Jennifer Hillier

New York epic-ness and another ThrillerFest

Jul 15, 2013 | Uncategorized

I pretty much ate my way through NYC this past weekend, but do I regret it? Hell no. ThrillerFest is always a great reason to go to New York, which is my second favorite US city, and the food always enriches the experience for me. I also got to hang with my friends, talk shop, and see Anne Rice up close.

Day 1: Thursday

So this trip was a little different than the last three times I’ve gone to NYC. One of my best girlfriends, Dawn, came with me and so it was a mini girls’ getaway as well. Here we are at Pearson International in Toronto, waiting for our flight.

It’s no secret that I take a lot of selfies, but in my defense, our flight was delayed an hour and we were getting bored. Okay, I was getting bored.

I always register right after I check into my room at the Grand Hyatt, and then head straight to the Bookstore Room on Conference level to see if my books are there. (I really don’t know why I check… they’re always there. The awesome folks at ThrillerFest never drop the ball.)

Then, stomachs growling, Dawn and I went in search of food. Ended up at Two Boots Pizza in Grand Central Station, which is attached
to the Grand Hyatt. While it may not be the greatest pizza I’ve ever had in NYC (more on that to come) , the pizza is still better than anything I’ve ever had in Toronto.

Because we’re girls, we shopped after lunch. There’s this store called Strawberry right next to the hotel, and I scored six shirts for $5 each. They’ll probably fall apart after one washing, but hey, that’s okay. They’re “cheap and cheerful”, as my other best friend Annie would put it.

At 6:30 p.m. we swung by the ThrillerFest opening reception cocktail party, where I met up with my editor Kathy from Simon & Schuster, and got to catch up with a friend I made at last year’s conference, Kamran Khan. I also had the pleasure of meeting Mary Louise Kelly, another Gallery Books author (and we also share the same agent). Somehow I didn’t remember to take any pics at the party. Boo.

Then for dinner, I finally got to hang out with my friend Hilary Davidson, whom I’ve known for a few years now. We tend to run into each other at conferences but are always pulled away before we can properly catch up. She took us to Rosa Mexicano, which might very well be the best Mexican restaurant I’ve ever been to. Like, ever. And that includes the nine times I’ve been to Mexico.

We had pomegranate margaritas and duck tacos. I may or may not have had a food orgasm while eating.

We also had guacamole made fresh to order right at our table. To die for. I was only sad there wasn’t more of it.

We walked back to the hotel after dinner. After everything we ate, the fresh air was much needed.

Day 2: Friday

I had my panel first thing in the morning at 8 a.m. I may or may not have been feeling a little funky from those pomegranate margaritas from the night before, but I made it down on time. I was expecting the panel to be sparsely attended, because hello, 8 a.m. is damn early.

But the room was packed! The topic was “Is Your Hero’s Flaw Non-Fatal? How a Protagonist’s Weakness Can Be His Strength” and it was me, Albert Ashford, Francine Mathews, Jennifer McMahon, David Wood, and Reavis Wortham. The panel moderator was Jaime Levine, an editor from Grand Central Publishing. We talked a lot about the importance of flaws in our characters and how they help fuel the plot and add dimension to our stories. I wish I’d gotten a picture of the entire panel, but I forgot. Boo again.

I did, however, snap a pic of me and Jennifer McMahon. Jennifer and I were also on a panel together last fall at Bouchercon about serial killers, so it was super cool to hang with her at this panel talking about the good guys.

A little later in the morning was our scheduled book signing. I don’t have a title out this summer like I did the last two summers, so I wasn’t expecting a lot of visitors, but I did have a good handful of readers pop by. I also got to see good friends Alma Katsu (a fellow Gallery Books girl), and Dan Friedman (we have the same agent).

I also got meet Dolores Marconi! Way back when, long before CREEP was published, Dolores and I were an online writing workshop together through Gotham Writers. We’ve been Facebook friends ever since, and so it was great to finally meet her and give her a hug. She’s always been so supportive.

Don Helin and I were seated next to each other again at the signing, since they arrange the authors alphabetically. We sat next to each other last summer too, and it was nice to see him again.

On my other side was Peter James. Peter is so popular! One fan approached him with an eight by ten photo she’d taken with him last year, asking him to sign it. Now that’s cool.

After the signing, Dawn and I ran through Grand Central Station to the Met Life building, where I was scheduled to meet my editor and agent for lunch. But we stopped to take one quick photo… isn’t Grand Central a blur? (Ha, get it?)

Lunch was at Cafe Centro, a French restaurant. I had the most delicious beef filet, and yes, there was a little wine too. Mais bien sur! I always love catching up with Kathy (my editor at S&S/Gallery) and Victoria (my agent from Levine Greenberg) and getting the inside scoop on what’s happening with my sales and with the publishing industry in general. We also spent some time tossing around potential titles for the upcoming book.

After lunch, we made it back to the Grand Hyatt ballroom in time for me to catch Anne Rice. She was interviewed by her son, Christopher Rice, who definitely was able to get away with asking her more funny and interesting questions than anyone else possibly could have! Here’s a pic before the interview started. The ballroom was packed.

Dawn’s cousin Kim lives in Long Island, and since she was in the city earlier that morning, she’d stopped by the hotel with her kids and brought us treats from Carlo’s Bakery (yes, the one from the TV show CAKE BOSS!). They were in Hoboken, NJ at 7 a.m. that morning and were still the seventh in line! There were delicious lobster tails inside this box (pastry with creme filling), and Dawn and I indulged as our afternoon snack. Because clearly we hadn’t consumed nearly enough calories at lunch, and it’s not like we had dinner plans or anything.

For dinner, we met up with my good friend David Batista. David and I met through our blogs a couple of years ago, and got to see each other in person for the first time last summer. When he asked what I wanted to do for dinner, I requested “anything outside of Midtown”, and he took us on the subway to Chinatown.

Dawn got a little distracted with all the stores on Canal Street… here she is shopping for “genuine imitation designer sunglasses”.

Now I’ve had some great Chinese food in Toronto, some barely passable Chinese food in Seattle (sorry Seattle, but you have a long way to go), but NYC Chinatown Chinese food? EPIC. We ended up at Shanghai Heping, and I was in heaven. David ordered all our food speaking perfect Mandarin (too bad our waitress only spoke Cantonese, haha.) Soup dumplings, pork dumplings, double fried sauteed pork, pan fried noodles, shallot pancakes, General Tso chicken… we thought we ordered too much food, but somehow it all disappeared…

On our way out of Chinatown, we stopped to take a quick pic outside Little Italy. It was pouring! Thank goodness for those $6 umbrellas we snagged at Strawberry earlier that day.

So of course you know that the only way to properly digest piles of Chinese food in one’s belly is to drink. A lot. Which is what we then did at Boss Tweed’s Saloon on the Lower East Side.

I may or may not have downed a few shots. Or, okay, maybe a little more than a few. And here’s something this naive Canadian didn’t realize: American bartenders don’t measure their pours! Things may or may not have gotten a little blurry after the sixth or seventh (double) shot…

David suggested we head to Culture Club after the bar, because they play 80s and 90s music. Perfect! Except when we got there, we were informed by the bouncer that they were playing hip hop, R&B, and reggae, AND it was also gay and lesbian night. Dude, NO PROBLEM! We went in anyway, and had a blast grooving to dancehall. Plus I finally got to see in person what twerking actually is.

I don’t exactly remember how we got back to the hotel, but somehow we did.

Day 3: Saturday

So thanks to the previous night’s adventures, I overslept and missed one of my favorite parts of ThrillerFest, which is the Debut Author’s Breakfast. It’s something I normally attend every year, because I love love love hearing all the debut authors talk about their books and their publishing journeys. It was only two years ago when that was me!

We did, however, manage to make it over to St. John the Divine, where for very personal reasons I said a prayer and lit a candle. St. John the Divine is absolutely breathtaking. I can’t describe how I feel when I’m inside, but I’ve never felt anything like it, and this was my second visit.

We then headed to Tribeca to meet Charlie Rice for lunch at Girello. I’ve known Charlie for a couple of years now, but only from our blogs, Twitter, and Facebook, and this was the first time we’d seen each other in person. Born in Brooklyn and living in Staten Island, he entertained us with lots of New York stories, made all the funnier with his very strong New Yawk accent. And the pizza was probably the best we’ve ever had (just ask Dawn, who didn’t speak for the entire twenty minutes she was eating hers).

After lunch, we went to Century 21 to do some shopping. No offense to anyone who loves that store, but NO! NEVER AGAIN! The place was huge! There was too much stuff! Five floors and a separate shoe department and just TOO MUCH STUFF! My tiny brain could not handle it. After three hours there, all I could manage was to buy one shirt for $15. And I was exhausted.

Dinner that night was the perfect remedy for a frustrating shopping experience. Here we are at Bare Burger Organic in Chelsea with my good friend Alex Ong (another writer I met online) and his best friends Dan and Dean. I hung out with these three handsome dudes a couple of weeks ago when they visited Toronto for Pride weekend, and it turns out they’re even more fun in NYC (which I seriously didn’t think was possible). I had my first bison burger, washed down with a very nice glass of Malbec. Yummy! And a strawberry milkshake for dessert.

After dinner, we headed to Gym Bar for drinks and people watching, and then it was back to the hotel to sleep.

All in all, a fantastic weekend in NYC! I think I’ve gained five pounds, but it was totally worth it, and I can’t wait to do it again next year.

Because there’s always a next year. I love New York!

* * *