Aspiring authors are always asking me if it’s worth it to go to book conferences. My answer is always a resounding YES. And I don’t just mean for the networking and promotional opportunities. Conferences also are goldmines of inspiration. Case in point:
I got the idea for my Huntress/FBI thriller series at the San Francisco Bouchercon, always the most inspiring of the mystery conferences for me.
I’d been wanting to do a book about a female serial killer for years. I’ve read everything the FBI has ever put out on serial murder/sexual homicide, and I am obsessed with the idea that there really aren’t female serial killers. Women kill, and sometimes they kill numbers of people, but arguably there has never been a woman who has committed what profilers call sexual homicide. That’s the issue I wanted to dig into.
So one afternoon at the conference there were two back-to-back discussions with several of my favorite authors: Val McDermid interviewing Denise Mina, then Robert Crais interviewing Lee Child. (Can you even imagine…?)
There was a lot of priceless stuff in those two hours, but two things that really struck me from the McDermid/Mina chat were Val saying that crime fiction is the best way to explore societal issues, and Denise saying that she finds powerful inspiration in writing about what makes her angry.
Write about what makes you angry? It doesn’t take me a millisecond’s thought to make my list. Child sexual abuse is the top, no contest. Violence against women and children. Discrimination of any kind. Religious intolerance. War crimes. Genocide. Torture.
That anger has fueled a lot of my books and scripts over the years.
And then right after that, there was Lee Child talking about Reacher, one of my favorite fictional characters, and it got me thinking about what it would look like if a woman were doing what Reacher was doing. And that was it—instantly I had the whole story of Huntress Moon and for the series: a woman who was killing like a serial killer, but who was not exactly a serial killer, and the FBI agent hunting her who becomes more and more conflicted about catching her once he uncovers her background and motives.
It was one of those blinding flashes that pulls everything that you want to write about into one package. As a screenwriter for eleven years, and a novelist for five more, I know those flashes are gifts from the creative universe. Huntress Moon is my most successful novel to date (just nominated for a Thriller Award for Best E Book Original Novel), Book II in the series, Blood Moon, is out now, and I’m currently writing the third book in the series with no end in sight.
So conferences? Yeah, I’m in favor of them! You never know what lighting might strike.
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Alexandra Sokoloff is the Thriller Award-winning and Bram Stoker, Anthony, and Black Quill award-nominated author of the supernatural thrillers THE HARROWING, THE PRICE, THE UNSEEN, BOOK OF SHADOWS, THE SHIFTERS, and THE SPACE BETWEEN, and the Top Ten Amazon bestselling Huntress/FBI thriller series (HUNTRESS MOON, BLOOD MOON), which has also been nominated for a Thriller Award for Best E Book Original Novel. The New York Times Book Review has called her a “daughter of Mary Shelley,” and her books “Some of the most original and freshly unnerving work in the genre.”
As a screenwriter she has sold original horror and thriller scripts and adapted novels for numerous Hollywood studios. She has also written two non-fiction writing workbooks: SCREENWRITING TRICKS FOR AUTHORS and WRITING LOVE, based on her internationally acclaimed workshops and blog, and has served on the Board of Directors of the WGA, west and the Board of the Mystery Writers of America.
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