The County of Brant Library (Paris Branch) hosts some terrific events for aspiring authors and invited the Deadly Dames to participate in a discussion about writing crime, mystery and suspense. This quintet of authors form a writers group and share a love for their craft. The authors each gave a reading followed by a moderated discussion and a question and answer period. These writers were all women who had experienced other careers and were examples that it was possible for the audience to meet goals to become authors. The panel included:
- Joan O’Callaghan – A previous high school English teacher, Joan now instructs at the University of Toronto. She is a freelance writer and has written fiction, short-stories and a memoir about her late husband.
- Melodie Campbell – Also known as the “Queen of Comedy” by the Toronto Sun, she read from the 4th book in her series, The Goddaughter Caper, which is set in Hamilton. She got her start writing standup and currently teaches writing at Sheridan College.
- Janet Bolin – Janet writes “cozy mysteries” and starts her writing by inventing “punny” titles like Seven Threadly Sins. I had never heard of this genre which the books can be referred to as “cozies”. Basically, these books are crime fiction that is often set in a small town with sex and violence downplayed or treated with humour.
- Catherine Astolfo – Catherine is a retired school principal who started writing at the age of 12 but professionally began by writing “how-to” manuals for teachers. She likes to combine mystery with social justice issues and has written novels with the setting of Brantford and Brant County. I have purchased a copy of Sweet Karoline and am hoping to that my book club will invite her to discuss her novels.
- Alison Bruce – This author has had many careers including copywriter, editor, graphic designer, comic store manager, small press publisher, webmaster and bookkeeper. She is the author of mystery, romantic suspense and historical western romance novels and is able to incorporate the research from editing non-fiction writing into her stories. She strives to write stories that will have “re-readability”
My question to the panel was what they were all reading and how they balanced reading with their writing and while they all are avid readers, they all enjoy different books.
- Melodie shared that she reads about 100 books a year by reading for an hour each night. She had recently read The Nest and found it underwhelming (I certainly agree with that)! She noted that she had done a casual survey in one of her classes where students read an average of 7 books a year – as a student, I had to stop reading for pleasure or I would have struggled to get my work done so I hope that this is the case and that these students will pick up their reading once they are finished their course.
- Catherine also reads to go to sleep and has recently been reading the newest Louise Penny novel, A Great Reckoning. Catherine is currently writing scripts and reading provides the inspiration to keep her motivated.
- Joan takes an eclectic approach to her reading which she does during her 45 minute subway rides and before bed. She has recently read The Princes of Ireland, The Camel Club and How to Grow a novel.
- Alison described herself as a “binge reader” who reads most days and when a new author publishes, she tends to go back and read all of their work. She loves to re-read and generally has at least 2 books on the go at a time. She reads on her phone whenever there is time and enjoys audio-books and podcasts as she does her design work.
- Janet reads for the Evergreen Awards (this was the theme for my August book club and the 2016 contest included Under the Visible Life, They Left us Everything and Birdie which I enjoyed reading). Janet participates in a local library book club and is reading Still Life with Breadcrumbs. She also reads to before bed and during the frequent power outages which are experienced in Port Burwell.
The group agreed that it is difficult to “read the same way” after being published. The audience chuckled as they shared their intolerance for poor beginnings, spelling errors and bad grammar. The all concurred that they are highly appreciative of well-crafted novels.
It was an interesting afternoon and these women form an active, positive and supportive writing group. The audience left feeling that it is possible to write and publish a novel and could purchase autographed copies of their books.