Tag Archive for: Norb Vonnegut

The Generosity of Mystery Authors

by Kay Kendall
The first conference for mystery fans that I attended
was Bouchercon 2011 in St. Louis. Previously I’d only attended writers’
conferences where would-be authors pitched manuscripts to agents and sat at the
feet of those hallowed gods/goddesses called published authors. Bouchercon,
billed as the
World Mystery and
Suspense Conference
,“ was an entirely different breed of cat. I couldn’t
get my mind around what was going on.  
And then I got it! The published mystery authors weren’t there to tell us
how to write, how to sell, or how to win an agent. No, they were there to talk
about their writing and their writing worlds. Once I figured that out, I soaked
up every tiny detail that came my way. And I loved it.

I’m holding Charlaine’s LIVING DEAD IN DALLAS,
 the second Sookie Stackhouse book,
and she holds my debut mystery, DESOLATION ROW. 

The session that stands out, still to this day, was an
afternoon panel of new authors. One man exclaimed his astonishment over the
generosity of mystery writers. He said they supported each other and even him—a
newbie. But he was shocked to discover that mystery writers do so little
backbiting. Then he leaned over and leveled a hard look at us in the rapt
audience. “Poets are not like that,” he said. “I’ve attended meetings of poets
with a relative, and they’re just awful.” The audience howled.
While I can’t comment on poets, I can say from experience
that mystery authors are indeed generous. At Bouchercon 2012 in Cleveland I met
two authors who later agreed to blurb my debut mystery, Desolation Row. First,
thriller writer extraordinaire Norb Vonnegut gave key advice that helped me through
final edits. Whenever I need advice from
a seasoned pro, I still turn to Norb. Janet Maslin, influential book review at the
New York Times, calls him “the author of three glittery thrillers about fiscal
malfeasance” in which “he is three for three in his own improbably sexy genre.” 
The second author was Hank Phillippi Ryan, to whom I
was introduced only in passing. Yet brief as that encounter was, this
multi-award winning mystery author agreed to blurb my debut effort when I asked
As well, Stiletto Gang member Linda Rodriguez reached
out to me as an online pal to offer help setting up a bookstore event in the
Kansas City area. (Her writing career began as a poet so she may disagree with
the opinion I quote above.)
I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Mystery
authors are a benevolent group. At heart they love the genre we write in and
seem to understand that the success of one does not take away from the others. In
fact, a whole organization has been founded on that principle, the
International Thriller Writers. After attending Bouchercon 2004 in Toronto, ITW
founding members decided to reach down and pull up writers who needed help in
climbing the slippery slope to publication, “providing
opportunities for mentoring, education and
collegiality among thriller authors and industry professionals
A much older organization is the Mystery Writers of America founded in 1945. It underwrites MWA-University, one-day seminars led by
experienced authors who share their how-to advice for a minuscule fee. The session
I attended last weekend in Dallas was, as the under-30s would say, “awesome.” The
attached photo of me with Charlaine Harris was taken at that event. When this
creator of the Sookie Stackhouse series of paranormal mysteries (on which the
HBO series True Blood is based) wished me success like hers, I almost fell
over. In truth, I’d be pleased with one percent of her enormous fan base.

Traditionally the holiday season is when we are encouraged
to be more big-hearted and giving than usual. As I contemplated blogging about generosity, I remembered the mystery authors I’ve been privileged to meet. While I can’t
thank each one individually because they’re too numerous, I can offer this
posting as an ode to them collectively. Both their writing and the generosity
of their spirit serve to inspire me. 

Kay Kendall
To celebrate the conclusion of 2013, the year in which my debut mystery was published, I will give away one copy of Desolation Row to someone who leaves a comment here about the joys of reading mysteries . . . or how you feel about mystery authors . . . or, heck, anything that you think is related!