Edgar Week, including the Edgar Awards Banquet, is coming up next week. I’m hoping you can help my readers understand Mystery Writers of America, the organization behind those awards, and the purpose of the group.
You are currently the Executive Vice President of MWA. How long is your term, and what does the position entail? Do you enjoy it?
The EVP is MWA's chief operating officer, and is elected every year for a year-long term. I'm currently serving a second term. I work with our staff—that would be Margery Flax, our administrative director--and the board of directors to ensure that the work of the organization gets done. We also have a president—last year that was Sara Paretsky, and this year Jeff Abbott. I'm rather like the prime minister to their reigning monarch. We're very lucky to have so many hard-working writers who are willing to give time—sometimes a lot of time!--to helping the organization.
Do I enjoy it? I think it's rather like writing. Sometimes you enjoy it . . . and more often the enjoyment comes from looking back and seeing what you've accomplished.
You’re also the President of the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the organization? Does that cause problems with your position as Executive VP?
The main problem it causes is that I'm one busy person! Fortunately, I have a great chapter board to share the chapter work with. And one advantage of being both a chapter president and the EVP is that I'm more aware of the needs of the chapter and the impact on them of any decisions the National board might make.
Obviously you haven’t been around since the group was formed in 1945, but could you discuss how you think MWA’s role might have altered/adapted over the years? Is the original slogan, "Crime Does not Pay – Enough", still fitting?
Our motto is absolutely fitting—more so than ever. Recent studies have shown that writers' average income has been declining in recent years. Full-time writers are a small minority. And the publishing industry is changing more rapidly than ever, and all of the changes have the potential for affecting what our members earn. The consolidation of large publishers; the rise of e-books; the shifting fortunes of the book chains, the independent bookstores, and the online retailers—every year, the writing game gets more complicated. It's our mission to find ways to help our members survive—and thrive.
Could you share some of the unusual (funny or just plain odd) things that have happened during your term?
Not sure I can think of anything unusual that happened—unless you count that we started last year with the possibility of running a serious deficit and went to work to turn out financial situation around—and did so, thanks to some very hard work on the part of the board and particularly the Finance Committee. And we also managed to create some additional benefits for our members at the same time. I don't know many organizations that can say that.
I can think of one odd thing that almost happened to me at the Edgars. The banquet is a very elegant affair—our invitations say “dress to kill.” Like many full-time writers, I don't have a very impressive working wardrobe. But I'd pulled together an outfit that I thought would fit the bill, including shoes that met with Margery's approval—she's quite a shoe connoisseur. Everything went well, and even thought the shoes had a slightly higher heel than usual, I didn't fall flat on my face. The very next time I wore those shoes—while getting dressed to attend an awards banquet at the Library of Virginia—the heel of one shoe crumpled into a small pile of dust and I came very close to falling on my face. Thank goodness that didn't happen while I was onstage at the Edgars! Because I don't think “wardrobe malfunction at MWA event” is a headline we need.
Out of sheer curiosity, do you remember meeting at Kate’s Bookshoppe in Cambridge when your first book, Murder With Peacocks was released?
I can't honestly say that I remember our meeting—looking back, I remember that whole year only as a delightful whirlwind! But I definitely remember several visits to Kate's. I remember with particular fondness the visit when my twin nephews attended—not for Peacocks, because that was several years before they were born; probably in 2007 or 2008. They were quite impressed with the fact that so many people were listening to their Auntie Donna and her writer friends. And at the end of the meeting, when Kate had all of us sign stock, they were appalled, at first, to see us writing in books—and then grew quite excited and began bringing us books from all over the store to sign. I had to explain to them that while Agatha Christie wasn't around to complain, Michael Connelly might not like it if I signed the books he had written. I do miss having that store around!
Like Meg Langslow, the ornamental blacksmith heroine of her series from St. Martin's Press, Donna Andrews was born and raised in Yorktown, Virginia. She attended the University of Virginia, majoring in English and Drama with a concentration on writing.
Her first novel, Murder with Peacocks, won Malice Domestic/St. Martin's Press Best First Traditional Mystery contest, as well as the Agatha, Anthony, Barry, and Romantic Times awards for best first novel and the Lefty
award for the funniest mystery of 1999. Many of her subsequent books have also won various awards and nominations.
As well as being the Executive Vice President of MWA, and President of its Mid-Atlantic Chapter, Andrews belongs to Sisters in Crime, and the Private Investigators and Security Association. She spends her free time gardening, conquering the world (but only in Civiliation IV), and watching her twin nephews play baseball, basketball, and track.