Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Mystery Community

Guest Post by Matt Coyle

Holly's note: In this post, Matt Coyle talks about the generosity of the mystery community. Of course, he omits references to his own generosity. When I needed blurbs for my second novel, MISTRESS OF LIES, he didn't hesitate to send me one. It felt great to have an Anthony Award winner blurb my book (Matt won the Anthony Award for Best First Novel for YESTERDAY'S ECHO), but mostly it was great to know that I had a friend who believed in paying it forward and giving back. The mystery community is full such people and Matt is one of them. He's never once failed to step up when I've asked him for a favor and I appreciate that.

Here's Matt:

My protagonist, Rick Cahill, is tough, heroic, and a loner. I share one trait with him, the last. I can fake it when I have to and act social. When I go to trade shows and national sales meetings for my day job, I interact socially and am a decent conversationalist. However, as soon as my duties end I head up to my hotel room to read or watch limited channel TV. I’ve never been a joiner and spend most weekend nights home alone or with a friend or two. Large parties make me nervous.

Those of you in the mystery community may be surprised by the above admissions. I’m on the board of SoCalMWA, and am a member of SinCLA, ITW, The Private Eye Writers of America, and The International Association of Crime Writers/NA. I do as many book signings as I can, talk to groups, serve on panels and even moderate at writers conferences. I’m a loud and obnoxious regular at the mystery conference traveling poker game. And none of it is a con, an act, a put on.

The mystery community invited me in and accepted me as one of its own from day one. It started sixteen years ago when I took night writing classes at UC San Diego taught by multi- award winning mystery author Carolyn Wheat. She ripped to shreds the first draft of what became my first book on the class whiteboard weekly. But she also told me that I had something and that I should keep at it. That I’d be published someday.

I met Alan Russell and Ken Kulken at the first writers conference I ever went to, Southern California Writers Conference. They had the misfortune of having to read thirty pages of an early draft of that same first book. They encouraged what strengths they could find and pointed out the weaknesses as required, but they went way beyond. They regularly answered my email enquiries for years to come.

I met Darrell James at Left Coast Crime Los Angeles in 2010, the first mystery writers conference I ever attended. I’d volunteered to work the MWA booth and he was my booth-mate. I was a bit intimated because he was an award winning short story writer with a novel coming out and I was a schmo with a drawer full of rejections. He couldn’t have been nicer or more encouraging.

The next year I met Naomi Hirahara at the California Crime Writers Conference. I was in the bookroom, looking like a lost child, and Naomi introduced herself to me. Wanted to know something about me. An Edgar Award winner introduced herself to me!

Over the years, as an unpublished writer and fan at book signings and conferences, I had the pleasure of meeting many New York Times bestselling mystery writers. Each time I’d see them they’d ask how my writing was going. Many responded to my email inquiries about the business of writing.

I sat at Gar Anthony Haywood’s table at a Men of Mystery years back and he volunteered to look at pages from my first book. The advice he gave me helped shore up an early chapter and put the book on the path to publication.

I’d never met Holly West, but when I asked for her a favor via email she helped me out, which ultimately led to me landing an agent.

When I finally got a book deal and needed to get blurbs, Stephen Jay Schwartz agreed to read the book and blurb it for me. I found out later, and not through Stephen, that he was in the middle of reading 200 books for Anthony Award nominations. I’m still blown away by that act of generosity.

Other writers who I’d only known through brief conversations at their book signings who took the time out of their busy schedules to read my books and blurb them have been: Robert Crais, Hilary Davidson, Dianne Emley, Gar Anthony Haywood, T. Jefferson Parker, and Hank Phillippi Ryan.

David Putnam has become an invaluable source for police research twenty-four hours a day. San Diego mystery super fan Micheal Higginbottom has word-of-mouthed my work and helped me land speaking engagements.

Booksellers at my local independent bookstores, Mysterious Galaxy, Warwick’s, and my home away from home to the north, Book Carnival, have steadfastly promoted my books.

My agent, Kimberley Cameron, and publishers, Bob and Pat Gussin at Oceanview have supported me beyond just a business relationship.

There are dozens and dozens of other people in the mystery community who have helped, and continue to help, me get better at the thing that I love. They have all become a second family to me, a loner who doesn’t join groups.

And the family was never more welcomed than at Bouchercon this year.  My ninety-year-old father had suddenly passed away just days earlier. My first family had gotten together and grieved, but the grieving continued, as it does today. Bouchercon was a respite from the grief where I could be with like-minded people and be myself. My better self, that I’d found over the years by being a part of the mystery community.

So, this is a longwinded way of saying thanks to all those in the mystery community who accept strangers and make them part of the family.

…this doesn’t mean I won’t still be loud and obnoxious at the poker table.


Matt Coyle grew up in Southern California battling his Irish/Portuguese siblings for respect and the best spot on the couch in front of the TV. He knew he wanted to be a writer as a young teen when his father gave him THE SIMPLE ART OF MURDER by Raymond Chandler.

It took him a few decades but he finally got there. His debut novel, YESTERDAY’S ECHO, won the Anthony Award for Best First Novel, the San Diego Book Award for Best Mystery, the Ben Franklin Silver Award for Best New Voice in Fiction, and was named one of the Best Mysteries of 2013 by DEADLY PLEASURES MYSTERY MAGAZINE. The second book in the Rick Cahill Crime Series, NIGHT TREMORS, came out in June, 2015. Matt lives in San Diego with his Yellow Labrador, Angus where he is currently working on the third Rick Cahill crime novel.


GBPool said...

Matt, You have one other thing in common with Rick Cahill: your dog. I can't help but see you both within the pages of your books. Your latest, Night Tremors, takes the reader deep inside the troubled soul of your protagonist. But I always know Rick Cahill will come through in the end. I'm a few pages away from that final page and enjoying the trip. Maybe it's the real Matt Coyle who comes to the surface when you do events.

Naomi Hirahara said...

I'm not surprised by your admission. I can smell an introvert a mile away! We need time together -- get a break from those crazy extroverts. And I've also been met with such great generosity from the mystery community. Gotta pay it forward, right?

Matt Coyle said...

You got me on that Gayle. I have a soft spot for dogs. Glad you're enjoying NT.

You have paid out more than you've taken in, Naomi.

Kristi said...

You've been a terrific friend to me - you get what you put out and you've been very generous and sweet so no surprise everyone has responded in kind.

Matt Coyle said...

You get what you put out? Explains why I'm divorced. Thanks, Kristi.

Kristi said...

No problem. Keeping it real for you, Matt. ; )