Interrogate the Mystery Writers
April 30, 2009 6:50 AM   Subscribe

I need questions to ask a panel of mystery writers, some of them cross-dressing.

I will be the moderator of a panel of mystery writers at a convention. But the writers will be acting in character as their protagonists. My job is to ask questions that lead to fun answers and conversation among the writers (characters), entertain people in the audience, and allow the writers to make themselves look good, hence selling books.

Typically getting some interaction going is easy, because you can ask the writers all the same question (What do you think of CSI? or something), and get them to agree/disagree/discuss their differences.

But with everyone acting as characters in their books, I'm having trouble coming up with questions that will foster interaction among the panelists, since it doesn't make sense for them to be talking to each other about mystery writing--because in character, they're not all writers as they are in real life. But I don't want the panel to be just a set of questions that I ask each person independently-- I want to get some back and forth going.

The books are all lightly comic, and the characters will include:

- a young 1920's girl, a Scottish member of England's royal family who to avoid a bad marriage is living on her wits in London, and ends up accidentally involved in murders;

- a cat detective (not a detector of cats, but a cat who is a Private Eye) who solves mysteries in the tradition of Sam Spade

- a contemporary female English professor who gets accidentally mixed up in the murder investigation of a student;

- a contemporary older lady who pretends to be a crossword puzzle expert (she isn't one), and ends up solving mysteries.

Any questions at all are appreciated. I have some but need better ideas and a more robust list of questions...
posted by anonymous to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Ask some questions about typical mystery topics like:

What's the perfect way to murder someone? (no peeking at askme!)


Why are detectives all so lonely and messed up?

Then they can either answer as a novelist or as their characters.

Also where is this happening and can I come?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:12 AM on April 30, 2009

This askme might be helpful.
posted by TedW at 7:32 AM on April 30, 2009

What a fun idea. I, too, wish I could come just to see Parnell Hall dressed as Cora. Awesome.

Potomac Avenue is on what seems like a fruitful track. Other questions in the same vein: "Why can't the police solve murders as well as amateur detectives?" "What makes you suspicious of people?" "Have you ever been misled by a red herring?"

And in terms of talking about mystery writing, you can do the Watson dodge, and say "What do you think about the books about your adventures?" That's always a fun question and a bit of a head-trip for the authors to answer in character (just as Conan Doyle had fun with calling into question the reliability of Watson as a narrator).

In the same vein, you might ask if they have adventures that will never see print, a la the story of the Giant Rat of Sumatra.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:43 AM on April 30, 2009

Why are people always dropping dead around you? Are you somehow cursed?
posted by Zed at 7:58 AM on April 30, 2009

If you are running the event and costumes are in abundance, will there be people in the audience who will also be in costume? If so, put a few actors into the audience, five to six, tops. Have one of the actors stand up to ask a question and, in long standing (annoying) tradition of fan Q&A's, launch into a long personal bio, where s/he points out the other actors as people s/he knows and how they relate. The others can interact with the asker, either confirming or denying what s/he has to say.

You need to then interject with how the actor is wasting time and could they please just ask their question. At which point, the actor takes a sip from a bottle of something, clutches their throat and as melodramatically as possible, 'dies' yelling that s/he has been done in by one of the four actors previously pointed out.

At which point, you the moderator turn to the author/characters on stage and ask them simply, "Who done it?"
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:17 AM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

I have to ask: which cat detective is that one? And is it a talking cat vs. just making distinct yowls?
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:56 AM on April 30, 2009

Ask them what books they like to read when they're not detecting.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:05 PM on April 30, 2009

« Older Should I move to Nassau, The Bahamas?   |   Music for Markmakers Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.