My first Bouchercon was in Austin. My first book had come out earlier that year. Being shy and introverted it was overwhelming. But I was fortunate to get on a panel. Exciting. Two people showed up to hear four authors and a moderator sit around a tiny table with one microphone.
It looked more like a séance.
After that experience I moped in my room wondering why I’d let my agent talk me into coming. I took solace in doing some writing and flipping through the program in awe of all the big names in the same hotel, Harlan Coben, Dennis Lehane, Michael Connelly and Walter Mosley, to name a few. All were gods to me. Weeks earlier, I had written to Michael Connelly, whose work I loved, and asked if he would consider a blurb for my upcoming reporter thriller, No Way Back. I never got a response and that was perfectly fine. I mean, I had no right to expect one. We had both been reporters but other than that, we were strangers.
I was thinking about finding my agent and telling her I was leaving on an earlier flight when she said: “Want to go to a party?”
A big publisher was having a swanky invitation-only gathering and my agent got me in.
It was nice, soft lighting, candles flickering on cloth-draped tables. Great food. While stuffing my face in the corner I couldn’t believe it. I’d spotted Michael Connelly amid a circle of people. As I finished chewing I found the courage to approach him and shake his hand. That was my goal, to tell him I enjoyed his work and was honored to meet him. When he was alone for a few seconds I moved toward him without saying a word. His eyes went to my badge and he pointed at me. “Rick Mofina,” he said, “I’m going to get that blurb to you, just need some time.”
I was stunned and within seconds he was swarmed again.
When I walked away my feet weren’t touching the floor.
Later on, instead of hiding in my room, and still buoyed by Michael Connelly, I went to the bar — where Bouchercon tradition holds — fun things happen. My panel moderator saw me, apologized for the poor showing for our panel, said he liked my book and introduced me to the editor of a leading mystery magazine, who, after a pleasant conversation, pledged to do a feature on my work as a new author.
During the rest of Bouchercon I was welcomed into conversations where I met readers, authors, editors, agents and actually made friends. At the book signing, I sat next to Harlan Coben. So cool. The conference flew by. I forgot about checking out early. I was having too much fun. Oh, and when it came time to go, I stood outside the hotel and by chance met an author I had met earlier: Peter Robinson.
“Would you like to share a cab to the airport, Rick?”
I arrived at my first Bouchercon feeling like an overwhelmed outsider.
I left feeling like family.
Rick Mofina has written over 20 books that have been published in some 30 countries. As a two-time winner of Canada’s Arthur Ellis Award, a four-time Thriller Award finalist and a two-time Shamus Award finalist, the Library Journal calls him, “One of the best thriller writers in the business.”
This article first appeared in Crime Time, the members-only newsletter for Crime Writers of Canada, in March 2017, and is reproduced here with the permission of the author and Crime Writers of Canada.