Kate with author Michael Wiley
Kate with author Jack Fredrickson
Kate with agents Paula Munier & Michelle Richter
Our leading lady, publisher Kate Lyall Grant, had a busy start to the month, jumping on a plane to St Petersburg to attend the Bouchercon 2018 conference! Read her diary of a fabulous few days spent on Florida’s Gulf coast.
Bouchercon: SEPT 6-9TH 2018
After a hectic two days in a sweltering New York, it was a something of a relief to head down the east coast to the (slightly) more temperate climes of St Petersburg (St Pete to those in the know), nestling on Florida’s Gulf coast, with its waving palm trees, relaxed ambience and beautiful sandy beaches.
Having noted that the most Frequently Asked Question on the Bouchercon 2018 website was ‘Can I bring my gun?’ (a strange concept for us Brits!), it was with something approaching trepidation that I entered the hallowed portals of the Vinoy Renaissance Hotel where the conference was being held. However, my apprehension was entirely misplaced, as I found my fellow delegates – authors, editors, agents and fans alike – a remarkably warm, friendly and welcoming crowd – and not a firearm in sight.
With a record 15 Severn House authors attending Bouchercon this year, I was kept very busy racing around the conference centre, trying to catch as many of our authors’ panels as possible. But I learned many fascinating facts along the way. At the ‘Crossing Genres’ panel, for example, ably moderated by our own Karen Olson, I took on board the hot tip that anyone suffering writer’s block should read Tristram Shandy. At the ‘Writing As A Pair’ panel, involving husband-and-wife writing team, Vince & Rosemarie Keenan, I was intrigued to learn that Renee Patrick (Vince & Rosemarie’s pen name) has become very much the third person in their marriage – and she scares them both to death!
At the ‘Talking Tough’ panel on Friday morning, where Severn House’s feisty Caro Ramsay more than held her own among a panel of tough-talking male authors, I was fascinated to discover that Caro’s authorial career began at the age of seven, when her short story ‘The Teddy Bears’ Picnic’ took an unusual twist in that the cuddly teddies in question turned on their owners and killed them – and a crime writing career was born! And, talking of careers, I was immensely impressed at how Tim O’Mara’s schoolteaching experience stood him in good stead as he marshalled the troops at the Federal Agents panel with admirable discipline, chutzpah and a decidedly no-nonsense approach to members of the audience who had the temerity to ask irrelevant questions!
In between panels, I took the opportunity to become acquainted with several agents whom I wouldn’t otherwise meet during my regular NYC trips as they are based elsewhere in the US. After a wonderfully convivial lunch with Paula Munier (Talcott Notch Agency) and Michelle Richter (Fuse Literary Agency), it was off to Inkwell agent David Hale Smith’s legendary cocktail party at the Parkshore Grill. Having secured a coveted invite for the first time, I definitely felt I’d arrived as part of the in-crowd!
Later that evening, it was off to the Hotel Zamora for the prestigious Shamus Awards Banquet, to share the festivities with Severn House author Michael Wiley, who had been nominated for the Best Novel Award, with his superlative noir thriller MONUMENT ROAD. Alas, this wonderful novel did not win – but Michael was up against some seriously stiff competition and, hey, it’s the taking part that counts – and, in any event, a fabulous time was had by all.
But the highlight of the conference for me has to be the Severn House author drinks, which has become something of a Bouchercon institution in recent years. Unfortunately, St Pete, the ‘Sunshine City’ , didn’t quite live up to its name on this occasion, as heavy downpours, deafening thunderclaps and dramatic lightning flashes meant a last-minute change of venue, as the rooftop lounge (with its spectacular views) which my esteemed colleague Samantha Bentman had booked for the event became a no-go zone.
But no one’s spirits seemed to have been dampened by the weather and, having relocated to the bar area on the ground floor of the Birchwood, I relished the opportunity to catch up with Severn House Bouchercon regulars (and old friends!) for our annual get-together: Clea Simon, Karen Olson, Michael Wiley, Marcia Talley, Cathy Ace, Glenn Meganck (aka J R Ripley), Tim O’Mara, Don Bruns and Caro Ramsay, as well as meet some longtime Severn House authors for the first time, like Jack Fredrickson who had travelled all the way from Chicago for the event, as well as forensic pathologist Lisa Black, author of the gripping Theresa MacLean mysteries – and, not least, to welcome brand-new authors to our close-knit Severn House family: glad to have you on board Vince & Rosemarie Keenan (aka Renee Patrick), Marty Ambrose and Eleanor Kuhns.
Champagne quaffed, canapes consumed, anecdotes exchanged, finally, on Sunday morning, I wended my bleary way to Tampa International airport, tired but happy, and already looking forward to Bouchercon 2019. Dallas, Texas: here we come . . .