Michael Cavacini

An award-winning arts and culture blog.

Archive for the tag “ThrillerFest”

CraftFest: Where Writers Learn From The Best

ThrillerFestLast week I attended ThrillerFest IX in New York City. This annual event is held by the terrific organization International Thriller Writers, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. While at ThrillerFest IX, I had the opportunity to meet and learn from some of the best in the business. Two days were dedicated to CraftFest, which was comprised of seminars dedicated to helping writers improve their craft. Below are photos and highlights from some of the sessions.

Read more…

On My Way To ThrillerFest IX

ThrillerFest

Last week I saw and met Night Ranger. I also saw and met Foreigner and Don Felder, in addition to seeing Styx perform. How could I possibly top this? Well, this week I’m going to New York City to spend time with and learn from some of the greatest writers in the world at ThrillerFest IX.

Read more…

Summer Thriller List

IMG_4625Summer is almost upon us and it’s one of my favorite seasons. What’s not to love? If you’re a music fan, there are a million concerts to go to. If you’re a foodie, you can eat outdoors at a myriad of restaurants. And, of course, if you’re a book lover there are numerous titles you can read in bed, on the beach or at the airport. To help you decide which books are worth reading, I’m going to share with you a few titles that I’m either currently reading or will be reading very soon.

Read more…

Author Interview: Jon Land

Jon Land

Jon Land is the bestselling author of over 25 novels, including the popular Caitlin Strong and Blaine McCracken series. I met him at ThrillerFest VIII and recently completed his newest novel, Strong Rain Falling. Jon is a terrific author and if you haven’t read his work, make sure you do. Below is my interview with him; I hope you enjoy it.

Your books involve a variety of characters and multiple plots. To keep things straight, do you draft an outline before sitting down to write a book or do you just start and see how it unravels?

My books definitely take on a life of their own, almost from the very first page. I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants writer in all respects. I operate on the theory that if I don’t know what’s going to happen next, then the reader can’t possibly know. I can get away with this because I trust my characters to take me where they want and need to go. I’m normally about 100 pages ahead with where I’m headed in my mind, never much more than that. As the book moves forward, the challenge becomes making the connections between apparently disparate events and plots—it’s the challenge, but also the fun along with a journey of self-discovery. I have no idea how I do it, although I suspect it has something to do with a level of insanity. (laughs) But the result, unfortunately at times, is my first drafts tend to need lots of work. In fact, I’d venture to say that one of my greatest strengths as a writer is actually rewriting, often based on my own objective read of what I’ve created. For me, first drafts are about getting it down and getting it done. Each successive draft hones and polishes the material further. I throw a bunch out, I add a bunch more—sometimes even entirely new characters, subplots and scenes if I sense a weakness or flaw. I’m also blessed with a terrific editor, Natalia Aponte, who’s always pushing me to do better, to make my Caitlin Strong books, and all my books for that matter, both structurally and emotionally complete. The thing I like to stress here is that no process works for all writers. We all have to find what works for us.

We all have authors and books that inspire us. Are there any specific writers or books that greatly influenced your reading or writing habits?

Well, The Exorcist was the first book I read cover-to-cover in a single day, a single sitting actually. Reading Robert Ludlum’s The Holcroft Covenant (along with The Matarese Circle) taught me more about what makes a great thriller than anything else. The Boys From Brazil taught me the importance of a great “What if?” question. The Stand showed me the wonder of taking the reader out of his or her world and into the world we fashion on the page. Marathon Man made me realize just how much caring about the characters means. I can quote portions of that book, just as I can from the others I mention here and far more. As far as strictly favorites, Lee Child and James Lee Burke are the authors I most look forward to, with plenty of others not far behind. David Morrell, who never writes the same book twice. Stephen Hunter, who’s a maestro when it comes to action scenes. Michael Connelly for writing books that are impossible to put down. And I’ve recently discovered John Hart who seems incapable of writing a bad sentence or creating a character who doesn’t command our interest.

Some authors love research while others find it to be a chore. Do you enjoy it, and what was one of the most interesting pieces of information you uncovered while conducting research for a book?

No, I don’t enjoy it and that’s why I don’t do the research first—I do the majority of it as I’m writing because it’s only then that I really know what information I’m going to need. Whenever I’m in doubt about something, I just make it up the way I believe it to be and then make the fixes afterwards. The problem with doing research in advance is what I call the Clancy Effect where you write the book around your research instead of weaving only the information the reader needs into narrative. That’s the real key because otherwise you risk slowing your story’s pace and losing the reader in the process. In Strong Rain Falling, the most interesting thing I learned was how the huge problem of drug smuggling out of Mexico, the cartels and everything else, actually began. Turns out it goes back to the influx of Chinese immigrants in the late nineteenth century who brought opium with them into Mexico. By the turn of the century, poppies were being grown all over the country and actual drug smuggling began soon after through a governor named Cantu who was bringing it into California through Baja. Truly fascinating stuff.

Strong Rain FallingStrong Rain Falling, your newest novel, is the fifth Caitlin Strong book. For those that haven’t read it yet, what does this new adventure have in common with its predecessors and how does it differ?

That’s a really good question. In common I think it has a great story that places Caitlin and company against really bad guys (well, a female villain this time out) planning to do really bad things that will have catastrophic effects on the country unless they’re stopped. In that respect all the books in the series are pretty much interchangeable which is kind of the case in all successful series fiction. Where each book in the series differs is in the emotional growth of the characters in the face of whatever challenges they’re facing. I made a decision with my Caitlin Strong books from the get-go that I was going to age the characters in real time, not book time. In other words, they were going to evolve emotionally from one book to the next and I think in addition to having the fastest pace of any entry in the series, Strong Rain Falling features the most emotionally complex story. That’s because we really get to see both sides of Caitlin and Cort Wesley Masters thanks in large part to the challenges that arise with their version of a nuclear family that includes Cort Wesley’s two teenage sons. But even more I love the nature of confronting Caitlin for the first time with a female villain who’s every bit her equal as a strong and independent woman. They only have two direct confrontations, but those scenes are priceless in what is essentially a battle of equally strong (no pun intended!) wills. But there’s also a historical connection between these two women that makes the antagonism between them even richer.

In Strong Rain Falling you go back and forth in time throughout the book. How do you effectively balance the present with the past and weave them together?

The historical subplots are my favorite part of the Caitlin Strong books and the factor that most distinguishes them from the crowded field for thrillers. Writing about the Texas Rangers intrinsically means writing lots about the drug trade that originates, and to an extent dominates, Mexico. So I finally asked myself, where did it all start? I couldn’t recall ever seeing any other writer answer that question and it turns out the Mexican drug trade actually began in the 1870s with a flood of Chinese immigrants who brought opium along for the ride. Just a few years later, farms growing the poppy flower needed to produce opium were sprouting up all over the country. And not long after that, right around the turn of the century, you have the actual birth of drug smuggling with opium being brought into the western United States through the Baja region. In fact, there was a Mexican provincial governor named Cantu (who’s actually a character in the book) who was lauded for building roads and other infrastructure projects when the real reason he built them was to facilitate his smuggling operation!

How did you get into writing and did you have any mentors who helped you along the way?

That’s a great question to start with and the answer, I don’t think, is very typical for those of us lucky enough to be in this profession. I didn’t actually start writing until I was a sophomore at Brown University. First off, that was probably a positive thing since it’s so easy for fledgling writers to get discouraged when they start out in high school or even before. I’d always enjoyed the process, dating all the way back to junior high, but I never had even considered the notion of pursuing a career. For me, law school was as certain after college as college was after high school. But the writing bug bit me while at Brown, and I started writing magazine articles for periodicals like People and The Saturday Evening Post and fell in love with, confession time!, seeing my name in print. Around the same time, I fell in love with reading again, particularly thrillers, and figured why not write one, specifically for my Senior Honors Thesis in Brown’s Honors Program. Two wonderful professors, George Monteiro and the legendary Elmer Blistein, took a huge chance by sponsoring me, but I ended up finishing the book. It was god-awful for the most part, but I’d proven to myself that I could do it. The next book I wrote was the first one that ended up selling and, to this day, I credit Brown to a huge degree in providing me the academic freedom and opportunity to chase my dream.

Pandora's Temple

You also have the Blaine McCracken series, which you recently returned to with the award-winning Pandora’s Temple. How was it revisiting a character you hadn’t written about in several years?

The biggest challenge I faced was how to age him and I decided to be true to the background and mythology of the series. As a deep cover operative who cut his teeth in Vietnam’s Operation Phoenix, he’d have to be around 60 years old unless I wanted to cheat a la Robert Parker who made the mistake of making his wondrous Spenser a Korean War vet meaning he’d be around eighty-five now and still kicking butt. But cheating the reader was no way to reintroduce McCracken and had I made him, say, forty-five, he’d have been killing Vietcong at the age of ten. So I decided to age him normally and introduce him in Pandora’s Temple about to celebrate his 60th birthday. The phone has pretty much stopped ringing and time seems to have passed Blaine by, when the call that brings him back to action comes. And that’s one of the things that brought him back to life for me. I realized he made the perfect metaphor for so many successful businessmen and women who find their jobs outsourced or phased out when they reach the same age, thanks to the current economy. I knew I had a theme that would create an emotional resonance in Pandora that would help elevate it above the run-of-the-mill thriller and make it not just a worthy addition to the series, but maybe the best one yet. Lucky number ten! Once I realized that, I was able to swiftly recapture McCracken’s voice and his sharp, thoughtful exchanges with his right-hand man, the seven-foot indestructible and wise Johnny Wareagle. It happened organically and didn’t need to be forced at all, although I did go back and add some scenes to help recapture the magic between them that helps define who they are and the eternal quest they find themselves on. Because at heart all great thrillers are quest stories and McCracken’s quest here is to find Pandora’s box because that’s the only way to save the world. But this time out in saving the world, Blaine is also saving himself from the scrapheap, and watching him come to embrace that opportunity as the story goes on imbues the book with just the verve it needed to do justice to a hero who’s been away from the page since 1998.

When writing a series, how do you keep things fresh for the reader? And how do you keep track of all the details from book to book?

I’ve kind of answered that already: I keep things fresh by keeping my characters fresh. By confronting them with new crisis and challenges that further enrich and expand who they are as people, in addition to characters. The thriller authors I don’t come back to or don’t read anymore create emotionally vapid landscapes where there’s no emotional stake in the plights of their heroes. We need to care about them the same way we care about real people and if we don’t the book ultimately fails. I don’t really keep track of all the details in the Caitlin Strong series from book to book because I always assume (or hope anyway) the majority of those picking the latest up will be meeting her for the first time. The mark of any good series is to be able to pick up any entry in it first and not feel you’ve missed anything or need to know that isn’t provided. And that book ideally should make you want to go back and read all the ones that came before and all the ones that came after.

You’re an active member of International Thriller Writers and currently serve as its Marketing Chair. How has this organization benefited you as an author and do you recommend that aspiring writers join an organization such as this?

Well, “such as this” is a deal breaker because there is no other organization as concerned about its members and as responsive to their needs as ITW. It’s benefited me as an author tremendously, both for all the quotes my far more successful writer friends have provided and, even more importantly, creating a community of peers whose company I enjoy as much as I enjoy anyone’s. In fact, I’d go a step further and say that the five days of ThrillerFest are about my favorite days of the year. It’s interesting that some of the best and most famous names in our genre and our industry—David Morrell, Lee Child, James Rollins, Steve Berry, Doug Preston, R.L. Stine, Sandra Brown, Heather Graham, the list goes on—are also some of the best and nicest people I’ve ever met.

The Tenth CircleDo you have any new and exciting projects in the works?

The next book’s ready to come out. It’s called The Tenth Circle and it’s the follow-up to Pandora’s Temple once again featuring Blaine McCracken, my original series hero I’ve fallen back in love with. Beyond that I’m actually working on three books: a sequel to my bestselling The Seven Sins, a terrific project I’m doing in tandem with the great Heather Graham called The Survivor, and I’ve just completed the first draft of Strong Darkness, the next book featuring Caitlin. But, oh boy, you know what I said about first drafts earlier and I’ve got my work cut out for me on this. Then again, that’s nothing new!

Steven James’ Keys to Organic Writing

Steven JamesAt ThrillerFest VIII I attended Steven James’ CraftFest session on organic writing, (i.e., writing without an outline). Following his presentation, James provided the audience with a handout summarizing his advice. For those interested in writing, below are highlights from the handout.

Keys to Organic Writing 

Let narrative forces rather than formulas drive your story forward. Imagine a giant ball of clay being held by a group of people. As one person presses against the clay it changes shape. 

The clay is your story; the people surrounding it represent the narrative forces pressing in on it. For example: 

  • Believability: The characters in your story need to act in contextually believable ways. All the time. 
  • Causality: Everything that happens in a story will be caused by the thing that precedes it. 
  • Inevitability & Surprise: The end of every scene must not just be logical, but, in retrospect, the only possible conclusion to that scene. Scenes will end in a way that’s unexpected and yet satisfying to readers. 
  • Escalation: The tension must continue to escalate, scene by scene, until it reaches a climax after which nothing is ever the same again. 
  • Scenes & Setbacks: If nothing is altered, you do not have a scene. If your characters solve something without a setback, you do not have a story – you have a setup for a story, an event, but that’s all. 
  • Continuity: Think of pace as the speed at which things are happening, think of narrative energy as the momentum that’s carrying them along. 
  • Story & Genre Conventions: Readers enter a story with expectations based on their understanding of story and of the genre they’re reading. You need to know the principles of storytelling and be familiar enough with genre conventions to meet or exceed your readers’ expectations without resorting to using cliches. 

When you know the right questions to ask, your story will unfold in unique, unpredictable and fulfilling ways. 

Escalation:

  • Does this scene ratchet up the tension of the one before it?
  • How can I make things worse?

Believability:

  • What would this character naturally do in this situation?
  • Is he properly motivated to take this action?

Causality: 

  • Is this event caused by what precedes it?
  • How can what I want to happen bow to what needs to happen based on the context?

Inevitability & Surprise:

  • Does this scene end in a way that’s both unexpected and yet inevitable?
  • How can I assure that readers don’t see the twist coming?

Scenes & Setbacks: 

  • Have I inadvertently included scenes just for character development?
  • Is there an interlude or moment of reorientation between each scene?

Continuity: 

  • Do my revelations happen at the right moments within the story?
  • Have I used foreshadowing to eliminate coincidences, especially at the climax?

Story & Genre Expectations:

  • What requisite scenes are inherent to this genre and to this story?
  • How can I render them in a way that’s not cliched?

Author Interview: Thomas B. Sawyer

Thomas B SawyerAt ThrillerFest VIII, I was lucky enough to meet Thomas B. Sawyer, the former head writer for one of my all-time favorite TV shows: Murder, She Wrote. In addition to working in television, Tom has written several books, as well as a musical drama. Below is my interview with Sawyer about his exceptional career. I hope you enjoy it.

Growing up, did you always want to be a writer?

In a way, yes. My childhood ambition/fixation was to draw and write a realistic syndicated daily newspaper comic strip, telling a continuous story. There are almost none of those today, but they were big when I was a kid. My hero was Milton Caniff, who drew and wrote such strips as Terry & the Pirates and Steve Canyon. I started freelancing as a comic-book artist (writing a few) in Manhattan at age 20, moving on to advertising, where I became a successful illustrator. Along the way, I realized that doing a daily strip was not for me, so I began making short films, and fell in love with directing. I studied with Lee Strasberg, directed off-off Broadway, and directed/produced TV commercials for major ad agencies.

What led you to the television industry?

I moved from NY to the LA area to try breaking into movies – as a director. My plan, produce and direct a low-budget comedy as a calling-card. My writer fell out as soon as I arrived on the Coast, so I wrote it myself. Then, the financing fell through, so I bankrolled it, shot it, and began screenings in hope of finding a distributor – and getting my money back. By then, I’d begun to network with people in the biz, and would invite them to screening as well. One was a multiple Emmy-winning writer/director/producer, Lila Garrett. She approached me at the end of a screening: “Tom, you should be writing for television.”

Truthfully, I had never even thought about that, totally focused as I was on directing movies. I asked her how I might get started. Her response, with a shrug: “I’ve got a production deal. If you get an idea, call me.” Two weeks later, I phoned her with a one-line pitch: “A gang-comedy on a tacky used-car lot in the valley.” She said: “That’s great. You’ll write it and I’ll produce it.

Another two weeks, my first gig in Hollywood: I was writing a comedy pilot for CBS. Incidentally, it was several years before I realized that is not the way it works for most people.

How did you become involved in Murder, She Wrote?

I became a writer for Murder, She Wrote (MSW) before it began to air, the result of my agent sending show creator Peter Fischer a non-mystery series pilot script I’d written for CBS, a one-hour WWII drama titled Cody’s War. Peter ‘saw’ something in it – presumably, that I could write scenes that worked – and he gave me a ‘blind assignment’ to write an episode. Meaning, I had to first come up with a story that was acceptable. He invited me to come in and view the pilot, and to me, anyway, Angela Lansbury’s specialness, her presence, was awesome. As was the prospect – the honor and privilege, really – of writing for her.

MSW looked to me like a hit, and I said so. In response to my question about the approach, the show’s style, Peter explained that he envisioned it as “sort of” in the mold of traditional Agatha Christie puzzle mysteries. Which prompted – with no hesitation: “Peter, I have to tell you, when I was a kid I read a couple of Christies and one or two locked-room mysteries, you know, where they gather the suspects in the drawing-room at the end? They bored the shit out of me, and I won’t write that for you.” His response: “Okay. What will you write?” “I’ll write The Maltese Falcon.” Peter replied without missing a beat: “That’ll be fine.” And – on reflection – I realize that that was my signal contribution to the show. With few exceptions, over the next 12 seasons, in each episode we did a play about a bunch of interesting characters in conflict with each other. And someone is murdered.

What was it like working with Angela Lansbury?

The absolute best. Angela was – and still is – a total professional, without vanity, generous to other actors. My only frustration was that the character of Jessica Fletcher, as originally conceived, used such a tiny fraction of Angela’s incredible range as an actress. But in re-examining her movies, I observed that she played irate-and-pissed-off better than almost any actor in the world. So I contrived, in each episode, to give her at least one moment when another character would say the equivalent of: “Ms. Fletcher, I don’t have time for this, so get outta my office.” And Jessica would get her back up – and the show would immediately take on that energy.

Meeting Tom Sawyer at ThrillerFest VIII.

Meeting Tom Sawyer at ThrillerFest VIII.

Murder, She Wrote regularly featured popular guest stars. Which guest stars did you enjoy working with the most and why?

Jerry Orbach tops the list. Jerry played a recurring character, PI Harry McGraw, which we eventually spun off into a series (The Law & Harry McGraw). Jerry, a major Broadway musical star, was a great guy, and a delight to work with. Oh, there were so many others, too: Len Cariou, Anne Meara, Lorna Luft, Milton Berle, Bobby Morse, Buddy Hackett, Steve Lawrence… The list is endless.

How did your role on the Murder, She Wrote team evolve over the years, and what was it like when the show came to an end?

I was on staff, then off, doing other shows, and pilots and film scripts, plus the McGraw spinoff, but continuing to write for MSW. And then, after 7 seasons, Fischer departed, and I was asked to take over as Head Writer/Showrunner, which I did – and enjoyed enormously – for the next 5 seasons.

It was sad when CBS pulled the plug. We were still one of the top shows, but had become a casualty of demographics. We were on opposite ABC’s Lois & Clark, which had 1/3 fewer viewers. But, of a more advertiser-desirable age-group, they were able to charge more for commercials.

Our final episode: “Death By Demographics,” was about the murder of a broadcaster.

What is the TV script-writing process like, and how many revisions are made before shooting a scene?

A lot depends on the type of show. Comedies involve a lot of meetings in the “Writers’ Room.” Dramas, less so. And while I’ve written finished shooting scripts for action-adventure shows in as little as four days, teleplays for MSW took several months. Plus – unlike many theatrical movies – in TV, once the script is written, that’s what is shot.

The Writers Guild dictates that the TV episode writer do two drafts of the story (outline), and two drafts of the script. After that, the show’s staff writers have to make any necessary changes. Thus, it is in the interest of those staffers to work closely with the freelance writer, holding his/her hand along the way, so that final script is as close to shootable as possible.

You’ve written a musical drama (Jack) and a novel (The Sixteenth Man) about John F. Kennedy. What inspired you to base these two works on the former U.S. President?

I regard his loss as one of the major tragedies this country has experienced. JFK’s passion was without equal. Moreover, I find his life and family fascinating (operatic, really, hence, Jack), and the truth about his assassination never revealed (thus, my take on it, The Sixteenth Man).

How does writing novels compare to writing for television and theater?

In novels the writer really gets the chance to know the characters far more intimately. Though in the case of Jack, the writing process – and getting to know the characters went on for years. More than five in fact, before we figured out who Jack Kennedy was.

Your conspiracy thriller, No Place to Run, was focused on the U.S. government’s involvement in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. What inspired the premise? And did the sensitive subject matter lead to any interesting encounters with the government or law enforcement officials?

I gradually became convinced that 9/11 was known to be in work, and was abetted/permitted to happen because our government (as in: the MICC Complex) needed an event that would cause the public to put up with another war. I’m fully aware that once history is written, it becomes part of the public’s comfort-zone, but in writing that book, I figured if I could make as many as a dozen people think (re-think, actually), I had succeeded.

It did not provoke any encounters with government or law enforcement, but I was invited to post my take on it at a very interesting website, patriotsquestion911.com, where I found myself in some amazing company. I have since appeared on panels with a number of them. But getting the book published wasn’t easy. The head of one of the major houses in NY said to my agent: “I really like Tom’s writing, but I’m offended by his premise.”

Fiction Writing DemystifiedYou teach an online course about writing fiction and wrote the book Fiction Writing Demystified. How has writing for television influenced and helped what you produce as an author?

More than anything else, TV taught me that the number one requirement of any writer, (novelist, historian, ad copywriter, clergyman, you-name-it), no matter how lofty the goal, is to know – and never forget — that we are Entertainers.
Simply put, unless we entertain, one’s audience isn’t going to stay with us until The End.

Are there any authors in particular that you read regularly and draw inspiration from?

Absolutely. Moreover, these hold up for me on rereading. John O’Hara, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Donald Westlake, Elmore Leonard, Irwin Shaw, and Eric Ambler.

What do you think is currently the best-written show on television?

For me – and they’re inconsistent, a tossup between Blue Bloods and The Good Wife. The all-time best? The Sopranos.

Are you working on any exciting new projects?

Yes. I just finished my first non-stand alone thriller (w/humor), Cross Purposes. It features a New York PI, Barney Moon. Barney, a permanent fish-out-of-water, hates Los Angeles, is stuck there, and he doesn’t drive. I’m also completing my memoir, Who Knew…?

Andrew Gross – Live Chat

Andrew_GrossAs you know, I’m a fan of Andrew Gross’ work and I had the pleasure of interviewing him for my blog and meeting him at ThrillerFest VIII. If you’re looking for the opportunity to ask him about his new novel, No Way Back, or any of his other books, I’ve got good news. This Thursday (8/1), Gross is participating in a live chat on BookTrib.com – a book/publishing website that features book news, reviews and custom online promotions, including giveaways, contests, live author chats, etc. During the chat, which takes place at 7:00 p.m. EST, you can directly ask Gross questions, and BookTrib is giving away a brand-new Kindle Fire loaded with a selection of the author’s books. If you’re new to his work or a longtime fan, I recommend you check out this event. Andrew Gross is a terrific writer and it should be a fun time.

Book Review – Second Honeymoon by James Patterson

Second Honeymoon

For those of you that read my review of Honeymoon, you may be surprised. I thought Second Honeymoon, the sequel to the aforementioned book, was excellent. Both of the story’s plotlines were engaging, filled with interesting twists, and unlike a multitude of thrillers, believable. The character development was handled well, and I felt as if I was in John O’Hara’s shoes a few times in the novel. My only complaint is the way point-of-view was handled. As I learned at ThrillerFest, novels where the point-of-view of the narrator changes a lot can be jarring to the reader. From time to time, I found myself wondering who was narrating the beginning of a chapter. A few sentences in I figured it out, but this could have been avoided with less jumping around. Nevertheless, Second Honeymoon is a tightly-woven tale that will keep your attention from cover to cover and leave you satisfied. I highly recommend you give it a go.

Synopsis

A walk down the aisle, a resort hotel, a drink on the beach…for these unlucky couples, the honeymoon’s over.

A newlywed couple steps into the sauna in their deluxe honeymoon suite—and never steps out again. When another couple is killed while boarding their honeymoon flight to Rome, it becomes clear that someone is targeting honeymooners, and it’s anyone’s guess which happy couple is next on the list.

FBI Agent John O’Hara is deep into solving the case, while Special Agent Sarah Brubaker is hunting another ingenious serial killer, whose victims all have one chilling thing in common.

As wedding hysteria rises to a frightening new level, John and Sarah work ever more closely together in a frantic attempt to decipher the logic behind two rampages.

ThrillerFest VIII – Day 4

I picked up more than 35 books at ThrillerFest.

I picked up more than 35 books at ThrillerFest.

The fourth and final day of ThrillerFest was just as enjoyable as the ones that preceded it. As you can see from the photo above, I left the conference with a ton of books. Below are highlights, photos and videos from the final day of ThrillerFest, including the entire 43-minute interview with Michael Connelly. I’m attending next year’s conference, which I’m sure will be even better. Now I have to try and finish these books before next July. Wish me luck!

Does Speed Kill?

Does Speed Kill?

Does Speed Kill?

  • “Writing expository material in my books makes me feel like I’m running in mud.” – Andrew Gross
  • “I don’t like to write books that feel like screenplays.” – A.J. Hartley
  • “If you have a sprint from the beginning of the book to the end, without slowing down, there’s no depth to it at that point.” – Sheldon Siegel
  • “If my wife stops reading my book in the middle of a chapter, I ask her why.” – John Gilstrap
  • “I love to go to plays to see where the acts end and whether or not people get up from their seats during the intermission. It’s a great way to learn about pacing.” – Heather Graham
Meeting T. Jefferson Parker.

Meeting T. Jefferson Parker.

T. Jefferson Parker Interview

  • “I decided to be a reporter so I could pursue my passion for writing and in my free time work on novels.”
  • “I didn’t want to be a series writer. I didn’t see myself in that place, at that time.”
  • “The great thing about being a writer is you can be sitting on the boardwalk in Laguna Beach, minding your own business, and the main character in your next novel can walk right in front of you.”
  • “When it comes to the writing process, I’m a Monday through Friday kind of guy, from 7 to 5 pm. If I can get five pages done, it’s a good day.”
  • “The hardest part for me is not writing. It takes me three months to come up with an idea good enough to start writing. Then it takes me about six months to finish the first draft, and another three months to make it as good as I can before I send it off to my agent.”
  • “The shortest outline I wrote was on a bar napkin. After explaining the outline to the publisher, my agent called me the next day and said, ‘I don’t know what you wrote on that napkin but the publisher just bought it.’”
  • “For Laguna Heat, I threw away 2,500 pages over a five year period. I never worked so hard to make a book readable. In total, there were six drafts.”
  • “I love to read; it’s nourishment for me. I usually have two or three books going at a time. If I didn’t read while I write, I’d never read.”
  • Young writers’ first goal should be to find their own voice, and stop trying to write like their heroes.”
  • “I still feel that my best work is ahead.”
Are Young Adult Novels Meant For Adults?

Are Young Adult Novels Meant For Adults?

Are Young Adult Novels Meant For Adults?

  • “A lot of my readers are adults because they grew up with me. I’m nostalgia to them. I’m Hall & Oates.” – R.L. Stine
  • “There was a statistic saying that 52% of YA readers are adults. But if you remove The Hunger Games and Harry Potter, I’m not sure that’s true.” – Michelle Gagnon
  • “I wrote my first young adult book in five weeks.” – Barry Lyga
  • “I write YA because that’s what I like to read.” – Linda Gerber
  • “Young adult novels have a direct, powerful and emotional point of view.” – Allen Zadoff
  • “On social media, 30% of my followers are adults.” – Lissa Price
  • “I don’t think it’s so remarkable that adults read YA. We all used to be teenagers.” – Kat Rosenfield
Photo 2013-07-17 12.34.34 AM

Michael Connelly being interviewed by Jon Land.

ThrillerFest VIII – Day 3

Meeting Taylor Stevens.

Meeting Taylor Stevens.

The third day of ThrillerFest was filled with great panels, as well as an entertaining Anne Rice interview that was conducted by her son, Christopher Rice. Check out the highlights, photos and videos below.

Fist, Kinfe or Gun?

Fist, Knife or Gun?

Fist, Knife or Gun?

  • “It’s important to add vulnerability to your killer because no hero is all good and no villain is all bad.” – Wendi Corsi Staubb
  • “Guns are usually the easiest way to assure someone is dead.” – Alex Berenson
  • “My character isn’t setting out to kill people. So, for her, it’s about what’s available and what will work.” – Taylor Stevens
  • “You take a lot of darkness into you when you write about people hurting other people. It’s really hard.” – Allison Brennan
  • “You have to kill differently in different countries because of the cultures and the way people operate.” – D.L. Wilson
Keeping a Series Character Fresh.

Keeping a Series Character Fresh.

Keeping a Series Character Fresh

  • “My Davenport character has been around for more than 20 years. The way I handle it is he ages slower than everyone else.” – John Sanford
  • “I loved my Charlie Hood series. But I didn’t want to be beholden to it. So, I decided to end it with my most recent book. I love the blank page, and I had to close one door to open another.” – T. Jefferson Parker
  • “Paul Christopher appeared out of nowhere, and I never expected to see him again.” – Charles McCarry
  • “In 10 books I’ve aged my character only one year because policemen retire at a certain age. But culturally I’ve moved the books along with each iteration.” – Peter James
  • “I wanted to keep my character in an age frame that was believable as a prosecutor, so I aged her very slowly. And I think readers go along with that.” – Linda Fairstein
  • “If Jessica Fletcher aged accurately, she’d be 175 years old. But I haven’t aged her a day.” – Donald Bain
Plotter or Pantser?

Plotter or Pantser?

Plotter or Pantser?

  • “I’m bi – sometimes I outline, sometimes I don’t.” – Michael Stanley
  • “The biggest thing that sets thrillers apart is getting the tone right.” – David Rich
  • “Harlan Coben is an organic writer. He once told me that he writes a story from start to finish and then revises it about 40 times.” – Diane Capri
  • “Outlining is meant to help where you’re going, not mandate how you get there.” – Michael Robertson
  • “43% of people put down thrillers because they run out of gas.” – Rick Anderson
  • “I was a trial lawyer for many years and lived by the outline. Now I’m a loud and proud pantser.” – Joel Goldman
Anne Rice and her son, Christopher Rice.

Anne Rice and her son, Christopher Rice.

 

 

 

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: