The Book Festival –Women in Suspense

Sue Olson McCullough moderated the Women in Suspense panel. Sue rounded up three successful mystery/suspense writers from the San Francisco Bay Area; one with seven books under her belt; another with two series going and a third who just published her first book but recently signed two two-book contracts.

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  • Robin Burcell – Her first book was a time-travel romance but she is better known for her police procedurals, and her most recent series follows a forensic artist.


  • Juliet Blackwell – writes “cozy” mysteries set in San Francisco. Her first series follows a woman “faux finisher” who renovates Pacific Heights mansions, and uncovers murders along the way.


  • Gigi Pandian – chose the independent publishing route for her first book Artifact but now has a two-book contract with the same series character, and a contract for two YA mystery books.

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These three women all know one another, so the panel was a pretty free-wheeling discussion. Some common themes emerged.

  • All three of the authors talked about writing the kind of book they enjoyed reading.
  • Juliet and Gigi discussed the difficulty of writing an adventure story using what they called a “cozy voice”—the type of book where the murders usually happen offstage, and there is a minimum of grittiness and gore (unlike Robin’s books, which, following procedure, deal a lot more with the forensic sciences).
  • All three acknowledged the support of writing groups like Romance Writers of America (RWA), for their resources, knowledge and support. Clubs like California Writers’ Club (Redwood Writers is an affiliate) also can be hugely helpful to emerging writers.

Gigi Pandian started her book as part of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), held every November. She said that she found the idea of writers’ groups and critique groups helpful, and that WriMo filled that need – also the urgency of having to complete 50,000 words in one month kept her on track and stopped her from dithering and doubting herself (my paraphrase there and certainly not her exact words!) She also talked about researching and planning the independent publishing of her book at the same time she was diagnosed with and underwent treatment for breast cancer, adding a level of depth to her story.

The panel was well attended, with nearly 30 people in the room. Juliet ended the panel by giving one of her books away free to the woman whose birthday had been two days earlier. What a nice touch!


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