by JT Ellison
A perfect example of how a word can alter a story. I doubt the Beastie Boys would have rocketed up the charts with "No Sleep Till Manhattan," or "No Sleep until July 16th when I get home from the most excellent weekend of the year, THRILLERFEST." Whoops, I’m digressing again. And dating myself. Egads!
Yes, it’s that time of year again, folks. I’m leaving for New York on Wednesday. Last year’s Thrillerfest in Phoenix was my very first large conference, and I had a blast running around with the Killer Year crew, meeting my literary gods, attending the coolest panels, and generally being an idiot. This year will be much, much different. I’m a teensy bit nervous, to tell you the truth.
When I look at my schedule for the four day event, it astounds me to think of how much time, effort, and hard work the organizers of this conference have gone to. I’m on two panels, have a video shoot, lunch with my editor, dinner with my agent, a cocktail party, a volunteer stint on Friday, the ITW general meeting, Author Bingo to participate in, panels of friends and authors I admire to attend, and the most important job: people to meet, readers to hopefully impress — I wonder how in the world the people who are organizing the conference and the headliners have time to think, much less be ON for four days. Mind-boggling, really.
What’s odd about this year is the fact that I’m an author. Yes, last year I got my name tag and nearly burst with pride when I saw ITW AUTHOR under my name. This year, it means something. I have a book to promote. Friday morning I need to introduce myself to who knows how many people, utilizing a microphone no less, and pray I don’t make an ass of myself or turn into a gibbering mess, bumbling my way through my 60 seconds, or pass out when Lee Child asks me a question. (Lee, if you’re reading, be gentle.) Sunday I’ll be on a panel with friends and strangers, answering questions for an audience. An audience, people.
Jitters? Hmm. I do and I don’t. I’m never thrilled to have to be the center of attention. Sure, I like attention as much as the next person, but I’m more of a one-on-one kind of girl, because to be honest, I like to hear about the other person more than I like to talk about myself. I know I need to conquer this little fear, and I will. But I’ll probably stutter and stammer a few times along the way. And you know what? That’s okay. The world will not end if I say "Um," a couple of times. Will it? On no. Don’t answer that. You’ll just get me thinking.
So why do we do this to ourselves? Being a novelist these days means a full media presence is necessary. You need to be witty, sharp on your feet, willing to step out of your comfort zone and expand your horizons. You need to be able to talk to booksellers and reviewers. Most importantly, you need to be able to talk to your readers. I don’t have any yet (unless you scored a now hard to get galley at BEA) so I’m still in a nice little comfort zone of pitching the story (ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS introduces series character Taylor Jackson, a homicide lieutenant chasing a vicious serial killer through the southeast.) As a debut author, the expectations are two-fold. Be able to talk about your book and your writing in a semi-intelligent manner, and maintain some semblance of sageness and sobriety after hours. The way I look at it, don’t step on your tail, and don’t step on the tail of any other author, and you should be okay.
Toss into the mix that I’m a complete goober fangirl, will be channeling my inner Valley Girl (like, OHMIGOD!) at the mere thought of being under the same roof as the incredible authors who make up the membership of International Thriller Writers (Lee Child! Barry Eisler! Gayle Lynds! Vince Flynn! Jim Rollins! Tess Gerritsen! on and on and on) and Bob’s your uncle.
Bear in mind, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Thrillerfest isn’t a party. It’s a business meeting. I’m so thankful that hubby will be traveling to New York with me. As my business partner, marketing maven, manager, etc., he is also my rock. Not every author is lucky enough to have such a savvy spouse who can take time from their own important life to support them. I’m blessed in that regard. It’s also great for him to see the inner workings of the conference, to meet the players, to continue learning the industry from the inside. And if I blow it, which I may well do, he’ll be there to hold me up.
So here I am, on the cusp on another major moment in my publishing career. Not only do we have Thrillerfest looming, the galleys have gone out to the reviewers. With first timer-itis coursing through my delicate debut veins, I’m in that wide abyss of wait and see. Will they love it? Will they hate it? Honestly, I expect to have a bit of both, and hope for a nice showing of middle ground positive. But who knows? Crime fiction is a terribly subjective genre. What rocks one readers boat may drive a hole through the bottom and sink the yacht of the reader next to them. You’ve just got to have faith that your agent and editor aren’t lying to you, that the whole publishing scenario isn’t some kind of big cosmic joke where you wake up one morning having only dreamed you’ve published your baby.
If you’ll be attending Thrillerfest, please, come say hello. I’d love to meet any and all Murderati readers who have been sharing this journey with me. Let’s sit down in the bar, share a lovely glass of red, and you can tell me a little more about you.
And then, I plan to sleep. Wish me luck!
Wine of the Week: Since I’m of two minds about my nervousness, let’s do light and dark this week. A lovely Cusumano Nero D’Avola will address my angst, and to celebrate the book releases of my dear friends, Brett Battles and Jason Pinter, a little bit of fine Italian bubbly, a Zardetto Prosecco.
BREAKING NEWS FROM MURDERATI to All You Naughty Little Monkeys
Don’t forget to watch our own Ken Bruen on THE LATE LATE SHOW with Craig Ferguson July 9th!!!!