The Jack and Jill You’re Looking For
I have a rule: I read every book I blurb. The problem is that I write three books a year and have five kids—time is short.
That was the problem I had with LIARS’ PARADOX—I knew I was late to blurb it, but because I have loved everything else Taylor Stevens has written, I thought I’d just read the first chapter or two.
I brought the book to my daughter’s softball practice one night and one chapter led to … well, finishing half the book in those three hours, rushing home, telling the kids they were on their own for dinner, grabbing a glass of wine, and jumping into my reading chair to finish the novel—no interruptions allowed, on pain of severe punishment.
LIARS’ PARADOX is that good.
It’s fun, violent, fast-paced, and original. To say, “I couldn’t put the book down,” is somewhat trite because everyone says that about a good thriller. Except, I literally could not put the book down until I read every page.
I think every author, on occasion, reads a book and thinks Damn. I wish I’d written that. Such was LIARS’ PARADOX for me.
By Dawn Ius
Trends descend on the publishing industry like storms, sometimes forever altering the landscape and creating monumental shifts in the market.
A dozen years ago it was Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code that paved the way for the genre’s current industry giants. Then came the Twilight-inspired vampire books and dystopian young adult novels, followed closely in 2012 by Gillian Flynn’s bestselling—and sub-genre creating—domestic thriller Gone Girl, which more than five years later still inspires “Girl-dominant” titles.
An interesting fad that ITW Executive Director Liz Berry suggests may not be going away anytime soon.
“Though the trend is a few years old now, it’s still going strong and attracting new female thriller readers,” she says.
Of course, a title only gets an author so far—it’s what’s between the pages that starts adrenaline-seeking readers’ hearts racing. And statistics show that thriller—with it’s 13 or so sub-genres—continues to carve out a significant chunk of that market.
A Psychological Thriller that
Plays on all Emotions
By Dawn Ius
U.K. author Louise Jensen became a little obsessed about surrogacy after reading a magazine article about a couple and their surrogate. Everything went well for the parents-to-be in the story, but Jensen’s creative brain took things in a different direction.
The article sparked the foundation for her latest psychological suspense, THE SURROGATE, a twisty, turny tale that asks the chilling question: What if the surrogate had an ulterior motive? Add in a seemingly perfect couple desperate to have children, a few dark secrets from the past, and voila—a page-turner was born.
“I didn’t know the plot before I began—I never do,” Jensen says. “But I always know my main character and what they want.”
For Kat, that’s a baby. Desperately. And after two failed attempts at adoption, Kat and her husband Nick are willing to do anything to make their baby-dreams come true. Their desire is palpable, due in part to Jensen’s command of the craft, but also because Jensen was able to tap deep into Kat’s emotions as they somewhat mirrored her own.
Call from a Stranger
By E. M. Powell
There are some aspects of 21st century life that need no introduction. One is the unsolicited phone call from a stranger—someone usually trying to sell something or convince us to part with our bank details because allegedly our computer isn’t working properly.
But sometimes random contact from a stranger can turn into something much less innocuous.
Way back in 1989, bestselling author Peter James received a phone call at home in the U.K. from an unknown individual. James picked up the call and an elderly-sounding man asked if he was an author, which James confirmed. Put aside any notion that this was about double glazing or market research, for the man responded: “Thank God I’ve found you! I’ve called every Peter James in the phone book in the South of England—it’s taken me two weeks. My name is Harry Nixon, I assure you I’m not a lunatic.”
Many of us would have been tempted to hang up at that point. James did not, as the sincerity in Nixon’s voice caught his attention. That sincerity was also evident when the caller went on to say: “Mr. James, I’ve been given absolute proof of God’s existence and I’ve been told you are the man to help me get taken seriously.”
It wasn’t only Nixon’s sincerity that kept James on the line—his writer’s nose for a story played a big part, as well.
“Everyone you will ever meet in life has a story,” he says. “Something that has happened to them or a loved one or a friend that is worth hearing.”
Harry Nixon’s story was indeed worth hearing, for it inspired James’s latest release, ABSOLUTE PROOF.
A Cry for Help from the Future
History is littered with amazing novels that, in hindsight, flashed brightly as a warning sign of things to come. Tom Clancy predicted that an airliner would be weaponized, H. G. Wells predicted that an atom bomb would be dropped, and Arthur C. Clarke predicted the rise of digital media—all fine examples of authors who, because of their insight or intelligence or imagination, were able to foresee the future.
We may look back at THE COMING STORM by Mark Alpert as another such book—except this one paints a picture of the future that is far darker than most.
Without giving spoilers, it’s chilling that several of the things Alpert writes about in his latest release have been in the headlines lately. Alpert says, “Between the writing of THE COMING STORM and its publication, several of the events I predicted in the novel have already taken place… I was shocked; I didn’t think it would happen so soon.”
THE COMING STORM illustrates a terrifying near future that has a direct line of sight to the politics and crises of today. The book is set in New York City against a backdrop of rising sea levels and a brutal regime in Washington that is detaining thousands in flooded detention zones, led by a president intent on silencing his critics.
What if Hitler had Produced Offspring?
J. H. Bográn’s new thriller, HEIR OF EVIL, grows out of a firecracker of a premise: What if Adolph Hitler had produced offspring? What would be the fate of the next generation, here in the 21st century?
This is the story of Oscar Brown, a pretty ordinary fellow until he discovers, on his 30th birthday, that he’s the Fuhrer’s grandson. The book is set back at the turn of the century, so technology is less advanced. Nonetheless, Oscar is a workaholic, raised by a single mother who worked double shifts to put him through college. As the author says, he feels he has something of a debt to pay.
“He´s also a natural salesperson,” Bográn says. “I bet that, if the book had been set a few years later instead of 2000, he’d be one of the early users of Blackberry devices and his conversion into workaholism would be complete.”
The revelation of his heritage turns Brown’s life upside down. Neo-Nazis are looking up to him as a symbol. Of course, the Mossad wants him dead. And the CIA turns a deaf ear to his plight. Brown finds himself running for his life, trying to discover the true origin of his inheritance and questionable birthright.
Rooting for an Unlikely Hero
By R. G. Belsky
Alice O’Farrell is an unlikely hero—a down-and-out drunk who lives in sleazy motels and tends bar at a strip club. But you quickly find yourself rooting for her in Samuel W. Gailey’s highly acclaimed new thriller, THE GUILT WE CARRY.
Alice has been drifting in a guilt-ridden haze ever since she was a teenager because she blames herself for the tragic death of her little brother. But now her life dramatically changes course when she finds a bag with $91,000 in drug money—and then flees the scene with violent drug dealers in hot pursuit.
“I wanted to write a female version of Clint Eastwood,” Gailey says. “I’m talking about the Clint Eastwood back in the ’60s and ’70s. A character that has a tortured past, they’re a loner, and kind of a reluctant hero.
“I like writing about how a little twist of fate can completely change a person’s life. Everyday people who get a bad turn of the coin and their lives are irrevocably altered. Then they keep making bad decisions and getting themselves deeper and deeper into trouble. The reader knows it’s a train wreck, but you keep reading. Because it makes for a good story.”
The theme of the book, as the title suggests, is about overcoming guilt. “Most people grapple with some kind of guilt, some mistakes they’ve made,” Gailey says. “I think it’s important for people to figure out a way to let it go and find a way to forgive yourself.”
A Hero for our Times
Andrew Grant’s favorite scene in INVISIBLE is the opening one, set in Istanbul.
“Remember the old James Bond movies where there’s an action sequence before the opening credits?” says Grant, a native of Birmingham, England, who now lives in Wyoming with his wife, fellow novelist Tasha Alexander. “It’s like that. Paul McGrath is going to a clandestine meeting in the Grand Bazaar on a mission to sabotage the Iranian attempt to build their own nuclear weapon.
“It was a good opportunity to show the hero in his natural environment, posing as a black market guy, selling equipment the Iranians aren’t supposed to have. Showing what he’s good at. And it’s nice to recreate the sights and sounds of Istanbul on the page.”
Grant says he was lucky enough to visit Istanbul as a birthday present from his wife, who also shares his background in theater.
In fact, writing novels was never part of Grant’s life plan—and yet INVISIBLE marks his eighth published book. But while he didn’t intend to write stories, he grew up loving them.
“To me it was a question of what format, and theater is a very natural way, with people standing up and telling you the story,” Grant says. “You’ve got to change that a little bit when you put it onto the page. The idea behind it is the same. One of the things that it really helps you with is that you have that sense of having a cast of characters.
Rollins Spins a Cautionary Tale of Artificial Intelligence
By Josie Brown
“You are my creator, but I am your master. Obey!”
This cruel retort, made by the monster in Mary Shelley’s classic tale, Frankenstein, never fails to send chills up readers’ spines.
But should the events depicted in James Rollins’s latest novel, CRUCIBLE, come to pass and scientists soon develop an artificial intelligence capable of warp-speed learning capacity, fact will be much scarier than fiction.
Rollins has written enough bestselling novels to fill a tall bookcase. In most of them, a historical event or artifact is the catalyst for a modern-day catastrophe. Sometimes Rollins will find the perfect plot concept from reading an article. Occasionally, it’s sparked from his travels.
“I’ve always got my antenna up for those bits and pieces from which I can construct my novels,” Rollins says. “I’m looking for that historical mystery that ends in a question mark; that bit of science that makes me go, ‘What if? Where is that headed?’”
In CRUCIBLE, the concept struck while watching a National Geographic television episode. It was about a witch hunters’ tome written in 1487 called the Malleus Maleficarum. Translated, the title means The Hammer of the Witches.
“European witch hunters picked on women who studied the natural world. These women dabbled in pagan healing arts, curing people in their ancient villages,” Rollins says. “Of course, being a male-dominated world, they were persecuted for questioning the dogma of the Bible or men in power. The inquisition led to almost sixty thousand deaths.”
Pendergast Partners up in new “Mister Brokenhearts” Thriller
By R. G. Belsky
FBI Special Agent Pendergast is assigned to work with a new partner in VERSES FOR THE DEAD, the latest thriller in Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s hugely popular series. And, as fans of the famously rogue operative might expect, Pendergast finds that almost as challenging as the series of sensational murders he needs to solve.
Pendergast and his unwanted new partner—a young agent known only as Coldmoon—are called in to investigate a serial killer known as “Mister Brokenhearts.” The killer places the hearts of his victims on various tombstones in the Miami area, all apparently offerings to women who have committed suicide.
“We’re always looking for new ways in which to complicate Pendergast’s life or mortify him in some way or other that is (we hope) interesting to the reader,” Child says. “Giving a lone wolf like Pendergast a partner he has to work with seemed like a nice, and novel, idea.”
Playing Fast and Loose with the Law
By J. H. Bográn
In John Lescroart’s new thriller, THE RULE OF LAW, Dismas Hardy knows something is amiss with his trusted secretary, Phyllis. Her out-of-character behavior and sudden disappearances concern him, especially when he learns that her convict brother—a man who had served 25 years in prison for armed robbery and attempted murder—has just been released.
Things take a shocking turn when Phyllis is suddenly arrested at work for allegedly being an accessory to the murder of Hector Valdez, a coyote who’d been smuggling women into the country from El Salvador and Mexico. That is, until recently, when he was shot to death—on the same day that Phyllis first disappeared from work.
The connection between Phyllis, her brother, and Hector’s murder is not something Hardy can easily understand, but if his cherished colleague has any chance of going free, he needs to put all the pieces together—and fast.
The idea for this novel dates back to December of 2016, when Lescroart began to ponder what his next project should be.
Delving into Corruption in
the Nigerian Political Landscape
Nigerian writer Leye Adenle’s debut Easy Motion Tourist, set in Lagos, earned critical acclaim and inspired reader enthusiasm. The Guardian called it “Fast and furious … a roller coaster ride through a world of extremes, where everything is up for grabs.” The novel went on to win the 2016 Prix Marianne.
Now, Adenle follows it up with WHEN TROUBLE SLEEPS, a continuation of his Lagos crime series featuring social activist Amaka Mbadiwe. The Guardian has already chosen this political and social thriller as one of the best recent crime novels, and thriller master Lee Child summed it up with the following praise: “Spectacular—Adenle is crime fiction’s best new voice for years.”
Adenle took time out of his schedule to chat with The Big Thrill about WHEN TROUBLE SLEEPS.
Mother and Daughter Battle the Odds
By Neil Nyren
“Here are the facts. I am alone. I am on a mountain. The plane I was on has crashed. I have very little food and water. It will be dark in a few hours and my only shelter is a twisted hulk of metal that could, at any minute, explode.”
“You have to go.”
“I don’t know how much time I have before they come looking for me.”
Allison (“Ally”) Carpenter is the only survivor of a private plane crash in the Colorado Rockies, but it is the very dark secret she carries—more than the crash itself and the ordeal in front of her—that scares her the most. Because if they find out she’s alive, they’ll kill her.
Across the country, in a small town in Maine, her mother, Maggie, harbors her own dark secret. And it is the guilt from it that sparks her determination to find out what happened when she’s told of her daughter’s presumed death.
Two women, thousands of miles apart, battling against impossible odds and implacable enemies to find their way back to one another before it’s too late. As Jessica Barry’s FREEFALL crosscuts between them, it becomes a story not only of survival, but of grief, resilience, betrayal, reinvention, and the fierce, tangled bond between mother and daughter.
Max Anger is a man on the edge. A former fighter in an elite band of special-ops soldiers in Sweden, Anger is haunted by battle scars, a childhood spent in the Stockholm archipelago, and his own mysterious family past. Now behind a desk at Vektor, a think tank conducting research on Russia, he’s met his match—and fallen in love—with fierce fellow operative Pashie Kovalenko. Like all of Vektor, she’s set her sights on the tenuous future of her country.
When Pashie goes missing in Saint Petersburg, Anger rushes headlong into a volatile Russia, where a new president is about to be elected in the midst of a technological revolution. At the movement’s heart is a start-up Pashie had been investigating, one surrounded by rumors of organized crime and corruption. But the truth is more shocking than Anger could have ever expected.
Now time is running out for Pashie. Racing through a storm of violence and deception, Anger gets ever closer to a sensational secret—and to the Russian madman with dreams of restoring one of the cruelest regimes in the history of the world.
The Big Thrill caught up with Max Anger creator, Martin Österdahl, to discuss his latest thriller, ASK NO MERCY:
In THE SECOND LAW, Lynn Dayton Thriller #3, TriCoast Energy executive Lynn Dayton is visiting the company’s San Francisco refinery when it comes under attack. Saddened by the fiery deaths of several workers, she traces the explosion to software malfunctions and contacts cybersecurity chief Kanak Singh to track it back to the source.
Lynn is still reeling when a TriCoast lease bidding manager is killed in New Orleans, the seeming motive the theft of his computer containing billion-dollar secret offshore bid plans. Then her longtime mentor and good friend is gunned down in front of her in a Louisiana swamp. Lynn races against time to uncover a complex plot that stretches from murder in Vienna to a natural gas terminal attack in the Baltic to a major Caribbean oil installation off U.S. shores, all due to a high-stakes government takeover bid fronted by a mysterious group called the Second Law. Who are these people and worse, who is the mole inside TriCoast feeding them so much deadly information? Unless she can find out, thousands more are scheduled to die.
Award-winning author L. A. Starks sat down with The Big Thrill to discuss the third installment of her Lynn Dayton thriller series, THE SECOND LAW:
Stop stressing and learn to chill with this mindfulness and meditation guidebook that can help workaholics and others let go of anxiety and achieve and maintain the healthy work/life balance they need.
We all know good health and happiness depends on having proper balance between our professional and private lives. But in today’s hectic work environment, in which we must do more in less time with fewer resources, that goal can feel impossible to attain. We stay late at the office rather than being home with our families. We work into the night and on weekends to perfect that presentation or just catch up, rather than relaxing with a hobby or spending time with our friends. Under constant pressure to over-perform, work easily becomes the dominant force in our lives.
Licensed psychotherapist and professor Bryan Robinson understands the demands we face. He also knows that it’s difficult to stop the cycle of over-work. But there is a solution. In #Chill, Robinson explains how ending the cycle of work addiction can be achieved by reframing priorities and cultivating mindfulness in our daily lives. He provides a month-by-month guide with meditations that help center and soothe us, allowing us to step back, close our eyes, take a long breath, and focus on the moment.
Filled with wise advice, inspiring quotes, and gentle guidance, #Chill gives us the tools we need to quiet our anxiety, break our addiction to work, and bring compassion, calm, confidence, and creativity into our daily existence—and at last, have the peaceful, balanced life we all deserve.
Award-winning author and psychotherapist Bryan E. Robinson spent time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest work of nonfiction, #CHILL: TURN OFF YOUR JOB AND TURN ON YOUR LIFE:
The Day Mia Jensen Died, She Finally Got to Live
We’ve all played the “what if” game. For Mia Jensen, “what if” is a fact of life. Dissatisfied with her choices, she often dreams about what could have been. Now she has the chance to know. But that knowledge is going to cost her dearly. Only through death can she fully realize the value of her life.
Forty-year-old Mia Jensen is home after a terrible day, trying to figure out how she’s come to this point in her life, when she hears a strange noise from the kitchen. She investigates, only to be brutally attacked and left for dead. As she dies, she experiences some of the lives that could have been hers had she only made a different choice.
Can one woman find peace with the path she’s chosen before it slips through her fingers forever?
Through the unique voices of New York Times bestsellers and rising stars in women’s fiction, A THOUSAND DOORS examines how our smallest decisions can create lasting effects, and allows the thought—can we actually change our lives?
Contributors include: Kimberly Belle, Laura Benedict, A. F. Brady, Paige Crutcher, Rebecca Drake, Heather Gudenkauf, Patti Callahan Henry, Joy Jordan-Lake, Alisha Klapheke, Ariel Lawhon, Kerry Lonsdale, Catherine McKenzie, Kate Moretti, Lisa Patton, and Kaira Rouda.
The Big Thrill caught up to New York Times and USA Today bestselling author J. T. Ellison to discuss this unique collaboration written by a veritable “who’s who” of rising stars in women’s fiction:
Set in New York City, the story features Jude Dillane, owner of The Corner Lounge on 10th St. and Avenue B. When Jude finds her friend and landlord, Thomas ‘Sully’ Sullivan’s work pal, Ed Molina, dead in a pool of blood in Sully’s apartment, she’s sure it’s not suicide as the police suspect.
Going undercover at the Big City Food Coop, Jude discovers a case of major fraud. As she works through the lists of suspects, she finds herself in the killer’s sights and knows her murder might be on the menu, as well.
Award-winning author Cathi Stoler spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest mystery, BAR NONE:
People move to the suburbs for a better life—nice houses, good schools, safe communities. But there’s no place you can go that’s completely safe from danger. Willa Pennington knows this all too well after her first PI case almost got her killed. Helping her old mentor review a decades-old cold case seems much safer. Then she reaches out to a teenager in trouble, and suddenly a new case rips into Willa’s life in a way she could have never predicted. It seems menace is always lying in wait behind someone’s door. Especially on the dark streets of the cold suburbs.
Author Aimee Hix spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest thriller, DARK STREETS COLD SUBURBS. Here’s what she had to say:
When Alicia helps plan a Valentine’s Day party at the Cobble Cove library that also includes a surprise for her newlywed friend, Gilly, things go wrong when a mysterious box of chocolates addressed to the director turns out laced with poison.
Clues Lead to A Dead Suspect
Although Alicia promised John she’ll no longer meddle in crime investigations, she and Gilly set out to find the person threatening Sheila who murdered the courier of the deadly candy. The three people they suspect include the professor from California who’s been romancing Sheila while she assists him with research for his book; the obnoxious patron Rhonda Kleisman who threw coffee at the director after refusing to pay for a damaged book; and a visiting widow staying at Gilly’s inn who’s unnaturally curious about Sheila and earns the nickname of Madame Defarge for her interest in knitting.
New Cat in Town
While Alicia and Gilly are trying to solve this new Cobble Cove mystery, Sneaky is introduced to Gilly’s new kitten, Kittykai, a calico she brought home from her honeymoon in Hawaii. It’s not like at first sight, but the two cats eventually become friends. They also both play a part in foiling the killer’s murder attempts, but will Alicia and Sheila survive unscathed?
Award-winning author Debbie De Louise spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing the fourth installment of her Cobble Cove mystery series, LOVE ON THE ROCKS:
When his dad is out of town and his mom gets in a serious accident, 16-year-old Jake’s life comes to a screaming halt. His Uncle Mark, a horror writer, is the only adult nearby to care for him and his little sister, and Jake begrudgingly agrees to spend the night at his uncle’s house to protect her. Across from his uncle’s home is a huge, abandoned toy factory, one that Jake disregards until he sees a creepy doll skulking around on its own. He sees the doll harassing his sister and she chases it to the old building. Jake pursues them inside the factory, accidentally passing through the Amazing Imagination Machine, bringing his greatest nightmare to life. Jake is forced to find a way to stop his own creation and all the monsters spawned from the machine before they can kill him, discovering some dark secrets that have been hidden in his family tree along the way.
Author Bailey Day sat down with The Big Thrill to discuss her debut young adult thriller, THE AMAZING IMAGINATION MACHINE:
The year is 1942 and World War II is in full swing. Odette Sansom decides to follow in her war hero father’s footsteps by becoming an SOE agent to aid Britain and her beloved homeland, France. She leaves behind her children, her friends, and her life. After five failed landing attempts—including a plane crash—she finally arrives in occupied France to begin her mission. It is here that she meets her commanding officer, Captain Peter Churchill.
As they complete mission after mission, their forged bond of trust gives way to love. All the while, they are hunted by Germany’s top spy-catcher, the cunning and relentless Hugo Bleicher. Bleicher finally succeeds in capturing them and they are sent to Paris’s Fresnes prison, and then to concentration camps. In captivity, Peter and Odette are starved, beaten, and tortured, but never give up the whereabouts of their colleagues, their hope, or their love for each other.
The Big Thrill caught up to international bestselling author Larry Loftis to discuss his nonfiction thriller, CODE NAME: LISE: The True Story of the Woman Who Became WWII’s Most Highly Decorated Spy:
Centuries-old alchemist Zoe Faust is tired of running from her past. She’s finally got her life on track in Portland, Oregon, gardening and cooking in her fixer-upper house with her mischievous best friend, Dorian the gargoyle chef. It seems like the perfect life for Zoe—until she discovers that her old mentor Nicolas Flamel, who she thought had abandoned her, has been imprisoned.
A local artist holds the secret that could lead Zoe to her mentor, but the artist is murdered and the painting containing the hidden clue is stolen. To rescue Nicolas, Zoe and Dorian must explore art forgery, a transformative process that has much in common with alchemy and cooking—but one that proves far more dangerous.
What kind of person would harm a child? P. I. Gabe McKenna and his buddy The Onion find out the hard way, when their plan to ransom a kidnapped boy goes horribly wrong. Finding themselves in a battle against international human traffickers, they rely on the help of unlikely friends in a race against time to rescue dozens of enslaved young victims. In a final, deadly showdown at a New Mexico ghost town, Gabe faces his ultimate challenge. How high a price is he willing to pay? Can he risk death and his own conscience to save the innocent without becoming worse than his enemies?
The Big Thrill caught up with award-winning author Robert D. Kidera to discuss the fourth installment of the Gabe McKenna mystery series, MIDNIGHT BLUES:
Legal thrillers seem to be making a comeback—and if you’re looking for a twisty one with heart, check out the latest by William L. Myers, Jr., A KILLER’S ALIBI.
In this third novel in Myers’ Philadelphia Legal series, attorney Mick McFarland’s client faces some pretty damning evidence along with family secrets that make him look even more guilty. Crime lord Jimmy Nunzio is caught, knife in hand, over the body of his daughter’s lover and a sworn enemy.
At the same time, Mick’s wife, Piper, is working to free a woman sentenced to life in prison for her abusive father’s death. Piper knows that the whole truth was not revealed at the woman’s trial, but Piper is determined to get the truth out there and prove the woman innocent.
Mick and Piper are both likeable protagonists. They would deny being heroes, but as the author points out, they are believers.
“Not believers in the system as it is,” Myers says, “but as it should be. Mick and Piper both believe that the legal system should function to win justice. They both know, however, that the system is imperfect, and that, to make it work to effectuate justice, sometimes it’s necessary to work the system, to play outside the rules.”
A gruesome and personally devastating murder propels Moroccan journalist Zakia Karim into a morass of grief, danger, and deception in THE DIRTY NETWORK, A. M. Halvorssen’s fast-paced debut thriller.
As Zakia struggles against long odds to investigate the untimely death of her friend Elias in a fracking “accident” and expose the campaign of misinformation and shady dealings that whitewash the effects of fossil fuels on Earth’s climate, she will have to surmount obstacles that menace her career, her marriage, her freedom, and her life.
From the Sahara Desert to Iceland to the United States, the bodies pile up, and long-buried secrets threaten to destroy the people she loves most.
A. M. Halvorssen is an internationally-recognized expert on environmental issues, particularly climate change. A native of Norway, she holds a law degree from the University of Oslo and both a master’s and a doctorate from Columbia Law School. She has authored numerous scholarly publications. Her dissertation was nominated for the Harold and Margaret Sprout Award in 2001. She teaches at the University of Colorado, is Director of Global Legal Solutions, LLC, an international think tank and consultancy, and a member of the International Law Association’s Committee on International Law and Sea Level Rise. She also assists in the UN climate change negotiations.
Dan Bloom of the Cli-Fi Report calls this book “a gripping international cli-fi thriller for our challenging times,” and Karen C. Whale, author of the Dinner Club Mystery series, says, “A. M. Halvorssen exposes the greedy practices that cause climate change and the people who cover it up and destroy the world in the process. This suspenseful tale carries more truth than fiction.”
When The Big Thrill caught up with Halvorssen recently to talk about THE DIRTY NETWORK, we asked what inspired her to turn to fiction? In a nutshell, she wants to reach a larger audience.
“Few people read scientific reports, and the newspapers had the stories backwards for a long time,” she says. “I thought, plenty of people still read novels, so I decided to write a novel and put climate change in it.”
By Basil Sands
From the mind of bestselling writer and criminologist R. Barri Flowers, author of the Dean Drake hardboiled mystery Dead in the Rose City, comes the much-anticipated sequel, ALIVE IN THE ROSE CITY.
Dean Jeremy Drake, a six-foot-five Jamaican-Italian-American private eye nicknamed D. J., is once again up to his neck in danger, deception, and murder in 1990s Portland, Oregon. Packing a .40 caliber Glock, sharp detective skills, raw nerve, and gut instincts, Drake follows the clues wherever they lead, never giving up until he solves the case.
Flowers recently set aside some time to chat with The Big Thrill about creating his hardboiled hero, the demands of writing across multiple genres, and, of course, the Hardy Boys.
What inspired the character of Dean Drake?
All the wonderful, hardboiled, and hardnosed private detectives I grew up reading or watching in movies and television. I wanted a protagonist who was tough as nails, charming when he wanted to be, and able and willing to see any case to its end.
It’s been fun watching him take shape as a character, turning Portland into his own as he goes after bad guys and helps the good guys.
When Lily Ross learns that her husband, Daniel Ross, the town’s widely respected sheriff, is killed while transporting a prisoner, she is devastated and vows to avenge his death.
But just hours after Daniel’s funeral, a stranger appears at Lily’s door: Marvena Whitcomb, a coal miner’s widow, who is unaware that Daniel has been killed and begs to speak with him about her missing daughter.
Soon Lily and Marvena realize that Daniel was not the man that either of them believed him to be—and that his murder is far more complex than either of them could have imagined.
Set in 1920s’ Ohio against the backdrop of coal mining, prohibition and women’s rights, THE WIDOWS is inspired by the true stories of two women: Maude Collins, the first female sheriff in the state of Ohio, whose husband died in the line of duty in 1925, and Mary Harris “Mother” Jones, the prominent labor and community organizer.
Award-winning author Jess Montgomery spent some time with The Big Thrill sharing some insight into her latest work of historical fiction, THE WIDOWS:
A highly advanced society, Hy Brasil is faced with pending catastrophe and Olan is determined to live on. Archaeological discoveries throw light on a civilization previously confined to legend with grave consequences for a young couple caught up in this extraordinarily dynamic enigma.
Set in ancient and present times, this is a tale for readers who adore adventure, history and extraordinary epics. It embraces influences of the Gothic, Dickensian; so too, Literary, and then bonds them into a story which delivers a thrilling read that will captivate audiences from the start.
With its colourful descriptions, complex characters and a plot line as well as prose complete with symbolism and imagery, Hy Brasil is certain to entertain, spellbind and mesmerize the book lover for Eternity.
Author Robert E. Kearns took some time to talk to The Big Thrill about his debut novel, HY BRASIL, ISLAND OF ETERNITY
By K. L. Romo
In his new mystery/thriller The Sidewinder, Simon Maltman inserts the murders of two former band members into the lives of the fictitious former nineties rock group, Sidewinder. Although the members have split and now lead separate lives—a politician, a policeman, a journalist, and a session musician—they reunite to investigate who murdered two of them, and why.
Maltman let The Big Thrill pick his brain about his love of music and how THE SIDEWINDER came to be.
You’re a member of the band The Hung Jury. What compelled you to write a mystery about former members of a band? Did you pull any of the story from real life?
I’ve always been in various bands since I was a teenager. Yes, I still play with a few groups now. There are definitely a couple of real-life stories I’ve popped into this book, and I have done that in the past too. I am a big fan of lots of different types of music; music tends to play a big part in my writing. Writing THE SIDEWINDER gave me the chance to have music as a central part.
I had the initial idea for the book in the shower one day—a nineties band where former members are suspiciously dying. The main arc of the story came quickly, actually mostly before I got dried. I then roughly planned-out the story before I started writing.
In a city where corruption is the norm and the drug kingpin is untouchable, the pull can sometimes be easy for hardworking street cops. In Eric Beetner’s ALL THE WAY DOWN, small mistakes quickly turn into real crimes for Detective Dale Burnett—until he gets in too deep to walk away.
Now, when the mayor’s daughter is kidnapped, Burnett is faced with a life-altering decision…suicide mission to save the girl, or life in prison as a crooked cop? Burnett chooses to risk everything for a chance at redemption—or at least death on his own terms.
With a career that includes more than 20 novels, Crime Fiction Lover calls Beetner the “hardest working man in noir.” Here, he takes time out of his busy schedule to chat with The Big Thrill about his latest release, ALL THE WAY DOWN.
ALL THE WAY DOWN is a story of redemption. In your opinion, is redemption only possible if you have to give up everything to get it?
I think we all seek redemption in small ways, quite often in one-on-one relationships. In those cases, I don’t think you need to give up anything, maybe a little ground in your argument or a little of your pride. But if you’re talking fiction, especially thriller fiction, I know I want to see characters who have to lose it all, or nearly so. And sometimes it’s an inverse equation: the amount you need to give up is directly related to how badly you screwed up and how far back your road to redemption runs.
Hugo Marston accompanies his boss, U.S. Ambassador J. Bradford Taylor, to the first night of an art exhibition in Montmartre, Paris. Hugo is less than happy about going until he finds out that the sculptures on display are made from his favorite medium: books. Soon after the champagne starts to flow and the canapes are served, the night takes a deadly turn when one of the guests is found murdered.
Hugo lingers at the scene and offers his profiling expertise to help solve the crime, but the detective in charge quickly jumps to his own conclusions. He makes an arrest, but it’s someone that Hugo is certain is innocent. Meanwhile, his best friend, Tom Green, has disappeared to Amsterdam, hunting an enemy from their past, an enemy who gets the upper hand on Tom, and who then sets his sights on Hugo.
With an innocent person behind bars, a murder to solve, and his own life in danger, Hugo knows he has no time to waste as one killer tries to slip away, and another gets closer and closer.
The Big Thrill caught up to Mark Pryor to discuss the latest release in his
Hugo Marston series, THE BOOK ARTIST:
By Dan Levy
Martin Jay Weiss grew up an avid reader and lover of mysteries and thrillers. But his love of stories and storytelling seems to have come from a slightly different place than most.
“I was obsessed with puzzles as a child,” says Weiss, who first followed his love of storytelling into filmmaking. “Movies are just really elaborate puzzles that help us make sense of the world.”
In time, Weiss found the same to be true for novels. His second thriller, FLAMINGO COAST, debuts on January 15. Below are excerpts (edited for length) from an interview with Weiss, where we talked about storytelling through different mediums, the intrigue of financial crimes, and the importance of controlling your story.
You have extensive film experience—commercials, TV, movies—what motivated you to write thrillers?
Growing up, I fell in love with cinema, and I found kindred spirits when I went to film school. My first film was a sequel to John Carpenter’s Vampires, and I loved the experience, but afterwards, I was only getting offered more horror films, which wasn’t really my thing. So I started writing screenplays for the kinds of movies I wanted to see. In 2013, one of my scripts had been in a very long development cycle at a studio, and after dozens of seemingly unnecessary rewrites, I went back to my original draft and novelized it. That summer I went to ThrillerFest, met some new kindred spirits, and saw the possibilities of building a brand writing the stories I love, the way I want them to be told.
The years that author Tim Washburn spent working in the television business are demonstrated in the cinematic scope and feel of his thrillers, which feature the struggle for survival in the face of cataclysmic disasters. Some of these disasters come compliments of Mother Nature, others from human machinations. But all are disturbingly plausible.
Perhaps his penchant for high-octane, high-adrenaline subject matter comes from living in the heart of Oklahoma’s Tornado Alley. Maybe he writes in order to make sense of a world where the combination of political unrest and increasingly sophisticated technology can seem like a giant Damocles’ sword poised over us all. Or maybe, like so many of us, he just likes a good, heart-pounding read.
In CYBER ATTACK, that’s exactly what Washburn delivers. It’s a plot-driven book that involves a lot of complex technology, but the technical information never overshadows or bogs down the story. Achieving that balance is no easy task—especially for an author without a high-tech background.
“I do extensive research for all of my novels,” Washburn says. “I’ve had friends say, ‘You’re writing fiction, make it up.’ Even though we do write fiction I think the readers expect us to get the details right. I want that in the books that I read, and it’s also something I strive for in my own work. There’s a fine line you have to navigate, or the story gets bogged down in the details. I try to be accurate about the technology I do include, yet I try to use it as sparingly as possible. When I started CYBER ATTACK, I knew very little about hacking or computer networks or computer viruses or a zillion other things. Now I wish I didn’t know half of what I now know!”
Asked about his journey as a writer, Washburn says, “I’m a late bloomer. With a journalism degree, I’ve always done some type of writing, but it wasn’t until I was 49 that I began thinking seriously about writing a novel.”
Sometimes you get lucky. You come up with a pretty good idea for a novel, something you think is a little different, a little interesting, a little exciting, and possibly a little relevant. You spend a year working on the manuscript, and then there’s another chunk of time waiting for your agent to sell the book—maybe six months or so—and then it’s another nine months to a year before the book finally hits shelves.
And here’s the lucky part: In that time the subject you’re writing about, the thing you thought was a pretty good idea, possibly relevant and kind of under the radar, suddenly becomes front-page news and now you’re not behind the wave, you’re not ahead of the wave, you are the wave. And it’s a big wave—so big that people who don’t know how slowly publishing tends to move might think you simply took advantage of a wave everyone knew about.
By George Ebey
DEATH TOLL 3: END GAME is a powerful crime thriller anthology that brings together authors based in eight different countries, spanning five continents.
Each of these authors are fan-favorites at the top of their game, and together they represent the best of contemporary crime and thriller fiction.
The Big Thrill recently reached out to editor Alex Shaw to learn what this thrilling new anthology has in store for readers.
What kind of stories can readers expect from this anthology? Is there a particular theme that connects them in a certain way?
DEATH TOLL: VOLUME 3 is a truly international thriller anthology. The overall theme, as the title suggests, is “end game,” but I left this as a suggestion to the authors and am happy with their interpretations. Although each of the stories in the anthology have strong protagonists and are either crime or espionage thrillers, I don’t think any two stories are alike.
Keeping it Razor Sharp
By Josie Brown
According to bestselling author David Baldacci, when you’ve written as many books as he has—10 series, or a total of 30 books and counting; and another 12 stand-alone novels—there’s one way to keep his writing razor sharp: “Start from Square One: create a new character, a new series—a new world.”
With his latest novel, LONG ROAD TO MERCY, Baldacci has done just that. His new protagonist, female FBI agent Atlee Pine, must cover a desolate Far West outpost on her own. And although its size is intimidating—it includes Grand Canyon National Park—Atlee is strongly motivated to succeed. She sees it as a way to avenge the tragic death of her twin sister, Mercy, who was abducted by a serial killer when the girls were only six years old.
The fact that the killer, Daniel James Tor, played Eeny, Meeny, Miny Mo to decide which of the twins to take with him has always haunted Atlee.
“She finds herself leading two lives: one for herself, and one for her sister, who never had the opportunity to realize her potential, her ambitions, her dreams,” Baldacci says. “She never got justice with her sister. She had no idea what even happened to her. She never had justice, resolution, or closure. By joining the FBI, she can achieve all of those things for other victims. That’s really the only way she can keep going. Still, I’m hoping that one day, she’s going to realize those things for herself.”
Atlee’s grim backstory may be her cross to bear, but her uncanny ability to interpret a few sparse clues about a seemingly unimportant missing person and a gutted mule puts her in the middle of a geopolitical chess game.
When it came to plotting and scheming LONG ROAD TO MERCY, Baldacci seems to have enjoyed every minute of it. “It got me out of my comfort zone. It challenged me to pretend it was my first novel again.”
Atlee is a former Olympic-caliber bodybuilder. She’s also very tall: almost six feet. In other words, she’s no willowy supermodel. (Although should the character be optioned for either the big or small screen, she’d be the perfect role for the former model and Atomic Blonde Charlize Theron.)
Riley Sager on the
Anatomy of an Option Deal
When Riley Sager put the finishing touches on his 2017 thriller Final Girls, it was clear to everyone who read it that the manuscript contained the bones of more than a novel. Largely inspired by Sager’s yearly ritual viewing of Halloween, his female-driven psychological thriller pays tribute to slasher films while eviscerating the tropes that define them. As the author puts it, “there was film DNA already in the book.”
Sager’s agent, Michelle Brower at Aevitas Creative Management, immediately saw the novel’s cinematic potential. Before the manuscript was even submitted to editors, Brower sent it to book-to-film agent Sean Daily, whose film and TV rights sales include 13 Reasons Why to Netflix and Joe Hill’s The Fireman to Fox. Daily made a few recommendations throughout the editing process—suggestions that Sager was free to use or decline as he saw fit, and the author says he did a little of both as he was readying the manuscript for potential publishers. When everyone was happy with the finished product, Brower and Daily went to work simultaneously to find Final Girls a home in print and on screen.
The publishing part, Sager remembers, was “shockingly fast,” with a book deal coming together only a couple of weeks after Final Girls went out on submission. The movie deal, though, took considerably longer. While trade journals are full of blurbs about books that are picked up by Hollywood before the ink is dry on the publishing contract, those stories are the exception rather than the rule. In Sager’s case, nearly two years passed between selling the manuscript to Dutton and optioning the book to Universal Studios.
Finding Your Writing Sweet Spot
“I find I am hurrying to get through my day’s work. It is a destructive suggestion. A book, as you know, is a very delicate thing. If it is pressured, it will show the pressure.” ~ John Steinbeck
When John Steinbeck’s editor urged him to work faster, he refused. He wrote in his journal that pressure to produce would damage his writing. Is it possible that slow burn writers like Steinbeck, Donna Tartt, Harper Lee, and Nelson DeMille have it right—that less is more?
What about your writing? Do you push yourself to write fast to appease your agent or publisher so they won’t drop you? Do you have a quick formula to pound out a storyline? Do you get nervous or jittery when away from your manuscript? When you write, are you clutched by fear, measuring your worth by page numbers instead of quality work? If you answered yes to some of these questions, it might be time for you to #Chill.
Thrilling Opportunity to Learn
from the Masters
Any successful author will tell you that writing a great book—or a string of them—is only one step on the path to building a career. To keep sales ticking up, a writer needs to hone a complex set of skills, from book message development to media training to learning how to communicate with readers.
Enter ITW’s Online Career School, an eight-week training program aimed at writers who are ready to turn their attention from the craft of writing to the business of publishing. From January 7 through March 4, each Monday will see the start of a new five-day course led by industry professionals such as award-winning author Jenny Milchman, book radio programmers Maggie Linton and Kim Alexander, audience strategy expert Peter Hildick-Smith, and ITW Executive Director Liz Berry.
Through video lectures, Q-and-As with course leaders, reading recommendations, and supplementary materials, participants will take deep dives into subjects including Marketing and Buzzing Your Book (led by author M. J. Rose), Social Media and Blog Tours (led by ITW social media guru Jillian Stein), and How to Talk to Readers: On Tour, on Social Media, and via Email (led by author Randy Susan Meyers).
The courses are meant to give both new and experienced writers a leg up in an industry that’s seen the author’s role change dramatically in recent years.
“When I first started, my publisher handled everything from my website to my outreach. That’s all changed,” says Steve Berry, who’ll kick off Career School on January 7 with a course called How to Build a Career Starting From Scratch. “I think what I’ve learned from that is that authors writing today must learn about the industry and take an active role in their own outreach and promotion. There are just so many avenues by which to reach readers, and sadly, if we don’t learn and utilize all of those avenues, someone else will.”
We asked each instructor to give us an in-depth look at their course, and to share some insight about the tools writers need to succeed in an ever-evolving market.
Steve Berry on How to Build a Career Starting From Scratch
That’s a tough question, and one that I asked myself many times. I actually didn’t think of myself as a “real writer” until a couple of years after I was published. And by that point, the idea of a solid writing career seemed like a pipe dream. I think the better mindset for any writer is to develop a discipline. Ask yourself, what’s the goal? To write for yourself? To Indie publish? To publish with a New York house? Based on that answer, determine what the demand on your time would be and plan accordingly.
What is one of the most common mistakes you see aspiring writers make on their career path, and what is one piece of advice you’ll provide to help them side-step it?
I give a talk each year at the ThrillerFest Debut Author Breakfast called “Second-Bookitis.” It’s where I share that what many of them try to write with their second book is something “new and different.” When in fact, they should build on what gave them success in the first place—their first book. The idea of always changing genres or styles to attract new readers is not the best mindset. Instead, keep the readers you already have happy, and grow from there.
M. J. Rose on Marketing and Buzzing Your Book
Publishers rely on authors more than ever to supplement marketing a book—which is a shame. It’s not an author’s job and too often the things publishers want us to do won’t really move the needle. We need to educate ourselves so we understand the value of our time vs their requests. Knowing when to say no these days is as important as knowing when to say yes.
While social media has made it easier to get the word out about books, there are some pitfalls to the online community. What is one thing that you see authors do that could be improved—and how will your course address that?
Social media is so overloaded it’s no longer the be-all-end-all that it was three or four years ago. And far often publishers and authors use social media instead of real marketing. One doesn’t replace the other. And we will be talking about that.
Is it possible to create buzz on a shoestring budget? Will you be offering ideas on how to do that?
Yes and no. It depends on the book. We will talk about strategies that don’t require money. Warning though: they do require time.
Maggie Linton and Kim Alexander on Media Training
Kim: It’s never too soon. Authors are told over and over to believe in themselves and believe in their work, and part of that is trusting that eventually someone will want to talk to them about it. It shouldn’t come as a surprise. When you sit down behind a mic for the first time, you should be thinking about putting the best shine on yourself and your work that you can, not HOLY CROW PANIC HOW DO I MAKE WORDS?
Maggie: Almost from day one when you start writing be prepared to answer three questions, approximately two-minutes or less for each: 1. Tell us about yourself. (The answer to this question is NOT “What do you want to know”?) 2. What’s your book about? 3. Why did you decide to write?
For many mid-list or debut authors, the “media” they attract is often in the form of reviews or blog posts. What is something you would advise authors not to do when faced with a negative review?
Kim: Oh gosh. First and foremost—DO NOT ENGAGE! This is not a fight you will win. Do not subtweet about mean people, do not write a pointed blog post about being misunderstood. I won’t suggest authors don’t read reviews, but try not to let them derail you and ruin your writing day.
Maggie: Totally agree with Kim—don’t engage! However, your book is like a good meal…some will like it, others won’t, so move on and keep writing. We know many New York Times bestselling authors who have gotten bad reviews, but they just keep writing. Your life won’t end with a bad review. Success is always the best revenge. Keep writing.
What are some current factors that play into how we approach media training and how will those be addressed in your course?
Kim: I think we’ve been moving in the direction of a micro approach for some time. That is, figure out your niche and then figure out how to talk to the people in it. Who are you writing for? Do they quilt or garden or go to the Renn Faire? We’ll talk about fine-tuning your approach based on who will be on the receiving end. That’s one end of the spectrum. The other would be starting from ground up; mic technique, what to expect when you’re being interviewed, how to prepare, what to do afterwards. We will be asking the most difficult, scariest, hardest to answer question that all authors fear: So, what’s your book about?
Maggie: Social media plays a huge role in our lives. Learn techniques to get people engaged. Website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat cost little or nothing to start engaging your fans, especially if you don’t have a publicist. It’s hard at first but don’t be afraid to ask friends for leads and also attend conferences, like ITW to make contacts and get the word out about yourself and your book.
Jillian Stein on Social Media and Blog Tours
Even though it may seem blog tours have lost their oomph as a promotional tool, I still feel they have a use. Blogs usually have a following of their own, and by tapping into their fans, you may find readers who hadn’t heard of you yet. Another upside of a blog tour is that it usually requires little work on the author’s part. Previewing an excerpt from the book you’re promoting, giving a peek at your next release, pulling a few favorite quotes…that’s usually about all that’s required.
There are a number of social media platforms available to authors—which one (or two) do you think are the most effective for authors?
Facebook is a must. You will always get the most bank for your buck with Facebook. In choosing a platform in addition to Facebook, you have to decide what you’re comfortable with. For Instagram, are you willing to make the effort to post a photo every other day (at least)? For Twitter, are you okay with coming up with interesting content within that character limit? It really comes down to your personal preference.
Most writers are on Twitter and Facebook and have been for years. Will your course address how to get the most out of those—and other—platforms?
Yes, absolutely! It’s all about rolling with the social media punches and learning to evolve your content to keep current fans interested and gain new fans while doing it.
Jenny Milchman on Creating A Great Book Event and a Great Book Tour
That is a very, very, very complicated question. (I realize any editor would challenge me on the three very’s, but they do get at something!) I always say that book tours may not make dollars and cents, but they sure make dollars and sense. In my case, touring as extensively as I have has helped me get known in a unique way in the industry. There are a lot of fantastic authors of psychological thrillers out there, and I aspire to be one of them. But when you say “world’s longest book tour,” or even, “the author who believes in face-to-face in a virtual world,” a certain number of industry folks will know that that’s me. And standing out is the first step in breaking out.
Do you find that role is changing as the publishing industry continues to evolve?
Not so much actually. The funny thing about doing something that could be considered old-school is that everything old eventually becomes new again—and in the meantime, you just sort of hang on and ride out the ride. So, come what changes may in the industry—mergers, new ways to consume content, genre trends—getting out there and meeting readers stays pretty constant. What has changed in terms of my touring is that when I changed publishers with my fourth novel, my new publisher took on the role of creating my tours. This year, I was on the road and in the skies for a total of ten weeks.
Can any author benefit from your experiences—even ones who can’t spend months on the road?
Yes, definitely. Even doing a single book event will add in unexpected ways to an author’s career—and potentially have a ripple effect on book sales and author support for months, even years, to come. An author can draw a radius around his or her home and go away for an evening, a weekend, or a week—and in Thriller School, I will be teaching authors how to make sure that evening, weekend, or week is a potent, powerful part of their release.
Peter Hildick-Smith on What an Author Needs to Know—The High Impact Book Message: Positioning, Title, Cover and Copy
First, it is essential to understand the three factors that determine initial book sales: 1) Discovery—does the target reader audience know the book exists? 2) Conversion—does the idea of the book interest them enough to act, to click, to investigate, to hopefully not only read, but want to buy that book, and 3) Availability—is it available at that moment in the right format, price, at the right retailer?
Discovery and availability do not sell books. Conversion does. A book’s message (when done right) provides the spark of interest, curiosity, or intrigue that drives the action that ultimately informs and fuels book purchase motivation. A book’s message is the hook that—like a campaign slogan in politics, a logline for a film, a meme on Instagram, an “elevator speech” for a new product or a publicist’s pitch to a producer—moves its audience enough to creates a “yes”! Without it, discovery is meaningless because browser is not converted to buyer.
What’s one thing you wished more authors realized about their role in marketing and promoting their books?
That discovery and conversion are two totally different, but equally important, elements. It’s very easy to have one without the other—but both must be equally effective for book sales to take place. As a result, authors have to take as much control of creating winning messages as they do in driving discovery and writing a great manuscript, because no one else will.
Some traditionally published authors might feel that factors such as positioning, title, cover, and copy are beyond their control. How can those writers get the most from your course?
Book message development takes a lot of thought, creative iterations, and time! The most successful programs start message development when new book development begins, and it is integral to the process and the proposal. The later in a book’s creation that message development begins—the shorter the lead times before the immovable publishing deadlines of sales launch, sales conference, and catalog closing—the greater the pressure put on the editor and publisher to wrap up a message quickly and move on, which is unfair to both the book and the publishing team.
Randy Susan Meyers on How to Talk to Readers: On Tour, on Social Media, and via Email
No matter how much you prefer being at home in your sweatpants, sooner or later, it’s more than likely you’ll have to get up in front of an audience. I’ve been to author events where the author will stand up and say, “I hate doing this.”
Upon hearing that, the audience feels as though they are torturing this person for whom they, the reader, left their own comfortable couch and sweatpants. Self-deprecating can be charming. Appearing annoyed at having to speak with readers? Never charming. The impression readers form when meeting you, in person or in virtual reality, can be the deciding factor for how likely they are to give your book a chance.
Can you tell us about any common social media mistakes you’ll be addressing in your course?
There are a ton of ways authors embarrass themselves on social media—from indulging in constant me-me-me/buymybookbuymybook, to whining about their career in public, to humble-bragging as an art form. None of these engender book buying. If you’re going to be on social media in a manner where readers will see you, you should offer them something. Readers owe us nothing. A book is indeed a product (however artistic the product may be) that you want people to read. Write your social media offerings as seriously as your other work. Show your voice and your integrity. This is the personality the world sees.
What would you say to writers who feel that communicating with readers is more of a talent than a skill? (In other words, can your course help introverts as well as authors who are already comfortable talking with readers?)
I am what’s known as an introverted extrovert—I find being with people to be both fascinating and exhausting. I’d rather be at home reading or gardening than almost any other activity on earth—but I can be selectively social, and I consider putting out positive energy to be good manners in all situation. When it comes to events for readers, I believe being prepared and on top of my game is the only right way to treat those who’ve come to listen to me speak.
Attending author events is not the same as going to parties. Parties are social occasions. Author events are work—and you are the performer. Your job is to give your audience a great show. You are not doing them a favor; you are inducing them to buy your product. I believe one can educate oneself to be a great communicator with readers.
Liz Berry on Nuts and Bolts of Your Brand and Conference Networking
Branding can be an intimidating concept for authors—and one that can become overwhelming pretty quickly. The first thought is that if you don’t have tens of thousands of dollars, you can’t brand yourself and your work. Thankfully, that’s not the case. There are many branding techniques that don’t require money as much as they require strategy and planning.
The second thought is that the idea of branding doesn’t really matter. Which is not only untrue, the lack of a solid brand message can be detrimental to an author and their chance at discovery and growth.
The fact is that branding—even in its simplest form—helps differentiate an author from their peers. It also gives readers a sense of familiarity and belonging, lessening confusion, and increasing backlist and incremental front list sales.
So in other words, branding isn’t everything. It’s absolutely everything.
What current factors are changing how successful authors approach branding?
The marketplace always determines how the industry—and individual authors—approach branding. We ask ourselves questions like: Where are the readers? How can we keep our fans happy and engaged? Where can we find new avenues of discovery?
Knowing these goals, we have to look at how quickly the world is changing. Just a couple of years ago, social media was a terrific place to find new readers and keep current fans happy. Sadly, with the changes in algorithms and fee-based reach, that’s no longer the case. So now we’re faced with finding organic growth areas along with marketing concepts and avenues that deliver the biggest bang for the buck. Quite the challenge!
What advantages do conference-savvy authors have over writers who don’t develop strong networking skills?
I know many authors who wish they didn’t have to wear their “conference” hat, and I can definitely empathize. Writing is very much a solitary job, and lends itself to embracing your introverted side. That said, my request would be for authors to take a couple of weeks per year and become “extroverted introverts” by attending conferences.
The interaction with readers is wonderful—and definitely a vehicle for discovery. But more than that, I’ve found that networking both with your peers and the industry can be invaluable. Just at ThrillerFest alone, I’ve witnessed authors agreeing to blurb each other; co-authoring relationships solidified; anthology invitations; new publisher and agent meetings that turned into deals; speaking requests; mentors gained; plots strengthened. The lists goes on and on.
The fact is that we’re all human and forming relationships is an integral part of who we are and what we need. Honestly, some of my best friends in the world, I met at a conference. And I certainly wouldn’t have the business or experience I have today without those relationships in my life.
Get the details on how YOU can take the next step in building your writing career here.