Best of Bouchercon

I hit up a bunch of authors and other publishing professionals who attended Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention, for a bit of writing wisdom they took away from the con. Here’s what they had to say:

BRAD PARKS—If you’re going to take writing advice from anyone, might as well be Michael Connelly—I can’t think of anyone with 20-plus books to his name who is still so consistently outstanding. When asked by Gregg Hurwitz the most important characteristic for a writer to have, Connelly offered just one word: “Relentlessness.” It’s a pretty good word for those of us well short of 20, too.

JEN FORBUS—Enthusiasm and a positive attitude are contagious; they can make all the difference.

CARLA BUCKLEY—I loved my first Bouchercon! Not only was it great to see my author buddies and meet readers, but I got to do the fan thing with some of my longtime heroes. For example, Sara Paretsky offered up an interesting take on managing suspense by saying she always follows a moment of conflict with a moment of relief. Otherwise, unrelenting conflict grows wearisome and has no effect.

GREGG HURWITZ—I learned one should never knock over one’s glass of bourbon onto one’s keyboard.

REED FARREL COLEMAN—Writing wisdom…hmmm. As I teach writing, it’s usually me imparting my wisdom to students. I can give you a line I usually impart to people asking for my advice. That line is: “Fall in love with writing, not with what you’ve written.” To explain, I believe new writers tend to hold too firmly to their early work instead of seeing their early work as part of a growth experience. Even the most talented writers have issues to work through. The more you write, the sooner you work through those issues.

ALAFAIR BURKE—I was reminded once again that writers like Michael Connelly and Lee Child have worked their asses off to get as good as they are. I also learned that turning 41 at Bouchercon while wearing a tiara and boa on the dance floor is pretty fun.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN—The jam-packed “Lunch with Declan Hughs and John ConnollyTen Crime Novels You Must Read Before You Die” panel was intimidatingly fascinating—and I have the whole list if anyone wants it! But as they discussed Hammett and Chandler and Highsmith, I wrote down these phrases from John or Declan: “A twist should be a revelation, not just a twist.” “A detective has a criminal’s mind.” “The characters are telling you the story.” And “Is this reality? Or is it just what I see?” It’s not “writing wisdom” in the form of a “do-this” instruction, but each of those things really got my brain going.

MICHELLE GAGNON—My favorite part was Lee Goldberg’s comment about the impending “tsunami of swill” in the ebook panel, and the fact that not every author should count on an early retirement thanks to Kindle sales of their books. He made some excellent points, especially with regard to the importance of solid editing and that the authors doing well in that format by and large had already developed an audience through traditional publishing.

BRUCE DESILVA—It was an honor for this new novelist to appear on a panel, and the panels I attended were great; but the best part of my first Bouchercon was the hallway and bar conversations with fellow writers—some of whom I’d developed online friendships with but never met face to face. I’ll never forget chatting with the great Daniel Woodrell about the importance of sense of place in crime fiction. It’s something I worked hard at with “Rogue Island,” and Woodrell is a true master. 

TASHA ALEXANDER—The main thing I learned at Bouchercon is something I’m reminded of at nearly every conference—there will never be enough time to read all the books. I’ve always believed there’s nothing better an author can do to improve her craft than read voraciously and across genres.

OLINE COGDILL—I think my favorite Bouchercon moment was the energy that was at every panel. I have felt that since Madison, there has been a renewed energy at Bouchercon. That, and having Lee Child and Laurie King remember who I am. And seeing how gracious John Connolly was to my brother in law, Peter; making a special point of coming over and saying hi to him.

MEREDITH COLE—Bouchercon 2010 was a blur of delightful encounters for me. One of the highlights of this year was having brunch with the members of my blog. Except for Kelli Stanley, I had not met Shane Gericke, Tracy Kiely, Joshua Corin, Michael Wiley or Rebecca Cantrell before. I knew them only from their witty writing and funny comments on-line. Not surprisingly, they were all hilarious and tons of fun to hang out with. And they were all so full of positive, creative energy. Spending time with all of them inspired me to keep stretching myself in new directions and fit even more writing into my daily life. I needed the reminder that the kitchen floor can wait to be mopped, but my latest book idea needs to be tackled right away.

Meet the Contributors:

Brad Parks’ first novel, FACES OF THE GONE, is the winner of the 2010 Shamus Award for Best First Novel and has been shortlisted for the Nero Award. The Dartmouth College graduate spent a dozen years as a reporter for THE WASHINGTON POST and THE NEWARK STAR-LEDGER and is now a full-time novelist. EYES OF THE INNOCENT, the next Carter Ross novel, releases February 1, 2011, and the third and fourth books in the series are also written and awaiting publication.

Jen Forbus is a book blogger who has a special love of crime fiction.  She reviews and mystery and crime and interviews authors, and more at Jen’s Book Thoughts.

Carla Buckley is the author of THE THINGS THAT KEEP US HERE. Her next novel will be published in 2011.

Gregg Hurwitz is the critically acclaimed, internationally bestselling author of  ten novels, including  THEY’RE WATCHINGTRUST NO ONE, THE CRIME WRITER, and LAST SHOT. His books have been nominated for numerous awards, shortlisted for best novel of the year by International Thriller Writers, nominated for CWA’s Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, chosen as feature selections for all four major literary book clubs, honored as Book Sense Picks, and translated into eighteen languages.

Reed Farrel Coleman has published twelve novels—two under his pen name Tony Spinosa—in three series, and one stand-alone with award-winning Irish author Ken Bruen. His books have been translated into seven languages. He is a three-time winner of the Shamus Award for Best Detective Novel of the Year. He has also received the Barry and Anthony Awards, and has been twice nominated for the Edgar® Award.

Alafair Burke is the author of the NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher and the Portland Deputy District Attorney Samantha Kincaid crime series. Her books include, 212, ANGEL’S TIP, and DEAD CONNECTION.

Hank Phillippi Ryan is an Agatha, Anthony and Macavity award-winning mystery author and an investigative reporter for 7News (NBC) in Boston. Her books in the Charlotte McNally mystery series include, DRIVE TIME, AIR TIME, FACE TIME and PRIME TIME.

Michelle Gagnon’s novels have been published in North America, France, Spain, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Australia. Her books include, KIDNAP & RANSOM, THE GATEKEEPER, THE BONEYARD, and THE TUNNELS.

Bruce DeSilva worked as a journalist for 40 years before retiring to write crime novels full time. At the Associated Press, he served as the writing coach, responsible for training the wire service’s reporters and editors worldwide. Publishers Weekly hails ROGUE ISLAND as one of the ten best debut novels of 2010.


Oline Cogdill is a mystery fiction critic whose reviews are picked up by more than 250 publications around the world, including Publishers Weekly and Mystery Scene Magazine.

Meredith Cole was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Mystery Novel for POSED FOR MURDER. Her second book, DEAD IN THE WATER, came out in May 2010.

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