I was unable to attend the 2013 premiere of the Creatures, Crime, and Creativity conference—a/k/a C3—but made a point of going last year. The organizers have created a little gem which has already earned a spot next to Bouchercon on my annual conference schedule. I could go on about it, but thought it would be more informational to get the scoop right from the organizer. Austin Camacho was kind enough to take time out from his hectic pre-conference schedule to submit to a few questions I think you’ll find enlightening enough to check your schedule from September 25 – 27 for availability for a quick trip to Hunt Valley MD.
One Bite at a Time: First, thanks for taking the time during what I know is a busy period for you. You’ve been to a lot of conferences, and had a good idea of the amount of work involved. What first gave you the idea of organizing one of your own?
Austin Camacho: My favorite conferences are meeting places for both writers and readers (Love is Murder in Chicago, Killer Nashville, Magna Cum Murder in Indianapolis, West Coast Crime, etc.), but they all were so far away! There wasn’t one in the Mid-Atlantic States. While I was whining about this one day a close friend asked, “Why don’t you start one?” I didn’t have a good answer, so…
OBAAT: Give us an overview of C3.
AC: The C3 conference gathers readers and writers of mystery, suspense, thriller, horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and paranormal fiction for three days of workshops, panels, and fun! Thirty-six panels and classes for writers and fans led by top-selling genre fiction authors. Plus, two best sellers give keynote speeches and teach workshops. Fans can meet dozens of authors at two book signings. All meals are included so fans can dine with their favorite authors.
OBAAT: Most conferences specialize on a single genre: mysteries, science fiction, romance, etc. Why cast your nets so wide?
AC: My favorite con is Love is Murder, which covers mystery, thrillers, horror, and romantic suspense. We started out modelling our con after theirs. The fact is, many of my favorite authors, like this year’s keynotes, write in a variety of genres that naturally overlap. I believe that crossing genres and mashups are the future of genre fiction, so we wanted to embrace genre fiction as a whole. (Except for straight romance which is kind of a different animal.)
OBAAT: Did including multiple genres present any unexpected difficulties?
AC: Oh, yes. When we started we didn’t realize how different the fans are. For example, sci-fi cons aren’t generally aimed at just readers but cater to film and TV fans. Our con has no filking, no costumes, and no TV stars, so we don’t attract much of that fan base.
OBAAT: Aside from any multi-genre concerns, what have you learned from the first two years that has led to tweaks for this year?
AC: We originally had agents there to take pitches, but interest was low so we didn’t invite them this year. Also, we had a big sit-down banquet Saturday night like most other cons, but our folks raved about Friday night’s buffet so we went with that Saturday too. The big lesson has been that we need to follow our own instincts instead of following what others have done.
OBAAT: What do you think attendees will enjoy most at this year’s conference?
AC: I know that for a lot of them is has been the time in the bar after the official program. All the writers hang out in a relaxed atmosphere and are very open to both fans and aspiring authors. I think some will most enjoy the CSI/crime scene supervisor presentation. And I expect the ex-intelligence officer’s presentation will be a big crowd pleaser.
OBAAT: What do you think you’ll enjoy most at this year’s conference?
AC: I suspect for me it will be the keynote addresses. I have huge respect for F. Paul Wilson and Heather Graham for being able to write such a broad spectrum of great novels! (And I secretly believe that Paul invented the urban fantasy genre with Repairman Jack.)
OBAAT: Among the things I liked best last year was the relative informality of the conference, and the opportunities for readers and writers to interact. Bouchercon does this well, but there was a level of intimacy at C3 I’d not seen anywhere else. Some of this has to do with the relative sizes of C3 and Bouchercon, though I’ve been to smaller conferences that didn’t pull it off as well. Was this something you wanted to accomplish from the start, and, if so, how did you go about it? (I doubt it was an accident.) Following up, how do you plan to maintain this atmosphere as the conference grows?
AC: That informal atmosphere was most assuredly intentional. I believe the “secret” was to include all the meals in the registration price. Writers and readers dine together five times during the con, so they have a chance to really bond. Isn’t it easier to ask that weird question over lunch?
OBAAT: Speaking for myself, absolutely. I’m not someone who easily starts conversations with people I don’t know, and food is always a great ice-breaker. Everyone has to eat.
What about the conference—including the planning phase—do you enjoy most?
AC: On a personal level, I really like being surrounded by writers and people who love to read. Nothing charges me up like that fellowship of the literate.
OBAAT: What do you enjoy least?
AC: Dealing with the money. I’ve never tried to negotiate when attending a conference so I’m a little boggled by those who ask for a discount, or to bring a friend for free, or want some ala carte option we don’t offer (just meals, no meals, just Sunday…).
OBAAT: What has been your most pleasant surprise?
AC: The compliments we’ve gotten from Jeff Deaver, John Gilstrap, Brian Keene and Rebecca York about how the con was run. These are people who have been to dozens of these things and I was stunned at how much they enjoyed ours.
There was one other really big surprise. Last year we got people tweeting our hashtag - #MdC3Con – and Saturday night we looked and we were trending! That made me realize we had really started something.
OBAAT: What has been your least pleasant surprise?
AC: The first year there were a lot of expenses that we hadn’t anticipated – little things that added up. But last year there were far fewer such surprises and I’m optimistic about this year.
OBAAT: Austin, it’s been a treat to get your thoughts on what quickly became a regular stop on my annual conference schedule. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone again in a few weeks. Any last thoughts before we go?
AC: Just to mention that it’s you, and folks like you, that make C3 a great Con. I hope you all return this year, and if everyone brings a friend, so much the better! So spread the word. We’re not Bouchercon… yet! But the more fans that attend, the more big name writers will want to make the Creatures, Crimes and Creativity Con a regular stop.
Still unsure? Piker. In case you didn’t catch the salient points above, The Creatures, Crimes & Creativity (C3) Conference gathers readers and writers of mystery, suspense, thriller, horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and paranormal fiction. This year Heather Graham and F. Paul Wilson will be keynote speakers, but that’s only the beginning.
The C3 Con is in Hunt Valley MD, Sept. 25-27. The registration fee includes five meals: Friday’s dinner, three meals on Saturday, and Sunday breakfast, so readers and writers dine side-by-side.
Published authors get to spend time with their fans, and to expose new readers to their writing by presenting on panels. Their books will be available in our on-site bookstore and there will be dedicated book signing times. Authors’ names and links will be posted on the C3 website. A video interview is included that authors can use on their own web sites after the Con, and a photographer will be on hand to take promo pictures at a special price.
Readers and fans will enjoy panels and presentations from favorite authors, including bestsellers like Heather Graham and F. Paul Wilson, both of whom have written bestsellers in the paranormal, suspense, mystery, thriller, fantasy, and horror genres. Local guest authors include mystery and sci-fi author Andy Straka, and thriller writer S.D. Skye, both award winners in their own right.
Each attendee will receive a goodie bag filled with cool stuff, including our exclusive anthology of stories written by attending authors. Add fun events like book signings, a Twitter contest, and a scavenger hunt, with lots of valuable prizes, and it’s a busy and entertaining three days.
Register now at http://creaturescrimesandcreativity.com
What? You want a trailer, too?