Today ends the Bouchercon interview series, and I thought it was only fair for me to have to answer the questions I have subjected so many others to these past ten weeks.
One Bite at a Time: What made you decide to come to Albany?
Dana King: Bouchercon was there. Going is now my default mode; it takes a compelling reason for me not to.
OBAAT: What’s the most important aspect of Bouchercon for you? (This year, or any year?)
DK: The atmosphere. That sounds like a cop-out, but I’m jazzed from the minute I get there until well after I’m home again. I never feel more like a writer than when I’m at Bouchercon and during the afterglow.
OBAAT: Were you on any panels?
DK: I lucked into one of Peter Rozovsky’s panels. Peter led Eric Beetner, Mike Dennis, Terrence McCauley, Jonathan Woods and I in a discussion of hard-boiled and noir writing. It was a great experience, from the prep—reading these guys was a treat—to the aftermath.
OBAAT: To you, what makes a good panel, from a panelist’s perspective?
DK: A well-organized moderator who knows what he’s doing, isn’t afraid to steer enough to keep things on track, and does what he can to set the panelists up with discussion provoking questions. You know, Peter Rozovsky.
OBAAT: What do you look for when deciding which panels to attend?
DK: My opinion has evolved there. I used to look for topics where I thought I might learn something. I still do some of that—PI panels will draw me just about every time—but now it’s more which panelists and moderators look like they’d be more entertaining.
OBAAT: What makes a panel good for you when you’re in the audience?
DK: If it’s fun. The panelists should be enjoying themselves, which will convey to the audience. A perfect panel would seem like eavesdropping on a gently guided bull session among bright, witty, and opinionated people.
OBAAT: Would you like to see more or fewer questions from the audience?
DK: Before the series of interviews, I would have said fewer. Too many audience questions are directed to a particular author, and either begin with “Don’t you think…” or end with “Do you Agree?” Somewhere in there is often a rambling manifesto or asking why the author being questioned killed Misery in his last novel. I like Jack Getze’s idea of allowing the audience to submit questions in advance to be chosen by the moderator a lot.
OBAAT: What’s your favorite Bouchercon story, from this year or any past years?
DK: Baltimore, 2008. My first Bouchercon, and I know about three people, and I met them online. Fortunately, Peter Rozovsky was one. He saw me early in the first afternoon, when I’m not having a good time at all, and asked how I liked it so far. We talked and it came up how it’s hard for me to talk to people I don’t know. Peter looked around, and calls over a guy I don’t know. Asked me, “Do you know Scott Phillips? Scott, this is Dana King.” Scott and I shook hands. Peter said, “Okay, now you know Scott Phillips.” Scott made a little small talk and begged off, as he was needed elsewhere. Next year in Indianapolis, I saw him at the bar, said hello. A few minutes later, he leaned over to me and said he and several other people were going to get something to eat; did I want to come? Ever since, Bouchercon introductions have not been an issue for me.
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Before we leave this go altogether, let’s take a look at some of the questions everyone was asked, and see if there is any consensus.
What’s the most important aspect of Bouchercon for you? (This year, or any year?)
People and friends, overwhelmingly. Not panels, not inside industry talk (though both were mentioned); it’s the people. That would have surprised me five years ago; not now. Crime fiction writers and readers are as nice a group of people as you’re going to meet, and are well worth the trip, just to hang with.
What makes a good panel, from a panelist’s perspective?
The consensus wasn’t as clear here, but the moderator is key. The selection of questions to provoke discussion, keeping things moving while not stopping a discussion that’s on a roll, and understanding the audience is not there to hear the moderator promote an agenda; they’re there for the panelists.
What do you look for when deciding which panels to attend?
This was all over the place. It boiled down to the moderator, the topic, the panelists, and the timing. There’s not much else to consider. (Room temperature? Restroom proximity?) Everyone has their own ideas.
What makes a panel good for you when you’re in the audience?
There was no clear consensus here, either. Moderators were mentioned a couple of times. Preparation also came up, for both moderators and panelists. A thread expressed differently by all was getting to know the authors though their comments and demeanor.
Would you like to see more or fewer questions from the audience?
Almost universally “yes,” with a few “it depends.” Audience questions can be risky if someone tries to hijack the panel. (Once again, a good moderator is clutch, even though no one mentioned moderators in their answers to this question.)
So ends the series on Bouchercon. This was a lot more fun—and a lot more informative—than I expected when I got the idea back in September, and I expected a lot. Countless thanks to everyone who participated for their willingness to share their time, and the openness of their opinions. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone in Long Beach in 328 days.