Catriona writes: When I read Lori Rader Day's debut novel THE BLACK HOUR, I found it so realistic on the details of academic life that my dark past (as a linguistics lecturer) reached out with icy fingers to clutch me. I thought. But then LITTLE PRETTY THINGS (the award-winning follow-up) had no personal resonance for me as a reader but still chilled me to the bone. And now THE DAY I DIED is here and all I can say is, if you like to be a bit scared and a lot entertained, it's the book for you.
And if you like to be a whole lot entertained and hardly scared at all, then Lori Rader Day is the funny, warm, witty, peppery, biting, but ultimately fab woman for you. Online or irl, you couldn't ask for more fun than hanging out with my guest today. (Are you getting that I'm a bit of a fan?)
And so I can only imagine what joy a convention would be that has Lori's fingerprints on it. Here to tell all . . . Lori Rader Day:
As I write this, I’m recovering from a mystery conference. No, not that one. Save your alohas, bub.
I’m talking about Murder and Mayhem in Chicago, and if you haven’t heard of it, don’t feel too out of the loop. (Loop! That joke’s for you, Chicagoans!) No, it’s not as though everyone you know is on a plane to Honolulu without you or anything. *ahem* Murder and Mayhem in Chicago is a brand-new mystery conference. Unless you were there (and now have Marcus Sakey’s social security number, a joke that only lands if you there), you haven’t met. So let me introduce you.
Murder and Mayhem in Chicago got off the ground when publicist Dana Kaye asked me if I would have lunch with her to talk out some ideas she had. They involved event planning, something I did for my day job at the time.
Warning: if Dana Kaye wants to trade you a lunch for your expertise, you might want to make sure it’s a pretty good lunch. Because the next thing you know, you’ll be co-chairing a conference with her. Or maybe I’m just a girl who has boundary issues, whatever. The short story is that once I heard Dana’s idea to bring Murder and Mayhem to Chicago, I was in. Murder and Mayhem originated in Wisconsin, first in Muskego and then in Milwaukee, created and continued by Jon and Ruth Jordan from Crimespree Magazine and librarian Penny Halle with an assist by Erica Ruth Neubauer and many local volunteers. The reason it was so easy for Dana to talk me into the idea is that it’s a good one. Murder and Mayhem in Milwaukee is a relaxed, one-day, one-track crime fiction conference that brings great authors to its city and highlights local authors to boot.
For Murder and Mayhem in Chicago, we just had to find a big but not too costly space, talk approximately 200 great people into spending the day together, and organize all the ensuing chaos into something entertaining, educational, and photogenic.
Piece of cake.
Dana and I spent 18 months planning the event and one mighty fun-filled day enjoying the fruits of our labor. What, you may be wondering at this time, were we thinking? Why would a publicist (full-time job) and a novelist (mmmmmaybe a full-time job, some days more than others) add such a ridiculous bunch of work to their lives?
It may seem like a promotional platform for ourselves, and it is. We were both on a panel apiece during the day, and both our books were on sale at the book table. I had a brand new promotional sign displayed in the book/hangout space.
Or maybe it was a networking thing? Dana was able to give added value to some of her local clients. I was able to slot in quite a few members of the Mystery Writers of America Midwest Chapter, of which I am the current president. We parlayed our event into a chance to bring in some sales for a local independent bookseller (we hear they like sales) and some connections with local organizations as sponsors.
But I wouldn’t have done all that work for mere self-promotion or for networking connections. Would you? (You didn’t.) Why put together a new mystery community event in a calendar that is already full? If you were on a panel, you sold some books and got your name in front of a lot of really serious mystery readers, librarians, booksellers, and other authors. If you were in the audience, you picked up some tips and laughed. You were there the day Sara Paretsky and William Kent Krueger, two major figures in Midwestern mysteries, met for the first time, the day the first Sara Paretsky Award was bestowed upon, yes, Sara Paretsky. You got your hugs in. You saw your friends. You met new ones. You found new books to read. You got ideas for your next one. We did it for all of that, for the magic. A literary writer would have used the word ineffable, thereby transcending the genre. (Another one for those who were there.)
What we get out of the mystery community isn’t a one-to-one transaction. It’s not a vending machine; this isn’t McDonald’s. A lot of times, publishing can seem like a black hole that we throw our lives into: all our time, all our effort, no guarantees of success. Except, if you’re willing to take the writing itself in payment and the friendships you make as the icing on the cake, well... maybe the decision to add to that community isn’t so difficult after all.
Dana and I put in over a year of work to create a thing that hadn’t existed before—something different from what we’d had in Chicago and lost when other conferences came and went, something different from what Milwaukee still enjoys. It was a creative act, and it was also a hell of a lot of fun.
All this to say... see you there next year?
Lori Rader-Day, author of The Day I Died, released April 11, The Black Hour, and Little Pretty Things, is the recipient of the 2016 Mary Higgins Clark Award and the 2015 Anthony Award for Best First Novel. She lives in Chicago, where is the president of the Mystery Writers of America Midwest Chapter and the co-chair of Murder and Mayhem in Chicago.
Find her at www.loriraderday.com
And on Twitter