On to Bouchercon

Paul Doiron here —

In two days I will be headed to St. Louis to attend the 2011 Bouchercon World Mystery Convention. This will be my third Bouchercon (following Indianapolis and San Francisco), but the first in which my name will be on the program. My first novel, The Poacher’s Son, is up for a few awards. And I will be participating in my first panel discussion: a conversation moderated by Ayo Onatade, and co-starring Megan Abbott, Thomas H. Cook, P.L. Gaus, and Daniel Woodrell. (It’s at 11:30 on Saturday morning in Majestic A,B,C, if you happen to be in St. Louis and want to spend your weekend in air-conditioned hotel comfort.)

What in the world is a mystery convention, you are probably asking yourself. It was the question that followed me to my first Bouchercon. I’d sold The Poacher’s Son to Minotaur some time earlier in a highly publicized deal, but it wouldn’t be out for another eight months. Nevertheless, my agent and publisher wanted me to introduce myself around the place, which isn’t easy to do when you are an unknown first novelist with no novel to show. I wandered from booth to booth in the book room and had an awkward but funny conversation with a woman at the Mystery Scene magazine booth whom I later learned was arguably the most influential reviewer in the genre. I must have made an impression. She needled me about our conversation at the Edgar Awards ceremony this spring.

I sat in on a few panels, watched some awards ceremonies, knowing no one.I must have looked lost because New York Times best-selling author Chelsea Cain offered to guide me to the Minotaur Books reception in a neighboring hotel, and my lostness must have been contagious because it took us forever to find the place.

Last year in San Francisco, I expected to feel like a bigger deal. I was a newly minted author with a well-reviewed book, but I discovered that  few Left Coast attendees had read my Maine-set mystery. I signed exactly one autograph for a fan. It was a humbling experience until I realized that, if I were myself an autograph hound, I too would have been searching for bigger game. Because Bouchercon is the closest thing to a Who’s Who in the mystery world each year. Just check out the roster of this single panel discussion at this year’s event: Joseph Finder (moderator), Laurie R. King, Laura Lippman, Val McDermid, and S. J. Rozan. That’s like a pantheon of contemporary crime fiction!

I attended my first and second Bouchercon as a wannabee celebrity. As I prepare to attend my third conference, I realize that I am going as a fan who happens also to write books. Because that’s what a mystery convention is: an excuse for fans to unabashedly celebrate their fandom. Yes, I would like to win an award, and I hope a few people show up at my panel, but what I am really looking forward to is shaking Daniel Woodrell’s hand and telling him how much I love Winter’s Bone. I might even ask for his autograph.

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7 Responses to On to Bouchercon

  1. Best of luck with the nominations! Wow–what a journey from there to here, huh? I will probably be attending next year’s B’Con–for the first time–and like you were a year or so ago, still six months before my debut novel comes out. If I look lost, I hope you’ll come up and let me have an awkward conversation. Or ask for your autograph.

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  2. Good luck with the nominations, Paul, and remember, whenever your publisher or agent are around, the author never picks up the tab!

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  3. Brenda says:

    Good luck and have a great time! I love hearing the details. Thanks for sharing the ups and downs. I hope to make it to one someday in the not-too-distant future.

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    • Paul Doiron says:

      Hi Brenda, I don’t think publishing should be as mysterious as some successful authors tend to make it out to be. I like sharing the details and am always curious to hear the real scoop about how the industry actually works from grizzled veterans.

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  4. lil Gluckstern says:

    Good luck from a fan of both your books. Enjoy!!

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  5. nicki dwyer says:

    Daniel: Will you be doing at reading at the Central West End’s Big Sleep Books on Saturday?

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