Friday, January 31, 2014

Mystery on the Menu

I was one of fifteen authors invited to the Cerritos Library Mystery on the Menu luncheon. They had a sellout crowd of around 200 readers. It was very nice to see a display of the library’s copies of my books in the center of my table. I sat with a lovely group of women, some of whom were even fans of my books.

There were three panels of five authors each. I was in the last group of authors (Diane Emley, Gary Phillips, John Shannon, me,and Jeri Westerson was the moderator) and we worried that by the time we got up on the stage the attendees would be tired out. Gary Phillips even brought energy drinks to hand out to any drowsy audience members.

The energy drinks got a few laughs, but turned out not to be needed. The audience was attentive and a few people even called out some comments about the two men pursuing Molly Pink.

Jeri Westerson was a great moderator and came up with some interesting questions to get the discussion going.

I’m always a little nervous being on a panel, though I’ve done it enough times now that at least my voice doesn’t quiver (well, most of the time). The big fear is that I will draw a blank. You know, a big black void instead of an intelligent answer. When Jeri asked if we considered out readers when we were writing, I surprised myself with the answer.

Even though I’d seen the questions in advance what I said was completely off the cuff. I began by explaining that as a cozy author (I was the only one on the panel), my readers had certain expectations. Not exactly hard and fast rules, but maybe boundaries. There is no overt violence, even to the point that my editor nixed mentioning in the cover copy that the victim in the ninth crochet mystery was found dead in a bubble bath. The language is mild. My editor also had me take out the word damn from one of the books. And the sex is left to the reader’s imagination.

But, since I write two craft cozy series, I have more things to consider. I include patterns and recipes in all the books. I like to make the patterns easy enough so that anyone with some knowledge of crocheting or knitting can do them. But I can’t make them so easy that someone with a little more skill will dismiss them. One way I try to keep more advanced yarn crafters interested is by adding a unique twist to a pattern. For example in If Hooks Could Kill, I have a simple cowl pattern that can be used to keep cool with.

I like to keep the recipes easy with simple to find ingredients..

But since all my readers aren’t crocheters or knitters (even though 54 million people crochet and/or knit), I have to be careful not to add too much of either craft, but at the same time, keep enough in to please the crocheters and knitters.

It’s funny how I’d never thought about the above consciously until Jeri asked the question and then instead of blanking out, the answer just appeared.

How do you feel about talking in front of a crowd? By the way, the picture is an early version of the shawl pattern being included in Silence of the Lamb's Wool that comes out in July.


Planner said...

Sounds like everyone had a great time at the luncheon. I like your answer to the question--those are interesting details for your readers.

I tend to avoid public speaking, but I can see how under the right circumstances, it could be fun. I believe public speaking is something that most people fear.

Betty Hechtman said...

Planner, I have heard that public speaking is the number one fear. I can't say it is exactly fun for me, but it is less daunting.

Linda O. Johnston said...

Sounds like a delightful event, Betty. I've been to them before and enjoyed them, too. How fun that the questions just seemed to answer themselves when it was time for you to respond. I definitely believe in the strength of our subconscious minds!