Last weekend I attended the New England Crime Bake conference, just outside of Boston, MA. Although I’ve been to a number of romance and women’s fiction writers conferences, this was my first mystery/crime one and some differences were immediately obvious. Here are the top three differences between romance writers and mystery writers conferences.

  1. Men. Although the majority of authors attending were women, approximately one-third were men and they were well represented as speakers and on panels.
  2. Less swag. Books, lip gloss, bookmarks, pens, you name it, romance conferences are known for the number of freebies they give attendees. I have to admit, I was disappointed not to have even a pen in my conference bag.
  3. Discussions of body parts have a decidedly different focus.

All kidding aside, the opportunity to get together with other writers is always a wonderful experience and while this group was new to me, I was made to feel very welcome and included. The workshops were a terrific combination of writing craft and forensic sciences, and I learned a lot from both tracks.

So, you are probably asking, what is a romance/women’s fiction author doing at a crime writers conference? The answer is simple and not-so-simple.

My novels have always included elements of mystery and suspense to support or enhance the growing romance between the hero and heroine. Sometimes my publisher classified them as romantic suspense, sometimes not–I’ve never been very good at figuring out the sub-sub-genres thing. More recently, I’ve been inclined to write stories where the romance (if it exists) is secondary to the mystery/suspense plot. So, according to the genres wizards, I am transitioning from romantic suspense to crime writing.

But being defined by genre has never sat well with me. I write what I like, and would love to leave it at that. But in this world of keywords and marketing, it is important to identify where your book fits on the genre spectrum, so I am still struggling to figure that out.

My current work in progress is a series that focuses on a strong woman going through some hard times both personally and professionally (women’s fiction); there are two men who may or may not become romantic partners (romance); and in the course of living her life, she is thrown into situations where she must solve murders (amateur sleuth).

A bit more to whet your appetite: the year is 1948 and the setting is Kingston, Ontario.

Why 1948? It is post World War II and the men have returned home from the war and are being reintegrated into society–often with the assumption women will return to their traditional roles of wife and mother.

Why Kingston? It’s not too far from where I live; it has a rich heritage as the former capital of Canada; is situated where the St Lawrence River flows into Lake Ontario; and is just across the border from America. But more importantly, in 1948 the city had a university, a military college, a military base, a federal penitentiary, a women’s prison, and an asylum.

The first book in the series will be released next Spring. Maybe by then I’ll have figured out the whole genre thing. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, you can follow my progress on my Charley Hall Mysteries Facebook page.