Tag: Killer Nashville

Killer Nashville

Carrie Smith on New York, Detective Claire Codella, and Edgar Allen Poe

Alison: First of all, congratulations on winning the Killer Nashville Readers’ Choice Award and being a Silver Falchion Award Finalist for 2018! Unholy City is the third in your Detective Claire Codella mysteries. Like the first book Silent City and then Forgotten City, your books are set in New York. What about the city do you find makes for a compelling background? Carrie: There are endless hidden pockets of the city to explore, and an abundance of characters to cast. Nowhere else, at least in this country, do you find so much diversity—socio-economic, ethnic, religious, gender—and I have always been compelled to explore the interactions among characters with different passions, perspectives, beliefs, and motivations. Alison: For those who don’t already know Detective Claire Codella, can you introduce us? Carrie: Claire Codella is a tough, tenacious NYPD detective who earned her spot on a central homicide squad after solving a series of high-profile cold case homicides. Shortly after her promotion, she was diagnosed with lymphoma and spent ten months fighting for her own life. When readers meet her in SILENT CITY (the first novel in the series), it is her first day back on the job after cancer. She’s under pressure to prove that she still has what it takes to do the job, and she is well aware that her angry, misogynistic lieutenant would prefer that she had succumbed to her disease. Alison: Is there a fourth book in the works? Anything you can share? Carrie: I finished my fourth crime novel last month, but it’s not a Claire Codella mystery (I’m just taking a break). This one’s a thriller that follows a fiery young immigration attorney and her client, a hotel worker framed for theft and facing a terrible choice between deportation and sexual servitude. Alison: I mentioned to you, I’m dedicating this week to writers in New York. So, I’m going to get personal. You were born and brought up in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan. Do you consider yourself a New Yorker? If so, why? Carrie: Absolutely, I consider myself a New Yorker, although even after all these years people still hear the inflections of the Midwest in my voice. I’ve lived in the city since 1982, spending a decade in Park Slope, Brooklyn, before moving to the Upper West Side. And while I will never be able to claim “native New Yorker” status, my New Yorker resume does include raising two now-twenty-year-old native New Yorkers here. Alison: How has the city changed since you moved here? Carrie: When I moved to New York City in 1982, Ed Koch was mayor. The city was still recovering from a financial crisis. The crack epidemic was raging. City streets were dirty. The subways were graffiti’d. The AIDS crisis had begun. It was by far a grittier place than it is today. I’ve watched the skyline change, Broadway become a giant outdoor mall, and entire neighborhoods be gentrified (for better or worse). Alison: What New York writers do you love?  Carrie: Edgar Allan Poe has to sit at the top of my list, since I live on Edgar Allan Poe Street (West 84th Street) in a building that stands on the location where he is said to have written The Raven. In Cold Blood is, in my mind, the ultimate true-crime book, so I’ll include Truman Capote as well.And I have to include award-winning author SJ Rozan, whose Lidia Chin and Bill Smith mysteries vividly portray New York’s neighborhoods, especially Chinatown. Patricia Highsmith wasn’t born here, but she lived here for many years, and I love her work, so I’ll include her, too.
Alison: What about New York could you not live without?  Carrie: Broadway theater, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Riverside Park, the footpath around the reservoir in Central Park where I do most of my plot thinking, bread from Zabar’s, fish from Citarella, organic produce from Fairway. I’m sure I’m forgetting something… Alison: Thank you, Carrie! Next time I’m at Fairway standing in line (or “standing on line,” for those of you who really want New York), I’ll think of you.   

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Conferences–Worth it?

 I am writing this blog when I should be booking a ticket to Nashville. I’ve already signed up for Killer Nashville, you see, and–though I’ve paid my conference fee and for my hotel–I have yet to book a flight. I will. I’m hemming and hawing about airline prices and not yet wanting to part with the money in my savings account.  Conferences can empty wallet. I’ve yet to attend one that didn’t ultimately set me back a grand with all the travel expenses and registration fees–not to mention the cost of promotional swag. So, a natural question is, are they worth it?  I think conferences help build an author’s brand and enable writers to connect with other novelists, both of which can sell books. Though I think anyone that believes he or she will go to a conference and see a resulting spike in his or her Amazon ranking will be ultimately disappointed. Conferences are largely attended by other writers. And, though writers buy and read lots of books, they are there to sell their own work–not to spend a bunch of money on their friends’ novels. What’s more important, though, is that writers talk about other writers and, ultimately, will read and promote authors whom they respect. This community promotion can help legitimize a new author’s career and get mid-list authors noticed. Successful writers, in my experience, are very generous with their time and platforms, perhaps because they were once in a similar situation on the mid-list or struggling to get published. (I also believe that people who spend a great deal of time imagining the feelings of others in various situations might be trained to be more empathetic than the average Joe. Though, this is a theory based entirely on supposition).  Conferences also give out awards recognizing stellar books, which can be helpful for sales. And, since writers typically vote for the winning titles, it can be difficult for a novice to get noticed for such recognition if he or she doesn’t have other authors–likely met at conferences and book signings and panels–who are aware of his or her work.  So, I guess that means I should go on Travelocity.     

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Fan conferences

 Readers who haven’t heard about fan conferences are missing something. They are – to my mind – a unique opportunity for writers and readers to mix. And honestly, aren’t all writers also readers, so it’s a perfect storm. More seriously, for those choosing which conferences to attend, writers have a to remember that these conferences aren’t about craft. Panels tend to focus on the experience of reading – what’s it like to set a book in a hot climate or why do you write such scary books. If you want a seminar on plot or constructing believable characters pick another type of conference. That said, fan conferences are a chance for writers to have down time with their fellow scribes and network among colleagues. If you are a beginning writer then you can take advantage of the (often) more relaxed atmosphere and get to know some of your favorite authors and make connections that may help your career down the road (when you need that blurb for your first novel). For fans who have no intention of writing these conferences are a vacation. I’ve met mother-daughter traveling teams, groups from book clubs who want to take their reading interest to a new level, and families who use the conferences as a base for their vacation (particularly true in cities like New Orleans). There are large national conferences and small region ones, which means that there is probably an event for all budgets and needs. Some of the ones I’m familiar with for mysteries/thrillers are listed below. -Thrillerfest in NYC every July (a fan conference with a CraftFest component prior) -Bouchercon every fall. This conference is huge (which means a little something for all mystery/thriller fans) and moves around North America (guaranteeing a good vacation spot) -Killer Nashville in August (small enough to have a chance to interact with anyone you want, even the big-name headliners) -Malice Domestic in Bethesda every spring (focus on cozy mysteries but with room to include others. Again, small enough to allow access to the superstars) -Suffolk Mystery Festival (I’m going for the first time this year) I’d love to hear about any other great fan conferences out there!

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Killer Nashville and Plot Twists

The writer’s conference Killer Nashville exceeded expectations in many ways, but as I digest the days of panels and speakers and most importantly dive into writing again I’m thinking about Plot Twists. At Killer Nashville three great panels touched on this: How to Write Effective Plot Twists, No Soggy Middles, and Creating Tension in Your Story. What I liked best about the panels is that there is no “perfect solution”. After all, every story is different, every author’s voice is different, however, there are many points that an author can reflect upon. I take notes at these events as if there is an exam (leftover from graduate school days?) and looking over them a few points stand out to me today. Mainly the idea of spending time on the villain. Sounds simple, right? Killer Nashville is mainly thriller and mystery writers and the advice and discussions crossover between the two…however I think that when writing a thriller the audience may know exactly who the villain is that villain should be evil (Hannibal Lector and his evil out of prison alter ego were both known to the reader/viewer and both were evil personified). I write mysteries and it’s not always as clear; after all, I want my audience to know the villain but not point to them on page 5 and say there they are, mystery solved. My villain needs to be concealed until the reveal and at the same time not so much of a surprise that the reader says, not possible. As I return to work on my manuscript I’ll be giving particular focus to this development. Are they enough of a villain to be satisfying? And are the means and reasons they went undetected well-constructed? Any thoughts about the well-constructed villain. Any favorites, any weak ones? Agatha Christie’s villain in the Murder of Roger Ackroyd certainly wasn’t obvious by any stretch of the imagination but, to me, he was completely believable once revealed. There have been many others since…..

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