Before I get started, I’d like to let everyone know that Secrets of Hallstead House was featured as the Cool Book of the Week on Amy Metz’s blog, A Blue Million Books. I’d love for you to check out the post: you can find it at http://abluemillionbooks.blogspot.com/. You may have to scroll down just a bit, but I promise it’s there. Many thanks to Amy Metz for the opportunity to appear on her blog!
This past weekend I had the privilege of attending the Suffolk, Virginia Mystery Authors Festival, hosted by the Suffolk Division of Tourism in partnership with the Suffolk Center for the Cultural Arts and the Suffolk Public Library. It was a gathering of twelve very talented and prolific mystery writers, a literary agent (Dawn Dowdle), a freelance editor (Jeni Chappelle), several members of the Virginia chapter of Sisters in Crime, and hundreds of very happy readers.
I had the opportunity to meet and chat with the likes of Ellery Adams, Mollie Cox Bryan (who shares my Kensington editor), Mary Burton, Erika Chase, Vicki Delany (who also writes as Eva Gates), Linda O. Johnston, Joyce and Jim Lavene (who write together as Ellie Grant and J.J. Cook), Maggie Sefton, Gayle Trent (who also writes as Amanda Lee), LynDee Walker, and Wendy Lyn Watson (who also writes as Annie Knox).
Many of these authors write cozy mysteries. The cozy is a sub-genre of crime fiction in which the main character, generally a woman, is an amateur sleuth with a day job that allows her to interact with members of the close-knit community in which the crime usually takes place. The cozy is populated with quirky-next-door-neighbor-type characters and the reader gets to know many members of the community as a cozy series progresses. Often the main character has a close relationship with a member of law enforcement (say, a brother, best friend, boyfriend, ex-husband, etc.) and you’d be amazed at how often cats, dogs, and other animals are important cast members. Cozies tend to be on the milder side of crime fiction and generally avoid strong cursing and graphic descriptions of violence and intimacy. It is common to find the main character’s job or hobby (such as knitting, scrapbooking, or animal rescues) as a theme throughout a cozy series.
But not all the authors I met write cozies: some write novels and stories that are a bit darker, such as Mary Burton’s Cover Your Eyes or her Texas Rangers series or Maggie Sefton’s newest political mystery Poisoned Politics. I’m happy to report that both Mary and Maggie are charming in real life and exude none of the danger they write about.
I wish I had time and space to write more about the books I discovered and the authors I talked to, but I will provide their website addresses below for you to check out.
The festival included presentations throughout the day that focused on everything from the History of the Mystery to a talk by Dawn Dowdle, literary agent, about the importance of finding an editor that fits a writer’s needs and genres. While the presentations were being held, many of the authors read from their most recent releases, which was a treat for the readers who attended.
If you ever have a chance to visit Suffolk, Virginia, I have a couple pieces of advice. First, try to avoid I-95 at all costs, even if it means walking the entire distance (you’ll get there faster if you walk, anyway). Second, get there on a day when the Suffolk Division of Tourism is hosting one of its tours, such as the Suffolk Ghost Walk (which I missed because I was sitting on I-95) or the Great Dismal Swamp Guided Nature Walk. Third, don’t leave until you check out the Suffolk Center for the Cultural Arts, which is housed in a restored high school and is a beautiful space that houses, among other things, art galleries, a gorgeous theater, a ballroom, and studios for dance, weaving, pottery, photography, and much more. The Suffolk Division of Tourism couldn’t have picked a more breathtaking and inspiring place to hold its Mystery Authors Festival.
Here’s that list of the authors’ websites:
Ellery Adams: http://www.elleryadamsmysteries.com/
Mollie Cox Bryan: http://molliecoxbryan.com/
Mary Burton: http://www.maryburton.com/
Erika Chase: http://www.erikachase.com/
Vicki Delany: http://vickidelany.com/
Linda O. Johnston: http://www.lindaojohnston.com/
Joyce and Jim Lavene: http://www.joyceandjimlavene.com/
Maggie Sefton: http://www.maggiesefton.com/
Gayle Trent: http://www.gayletrent.com/
LynDee Walker: http://lyndeewalker.com/
Wendy Lyn Watson: http://www.wendylynwatson.com/
Jeni Chappelle: http://www.jenichappelle.com/
Dawn Dowdle: http://www.blueridgeagency.com/
Sisters in Crime: http://www.sistersincrime.org/?7
Suffolk Division of Tourism: http://www.suffolk-fun.com/
I’m already looking forward to next year’s Mystery Authors Festival!
Until next week,