My First Bouchercon

Me and Harlan

Me and Harlan

Happy October, all! Bruce Robert Coffin here, sharing my latest travel news.

Well it’s over, my very first Bouchercon Mystery Writer’s conference. And what a conference it was! Over two thousand like minded individuals, comprised of writers, agents, publishers, and fans, all gathered together in celebration of mystery and mayhem in The Big Easy.

It was memorable for me for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that my debut novel, Among the Shadows, was released the day before the start of the conference. First novel, first Bouchercon, and first time to New Orleans. And if that wasn’t enough, I got to chat with Harlan Coban, C.J. Box, Otto Penzler, Reed Farrell Coleman, and Lee Child. That’s right you heard me, Lee Freaking Child. What where they like? They were awesome. Approachable, pleasant, and extremely down to earth. What does one talk about with authors of such magnitude? Why writing, of course. I saw Michael Connelly speaking with someone in the hallway my very first afternoon. I resisted the urge to corner him and try and have my picture taken with him. Slyly, I figured the opportunity would present itself again during the four days I was at the conference. It didn’t. I did manage to finagle a great picture of Harlan and I standing on either side of a poster of my book cover. Yup. Just me and Harlan Coben looking like badasses, endorsing my novel Among the Shadows. Well, okay, I’m endorsing it while he’s just being a good sport.

As I opined to several of my author friends, this is such a weird business. Several times during the conference I was seated at the head table beside a row of other novelists as we signed autographs for fans. Pretty cool, right? Damn right it was. People, actual readers, coming up to talk to ME and ask for an autograph. It was surreal. But the real strange part came when hours later I found myself standing in line on the other side of the table waiting for Lee’s autograph. When I realized that he was signing, I ran back to the book dealer who’d had multiple copies of various Jack Reacher Books. To my horror, I learned that he’d sold every last one. What? OMG! I scurried to the other vendors, but they were all out. Finally, I located one lone hardcover copy of Personal. “It’s already signed,” the dealer told me. Sure enough, I opened it to find Lee’s signature on the title page. “I’ll take it,” I said. It was autographed, but not personalized. As I chatted with Mr. Child, I let it slip that my first novel had just been released mere days ago. He smiled graciously and said, “congratulations.” As long as I live, I’ll never forget that moment.

There were so many cool moments. I attended the new author breakfast, where I and about fifteen fellow debutants had to stand up in front of a packed auditorium and talk for three minutes about ourselves and our books. I intentionally sat with a couple of my New England crime writing pals, figuring there was safety in numbers. I choked down some fruit and scrambled eggs, took a few swigs of coffee and waited for the gladiator games to commence. Intuitively, my buddy Brian Thiem sensed my angst, having been through this very same initiation last year. He leaned over to me and said, “are you nervous?”

“Uh, I am now,” I said.

“You’ll do fine.”

He was right. At least, I think he was. He gave me the thumbs up when I’d finished speaking. In all honesty, I don’t remember what I said, but the other members of the breakfast club gave an enthusiastic applause, as they did to each of the newbies.

Another bud of mine, Chris Holm, was up for one of the most prestigious writing awards there is, the Anthony. And not just any old Anthony, this one was for best novel, for his thriller The Killing Kind. And, in spite of the lengthy and impressive resume of the other nominees, HE WON! Congratulations, Chris! I suggested that he change his name to Anthony Holm. He liked the idea, implying that it would be okay if I called him Tony, but only when we were alone.

And what can I say about New Orleans? It was awesome. A parade every hour, or so it seemed. Hot, humid, even crazy at times, but mostly just awesome. I ate gumbo, tried beignets, had alligator sausage, shrimp, hurricanes, and more gumbo. Everyone I met was pleasant. The locals appeared to love chatting us up. They all had stories about Katrina and her aftermath. Many of them had to move away for several years after the storm. But like us hearty New Englanders, they returned, vowing to work hard and restore their former lives. Inspirational people, these.

On Sunday morning, the last day of the conference, I took part in my first Bouchercon panel, titled The Heat is On. The topic of the panel, moderated by the delightful and charming Dana Cameron, was the challenges series writers face. The panel itself consisted of moi, Quai Quartey, Susan Shea, and Mary Anna Evans. Being a Sunday morning, I figured the room would be empty as attendees packed up their belongings and headed to the airport. Boy was I wrong. We played to a packed house. The panel went so smoothly and each of us played off the other so well, the hour seemed to pass by in the span of ten minutes. And the crowd ate it up. It was a good note to finish on. Left me wanting more.

So, as I write this, 12,000 feet in the air and headed back toward Boston, I’m already dreaming about next year’s conference, which will be held in Toronto. Am I excited? What do you think?

About Bruce Robert Coffin

Bruce is a retired detective sergeant with more than twenty-seven years in law enforcement. At the time of his retirement, from the Portland, Maine police department, he supervised all homicide and violent crime investigations for Maine's largest city. Bruce also spent four years working counter-terrorism with the FBI, where he earned the Director's Award, the highest honor a non-agent can receive. He is the bestselling author of the Detective Byron Mystery Series from HarperCollins. His short stories appear in a number of anthologies including The Best American Mystery Stories 2016. Bruce lives and writes in Maine.
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13 Responses to My First Bouchercon

  1. C.T. Collier says:

    Smiled all the way through this post! 🙂 Thanks for sharing such abundance with all of us! Best of luck with Shadows. Hope you’ll share the picture of you, your cover, and Harlan Coben! –kate

  2. Grace Koshida says:

    Glad you enjoyed your first Bouchercon, Bruce. NOLA was a great locale, and I agree there was lots of yummy food to enjoy during that steamy week. I was see you at the New Authors’ breakfast and chat briefly at the author’s signing table. I have downloaded Among The Shadows and hope to read it next month. Hope to see you in Toronto…my hometown!

  3. Brian Thiem says:

    Great blog, Bruce. You captured the feelings of attending a first major conference as a debut author perfectly. Congratulations on your success.

  4. Lea Wait says:

    And congratulations on your #1 best seller in the Portland Sunday Heralds yesterday! Cheering for you — and your enthusiasm — that’s what it’s all about!

  5. Gram says:

    Wonderful…thanks for bringing us along.

  6. Chris Holm says:

    Thanks for the shout out, pal. Glad you had a blast at B’con.

  7. LD Masterson says:

    Wow, that qualifies as a great weekend. Thanks for sharing the experience.

  8. L.C. Rooney says:

    Thanks for letting me live vicariously through your first Bouchercon. I, too, smiled all the way through this post. Your genuine delight and surprise at the events of the past year came shining through. It’s all very well deserved, Bruce. Write on!

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