A few things were constant in my life—my folks both loved books and with my dad being Scottish and my mom having come from Ireland, I had access to their shared libraries and wound up first loving European history, then American history, and then all kinds of stories. I also had a whimsical great grandmother who loved to tell tales about banshees, leprechauns, and fairy folk, so I loved fantasy, mystery, romance, you name it!
At the same time, they loved the theater. From a very young age, I went to every possible play we could find and also fell in love with the performing arts. In college, I majored in theater, dance, and music. Then I spent several years doing dinner theater in Florida and—since this did not pay great!—I followed the suggestion that since I loved books so much, I should try writing, which would allow me to be home with the five children Dennis and I eventually had altogether!
That said, we never do give up that which we really love. We started doing vampire parties with little shows and merged it into other events. We formed the “Slushpile” band because I discovered that our ranks of writers—from all the different genre associations to which I belong—were often incredibly talented. So many played instruments! (I’m on vocals; I think it was the Graham idea that I should play the bagpipes at a young age that left me…well, not sure I could play anything!) That said, we did a few numbers for book trailers we were doing over the years, and when we put on Writers for New Orleans we have a dinner theater night, a band, and even karaoke! Hey, so many talented authors out there.
Heather Graham and the Slushpile can be found on iTunes—lots of fun. One album is more mystery, the other is a fun Christmas album featuring myself and the kids. Family biz as well. I’m incredibly proud to say that Chynna Skye—child number five—is performing in London as I write this, having won a vocal competition with her company.
I had a few funny things happen during the early days. I worked for a group called The Rhodes Brothers back in the day and we did a dinner show called “The Perils of Poor Nellie.”
We had a vamp, a good guy, and a bad guy—and in my early twenties at the time, I was poor Nellie. It was a real play on old hero/heroine shows and for publicity photos, we headed out to the railroad tracks where “Poor Nellie” was tied down.
The others were talking about angles when I heard a train coming.
Then I realized I was really tied down!
Luckily, I was (and still am!) a really good screamer.
Of course, they all realized what they’d done and I was nice and far away to watch the train when it barreled on by!
My mother worked for an advertising agent when I was still in my teens and I was asked to take part in a “Trim Twist” commercial. The slogan was “Everybody’s Doing It!”” and to that end, they had me, an older man, a woman in a nurse’s uniform, and my dog.
The dog got a bigger paycheck!
Hm. Maybe I was being told something way back then!
More recently, while putting on a show at a Bouchercon in Dallas, we had a show planned as a take-off on Game of Thrones. One of our performers, Connie Perry, headed over to sit on our “throne.” Now, we’re usually good with our stagecraft and costumes—Connie costumes all kinds of Krewes for Mardi Gras and helps designs floats—but something went a wee bit wrong.
She sat on the throne—and it collapsed. But, if nothing else, we’re quick with improv. We simply fit it into our script that clearly, she did not deserve the throne when the throne itself was throwing her off! (She didn’t get hurt; we quickly got her up to throw her off stage as undeserving!) In truth, she knows more than many of us when it comes to filming—her daughter has been the lead make-up artist on major shows, and her sons have performed and assisted on numerous movies and shows including Looper, Shameless, and many more.
Theater is simply fun. For B-Con in New Orleans, we determined that we were going to have floats for all our guest stars and have a “second line” parade to take them to the theater for the Anthony Awards.
Harlan Coben is one of my favorite authors—and human beings. He is just one nice man. As it happened, something went wrong with the handling on his float so, being a hostess for the event, I ran over to drag it. Poor Harlan! We spent blocks arguing—he could not have me pulling his float. I argued back—he absolutely had to get there on top of it! He was a special guest!
I won that one! Truly, great guy, amazing author! And even when things go wrong, it’s great to get to laugh about them after. There’s not much time at events for rehearsal so we’re usually flying by the seat of our pants. But it’s always fun.
And then there is… My kids like to joke that I became an author just so that I could write and direct my own shows—and, of course, cast myself!
Next up! Our upcoming performance at Writers for New Orleans: “A Fractured Fairy Tale.” Who killed one of the good fairies? No one knows what really happened, but, of course, the villains are suspected of the evil deed.
But is it what it appears to be? Or is someone out there not what they seem to be at all?
We play, guess the killer, do a drawing from all correct entries, and reward the best sleuth in the crowd with a gift certificate for…you guessed it! Books!
My deepest thanks!