By PD Martin
On the weekend I attended the ten-yearly (yup, not annual, not bi-annual but once a decade) SheKilda. It was actually the second ever SheKilda, to mark Sisters in Crime Australia’s 20th anniversary and the 10th anniversary of the first SheKilda. Happily, they are talking about maybe having another one in five years! I’m going to push for two years.
Anyway, having attended Bouchercon once, I was hoping that SheKilda would follow a similar format and, of course, be as wonderful and successful as the US convention. And I was NOT disappointed. It was an amazing weekend. A time for authors and readers to talk, exchange ideas and, in the case of the authors, complain that our partners don’t understand what we do and how hard we work!
One of the key differences between SheKilda and Bouchercon is that SheKilda was conceived and produced by Sisters in Crime and so all the authors were women. In terms of the audience, I’d say it was probably about 95% women too, but then again most crime readers are female. What sort of gender break up do you think the Bouchercon audience is? I can’t remember from my visit a few years ago.
SheKilda was set up as a convention rather than a writers festival, with all the sessions and activities centred around the hotel venue (Rydges in Carlton, Melbourne). To my knowledge, this makes SheKilda the only one of its kind in Australia. They even served morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea in a common area near the venues, so we didn’t have to stray too far from the action or pound the pavement in the search of lunch.
The weekend kicked off with the Friday night gala opening. It was a chance for all the authors and attendees to mingle (with free champagne, red wine, white wine and beer – oh, and soft drinks too). There was also some extra yummy finger food! Then it was into one of the rooms for the official opening. MCed masterfully by Sue Turnbull (she’s an amazing interviewer and MC), it kicked off with a traditional welcome from Joy Murphy Wandin, who’s an elder of the Wurundjeri indigenous people. Then it was on to the entertaining (funny) City of Melbourne Councillor Ken Ong, then Mary Delahunty of Writing Australia and then the keynote address from Margie Orford, one of the three international guests for the convention. She gave a stunning speech about the setting for her novels and hometown (Cape Town). Apparently the murder rate there is so high that forensics will only be called if they think the murder might make the TV news. There have even been cases of people travelling to Cape Town to specifically arrange murder – hoping their victim will simply go into the massive pile of unsolved murder cases on some homicide cop’s desk. Margie’s police contact will often have 200 files on his desk.
Saturday kicked off with a joint session with all the international guests, Margie Orford, Shamini Flint and Vanda Symon. It was a great opening to the day’s events and was followed by Tara Moss launching Scarlet Stiletto: The Second Cut, a collection of award-winning short stories by women crime writers.
For my other morning session, I attended Drawing the Line: Whatever!, which looked at how the line is drawn between a young adult novel and an adult novel. YA authors Marianne Delacourt, Karen Healey and Nansi Kunze were led by Alison Goodman. It seems violence was one key determiner, but sex was a more important one. For example, editorial notes removing the word “straddled” were discussed!
After lunch, I was on a panel with Narelle Harris, Marianne Delacourt, Alison Goodman and Kim Westwood, chaired by Tara Moss. The panel looked at bending the rules in terms of genre — mixing genres, moving genres, etc.
After my choc-chip cookie at afternoon tea it was time for my second panel of the day, Conquering the World: Heroes Abroad. This panel was chaired by Angela Savage and together with Lindy Cameron, Malla Nunn and LA Larkin we all explored setting our books overseas. Angela’s are set in Thailand, Lindy’s Redback is set in several locations, Malla’s are set in South Africa in the 1950s and Louisa’s first book is set in Zimbabwe and Australia and her second in Antarctica. And then of course mine are set in the US.
Saturday night was the Davitt Awards, which were created to support Aussie female crime writers – who often seem to be overlooked in our other crime awards. The winners that night (from left to right) were:
Best true crime: Colleen Egan
Best YA crime fiction: Penny Matthews
Best fiction honourable mention: Leigh Redhead
Best fiction: Katherine Howell (who was my guest here in July)
And PM Newton, who’s not in the picture, won the readers’ choice award.
I kicked off Sunday morning as part of a panel called Brave New World: Or Death of the Book. As you can imagine, we spent the hour talking about ebooks in Australia and around the world. A recent stat for Australia is that the current $35 million ebook market will increase to anything from $150 million to $700 million in the next three years. Big numbers!
After morning tea, I was an audience member for In the Face of Evil: Encounters with the Guilty, where true crime writers Rochelle Jackson, Robin Bowles and Ruth Wykes talked about their interviews and encounters with real-life crooks and murderers. And then I sat in on Them that Really Do it, which featured authors who used their past/present careers in their writing. Katherine Howell (ex-paramedic), YA Erskine (ex-cop), Helene Young (pilot), Kathryn Fox (ex-doctor) and PM Newton (ex-cop) were on the panel.
After lunch was Body in the Pool, which gave the SheKilda attendees an insight into how things would really happen if/when a dead body is found. The body (Ms Manny Quinn) had been on display by the pool all weekend and the experts included someone from the police (actually our ex-assistant commissioner, Sandra Nicholson), bug expert Mel Archer and a forensic pathologist. Timing (real versus that portrayed in crime fiction and crime TV) was also discussed. The facts are: at least 6-8 weeks for the entomology report and 10 weeks for the autopsy report.
It was an amazing, amazing weekend. A chance to talk to other authors, share stories (often complaining about how badly we’re paid!!) and expose ourselves to some great authors who are new to us. I have to confess I didn’t make any purchases, but that was only because I’m sure Santa is bringing me a kindle for Christmas so I’ll wait and purchase the many fabulous books now on my ‘to buy’ list as ebooks!
Editorial note: I was very organised and wrote this blog on Monday, ready for today’s post. However, since then there has been some discussion/debate regarding the state of crime fiction written by women in this country. In fact, I’ll be blogging about the Sisters side of the convention in a fortnight’s time.
But my question for now: what authors have you ‘found’ at a convention and then bought their books?
SheKilda sounds like great fun. Hope you do get it going more often! Congrtulations on a successful convention.
Huge congratulations to Katherine Howell for the Davitt, Best Fiction award! I enjoyed her guest blog here, quite a lot nd hope she will be back among the Rati soon.
I've only been to one book event, the Tucson Festival of Books, as I've only recently discovered them . . . I know . . . deprived (possibly depraved, as well). So I'm a late starter with fiction. I went to one pnel that Zoë Sharp was on and had the opportunity to cht, very fun, nd resolved to buy evrything she ever writes. She wasn't completely new to me, but really hearing her take on setting and story cemented my interest in her writing, and I have not been disappointed! I really discovered her here on Murderati, however.
Can't wait to go to more book fests and hoping a Bouchercon will come our way sometime, because they sound loads of fun, as well.
At Bouchercon, I discovered Chris Ewan, Christopher Farnsworth, and Boyd Morrison through panels I attended. I'd never heard of these gentlemen or their books, which begs the question of why I hadn't noticed I'd been living under a rock for so long.*
I snagged a copy of Chris Ewan's Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam after his Capers panel and ended up ordering the whole series online before I left, and recommending it to everyone I met — still am. My *MIL *likes them, and she's always been firmly in the Ellis Peters historical mystery camp.
Mr. Farnsworth writes the best darned political vampire thrillers I have ever read, and I think that would still stand if there were plenty of other political vampire thrillers out there and I'd read any of them. I actually went to his panel by chance, and was interested enough in the description of his MC to track down Blood Oath in the book room afterward. Amazing, amazing stuff.
Boyd Morrison was on a panel with Zoe Sharp, and his Tyler Locke Adventures are currently knocking my socks off. The MC is sort of Indiana MacGyver Jones — Robert Langdon *wishes* he was this brilliant.
Needless to say, our library now has all these author's currently released books on the shelves at each of our branches — or off the shelves, since I've been handing them out to our patrons every chance I get (as I already do with the works of Murderati authors).
So if anyone's wondering if conventions are worth it, the answer is yes, at least from a reader/librarian standpoint!
*I also confirmed that Murderati authors are just as cool as advertised, but y'all knew that already.
There must be dozens of authors I met at cons who went on to become my favorite "new finds." Sometimes it was hearing them at a panel. Most often it was hearing them in the bar.
And any convention that includes afternoon tea gets my vote.
PD, wow, sounds like fun and let's hope it's more often than every ten years.
At the SF Bouchercon (I missed St. Louis this year but several Muderati attended) I'd say about 70% attendees were women who weren't writers…there are probably even split in gender among the writers judging by the panels that I organized. Jassy Mackenzie was my find at that conference (we sat and had a drink together…). Got to meet her and then her work. Bringing some of the African continent to us, I loved that. There have been many others — Matt Hilton, who is a funny, warm person who writes nasty thrillers, It's a odd thing to sit and have a drink with someone, then there they are, signing books in the book room so you go for it. Another was through the Soho press table where I picked up Henry Chang (Dectective Jack Yu) and Lisa Brackmann's Rock Paper Tiger. Of course, Jassy is also Soho but that's not how I found her.
The best for me was the Book Passages mystery writers' course where I read every author (this was a few years ago) on the faculty and met a lot of new writers.
Thanks for this, PD. I have a lot of new to me writers to chase down. I've found a lot of writers through conferences. Just from Murderati there's David, who I met at the Book Passage Mystery Writer's Conference in 2006, and Jonathan, who I met at Left Coast Crime in Hawaii a couple of years ago. Also, I met Jassy Mackenzie at the same time Allison did at Bouchercon in SF and picked her books up on-line. I know your blog mentioned the e-book market growing in Australia, but I think it's a great opportunity for Australian authors and publishers to get their books out to the world. For instance, I looked to see if I could get Angela Savage's books for my Kindle just now and was out of luck. On that note, are there any other Australian private investigator novels that you could recommend. Thanks.
I found Alexandra Sokoloff at the RWA conference in San Fransico and got her book "The Book of Shadows."
Reine: Yes, SheKilda was a ball. Sounds like you enjoyed the Tucson festival and I'd definitely recommend getting to Bouchercon. And I'll pass on your congrats to Katherine.
Sarah: I think the conventions are worthwhile from every POV – reader, librarian and author! Sounds like you've picked up quite a few authors too. And yes, although I've only met Tess in person I'm SURE the Rati are all way cool.
Louise: Yes, the bar chats are great! Although I'm hopeless and tend to be pretty tired by the end of the day 🙂
Allison, thanks for the 70/30 breakdown. I imagine that's quite typical of the readership (and of course some people drag their partners along to these things too!) By the way, there were two authors at SheKilda who set their books in Africa – Malla Nunn (1950s South Africa) and Margie Orford (Cape Town). I haven't read them (yet) but have heard extremely good things about their work and they're both amazing women.
Connie: great that you found one of the Muderati gang at a convention.
Larry: Would have loved to get to that Left Coast Crime. Much closer for us Aussies! Wish I had been more organised and got myself over there. Anyway….here's a link to Angela's most recent novel (on Kindle) at http://www.amazon.com/The-Half-Child-ebook/dp/B005651QBQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1315177711&sr=1-1 She was also shortlisted for the Ned Kelly Awards for this novel.
Yes, I agree it's a great way to get Aussie authors out to the world but we have a slight pricing issue! Here books are WAY more expensive than most other countries. For example, the recommended retail price for a hardback is $44.95, Trade paperback $32.99 and mass market $19.99. The problem our publishers have is that they mostly list the ebook prices as the same as the mass market or only $1-2 less. So, would overseas readers pay $19.99 for an ebook?? I notice Angela's book is cheaper ($14.37) but it's still more than the $6.99 most Americans would be used to paying. With the UK pound to Aussie $ conversion we might be more competitive there. On the panel we did talk about whether publishers would bring down the ebook price here in Australia. Tara Moss mentioned her books are available as ebooks for $9.99 (better!) and there are a few others doing it too. It also depends on territories. For example, because I have a US publisher, it's my US publisher who puts my work on Kindle and so my books are more in line with the 'standard' Kindle price.
Anyway, I hope you've clicked the notify box so you get to see this response 🙂 I'ts a complicated issue!
Now, as for Aussie PI novels…
Leigh Redhead writes about a stripper turned PI and her latest book was Highly Commended at the Davitts. http://www.amazon.com/Thrill-City-ebook/dp/B0042P6XKA/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1318545953&sr=1-1
Kerry Greenwood's Phyrne Fisher novels are set in 1920s Melbourne with a female aristocrat/PI. I've only read one, which I enjoyed a lot, but she sells extremely well here and everyone raves about the series.
Tara Moss writes about a model (first two books) turned forensic psychologist working as a PI (books 3 & 4). She's Australia's best selling female author.
Then police procedurals – heaps, but maybe try Felicity Young and Garry Disher.
Kathryn Fox's books feature a doctor and are excellent too.
There are so many more…maybe check this out: http://www.crimedownunder.com/
Thanks for the info, PD. Unfortunately I'm in Canada, so Amazon told me that Angela's book wasn't available to me. Some day it'll be nice if territories catch up to the e-universe. And I agree, the pricing issue will be a problem. We have a similar issue in Canada, with the market being a tenth the size of the American one and pricing being higher(tho not as high as yours) despite our dollar being above or at par with the American dollar for the better part of two years now.
I look forward to trying out the Australian authors I can get though.
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Where there is a will, there is a way.
No worries, Larry. Yes, the territory business is a real pain in the ass. One positive for self-publishing – you can publish anywhere.
Good luck with finding some Aussie authors. Let me know how you go – pdmartinauthor…at…yahoo.com
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I discovered Mary Jane Maffini at Bloody Words in Ottawa. She was so funny and charming that I had to buy her book.
On another note, being a Canadian married to a transplanted Aussie (from Melbourne) I'm always interested to read about the mystery world in my huband's home turf. However, I was disappointed that you ate a chocolate chip cookie and not a Lamington at the conference. Because this week my guest blog about Lamingtons – from a Canadian perspective – appeared on Janet Rudolph's Dying for Chocolate. http://dyingforchocolate.blogspot.com/2011/10/lamingtons-guest-post-by-bobbi-mumm.html
Janet Rudolph is the editor of Mystery Reader's Journal. Thanks, PD, for a great post.