A Brief History of Killer Nashville by Founder Clay Stafford

Many thanks to the Williamson Herald and to Clay Stafford. Here is Clay’s account of the founding of Killer Nashville and its subsequent success.

Commentary: Ten years later… Writers’ dreams are still deadly passion for founder of Killer Nashville By Clay Stafford • For the Herald Williamson Herald 

Ten years ago, a friend and I were discussing how to best support writers of the mystery and thriller genre here in the Middle Tennessee area. We thought there should be a special event, maybe one that would provide writers a chance to learn more about the craft, meet people in the publishing industry, and have a little fun in the process.

Before moving to Franklin with my wife Jacqueline (a physician at Vanderbilt Franklin Women’s Center), I had designed university-level curricula based upon my past work experience as a writer, filmmaker, and academic. Doing the same thing for Killer Nashville, I looked at what I wished I had been taught about writing and publishing, and I divided it into four areas.

We had to connect authors with real information, with other authors, with new fans and with real people in the industry who could make a difference in their careers. We needed to discuss not only writing, but also publishing and promotion. We needed a conference of action, not talking. And the model seemed to work.

In its first year in 2006, the event had around 60 attendees at the Franklin Embassy Suites. The conference has since outgrown local venues and has moved to the Nashville Omni Hotel, the only hotel in the area that can hold us. Last year, authors William Kent Krueger and Lisa Jackson served as guests of honor and more than 500 people from around the world attended panel discussions, workshops, and presentations, including the popular crime scene staged by employees of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

As was our initial mission, Killer Nashville works year round making writers’ dreams come true. Our Silver Falchion Award honors authors of the best books readily available to a North American audience in any format within the past year. The Claymore Award is given to authors of unpublished manuscripts where nearly every winner and most of the finalists have found agent representation and a book (even a movie) deal.

We host the Killer Nashville Awards Presentation. We’ve brought in over $1.5 million into the local economy. We’ve started an international magazine. And beginning this fall, Diversion Books will release a new annual anthology series of original short stories starring only Killer Nashville attendees including Donald Bain, Jefferson Bass, Jeffery Deaver, Heywood Gould, Steven James, Mary Burton, Robert Dugoni, Anne Perry, and more.

The success stories are mind-boggling. Every day we hear from writers who say how the conference gave them the push they needed, or that it connected them with the right people. One author secured a book deal over cocktails at the hotel bar. Each one of these success stories reminds us of why we are here and who are our true stars: the pre-published author, the growing published author, those who are traditionally published or self-published, and the reader.

Killer Nashville – developed and located right here in Franklin as a part of American Blackguard, Inc., producer of One of the Miracles, the feature documentary on local legend Inge Meyring Smith, has been a family supporting local writers from the beginning. We never want to lose that no matter how international we grow. To learn more, visit www.killernashville.com.

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