Last night, I attended the MWA Library Series: Chick Lit Mysteries presentation: Laugh of I’ll Use My Stiletto to Kill You at the mid-Manhattan Library. The panel was well moderated by Maggie Barbieri and the panelists shared their thoughts and experiences. Parnell Hall, Sally Koslow, Annette Meyers, and Deborah Nolan were an absolute delight to listen to. Hearing writers talk about what they love to do is a magical experience–it makes you want to keep trying and always renews my determination.
Each author gave a brief intro about their background and their main character. It was a wonderful way to introduce mystery readers to their books and I have a feeling I’ll be purchasing several new books tomorrow. 🙂 Sally Koslow’s protagonist was quite distinct in that she is already dead. Her book is sort of a hybrid of mystery and fantasy with a dash of romance thrown in. Deborah Nolan’s protagonist is a female lawyer. Annette Meyers protagonist is a former Broadway dancer.
When the question of how they conceived their protaganists was asked, Parnell Hall said he was desperate to sell and did the opposite of his earlier PI series. So he created this Milli Vanilli cross word puzzle lady who can’t do cross word puzzles, but is pulled into cross word puzzle related murders and has to help the police solve them.
Sally Koslow was at a funeral imagining her own funeral. In her story, the protagonist doesn’t know how she died.
Annette Meyers had a colorful career as a head hunter on Wall Street. She used those experiences in her books. A telephone booth scene in her book is what set off her writing. A broker left her with his attaché case while he ran to make a call in the telephone booth. After 30 minutes passed, she took his brief case and went in search of him. She found him all slumped over in the telephone booth and wondering what if she opened the door and he slid out dead? She went home and told her husband who’d written several books and he encouraged her to write the story.
What brings their sleuth into the case?
- For Annette Meyers, Wetzon is a kind, but nosy person–the type of person people tell things to.
- For Deborah Nolan–things happen to Lily.
- For Sally Kosow, her protagonist needed closure.
- For Parnell Hall, she’s good as solving crime and needs something to occupy her time.
What does the sleuth bring to the case?
- For Maggie Barbieri, she’s smarter.
- For Sally Koslow, she has a bull shit detector.
- For Deborah Nolan, Lily is accessible.
- For Annette Meyers, Leslie is trusting and naive and Smith is an amoral person.
- For Parnell Hall, she’s good at figuring out stuff based on being married so many times. She learned something from each husband.
The next question was about how they successfully weave elements of humor in their books
- Deborah Nolan mentioned that she had to figure out how to make light of serious subjects. When you’re dealing with life or death on a daily basis you have to have a sense of humor or you can’t do it.
- Annette Meyers mentioned how Wall Street is hilarious although the trader humor can be very dark. The theater is pretty funny too.
- Parnell Hall said that the humor just comes out of his character and noted how one critic calls her Miss Marple on steroids.
- Sally Koslow talked about how close friends said the book was very funny but that she usually is not.
- Maggie Barbieri mentioned that police humor is dark but funny
What would the protagonist do if they didn’t do what they did in the book?
- PH said stripper
- SK said magazine stylist
- DN said painter
- AM said dancer
- and MB said exotic dancer
The most appealing thing about the main character?
- AM said honesty
- DN said warmth and charm
- SK mentioned her ability to get at the truth
- PN said loopy wit
One thing about the main character we would be surprised to learn?
- SK said she’s a bike rider
- DN said Lily lives in New Jersey
- AM said Wetzon is a Republican
A member of the audience asked about what to do after you’ve written the novel. Panelists discuss their individual experiences. Who you know is important, but Deborah Nolan stressed the importance of joining writers groups, going to conferences, and talking to people. Sally Koslow concurred on joining writing workshops and recommended New York Writers’ Workshop.
The question of what happened when Hollywood comes calling came up. Maggie Barbieri had the best response: Hollywood called and hung up. Most of the authors on the panel had their book optioned, but it usually fell through. Parnell Hall talked about when the book was optioned and then they hired him to write the screenplay. He agreed that Hollywood destroys your book but it’s even worse when they pay you to do it.
They ended the panel by stressing the importance of making time to write and setting deadlines. And handing out several free copies of their books. 🙂