I spent the weekend at the Mystery Writers Conference sponsored by Book Passage in Corte Madera, CA. About halfway through, it occurred to me: I am hanging out with people who enjoy imagining crimes. Some of them, like me, are learning to write about crime; others, like Thomas Perry and Hallie Ephron, have written many books about it. Published or not, we all choose to spend time thinking about the awful things people do, and what to do about it, and how. I had to remind myself: not everyone finds this entertaining.
Of course, it was good to hear from established professionals. John Lescroart often gets email from people "correcting" him on points of police procedure, even though his best friend is a captain in the SFPD. Cara Black still meets with a writers group, even though she just sent her sixteenth private-eye novel to her publisher. Otto Penzler recalls the agony of having to tell Joyce Carol Oates that she would have to revise her manuscript.
It was also wonderful to meet and chat with people who, like me, are trying for the first time (or the second or third) to tell the story of a crime and are struggling daily with when to tell the reader how much about what, and what to do when reality is not believable. Can you make it believable, or do you write what people expect to read? Epistemology aside, could anyone mistake a .22 shell for a .38 shell? No: one is a rim-fire and the other is a center-fire.
Anyhoo, we also talked about Gold-Rush days, neuroscience and celluloid. It was a fun weekend, and they passed out a great T-shirt.