Whether you're a reader, a writer, or both, if you spend much time in crime fiction circles you've likely met Judy Bobalik. Judy isn't just an avid crime and mystery fan--she's contributed numerous hours of hard work doing the programming for Bouchercons over the years. Together with Jon Jordan of Crimespree Magazine, she'll be doing the programming for Bouchercon 2016 in New Orleans.
When I returned from Raleigh in October and began scheduling DSD posts for the remainder of the year, I knew I wanted to interview Judy. She graciously agreed to answer my questions and herein provides some insight into the process of programming a large conference like Bouchercon.
HW: I know you're a voracious reader. In fact, voracious doesn't even cover it. How many books do you read, on average, a month? Do you have a favorite sub-genre of crime/mystery?
JB: I read or listen to 25-30 books a month. My favorite sub-genres are private eye and police procedurals.
HW: How many Bouchercons have you attended? How many times have you served as program director or co-director of Bouchercon? What other mystery conferences to do you attend regularly?
JB: I have attended 16 Bouchercons, 1987 and then every year since 2001. I have programmed 4 Bouchercons, 3 with Jon Jordan, 2008, 2010 and 2013 and one, 2011 with Ruth Jordan. Jon and I will be doing the programming for 2016 in New Orleans. I try to attend Left Coast Crime every few years and the same with Magna cum Murder in Indianapolis.
HW: How far in advance do you start planning the Bouchercon program? What is your process in the early months?
JB: This year we will start programming in June of 2016. In the early months I try to read new to me authors. I also Google or go to the website of every single author who has asked for a panel. So having an up-to-date website with current information is a plus.
HW: Is it important for authors to register as early as possible?
JB: It is not a first come first served scenario, people requesting panels need to be registered by the cut-off date. This year it is May 31, 2016.
HW: How can authors make your job easier?
JB: In my dream world every single author would be available from the start of the first panel on Thursday to the close of the last panel on Sunday. Barring that, it is most helpful if panelists let me know when they won't be available before I send out the panel assignments.
HW: Do traditionally-published authors have an edge over self-published in getting panel assignments?
JB: Yes, while we don't automatically discount self-published we will fill the panels with traditionally published authors who have had a book published in the last 3-4 years first. We have been known to make exceptions based on our knowledge of the person and what we feel they can contribute to the panel.
HW: What would you like to tell authors about conference programming that they might not know?
JB: Thursday, contrary to popular belief, has the most highly attended panels resulting in the most book sales. Morning panels also have a high attendance. Jon and I put in too much time to program scrub panels. Bouchercon is not about being on a panel, it is about meeting people in the bar, at lunch,at other panels and networking.
Judy Bobalik doesn't like to leave home, but when she does, it's to go to a bookstore or a mystery conference. She used to own a bookstore but now makes her recommendations online. She lives in the Chicago area with her husband and three cats.