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Female crime spree focuses on murder, motives and MOs

Author Ausma Zehanat Khan discusses “A Deadly Divide”. She holds a PhD in International Human Rights Law with a research specialization in military intervention and war crimes in the Balkans.

Story and photos by Sharon Harrison
With murder, mayhem and motive in the air, eight crime writing female authors came from near and far to participate in a One Corpse Too Many event Friday night.

Now in its third year, the Women Killing It Crime Writers Festival, co-founded by local authors Janet Kellough and Vicki Delany, ran from Friday to Sunday, with different events at several Picton locations.

“It’s a festival that keeps evolving,” said Kellough. “We keep trying different things and seeing what works and what doesn’t work, and what people are having a good time with.”

With close to a sell-out, people were having a good time meeting the authors at One Corpse Too Many, held at St. Andrew’s Church, to launch the festival.

Laurie Scott, festival volunteer and local author, was responsible for time-keeping and gong-striking to signal the authors to move to the next table.

In a table-hopping (think speed dating) style, each crime or mystery-writing author had five minutes to tell her intimate audience of readers about her book, writing and answer questions.

“By the end of the evening, you will have had a chance to have a conversation with every single author that is here tonight,” said Kellough.

They met an impressive line-up of authors: Joy Fielding (All the Wrong Places), Brenda Chapman (Turning Secrets), Ginger Bolton (Jealously Filled Donuts), Iona Whishaw (A Deceptive Devotion), Ausma Zehanat Khan (A Deadly Divide), Hannah Mary McKinnon (Her Secret Son), S.M. Hurley, aka Shelagh Mathers (Blackwater Bluff), and festival co-founder Vicki Delany (Silent Night, Deadly Night).

Ginger Bolton writes the Deputy Donut mystery series – coffee, donuts, cops, danger and one curious cat.

Mystery writer Ginger Bolton said she didn’t hesitate to say yes when she was invited to attend the festival. Bolton, who lives in Delhi, Ontario (near Tillsonburg) has attended a number of similar events, but this was her first time at the Crime Writers’ Festival in Prince Edward County.

“This evening’s event has been really fun, and I think I said something different at every table, and missing important facets at nearly all of them,” said Bolton.

She noted a friendly atmosphere in a wonderful setting.

“Writers are very collegial I find; mystery writers in particular, and fans are great,” she said. “I love talking about writing and about books.”

Kellough said response from the authors had been incredible.

“Everybody just jumped on the chance to come because there really isn’t any place for Canadian mystery authors, and particularly women mystery authors, to gather,” she said. “It’s so much fun when writers get together and they start talking, and it’s so wonderful to get that peer support because writing is a lonely business.”

S.M. Hurley is the pen name of Shelagh Mathers, a Picton lawyer and part-time Assistant Crown Attorney, who recently released her first mystery novel, “Blackwater Bluff”.

Word of the festival is spreading.

“When we started out, people had not heard of it, and now within the trade itself, word is starting to spread and we are starting to get publishing houses who are pitching authors to us.”

The festival is also a bonus for fans.

Local author and festival co-founder Vicki Delany talks about her latest book “Silent Night, Deadly Night”. She is author of 34 published books.

“There really aren’t a lot of places were readers can just show up and talk to mystery writers,” she said. “We try to look at the full spectrum of publishing in the world today; we’ve got a couple who are from big publishing houses, we’ve got a couple who are from small publishing houses and we’ve got self-published authors here.”

The festival also showcases a local author to give them the opportunity to meet other authors in the trade, which Kellough notes is difficult to do as a self-published author.

With Kellough emceeing Friday night’s event, she thanked festival sponsors, especially Books and Company, who were also on-site selling the authors’ books, as well as Christine Renaud who was responsible for much of the graphics for the festival.

“The event wouldn’t happen without a lot of help from a lot of people.”

The evening also brought raffle draws, as well as a quiz, where David Sweet of Books and Company became the question master.

Writer Ausma Zehanat Khan is originally from Toronto, currently lives in Denver, Colorado, but is familiar with Picton having vacationed here with family. A Deadly Divide is her current novel, but her contemporary novels are often about everyday occurring events, such as global terrorism and the Syrian refugee crisis.

“I thought it would be a great chance to come see a beautiful place and meet a lot of great women crime writers, and interact with readers,” said Zehanat Khan.

She likes the idea of promoting women crime writers.

“I think women are doing the best work in the genre, and Canadian writers in particular don’t often get the platforms that their other counterparts do,” she said.

She described the table-hopping as interesting and challenging and received some tough questions.

“I had a great time. It was so informal and I had so much fun and I met so many wonderful people.”

Local author and festival co-founder Janet Kellough emceed the third annual Women Killing It Crime Writers’ Festival. Kellough writes the Thaddeus Lewis mystery series.

At the end of the evening, Kellough read a brief story she had written as an expression of her love of the English language.

She enjoys looking through field and bird guides, and one day was leafing through the field guide to North American eastern birds.

“I was suddenly struck by how much the English language has borrowed from bird terminology in bird references and bird metaphors and transmeaning them into other things, and before I knew it, I wrote a story,” she said.

“One of the things that’s wonderful about working in the English language is a way in which English will mongrelize almost anything. Often times, we’ll borrow words from strange places and they will transmute and turn into other things and come to have other meanings.

When she finished her story, Kellough asked the audience to guess how many bird references and metaphors they identified. The answer was 55, and the closest guess, at 53, got the winner a prize.

Iona Whishaw, of British Columbia, speaks about her latest novel “A Deceptive Devotion”. The main character of her post-war BC mystery series is inspired by the fact Winslow’s mom and grandfather spent time as spies during their respective wars.

Saturday brought The Sanctuary Sparrow, again held at St. Andrew’s, where four writers of different types of mystery – Iona Whishaw, Ginger Bolton, Vicki Delany and S.M. Hurley – shared and explored the different types of mystery they offer while Friends of Rose House Museum served tea.

There’s no better, or eerier, place to be for a Crime Writers’ Festival than the cemetery, at night.

Saturday evening’s event, A Morbid Taste for Bones, included Joy Fielding, Ausma Zehanat Khan, Brenda Chapman and Hannah Mary McKinnon. Held at the Glenwood Cemetery Chapel, the four authors discussed their current publications, which ranged from the perils of online dating, to secrets from the past.

This event also included the opportunity to immortalize someone in print, where two people had the opportunity to win the chance to name a character in either Janet Kellough or Vicki Delany’s next novel. All of the proceeds from the character name auction will go to Alternatives for Women in Picton.

Several two-hour workshops were held at the Picton branch library, where participants learned how to unravel the mystery of plotting, how to keep the story moving and the readers reading.

Best-selling Ottawa crime writer Brenda Chapman discuss her latest novel “Turning Secrets”. She has 18 books published since her first release in 2004.

New York Times best-selling author Joy Fielding is author of “Someone is Watching you”, “Now You See Her”, “Still Life”, ‘Mad River Road’ and “See Jane Run”, among others.

Hannah Mary McKinnon talks about “Her Secret Son”, her third domestic suspense novel. How far would you go to protect the ones you love?

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  1. Mar Preston says:

    You really captured the atmosphere of this very enjoyable weekend. I look forward to next year and spending more time in Picton. What a great little town.

  2. Fabulous article! Thank you so much!

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