Saturday was just an all-around spectacular day at Left Coast Crime. I started out at a panel called "You Say Teepee, I Say Hogan." All the panelists dealt with Native American tribes in one way or another in their books. It was rather fascinating to see the array of tribes that these authors illustrated through their writing.
Margaret Coel's fascination with the Arapahoe started through research she was doing primarily through books, but through the course of her 16-book series featuring Father John and Vicky she came to know the Arapahoe personally and interacts with them regularly. But her own position as an outsider made her want to write her books around someone with a similar situation, thus Father John.
Craig Johnson, of course, has the Cheyenne in his Walt Longmire series. He feels that it's important to reflect the Indian culture honestly in his books. And he emphasized their rich sense of humor. All of the panelists agreed that the Indians have a wonderful sense of humor. Craig says if you don't pick up on it, you will quickly become the butt of it.
Shannon Baker writes about the Hopi and her interest was sparked by a controversy involving piping sewage water to a mountain for the creation of snow to ski.
Following the Indian culture panel, I headed off to an all-woman panel on the forensics behind the books. This panel included J.T. Ellison, Robin Burcell, and L.J. Sellers, moderated by Jan Burke.
Robin, having been in law enforcement herself had some first-hand experience with the real life forensics. J.T. and L.J. have both made great efforts to learn about those aspects of law enforcement. J.T. has observed autopsies and fared far better than she thought she would. L.J. has been at the scene of the crime for evidence gathering.
Robin's advice for how to get the inside scoop on this information if you're writing a book, offer law enforcement free food! Offer to take them to lunch or dinner and pick their brains. While certain practices like ride-alongs aren't as common as they once were, there are other opportunities to learn, such as citizens' academies.
Of course the question came up in this panel about how much is too much when you're writing about the forensics. There's an obvious "ick" factor, but where do you draw the line?
Robin says she's always followed her grandmother's advice on painting, "when you're painting a brick wall, you don't paint ever brick. You paint enough so the viewer knows it's a brick wall and you let their brain fill in the rest." L.J. says anything she puts in the book has to move the plot along. Anything used strictly for reaction is excessive.
This was just a full day of great content. The next on my list was Laura Lippman's interview with Twist Phalen. It was a wonderful interview and I walked away feeling like I knew Laura better than before, so that's a definite plus.
Laura spoke to the fact that she doesn't care about the number of female writers vs male writers, who is being reviewed where, etc., etc. Instead she cares about the number of stories about women vs the number of stories about men. She hopes that her body of work will be a reflection of the "woman" through her time.
Laura believes that crime fiction has no limitations and she hates the phrase "transcends genre." She's always been proud to be a crime novelist and believes people need to stop using euphemisms for what they do. Own it, and be proud of it.
Her next book will be called After I'm Gone and the idea for the story came from her husband. She says it is the first time she's allowed someone to give her an idea for a book.
The final panel I attended for Saturday (I missed a panel I wanted to see because lunch took too long, what can you do) was the panel featuring the Rocky Award nominees: Chuck Greaves, Craig Johnson, Margaret Coel, Beth Groundwater and Darrell James.
The panel started with a question for Craig: are you Walt Longmire. And Craig responded with his wife, Judy's regular response to this question, "Walt is who Craig wants to be in 10 years, but he's getting a slow start." Craig also says that the tv show has not affected how he writes his characters at all.
Chuck Greaves says he chose Pasadena for the setting of his books because LA has been done by many and better. He was looking for something new and different.
The approach to writing varies widely on this panel. Chuck heads into uncharted territory without a map. Craig takes a map but doesn't necessarily always refer to it, and as a former engineer, Beth Groundwater "engineers" her plots with a lot of planning and preparation.
The tidbit I found most fascinating in this panel was learning Craig had done some mountaineering in the past and that the Chapter 12 scene of The Cold Dish is derived from an experience he had while climbing in Russia. It's little things like this that make panels, book events, etc., so fun for me.
O.k. in the interest of not making this post any longer than it already is, I'll save the rest of Saturday for tomorrow's post. There is still plenty to come! As you can see, I thoroughly enjoyed Left Coast Crime and would highly recommend it to any crime fiction fan. I've already signed up to attend Monterey in 2014.
Then tomorrow we'll talk Left Coast Crime awards and an amazing Guest of Honor interview between Craig Johnson and Lou Diamond Phillips.