Some of the nicest folks you’ll ever meet are planning a murder–or three. Seriously, it’s a puzzlement, when you think about it. Mystery writers–folks who spend their days plotting inventive ways to kill people and hide the bodies–are, as a group, so pleasant.
I’m just back from Sleuthfest in Orlando. This annual event is a writers’ conference sponsored by the Florida chapter of Mystery Writers of America. I saw old friends and met many online friends in person. Everyone I came in contact with was open, friendly, and helpful.
A few standouts (for me) among many workshops offered Thursday were Daniel Palmer’s “Coming up with Your ‘What If?'” Reed Farrel Coleman’s “Building 3-Dimensional Characters,” and Hank Phillippi Ryan’s “Get Your Motor Going.” In addition to presenting helpful content, these folks were all genuinely entertaining. I’m positive all the workshops were just as wonderful, but my efforts to clone myself have been largely unsuccessful, and thus I could only attend one in each time slot–I had to choose. I hate to choose. I’m horrible at making decisions. I digress.
One of the (many) highlights of the conference for me came Friday morning. I arrived early for the panel discussion, “The Traditional Mystery,” (one of my favorite panels) and chose a seat near the front center. I like to make sure I don’t miss anything. Anyway, I’d been there a few moments, flipping through my program, when I looked up to see Charlaine Harris walking towards me with a friend. For the record, Charlaine Harris is one of my very favorite authors–I know, me and millions of other folks, right?
I’d set my purse on the seat to my left. Charlaine sat in the next seat over. We smiled and said, “Good morning.” I tried so hard to act normal and not at all like a lunatic fan. I was mostly succeeding and was so proud of myself that I felt the need to share this information. I turned to her and said, “I’m trying really hard not to act like a total fangirl.”
She smiled real sweet and said, “I was just admiring your sweater.”
“Coldwater Creek,” I said.
And then we had a lovely conversation about how we both loved shopping online in general, and Coldwater Creek in particular, and how if she’d seen that sweater she’d have bought it. Something about Charlaine put me instantly at ease. You know how some famous people travel with an entourage and give off this vibe that screams, “Back off, I’m far too important to be bothered by the little people?” These people are the polar opposites of Charlaine Harris. (None of those folks were at Sleuthfest, of course.) She introduced me to Paula, her friend and assistant, who was equally charming. Truly, I have never met more delightful people.
Charlaine’s keynote on Saturday was fabulous as well–humorous, and inspiring. My only disappointment was that I already own all of her books, and had forgotten to bring one to have it autographed.
But you see, she makes my point. This warm, friendly woman has come up with enough creative ways to kill people, not to mention vampires, shape shifters, fairies, and all manner of supernatural creatures, to fill a shelf in my bookcase.
I think maybe writing about murder must be therapeutic. Getting all of your frustrations out by killing off the people who get on your last nerve, even if it’s just on the page, must release a happy hormone or some such thing. That’s my theory, anyway.