MWA Symposium Panel–Debut Novelists Tell All

I apologize for the delay in posting my notes from the MWA Symposium. I was so tired last weekend from the whirlwind 3-day trip that I couldn’t put together my notes. There were several terrific panels. I plan to talk about 2-3 of them over the next two weeks so I don’t overwhelm you with my profuse notes.

A second apology, I have no photo of this panel. Mostly because Hank Philippi Ryan was such an electrifying moderator that she sucked me right into the discussion and I forgot to take a picture. ๐Ÿ™‚

What impressed me most about this panel was that Hank took the time to read each author’s novel. She shared the perfect excerpt from each book too. Enough to wet the audiences’ whistle while leaving tons of time for Q&A with each author. Fantastic job!

The panel was composed of Edward Conlon, David Duffy, Leonard Rosen, Lori Roy, and Steve Ulfelder. Hank drew each author out of their shell and highlighted their writing strengths and their personalities. She made me want to buy a copy ofย  the panelists’ novels.

Hank opened with a question about how each author found out they were nominated for an Edgar. David mentioned he opened his computer and saw the email. Lori saw it in a press release. Steve found out via Twitter and hesitated to believe it until his agent and editor called simultaneously.

Hank introduced each novel and asked the author about their work. Lori Roy’s Bent Road was called ominous and creepy–gothic. Lori said it sprang up out of the setting. Western Kansas can be beautiful or brutally harsh. Lori mentioned that she can’t outline.

Ed wrote his book because of his everyday experiences as a cop. He discussed the difference between motive vs. motivation. Writers want to know why.ย  But this need to understand means writers must go deeper into motive. Something he grappled with is characters where you don’t want to go. Do you really want to understand a rapist?

Steve loves to race cars. He equates writing with driving a race car. In a race, it’s 30-45 minutes on the track, but it feels like two minutes. Something similar happens when he’s writing. The walls fall away and he have no idea where he is.

David drew on classic detective stories. Except his protagonist is a Russian guy, named Turbo. BTW, that name has a fantastic backstory in the novel.

What was interesting was that all these writers had full lives before they wrote their first novel. None of them are fresh out of college.

None of the authors has their title first. Most had different working titles.

Len mentioned that he had a hard time with his title. He stressed that the title of your book must be your whole book.

Ed talked about how most people tell cops stories. When someone lies, the cop has to decide whether it matters or not.

Overall, an exceptional panel discussion. I can’t wait to read all their books. ๐Ÿ™‚

And a quick shout out to my amazing lunch companions, Davidย  H. Ingram, winner of the Edgars Robert L. Fish Awardย  for his short story “A Good Man of Business,” and Jackie Sherbow of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. Terrific people to go browse a bookstore with too. ๐Ÿ™‚

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24 Responses to MWA Symposium Panel–Debut Novelists Tell All

  1. It’s always interesting to hear author’s stories – best before reading their books – then as you read, you can just see them in/behind the book ( does that make sense?) Thanks for the info relay

    • I agree. Sometimes when I hear the background, I’m intrigued and pick up a book I’d never read. That makes a lot of sense. It’s almost like they give you insight into the book you’d never have if you read it before you heard the author’s personal story. Glad you liked it!

  2. CC MacKenzie says:

    This is really interesting stuff, Kourtney, and I look forward to the rest of your notes.

    And I always love to hear other author’s writing process and how they think. Thanks for this!

    • Glad you liked it CC! I used to write up 5 days of conference notes, but I think that gets to be too much for the readers (judging by the hits numbers plummeting). So I’m trying to do shorter posts interspersed with other stuff. These kind of events are so informative, it seems a shame not to share a little of what I heard. ๐Ÿ˜‰ It’s cool to find yourself nodding along with what they say and realizing, “I am a writer, just an unpubbed one.”

  3. La La says:

    “What was interesting was that all these writers had full lives before they wrote their first novel. None of them are fresh out of college.”

    I needed to read this. Thank you.

  4. It's the little things that make life great.berry says:

    Good job. Lots of info.


  5. crubin says:

    It’s encouraging to learn that many of these authors started out with different job titles. Makes the rest of us do a little less of the incessant, “What in the world do you think you’re doing?” self-questioning stuff. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. 4amWriter says:

    Even though I started writing stories as a child, and knew I wanted to be an author ‘when I grew up’, and took writing courses in high school and college and many years after college–I still consider myself a late bloomer because of how long it took me to find my stride. Also, to get over my fear. It’s one thing to ‘plan’ to put a book out in public. Another thing entirely to actually get one out of my study and into the hands of anyone other than my mother.

    I love how this post reaffirmed my belief that it is never too late to go chase down your dream. Thanks.

  7. jmmcdowell says:

    I love your conference posts! You really get the heart of them across so well. And Yay! A non-outliner in the group! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • I believe the non-outliner also went on to win an Edgar so doubly good. ๐Ÿ™‚ Aw thanks. I’m trying to keep them shorter. I used to just type up all my notes and it was a bit boring for readers. I’m trying to just put up the essentials. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. I’ve been trying so hard not to feel “old” for so long. Thanks, Kourtney, for an encouraging and informative post.

  9. So sweet of you to share your conferences with us. I love that you’re out there rockin’ the circuit! ๐Ÿ™‚

    As for asking those tough questions about our characters, I think yes. I think we at least need to understand what caused him or her to become a rapist/murderer/whatever. There’s a big difference between learning how to think like them, and understanding why they think the way they doโ€”IMHO.

    • Glad you like these posts. I try to get to event when I can. ๐Ÿ™‚

      I think the learning how to think like them is much scarier than understanding why they think the way they do. You raise an excellent point. We need to understand our worst villains’ motives even if we can’t get every moment of their thought processes. ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Sounds like an interesting event, I love sharing about author’s journeys!

Any thoughts or reactions or favorite foods you want to share?