Each writers’ conference has its own personality. If I were to summarize Killer Nashville, I would describe it as a broad embrace of mystery sub genres with an inclusion of indie, hybrid and traditionally published authors, all carried by an undercurrent of noir appreciation and a love of Nashville music culture.
I know. I’m casting a wide net.
The first night kicked off with a Wine & Shine event, which after a full day of hustling kids to school and flying from Austin, left me with more whine and no shine. My efforts in networking resulted in little more than two sips of merlot paired with a chocolate chip cookie while slouched on a chair in the hotel lobby.
The next two days were packed with learning sessions and special events. Killer Nashville’s panel schedule offered five options per time slot, leaving many attendees to make tough decisions regarding which discussion to attend. Programs ranging from “How to Write Effective Plot Twists” to “Law Enforcement, Soldiers and PTSD” demonstrate the range in programming. Topics covering technique, marketing, publishing and collaboration were also offered, along with breakout sessions with bestselling authors Janet Evanovich, Anne Perry, Kevin O’Brien, William Kent Krueger and Robert J. Randisi. I attended as many panels as I could fit in my schedule and left with several pages of notes and insight. I still don’t know how Robert Randisi, co-founder of Mystery Scene Magazine and founder of the Private Eye Writers of America (and the coveted Shamus award), writes 25 books a year. Like many things in our profession, this remains a mystery.
Janet Evanovich’s lunch program was both fun and fascinating. She is open with her advice and opinions, both of which were appreciated by the audience she addressed. Her honesty about the empire she’s building–she currently writes or co-authors four books per year with the support of her husband and children– made me tired just listening to her talk about it. She. Never. Takes. A. Break.
The Mock Crime Scene was exceptionally well done. Its primary architect, Tennessee Bureau of Investigations Special Agent Dan Royse, composed a puzzle well supported by clues, evidence and online interviews. Attendees had their work cut for them out in identifying the culprit. The smile on Dan’s face told us all we needed to know–he was going to make us work. Hard.
The awards banquet was a sold out event and included a buffet-style dinner and some fantastic live music. I had the opportunity to meet several authors, including fellow Claymore nominee Mercedes King. Before long, attentions turned to the awards portion of the evening. I was honored to accept, on behalf of Austin Mystery Writers, the Silver Falchion award for Best Fiction Short Story Anthology, presented by Anne Perry.
The Claymore was awarded to R.G. Belsky for Forget Me Not. It was an honor to make the short list for the Claymore, and I was grateful to be amongst such talented writers. I’m interested in seeing how these authors’ careers unfold over the next few years. I imagine some fabulous stories will be shared, and I’m looking forward to adding them to my reading list.
With Killer Nashville 2016 now over, I’m back to my daily grind but with a new perspective on both my own work and the industry in general. Most important, I’m reminded how lucky I am to be able to tell stories and spend my time around others who love to do the same thing.