Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Hot in the city - Thrillerfest 2

When I arrived in NYC for Thrillerfest the temperature was lurking in the high 80s/low 90s - but that wasn't unexpected in July. A hot, noisy and exciting city.

Grand Central Station, exterior.
The hotel was in a glamorous location on 42nd Street, close to the Chrysler Building and the New York Public Library, with spectacular public areas, and right next door to Grand Central station. When I first visited New York, many more years ago than I will admit publicly, the one thing my mum asked especially to see was that station - scene of so many of the movies she'd watched on the other side of the Atlantic but never thought she'd visit. It was impressive then and it's impressive now - although it has changed. A bustling space with a food court that houses every kind of sustenance from 'grab and go' to 'sit and people watch' - and I did both. I ate fish in the legendary Oyster Bar, clam chowder from a counter specialising in soups - and did you know they have a branch of the famous Magnolia Bakery ...

I'd signed on for the main part of the Thrillerfest convention, but flew over early as there were lots of other things going on around the conference proper. Including a day with the New York FBI in their Down-town offices. How could I resist? I don't think I'm ever likely to have a hero or heroine who actually works for the FBI as I'm not into police procedurals, but the chance to have an insight that will add depth to background or supporting characters was like catnip. They were generous and charming hosts and hostesses - taking us on a whistle stop tour through all the departments that the Bureau covers. All too often crime novels depict the FBI agents as stupid or obstructive and they were unashamedly keen to show around 100 crime writer that this was not so. I made pages of notes. And
the chance to meet and observe was invaluable. And I now have a name tag with the FBI crest on it. Wow!

Thrillerfest buzzes for the whole week of the convention - there are craft classes and legions of nervous hopefuls taking part in Pitch fest - where they get the chance to 'speed date' agents and publishers. I listened to some fabulous pitches from those who were practising their delivery. I hope they all got oodles of requests. I would have bought the lot!

Each evening there was a reception, so a variety of 'best dresses' got an outing. I even wore heels for the first time in ages. Well, when you only have to mince down from the 18th floor to the ballroom ...

My part in the convention began early - 8 am on a panel looking at how to build a strong story line. We were a little worried that no one would be up that early, but we were wrong - people were interested in what we had to say, even at that hour. Kelli Stanley as panel captain guided us through some excellent discussion points - 'us' was Matt Cook, Dani Pettrey, Ursula Ringham, Suzanne Rorhus and me. It was fun, and I don't think I said anything too outrageous - although the knowledge that the event was being recorded for people to purchase later did give me a moment. All of us were writing in different styles and genres and all our approaches were different. I think the general consensus was that the way that you find most comfortable is the right way to do it. I hope we gave everyone some ideas for fresh techniques along the way.

Art in the hotel entrance -  I said it was impressive.
After that the days were just for fun and for learning. A discussion on themes and symbols threw up some interesting views on agenda driven fiction - what I took away from that panel was not to let theme get in the way of the story. I did a bit more FBI research too, as they put on a panel as well as the special day. This one concentrated on cyber crime, securities fraud and jewelry. I was most interested in the jewelry - influence of too many movies about dashing jewel thieves swanning about on the Riviera - I'm sure the reality is not at all like that. I'd dearly love to write a 'thief' book, or even a series. Food for thought. As was a lightening tour of the Secret Service from the Deputy Assistant Director of the Office of Government and Public Affairs. There was clearly a lot that could not be divulged, but when I study my notes I know there will be things there that I can use.
I also attended a couple of feature panels with the likes of Ian Rankin, Lisa Gardner and Anne Rice - to name only a few. And for them I have to admit that I went completely fan-girl, just listened, and didn't take any notes at all.

And now I think I'd better call a halt and review the rest of the convention next week.


  1. It just keeps getting better - I'd consider switching genres to go, except I'd be rubbish at it! I love your FBI name tag and the art in the hotel entrance is fab. Such a wonderful city - it's been great to revisit it through your blogs. (Grand Central Station was every bit as impressive as I hoped - so I didn't have to sit down and weep either). Looking forwards to Part 3!

    1. Thanks, Chris. Glad you are enjoying it. You don't have to have criminal tendencies - writing ones, I mean, to go. If you read crime you'd probably enjoy it just as much. But I bet you could write crime if the mood took you :)