morning? (Absolutely true.) This was a fun panel with a lot of audience participation.

BRC: What were some of the other panels that stood out to you?

WW: I loved listening to other authors talk about their work, whether it was Julie Kramer and Kent Krueger on sex scenes, or the lack of them, in their books, Andrew Pyper on the supernatural, Jenny Milchman on the highs and lows of a book tour, Louise Penny on strong female characters, it was all fascinating. I especially enjoyed the panels that were a little off-beat. One that springs to mind involved panelists reading the first line of a book, and the audience guessing the author and title. I like that audience engagement.

BRC: Each panel was named for something that put folks in a “New York State of Mind,” which was the theme of the conference. Tell us a bit about that.

WW: The panels were all named for Billy Joel songs, in tribute to the theme of "New York State of Mind." I thought it was incredibly creative the way the organizers made mystery topics fit with the song titles. For example, a panel called "We Didn't Start the Fire" was about forensics. Another, "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant," dealt with food in mysteries.

BRC: Bouchercon typically is filled with surreptitious moments. And, always, the unexpected. Can you share a story or two about that with us?

WW: On Friday night, I found myself in the middle of something totally unexpected. I was introduced to Marcia Clark (yes, the OJ trial prosecutor) at a reception, and we ended up having drinks together back at our hotel with M.J. Rose, Nancy Bilyeau, and a few others talking the night away about true crime cases and trials. Like a lot of mystery writers, I'm obsessed with true crime cases, and getting Marcia Clark's perspective about the school shootings, Aurora movie theater shooting, the Menendez trial and other very high-profile cases was fascinating and a real treat.

BRC: Any great stories from the bar, which typically is the center of Bouchercon?

WW: One thing I was told that was different about this Bouchercon compared to others --- there wasn't just one hotel/conference center where the event was held. There were several hotels, so there wasn't one central hotel bar where all the action happened. That said, though, the bar at my hotel was very lively after the day's events were over. I was at the conference alone, but that didn't matter a bit. I'd walk into the bar and get drawn into a conversation with someone. I met some of my favorite mystery authors, as well as fans and readers, and journalists and reviewers. Everyone was so friendly and approachable. I really felt like I was part of a club that wanted me for a member. 

BRC: Was there a book that you walked away wanting to read most?

WW: After talking with Marcia Clark, I'm going to pick up all of her books. I was also delighted to meet Louise Penny, who is so kind and gracious and lovely. 

BRC: Any other thoughts on Bouchercon? And are you planning to attend the event in Long Beach next year?

WW: The thing that really stood out to me about this conference was how friendly and outgoing people were. Within about an hour of being there on my first day, I was asked to dinner, invited to a couple of parties and spotted by some readers who have enjoyed my first two books. People would strike up conversations with me everywhere, on the street walking to the convention venue, in the elevator, in the hallways before panels. On Saturday, I was sitting in the hotel bar checking my email when a woman sat down next to me. After chatting for a few minutes, she said she was having dinner with some friends and asked me to come along. It was wonderful. 

And yes, I'm already registered for next year in Long Beach, and I want to get more involved, perhaps moderating a panel or teaming up with some author friends to host a party.