Killer Year–The Class of 2007

Bouchercon: We’ve Come A Long Way, Baby
October 4, 2006, 8:30 am
Filed under: Bouchercon, Killer Year Founders, Sandra Ruttan

When Ken Bruen takes the stage with Alafair Burke, Laura Lippman, Cornelia Read and Zoe Sharp, you know your stomach muscles will ache by the time you leave the room.

The panel was called Ken Bruen and Four Kickass Writers and as Ken said right off the top, “I have a feeling I know whose ass will be kicked the most!”

Word was, Lee Child would have happily stepped in, but Ken was having too much fun. As he said himself, reading To The Power of Three, “You learn a lot about teenage girls and at my age you kind of like that.”

The entire panel was comprised of witty women who knew how to throw the lines out there. Ken was treading into dangerous territory when he asked why women write the better sex scenes. Alafair Burke said, “Write what you know.”

Alafair then explained, “I can’t write a lot of sex in my books because my dad reads them and he thinks I’m a virgin.”

Zoe pointed out the benefits of research. She maintained her role on the panel was to “lower the tone” and did a fantastic job of it too.

Laura Lippman said she doesn’t like writing sex scenes, but has a friend named Sujata Massey who loves them and looks forward to them.

Ken’s eyes lit up at that and he asked, “Is she here?”

“We shared a room all weekend,” Laura responded without missing a beat.

I have to say I’d be happy to have Ken kick my ass on a panel any time. The man is phenomenal.

But I must also admit that in general, the authors that really impressed me at this Bouchercon were the women.

I have photos on my blog but what I’m going to do here is recount some of my experiences with some of the wonderful women I met.

Cornelia Read is my mentor through the ITW. She brought me a gift I’m calling The Holy Grail, a silver cup that belonged to her grandmother and is part of a set. I’ve been given a piece of the family legacy.
Cornelia Sandra
Honestly, it’s just such a privilege to have a friend like Cornelia, someone I can share my fears and insecurities with, as well as sit on the floor in the back of a coat room and swap stories about childhood fantasies with, that I already felt blessed to know her. Her gift put a lump in my throat.

Denise Mina is sensational. It was such a treat to sit with her in the bar and hang out. She has to be one of the funniest people I’ve met – on her panel about villains she was asked if there were acts of villainy in her past and she replied, “The 80s were a crime fashion-wise.” Denise lives in Glasgow, a city I’ve spent some time in and happen to think is beautiful and if you haven’t read her work yet, what’s wrong with you? Get to it! She was up against incredible authors such as Mark Billingham and Simon Kernick, amongst others, and won the Barry for best British novel.
Denise Sandra
But the author I was most nervous about meeting was Laura Lippman. I’ve known Laura in an online/email capacity for almost a year now. She’s one of those people with a brain I want to dissect. I know that sounds weird, but her approach to her books fascinates me and there are good reasons she’s won pretty much every award out there. She’s amazing. One of my favourite “passing moments” of the whole convention was standing outside, talking to Mark Billingham and Laura on Saturday night.

Of all the people in this business, I’ve actually known Val McDermid longer than anyone. Just getting a chance to catch up with Val – even in passing at a convention – is a treat and reason enough right there to go, and when it comes to the books Val really kicks ass. She’s one of the authors I’ll just block off two days for when a new book comes out. It isn’t just that I’m a slow reader – it’s that great books should be approached like great sex – something to be savoured and enjoyed.

There were two other ladies I was thrilled to meet. One was Julia Buckley. The other, Anne Frasier. Julia has a laugh that’s contagious and a sharp wit and a big heart. She is a treasure. Anne is someone I’ve connected with online and is also one of the Killer Year mentors, and she’s the kind of person you want to have a quiet dinner with. Like me, she’s at her best one on one.

Gayle Lynds is delightful. And so is Louise Ure. And Jan Burke, and fellow Canadian Alex Brett. I wanted to corner all of them and have them to myself for long chats, but everyone who’s been to Bouchercon knows how hard it is to do that! Impossible, really.

There were a lot of things I could have referenced in this post. Bill already did an amazing job yesterday, and I didn’t want to cover the same ground although I share his feelings about the experience.

I mentioned on my own blog that Marcus had asked me what my highlight of the weekend was and I wasn’t sure if it was Denise Mina or Ken Bruen. Both would be worthy highlights, but as I took more time to process the experience of Bouchercon, I realized my highlights were less specific.

This may sound a bit hypocritical, because I’ve maintained in the past that for me, men have been my favourite writers, but in processing why that was I realized that the reason was just that I had a harder time finding the women who wrote in the style I love – a spectrum of the genre that men tend to excel in.

Truth is, women write across a broader spectrum, so you have to know who’s writing romantic suspense, chick lit, pseudo shopping therapy novels etc. to steer clear of them if that isn’t your thing. With men, I could pick up the books and have a high satisfaction rate. With women, it took longer to find the authors that got me excited.

But it seems to me, when a panel with four female authors at 10:30 on a Sunday morning is packed with people, we’re seeing things change. We’re working towards the days when women are openly praised as masters of the genre.

And I have to say Zoe Sharp, Laura Lippman, Alafair Burke, Cornelia Read, Denise Mina and Val McDermid deserve to be counted amongst the best writers in this business.

I really wanted a woman to mentor me. While I agree with Bill that being at Bouchercon I was with my “tribe” I do think that women face different challenges in this business than men do, and other than my “siblings” JB Thompson and JT Ellison, I’ve found it harder to connect with female writers.

Bouchercon changed that. I don’t just feel I have a long list of big brothers, including Mark Billingham, Stuart MacBride and all the Killer Year boys, who look out for me. I have some big sisters too, and that’s very cool. My highlights? Seeing the women show why they’re every bit as great as the men, and feeling like I’d become part of the family.

Now, it’s been a few days, and hundreds of people are posting about Bouchercon. This is my sixth post, and I haven’t scratched the surface. I haven’t even mentioned half of the people I’ve met, but I have seen some of the comments about me. I’ve been referred to as a potential alternate source of fuel and as something that needs to be experienced to be fully appreciated. I’ve also been called an evil leprechaun but consider the source. Some guy from Dundee, of all places. What does he know?

The thing about conferences is that you mentally prepare yourself going in. You turn on the social charm and prepare for a lack of sleep, a poor diet and a lot of alcohol consumption. You expect to have a sore throat by Sunday morning if you’re lucky – Saturday morning is entirely feasible.

You just push everything out and live the experience until you get home and then you spend a few days teary-eyed because you’re so overwhelmed and you finally stop to wonder if you looked like an idiot when you went and got a stool so you could kiss Lee Child.

And what lingers most is the amazing spirit of generosity in this community. I don’t know why anyone would want to write anything else – the most amazing people in the world are reading and writing crime, and they support the new talent coming in.

One big family that I am honoured to be a part of.

Now if I could just get Tribe to stop snapping my bra strap…

Sandra Ruttan
Author of Suspicious Circumstances
January 2007
On Life and Other Inconveniences

** All pictures are posted on my blog today, along with numerous other photos that have been posted over the past few days.
The Wee Naughty Scot
We (think we) Can Kick Your Ass John Connolly
A Wee Wobbly at Bouchercon
Drinking At Bouchercon 101
On the first official day of Bouchercon
Bouchercon Orientation


7 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Thanks for sharing the update from Bcon, Sandra! Sounds like you and all the KYer’s had a fantastic time!

Comment by CJ Lyons

Hear, hear, Sandra. My forays into the genre were specifically male for a very long time, and I’ve been delighted to discover the major talent the women you’ve mentioned represent. I think you’re right, I do believe the lines are finally being blurred. I think my first dark female writer was Mo Hayder, whom I thought was a man by the name. I was stunned when I found out “he” was a she, and thrilled that this new world opened for me. I went through an all female phase (stop that, boys, I’m talking about reading)and was blown away by the breadth and depth of the talent. I’m split about 50-50 now, and am proud to be a girl who writes the kind of stuff a man would read. At least I hope they’ll read it.

Comment by JT Ellison

We’ve always got your back, Sandra.

Comment by Robert Gregory Browne

We did CJ! It was great to meet everyone. I’d been worried after all I’d heard about Marcus Stinky, but he took a bath. In cold water, actually. 😉

JT, I believe you are.

Rob, despite what I said about the anal probing? Aw, you really are sweet and forgiving!

Comment by Sandra Ruttan

Cornelia’s gift to you was really touching. I’m happy you’ve found big sisters to go with all your gruff big brothers. Grunt.

As for my own reading, I am finding my own reading is leaning about 60/40 female to male anymore. I like to think we’re nearing a time when the gender of the writer is no longer a detriment in the decision to read a book — though I don’t think it should be a non-factor, because our genders are important to the way we see and reflect the world.

Men who skip women writers because they are women, or women who do the same with men writers, are denying themselves. I may never understand why someone would do that.

Comment by Bill Cameron

Great post, Sandra! You have the perfect mentor, and what a cute picture of you both.

Bill, I agree about gender–it may sometimes be an issue, but often it’s to the reader’s detriment.

Okay, back to the blackboard. 🙂

Comment by Julia

Glad you can only grunt online. We don’t want to talk about your problem with gas emissions.

Julia, I agree. Cornelia kept telling me I should go for someone better, but what can be better than hiding in the back of the coatroom, sitting on the floor making faces at Laura Lippman? Cornelia brings out my inner child. 😉

Comment by Sandra Ruttan

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