Wednesday, April 27, 2011

And the Award Goes To.....

HANK: There's always that moment of intense suspense...the category has been called, the names of the nominees intoned, the possible winners arranging their faces into "it's lovely just to be nominated" composure. The presenter tries to open the envelope--why is it always difficult?--decide whether to make a joke of the difficulty, or just, for gosh sake, GO ON. The audience titters with nervous laughter. The composure on the nominees' faces begins to crack and fissure.

And then: they say the name. If you're Sally Field of course, the first example of "acceptance-oops" in everyone's mind, you gush and overdo. (Although it was endearing, really. )

Steven Spielberg, who won the Oscar for Saving Private Ryan, was honest: "Am I allowed to say I really wanted this? This is fantastic."

Kim Basinger, at the 1998 Academy Awards (she won for LA Confidential) was just as honest: "I just want to thank everybody I've ever met in my entire life."

And Benicio Del Toro who won Best Supporting Actor for Traffic, was realistic. "I won and I get to scream and jump a little. But I got to go back to work tomorrow."

There aren't as many people watching at Malice, or the Edgars (r). But wow, the emotion is just as strong. And the desire is just as deep. And the gratitude--is just as heart-warming.

Right now, nominees are wondering--should I think of something to say? Or just wing it? And if I decide to plan--is that a jinx?

(A wise person once told me--always plan what to say. It's the only respectful thing to do for your audience. So, okay, I'll try to plan. But it's probably a jinx. So I'm not really planning. It won't matter, anyway. It's a thrill to be nominated. And I mean it.)

You know--let's just change the whole subject. Sort of. And give the floor to the wonderful Carolyn Hart.


by Carolyn Hart

Even though I won’t be able to attend Malice Domestic this spring, Malice is always in my heart.

The very first Malice in 1989 made a huge difference for me as a writer.In 1987 Bantam published Death on Demand. I wrote it thinking it was my last book. I had written seven books in seven years and sold none of them. At that point, any realistic writer would have found a more productive pursuit. But, as my fellow writers will understand, if you write, you have to write. However, I swore that Death on Demand would be my final try. If the ms. didn’t sell, I would play tennis.

So, not expecting the book to sell - after all a great many mss. were stacked in my office - I decided to write the kind of mystery I enjoyed reading, an old-fashioned, traditional mystery with clues and suspects. Moreover, my protagonists would be a young couple who truly loved each other. At that time, most female protagonists either had no relationship with a man or the relationship was dysfunctional. Unfashionable as it was, I created Annie Laurance and Max Darling. Hey, it was fiction, so Max was tall, blond, and rich, Joe Hardy all grown up and sexy as hell. I used a mystery bookstore as the background which gave me a chance to talk about wonderful mysteries of the past and present.

The first miracle occurred. Bantam bought Death on Demand. The editor said, “It’s the first in a series, of course.” I replied immediately, “Of course,” though it had never occurred to me that there would be a first, much less a second and third.

The third book was definitely the charm. Malice Domestic was created by Barbara Mertz and Charlotte MacLeod to celebrate traditional mysteries, which then, as now, are often overlooked or dismissed. I saw a little ad in Mystery Scene and decided to attend. There was also an announcement of a contest for the Agatha Award for Best Mystery Novel. Bantam entered SOMETHING WICKED.
I was astonished when the book was a nominee, one of five, for the Agatha.

Not only was the nomination a huge surprise for an unknown author, Something Wicked was a paperback original, so of course it wasn’t on the level of the other nominees. However, the nomination was thrill enough for me.I attended the first Malice. It was held in a shabby hotel in Bethesda, but I was walking on air as a nominee. At the first Malice dinner, the winner was announced: Something Wicked.

I walked to the podium in a state of shock. I could scarcely manage a word.

My thank you was a whisper. What a difference the Agatha made for me. The books began to attract notice. I continued to write them. On March 29, the 21st in the Death on Demand series - DEAD BY MIDNIGHT - will be published.

Thank you, Malice Domestic.

Carolyn Hart is the author of 46 mysteries. New in 2011 is DEAD BY MIDNIGHT, 21st in the Death on Demand series. Hart’s books have won Agatha, Anthony and Macavity awards. She has twice appeared at the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. LETTER FROM HOME, a standalone WWII novel set in Oklahoma, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize by the Oklahoma Center for Poets and Writers. She is excited by the new technology which will soon make possible the reappearance of 12 of her early books on Kindle. She lives in Oklahoma City with her husband, Phil. She loves mysteries, cats, happy ghosts, Oklahoma, and South Carolina.

SO REDS--do you think of your acceptance speech in advance...just in case? What's the best-worst one you ever heard?


  1. Oh Carolyn, wonderful post. It makes all of us feel hopeful to hear that you wrote 7 books before one was picked up. And love the comment about Joe Hardy, all grown up!

    I'll be missing Malice too--but will be there in spirit, Hank, cheering you on!

  2. Who's Joe Hardy..was he the guy in Damn Yankees?

    Anyway, I got to spend time with Carolyn at Murder 203 and - I know I;m repeating myelf - but she's just one of the nicest people on the planet. And i'm not just saying that because she mentions me in Dead By Midnight! I was over the moon as i was reading and saw tha Annie had my books1

  3. Fonts, fonts, there's no problem with the fonts!

    Sorry gang, blogger was incredibly stubborn. I fought blogger, and blogger won...

    Thanks, Roberta!

  4. 46 books? Carolyn, I am in awe.

    That acceptance speech...that's when you forget your own name, the name of your book, and just about everything else, right? After you've tripped going up the stairs and dropped the microphone?

    But I bet we all hear Sally Fields in our minds: "You like me! You really like me!"

  5. Great post, Hank & Carolyn! I confess I came to a dead stop at the words: "Carolyn Hart is the author of 46 mysteries" -- so I have a feeling she's never at a loss for words.

    I'm so excited to be hanging out with Carolyn in Irvine next week for the Festival of Women Authors. We'll be taking a detour over to Book Carnival May 7, too.

  6. carolyn,
    Wonderful post. I love that about writers just having to write. Sometimes I wrestle with it, but you are right, it always wins in the end.

    And how encouraging for everyone to hear your struggles. Seven books! How lucky for all of us that you soldiered on~

  7. Great topic! Carolyn, I'm sorry I didn't get to see you at Murder 203. I always enjoy listening to you.

    I knew ahead of time that I had won the Derringer award so I was able to write a speech. I said it aloud hundereds of times, but that night I teared up when I said, "I'd like to thank my husband, Dan, who encourges me to commit crimes -- to paper."

  8. Carolyn, I'm sorry neither of us will be at Malice this year . . . It's always such a treat to spend time with you. But at least I have a new Annie & Max to look forward to!!! The very idea of forty-six books staggers me. You are an inspiration for all us writers, and you've given so much pleasure to readers. I hope for many, many more books.

    Hank, it's always BEST to be prepared! And the basic rules are: Quickly thank your editor, your agent, your readers, your family, then try not to trip as you get off the stage:-)

    ps. We should come up with a way to take revenge on those damned fonts . . .

  9. Hank, you will be charming and witty when you win, I'm sure of it!

    For best acceptance speech, I still have a soft spot for Sally Fields.

    For worst, that would be mine for the Bruce Alexander where I lost the power to speak coherently and had trouble finding the stage. I had no idea my brain could just shut down like that.

  10. I always make sure I remember the names of the other nominees and my agent and editor (these can vanish in moments of stress). I don't really plan a speech. But I do practice my "it's just an honor to be nominated" smile before i go down to the banquet!