Janice Gable Bashman has become a force to be reckoned with. When I met her ten years ago she was a student in the writing classes I was teaching at the Writers Room in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Janice always had more energy, focus, and enthusiasm about writing than any ten other people. And, damn…she could write, too. (Not always a given among those folks who have a desire to publish).
She’s come a long, long way since then, dividing her writing output between nonfiction and fiction. She’s written for the NOVEL & SHORT STORY WRITER’S MARKET, THE WRITER, WRITER’S DIGEST, WILD RIVER REVIEW, and is co-author of the Bram Stoker Award® nominated book, WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE (co-written with me for Citadel Press 2010). Janice is the editor of THE BIG THRILL, and is a popular speaker and workshop leader at writers’ and genre conferences including ThrillerFest, Backspace, Pennwriters, The Write Stuff, Stoker weekend, and others. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Mystery Writers of America, Horror Writers Association, and the International Thriller Writers, where she serves on the board of directors as Vice President, Technology. She is a member of the Liars Club and is a coordinator for the Writers Coffeehouse (more on those later in the interview).
And now she’s a novelist, with a superb first Young Adult thriller that has some serious teeth.
What’s the lowdown on PREDATOR? Without giving away any spoilers, tell us about the book.
Sixteen-year-old Bree Sunderland must inject herself with an untested version of her father’s gene therapy to become a werewolf in order to stop a corrupt group of mercenaries from creating a team of unstoppable lycanthrope soldiers.
When Bree went with her scientist father to Ireland, she thought it would be a vacation to study bog bodies. She never expected to fall in love with a mysterious young Irishman and certainly never expected to become the kind of monster her father said only existed in nightmares. Dr. Sunderland discovers that lycanthropy was not a supernatural curse but rather a genetic mutation. When they return home, her dad continues his research, but the military wants to turn that research into a bio weapons program and rogue soldiers want to steal the research to turn themselves into unstoppable killing machines.
Bree’s boyfriend Liam surprises her with a visit to the United States, but there are darker surprises in store for both of them. As evil forces hunt those she loves, Bree must become an even more dangerous hunter to save them all.
PREDATOR gives the werewolf legend a couple of new spins by introducing the Benandanti (an actual folkloric belief that certain families of Italy and Livonia were werewolves who fought against evil), as well as a modern scientific approach to mutation and the science of transgenics
M. C. Grant is Grant McKenzie, an award-winning screenwriter, editor, and novelist. He is the author of SWITCH and NO CRY FOR HELP (both published by Bantam TransWorld UK).
His short stories have been featured in the FIRST THRILLS anthology edited by Lee Child (Tor/Forge), and Out of the Gutter and Spinetingler magazines. His first screenplay won a fellowship at the Praxis Centre for Screenwriting in Vancouver.
As a journalist, he worked in virtually every area of the newspaper business, from the late-night “dead body beat” at a feisty daily tabloid to editor at two of Canada’s largest broadsheets. Born in Glasgow, Grant currently resides in Victoria, British Columbia.
Here’s a short synopsis of M. C. Grant’s exciting new novel, BEAUTY WITH A BOMB.
After witnessing the gruesome death of an immigrant, Dixie Flynn is on a mission to tell the woman’s story. Acting on a tip, Dixie learns that young immigrants are vanishing…and they’re not runaways. Hooking up with a group of Polish women who are hell-bent on finding their sisters and cousins, Dixie is all too willing to wield a gun and stalk the shadows where human traffickers ply their trade. But crossing paths with smugglers takes its toll, especially when the desire to rescue becomes a thirst for retribution that leaves blood on Dixie’s hands.
What can readers expect from BEAUTY WITH A BOMB?
Thrills, chills and a few laughs along the way. This is Dixie Flynn’s third adventure, and picks up a short time after the events of DEVIL WITH A GUN. Like her first two adventures, BEAUTY WITH A BOMB starts out with what Suspense Magazine calls “one of the most dramatic and shocking scenes I have ever read.” Dixie is also quite a bit different from the stand-alone thrillers that I write as Grant McKenzie. For one, Dixie is written in first-person, present-tense, female perspective, while my thrillers are third-person, past-tense. I also try and have more fun with the Dixie books by including more humour and quirky, fun characters. With that said, however, the plots can be dark and dangerous, but only because I know Dixie can handle them.
By Brian Knight and Ellie Knight
When Thea discovers a new role-playing game online, she breaks her parents’ rules to play. In the world of the game, Thea falls for an older boy named Kit whose smarts and savvy can’t defeat his near-suicidal despair. Soon he’s texting her, asking her to meet him, and talking in vague ways about how they can be together forever. As much as she suspects that this is wrong, Thea is powerless to resist Kit’s allure, and hurtles toward the very fate her parents feared most. Ripped from a real-life story of Internet stalking, WHO R U REALLY? will excite you and scare you, as Thea’s life spins out of control.
Margo Kelly’s debut novel WHO R U REALLY? is now available from Merit Press, and Margo was kind enough to let my daughter, Ellie, and I gang up on her to talk about it.
Hi Margo. Thanks for agreeing to talk with my daughter, Ellie, and I.
Brian: As a public speaker, you’re already something of a professional communicator, but there is a difference between the spoken word and the written one. Was the transition from orator to author a challenging one for you?
In some ways, yes, because much of my public speaking has been on non-fiction topics such as business, sales, and recruiting. Now I’m writing fiction for the young adult audience. These are two completely separate worlds. However, any great public speaker includes stories, personal details, and a bit of hyperbole to keep the interest of the listeners. So that art of engaging the audience has definitely helped me translate stories to paper.
Ellie: Did writing WHO R U REALLY? bring back the trauma of your daughter’s experience?
The process of writing the story was very therapeutic for both me and my daughter. As she recovered from the ordeal, we would play the “what if” game. What if she’d done this instead of that? What if the predator had done that instead of this? The tough part for both of us was when we received the advance reading copies from the publisher. That was when we both realized the story was actually going out into the world for everyone to read. I have to admit there was a flash of panic for me. It was an extreme moment of vulnerability—feeling naked. Not only would people be judging the story for its merit, but also people would be judging my parenting choices and my daughter’s naivety. We wish we could explain a couple of things to every reader: 1) This happened to my daughter six years ago when she was eleven going on twelve. 2) This book is mostly a work of fiction. While many of the scenes happened in real life, there are also many that are a product of our “what if” game all those years ago.
By Terry DiDemenico
First Boston in JAMAICA PLAIN, then Los Angeles in MONTECITO HEIGHTS, and now Texas in ADOBE FLATS. Jim Grant finds himself an unwelcomed visitor as the novel opens. Unwelcomed is putting it mildly, it resembles outright hostility. But why?
Grant knew why he was in Absolution, Texas. It was the starting point of a simple enough mission. He wanted to return an heirloom to the father of his lover and former colleague. Buying a train ticket to Absolution didn’t cause concern, but the conductor’s reaction to where he wanted to disembark and the wizen man who turned up at the nearly abandoned station did. It is only a short time later that Grant is on the run for his life. Then his simple mission turns to trouble as he works to bring justice to the small town being terrorized by a tyrant. Outgunned and outmanned, Grant relies on his razor-sharp instincts to outsmart and outfight an army of Texans led by a kingpin who has everything to lose.
The brainchild of author Colin Campbell, Jim Grant, AKA Resurrection Man, is an ex-West Yorkshire cop who relocates to the United States and is attached to the Boston Police Department. The nickname came in JAMAICA PLAIN after an image of him, wearing a bright orange jacket and arms outstretched, hit the media.
Grant is an interesting character who brings to mind elements of Jack Reacher and Harry Bosch with his own British twist. That twist comes directly from Campbell. “They say that most authors include parts of themselves in their characters. Ian Fleming liked fine food so James Bond likes fine food. Lee Child favored the head-butt at school so Jack Reacher favors the head-butt. I’m six foot four and wear an orange windcheater. And I’m left-handed. Partly that’s just a creative shortcut. If I don’t have to think about how Grant looks or thinks I can concentrate on the story and the action.”
Campbell continues, “Jim Grant has a similar mindset to me, but he’s better at everything than I ever was. That’s the other thing authors do. James Bond was a better secret agent than Ian Fleming. I’ve never been head-butted by Lee Child.”
By Mary Kennedy
Recently, I sat down with Carolyn Hart to talk about GHOST WANTED, the fifth book in her Bailey Ruth series. Ms. Hart (who also writes the enormously popular Death on Demand series) has come up with an unlikely recipe for success: take one amateur sleuth who happens to be a ghost, add a heavenly supervisor who sends her on a mission to earth, and mix a healthy dose of humor and an engaging plot. Now stir well and enjoy this delicious concoction.
GHOST WANTED is the fifth in the Bailey Ruth series, and the heroine is as irrepressible as ever. I’m intrigued by her relationship with Wiggins, her straight-arrow supervisor at Heaven’s Department of Good Intentions. Bailey Ruth is known to be something of a loose cannon and I remember she was operating off the grid occasionally in book four, GHOST GONE WILD. I wondered if Wiggins is ever exasperated with her? Or is her feistiness part of her charm?
In GHOST WANTED, Wiggins hopes that Bailey Ruth’s imagination and kindness will rescue the reputation of the library’s resident ghost who has a special place in Wiggins’s heart. We discover the heartbreak of World War I and hope that Bailey Ruth can reunite lovers parted on the battlefield.
You once said that writers enjoy creating recurring characters because “the author knows the terrain and understands the characters’ mores.” I think you were talking about Annie and Max Darling in the Broward’s Rock series, but does it hold true for Bailey Ruth? Will she ever push the envelope on her missions to earth and defy Wiggins?
Bailey Ruth is always on the edge of catastrophe but so far she has managed through charm to avoid a precipitous return to Heaven when she incurs Wiggins’s displeasure. I am currently writing next year’s Bailey Ruth and she is at the moment fending off The Rescue Express.
Lisa Black writes what she knows. Like her heroine, Theresa MacLean, she is a crime scene investigator, a forensics specialist who collects and analyzes the physical evidence that will help convict the guilty. In her forensics thriller series, though, she lets Theresa take an active role in tracking down killers, while always striving to keep the stories as realistic as possible.
Lisa is now a forensic scientist for a police department in Florida, but she sets her novels in Cleveland, where she worked previously. In CLOSE TO THE BONE, the latest in the series, Theresa faces death and destruction in the one place where she’s always felt safest: the quiet coroner’s office where she has worked for the last fifteen years. Returning late at night with evidence collected from a crime scene, she finds one colleague missing and another dead—with the word “Confess” written on a wall in his blood. Deeply shaken but determined to do her professional best for her co-workers, Theresa throws herself into her job. Soon she finds a link to another death ten years before. As more staff members die, Theresa realizes she is an integral part of the killer’s scheme and must work against the clock to uncover the truth about what happened all those years ago and save herself from becoming another victim.
Recently Lisa talked to THE BIG THRILL about why she brought murder so close to home for Theresa, why she sets her books in Cleveland, and other aspects of her writing as well as her day job. She also provided a tantalizing hint of what might lie ahead for Theresa after the devastating events of this novel.
CLOSE TO THE BONE is a perfect title for a story in which Theresa MacLean’s workplace colleagues are being murdered and she could also be a target. What inspired you to start killing off people who work in the forensics department?
I try to keep the books very true-to-life, and give an accurate portrayal of how things actually work in the field of forensics. Despite that, my forensic scientist always seems to spend more time out of the lab than in it, which is not at all realistic, so I thought if I could set a story right in the lab, that problem would solve itself. Besides, what better way to make my character vitally, and very personally, involved?
James Patterson is a giant in the literary world. He holds a Guinness record for the most #1 New York Times bestsellers of any author. One-in-seventeen fiction hardcovers sold in the U.S. are Patterson novels. And Forbes ranks him as the top earning author in the world. With all that, it might be easy to forget that Patterson was no overnight success. He paid his dues, and his rise was born of great storytelling, tenacity, and a willingness to buck convention.
Patterson’s first novel was rejected by more than thirty publishers. When it was finally published in 1976, he won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel, but Patterson was so insecure about his work that he thought they’d made a mistake. Over the next sixteen years, Patterson published only a handful of novels to modest sales. It wasn’t until 1992 and his breakout novel featuring the now iconic Alex Cross that things started to change.
But it wasn’t just Mr. Cross that set Patterson’s course. It was his decision to take the reins of his career, to do things his way, even if it defied conventional wisdom. So, he ran television ads for his work despite raised eyebrows from some in the literary crowd. He embraced short chapters and chapters with alternating points of view, prompting finger-wagging from some writing teachers. He wrote in multiple genres, against admonishments that it would confuse his readers. And he was among the first to work regularly with co-authors, publishing multiple books a year, to claims that he was treating writing too much like a business.
While most of the naysayers have come around, it is doubtful anyone can dispute that Patterson’s rise is truly a writer’s story; a tale of sticking to it, beating the odds, and getting people—including millions of kids—to read.
Patterson recently took the time to answer a few questions for THE BIG THRILL.
Back when you were a kid in Newburgh, New York—or even after you published your first novel, The Thomas Berryman Number—did you ever imagine you’d become the world’s bestselling author? What did your success mean for your family and your friends from your hometown?
My first book was rejected by thirty-one publishers, so no; I did not expect this kind of success at that point. My mother was a teacher so I know that she would be especially proud of my kids’ books.
If you could go back in time and give your younger writer self some advice from what you’ve learned, what would it be?
Be confident in your ability to tell a good story. I have that now but early on I didn’t. When I won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel I thought it was a mistake. That’s the kind of lack of confidence that many young writers face.
By Ethan Cross
Joe McKinney’s incredible new book, PLAGUE OF THE UNDEAD, has been described by Bram Stoker Award-winning author Brian Keene as “merciless, fast-paced and genuinely scary”while author Weston Ochse says that “McKinney writes zombies like he’s been gunning them down all his life.” Here’s a description of it:
For thirty years, they have avoided the outbreak of walking death that has consumed America’s heartland. They have secured a small compound near the ruins of Little Rock, Arkansas. Isolated from the world. Immune to the horror. Blissfully unaware of what lies outside in the region known as the Dead Lands. Until now. Led by a military vet who’s seen better days, the inexperienced offspring of the original survivors form a small expedition to explore the wastelands around them. A biologist, an anthropologist, a cartographer, a salvage expert—all are hoping to build a new future from the rubble, which they call the “Dead Lands.” The infected are still out there. Stalking. Feeding. Spreading like a virus. Wild animals roam the countryside, hunting prey. Small pockets of humanity hide in the shadows: some scared, some mad, all dangerous. This is the New World. If the explorers want it, they’ll have to take it. Dead or alive. . .
The prolific McKinney, who’s had much success of late, graciously agreed to answer a few questions.
Tell us about PLAGUE OF THE UNDEAD in one line.
Thirty years after the zombie apocalypse, a ragtag group of explorers sets out to see what remains of their world.
What kind of research did you conduct for PLAGUE OF THE UNDEAD?
PLAGUE OF THE UNDEAD takes place thirty years after the zombie apocalypse. My explorers are from a small town that walled itself up during the worst of the initial zombie outbreak. Since that time, their community has not only survived, but thrived, and now it’s time to see what lies beyond the walls. I spent a lot of time thinking how a community like that would organize itself, and what kind of jobs its people would work at. One of the main characters is a salvage expert, and when things start to go really wrong for the group, he uses all his improvisational skills to make what the group needs to survive. Some of the things I researched were how to silence a rifle using only trash found on the ground, how to build a still out of old car parts, and the art of mapmaking. The research was a blast.
Turn to the Acknowledgement page of novels by some of the biggest thriller writers in the world and you’re bound to see a heartfelt thank you to Lisa Erbach Vance of the powerhouse Aaron Priest Literary Agency.
Vance joined the agency more than twenty years ago, starting off as the founder’s assistant where, as she put it, she got the “best agenting education possible from Aaron Priest himself.” Today, she’s considered an elite “super agent” at the storied boutique firm where a small team of seven represent an extraordinary number of award-winning and bestselling authors.
Vance is known not only for her business acumen and keen eye for talent, but also for the intense loyalty she inspires from her clients. Scan the back pages of a few Harlan Coben and Gregg Hurwitz novels, for instance, and you’ll see Vance referred to as “brilliant,” “irrepressible,” and “simply the best.” Likewise, clients of Mr. Priest—David Baldacci, Robert Crais, and others—give her thanks in their books.
ITW’s co-founder Gayle Lynds, a longtime client of Vance, explained why the agent breeds such loyalty and praise from her authors: “Lisa takes care of you like a mother, has the creativity of Steve Jobs, and negotiates for you like Jack Welch. I’ve had several literary agents, but none can touch her. She truly is the best in the business. With her warmth and world view, it’s no wonder all of us respect and love her.”
By Jeremy Burns
For his many readers, Andy McDermott’s name has become synonymous with adventure. From discovering Atlantis and the Garden of Eden to saving the world countless times, McDermott’s flagship characters Eddie Chase and Nina Wilde have explored dozens of fascinating locations across the globe, usually getting into high-octane shootouts and car chases in the process.
For THE VALHALLA PROPHECY, the ninth entry in the series, McDermott tackles Norse mythology, Vikings, a Soviet Secret, and the end of the world in an adventure steeped in the author’s trademark blend of action, history, adventure, and legend. The author sat down with THE BIG THRILL to take readers behind the scenes with one of the most exciting and inventive thriller minds working today.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a former entertainment journalist who in 2004 took a massive gamble by quitting his job to write full-time until either selling a novel or running out of money. To my everlasting relief, the former happened before the latter—just! My first novel, THE HUNT FOR ATLANTIS, came out in the UK in 2007, and since then I’ve had ten more published, several of which made the New York Times bestseller list.
Tell us about your new book, THE VALHALLA PROPHECY.
It’s the tenth book starring what have become my signature characters, American archaeologist Nina Wilde and British former SAS soldier Eddie Chase. They’re currently working for a department of the United Nations, the International Heritage Agency, and are called upon to help investigate the theft of a Viking runestone from a museum in Sweden. It turns out that the runes point the way to a place long thought to be only a Norse myth—Valhalla, the Hall of the Slain—that holds a deadly secret. But there’s also a parallel storyline set eight years earlier, in Eddie’s days as a mercenary before he met Nina, revealing that he has his own dark secrets that are somehow connected to present-day events.
By Jeff Ayers
It was planned to look like a suicide but even in the best-laid plans evidence is left behind…
Jocelyn Branham Earnest was found dead on the living room floor of her home in Forest, Virginia. By her side were a gun and a suicide note—typed, lacking in signature and with one fingerprint on it. A fingerprint belonging to her estranged husband.
Wesley Earnest was a respected high school administrator, poised to restart his life in a new community. An investigation into the life the couple once shared would reveal adultery, troubled finances, and shattered dreams—enough that one man with murder on his mind would travel hundreds of miles…Under Cover of the Night.
Diane Fanning is the author of eight mystery novels and thirteen true crime books including Edgar-nominated WRITTEN IN BLOOD and the national bestselling MOMMY’S LITTLE GIRL. She has been featured on a long list of television programs including the Today Show, 20/20, Forensic Files, and 48 Hours.
Diane chatted with THE BIG THRILL.
What drew you to the case that you cover in Under Cover of the Night?
I was drawn to the case that is the subject of Under Cover of the Night first of all because of the victim. Jocelyn Earnest was a competent, well-loved, professional woman whose future looked very bright. It seemed inconceivable that she would ever be a victim. Then there was the perpetrator, Wesley Ernest, Jocelyn’s estranged husband and a high school administrator. It’s hard to imagine that a man charged with watching over children every day would be capable of committing such a crime. Finally, rumors of adultery, suspicions of homosexuality, a staged suicide and the $1.2 million lake house burnt to the ground added the spice to drive a story.
Palumbo’s fourth novel in the series, PHANTOM LIMB, opens with psychologist and Pittsburgh police department consultant Daniel Rinaldi’s new patient: Lisa Campbell, a local girl whose lurid, short-lived Hollywood career sent her scurrying back to the Steel City. Now married to one of the city’s richest tycoons, she comes to Danny’s office with a challenge: talk her out of committing suicide. Though he buys some time, she’s kidnapped right outside his office. The search for Lisa pits the police—and Danny—against a lethal adversary. At the same time, he tries to assist a friend’s brother, a bitter Afghan vet who lost a leg in combat, whose own life now appears at risk. Or is it?
Formerly a Hollywood screenwriter (including My Favorite Year and Welcome Back, Kotter), Dennis Palumbo is now a licensed psychotherapist and author. His acclaimed series of crime novels (MIRROR IMAGE, FEVER DREAM, NIGHT TERRORS and the upcoming PHANTOM LIMB) feature psychologist Daniel Rinaldi, a trauma expert who consults with the Pittsburgh police. All are from Poisoned Pen Press.
You’ve had a fascinating career—screenwriter to psychotherapist to novelist. As a psychotherapist, do you find this background provides insights into human behavior and/or helps develop the hero, villain, and perhaps the victim in your novels?
Definitely! I think the merging of my two careers—seventeen years as a TV/film writer and nearly three decades as a psychotherapist—has benefitted both the writing in general, and my exploration of human behavior in particular. Certainly my ongoing study of trauma has contributed to my understanding of the psychological issues with which the crime victims in my novels grapple. As for my hero, psychologist and trauma expert Daniel Rinaldi, my experience as a therapist in private practice—as well as time spent working in clinics and a psychiatric hospital—has given me a unique perspective on what might motivate a guy like him. As it turns out, he and I share a lot of the same ideas about the flaws in the mental health system and how psychotherapy is practiced. Go figure.
By Karen Harper
If anyone doubts that the International Thriller Writers is International, this interview with European author Bob Van Laerhoven should help erase those doubts. He has lived and worked all over the world, and his latest prize-winning novel is now available in the US. Van Laerhoven calls himself a Belgian (Flemish) author, but his work is universal.
What is your book about?
BAUDELAIRE’S REVENGE is a crossover between literature and the mystery-novel, mixing a tale of murder and extraneous passions with literary history and history. It goes back to Paris, September 1870, and the Franco-Prussian war. The first Prussian shrapnel hits the city. The workers are starving to death. The nobility seeks refuge in orgies and séances. Artists denounce the impending civil war in France and call for unity in defense against the Prussian armies. The Parisians are trapped in their besieged city.
However, the horror of war is surpassed by a series of gruesome and mysterious murders that makes them forget about everyday reality. Commissioner Lefèvre, a veteran from the French-Algerian war, has to resolve these lurid crimes. On or near each of the corpses, verses out of the contentious anthology THE FLOWERS OF EVIL of the recently deceased Charles Baudelaire are found, written in his exact handwriting. Commissioner Lefèvre’s investigation uncovers a plot with ramifications extending as far as the court of the emperor, Napoleon III. It also leads him to discover a bizarre family secret with far-reaching consequences. And to the knowledge that evil is everywhere, and he is not excluded.
BAUDELAIRE’S REVENGE has a unique premise. How did you come to use the French poet Charles Baudelaire—who was already dead at the time of your story—and why did you choose the thriller genre?
To answer this shrewd question, I have to go back in time, more than four decades. At seventeen, by chance—by Fate?—I picked up a volume of poems in the library of the small Flemish village near to the Dutch border where I grew up. It was the Dutch translation of LES FLEURS DU MAL (THE FLOWERS OF EVIL) by Charles Baudelaire. I read those thrilling, enticing verses and I was wowed. I bought the French edition to be able to read those enthralling poems, describing a universe of weird, entangled passions in the original language they were written in. I remember clearly that I read LES FLEURS DU MAL at night in bed with the help of a French-Dutch dictionary. I also began to read more about Baudelaire’s twisted and dramatic life, and I vowed that I would become a writer and publish a book about him. At twenty-seven, I tried for the first time, but after a few months I had to admit that the topic was, at that moment, way above my head. I was just a beginner, having recently published my first novel NIGHT GAMES. The complexity of Baudelaire’s themes and the decadence of his life, defied my longing to write a novel about him. I moved on, published more and more books, and, to be honest, forgot about the project of that seventeen year old boy who dreamed of becoming an author, a very uncommon goal in my social class: my parents were poor working people.
By Daniel Friedman
Steph Cha’s feminist neo-noir novel FOLLOW HER HOME introduced Juniper Song, a Korean-American private investigator with an Ivy League degree, a troubled past, and a bottle within reach at all times.
In Cha’s second novel, BEWARE BEWARE, Song takes what seems like a simple surveillance job tailing the cokehead long-distance boyfriend of a worried New York artist. But the boyfriend gets tangled up in the murder of a movie star, and Song’s job gets more complicated as she delves into twisted celebrity affairs in order to try to exonerate her client.
Meanwhile, Song’s roommate Lori Lim is pursued by an amorous gangster who won’t take “no” for an answer.
Reviewing BEWARE BEWARE in the Los Angeles Times, novelist Paula Woods wrote that Cha conjures up “more diversely mean streets than the masters of noir could have imagined” and that “Nathanael West and Raymond Chandler would be proud.”
Cha agreed to answer some questions about Juniper Song and her new book.
James Ellroy said in the Paris Review that “Chandler wrote the kind of guy that he wanted to be, Hammett wrote the kind of guy that he was afraid he was.” Song idolizes Chandler’s detective, Philip Marlowe, but in this book, she makes some decisions that Marlowe, in a similar situation, probably wouldn’t. What kind of person is Song, to you?
I started writing Song as an amateur detective, and it was important to me that she retain some measure of authenticity as a person in the world who reacts to events in realistic, relatable ways. Obviously, there’s a wide spectrum of ordinary human behavior, but I didn’t want to write her into an action hero, or an incorruptible savior. I like Song. She’s far from perfect, but she’s smart and competent, with a good, loyal heart. She’s tough but not untouchable, and things wear down on her. Marlowe lived by a code, and I fell in love with that character because of his core integrity and bruised idealism. Song also admires Marlowe, but she is not above things like fear and compromise. She’s unsympathetic at times, but probably someone I’d want to be friends with in the end.
By John Clement
Being the resident “cozy-ologist” here at THE BIG THRILL, I’m accustomed to talking with writers of cozy mysteries, so my questions tend to lean in the same direction as well, like “Where do you find your recipes?” or “What’s your favorite color?” But ten pages into James Lilliefors’s newest book, THE PSALMIST, and I knew I had to change my game. Lilliefors is an award-winning journalist and novelist who grew up in the Washington, D.C. area. His work has appeared in Runner’s World, The Washington Post, The Miami Herald, The Boston Globe, and The Baltimore Sun, and his novels include BANANAVILLE, a mystery, and THE LEVIATHAN EFFECT and VIRAL, both geopolitical thrillers.
Published by Harper Collins this past July, THE PSALMIST is the first installment in the new Hunters and Bower mystery series. It’s hard-edged, compelling, and just a tiny bit cozy, so I knew in this case I needed to get right down to the nitty-gritty.
Without giving too much away, what is the story of The Psalmist?
THE PSALMIST tells the tale of a small, close-knit community on Maryland’s Eastern Shore that is visited one morning by an inexplicable crime. Luke Bowers, head pastor at the old wooden Tidewater Methodist Church, discovers a dead woman seated in the sanctuary of his church, her eyes open, her hands clasped as if in prayer. The woman clearly was murdered, although there is nothing at the scene to identify her or to explain why she was left there—other than a series of numbers carved into her right hand, which Luke begins to think may be a reference to the book of Psalms. As the strong-willed homicide cop Amy Hunter investigates this bizarre crime, she begins to find links to other murders in the mid-Atlantic region—and eventually to a more sweeping crime targeting the United States government.
The Psalmist is really a story about predators, which may come in the form of an unknown killer who strikes after dark or a sinister idea spread invisibly by the government—but may also be the neighbor next door or the friendly clerk who sells us our groceries.
Grab a cup of coffee and settle in for a page-turning tale of murder and betrayal small town style. DEAD BROKE IN JARRETT CREEK is the third in the mystery series featuring the lovable Samuel Craddock, former chief of police. The fictionalized town of Jarrett Creek, Texas has its share of secrets and a cast of characters to rival any soap opera. Recent financial troubles have caused the town to totter on the brink of bankruptcy and left it unable to pay for a full-time police force. When Gary Dellmore, a man with as many flaws as enemies, turns up dead, the town looks to Craddock to return to work and solve the murder. Craddock’s investigation reveals that Dellmore was a philandering husband, a crooked businessman, and an indiscreet banker. The fun begins as we ride along with Craddock to the front porches and cozy kitchens of his Texas neighbors as skeletons fall from their closets and illicit liaisons are revealed.
THE BIG THRILL caught up with author Terry Shames and we chatted about her latest book and her life as a writer.
Samuel Craddock is a character you want to sit down and have coffee with. He’s smart, honorable, and doesn’t take himself too seriously. Is he based on a person you know or did he materialize completely out of your imagination?
Samuel presented himself to me full-blown. He’s a combination of many men I’ve known in my life. As a kid, I always liked to hang around men—I thought they were more interesting than women, because women always talked about babies, clothes, and dieting. When I grew up, I joined the ranks of the women, but my early education in hearing stories was through men. In particular, Samuel is a combination of my grandfather, my father, my husband, and my dear friend Charlie, who died a few years ago. Incidentally, my grandfather’s name was Samuel, but everyone called him Sam—and that’s one reason I never call Samuel Craddock “Sam.”
By Josie Brown
If you’re looking for an author with a versatile voice, no one fits the bill like John Lutz. At your local bookstore, you’ll find his award-winning novels shelved under Police Procedurals, Espionage, Thriller, and Historical. You’ll also be impressed with the numerous awards he’s garnered: the MWA’s Edgar, the PWA’s Shamus, not to mention the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s Golden Derringer Lifetime Achievement Award.
Hollywood likes what it reads, too. Lutz’s novel SWF SEEKS SAME was made into SINGLE WHITE FEMALE with Bridget Fonda and Jennifer Jason Leigh, and his book THE EX was an HBO movie.
His new novel, FRENZY, is the latest in his series featuring Frank Quinn, a former homicide detective, who goes up against a serial killer he’s crossed paths with before.
Lutz explains why the murderer deserves an encore.
Why bring back this particular nemesis of Frank Quinn’s?
I suppose I sensed that this villain had more to offer. Also, he seemed capable of producing the most angst in Quinn. Quinn understands that it takes a thief to catch a thief, and that might also apply in various ways when it comes to serial killers. It’s the timeless relationship of hunter and hunted.
The body count is fast and furious in this book. It starts out with six dead women in a hotel room, all of whom were tortured before being murdered–same night, same man. How did the plot for FRENZY come to you?
Possibly Richard Speck gave me the idea. The murders of eight student nurses in the same place at the same time seemed almost incomprehensibly tragic. Also infuriating, because Speck, until the time of his death, seemed only mildly ruffled by the pain and horror he had wrought.
This debut novel never lets the reader off the edge of the seat—the mark of a great story. When college student Joe Talbert decides to interview a convicted rapist and murderer for a class assignment, he finds himself thrust into a web of lies and deceit that put his and other lives in grave danger. Talbert’s anguished relationship with an alcoholic mother and his deep tenderness for an autistic younger brother make him a sympathetic and fully formed protagonist. Eskens manages to weave intricacies of the justice and prison systems into the story while maintaining a tight grip on the pace and tension.
Eskens is a practicing criminal defense attorney with an undergraduate degree in journalism and a J.D. from Hamline University School of Law. He has participated in the Minnesota State University M.F.A. program as well as classes and seminars at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival and the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis.
He took time from his busy practice and current writing project to speak with THE BIG THRILL.
Tell us how long you’ve been writing and what inspired you to write this first novel.
I began writing immediately after graduating from law school. Although I was a first-class legal writer, that didn’t translate into good fiction, so I started reading books like THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES by Joseph Campbell and ON BECOMING A NOVELIST by John Gardner. When books were no longer enough, I began attending classes at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis and the Iowa Summer Writers Festival. That eventually led to me enrolling in the MFA program at Minnesota State University.
By J. N. Duncan
As the head of the crime news unit for Channel Three News in Finland, Jarkko Sipila has a unique perspective on the lives of those who work to fight crime, and offers this in his realistic procedural series, Helsinki Homicide. DARLING is now the fifth of his Finnish crime series to be published in English. So, let’s get to finding out more about Finnish crime.
Can you give us a quick sentence or two about what your new Helsinki Homicide story, DARLING, is about?
This is a ruggedly realistic, police procedural story about the murder of a twenty-six-year old, slightly mentally handicapped woman in her apartment in Northern Helsinki.
This is the fifth English Helsinki Homicide book to reach the U.S. While I understand the stories are stand-alone books, there is obviously some ongoing character stories and development that occurs. Can you tell us a little about that?
The main characters are the same in all the books. Detective Lieutenant Kari Takamaki is the leading character. He’s a work-oriented family man. The other two main characters are Anna Joutsamo, a single woman in her late 30s, who usually truly leads the investigation and an undercover cop, Suhonen, who really feels at home with thugs and bikers.
I try to describe the work of real policemen, so their private lives have never really been the main focus in the stories.
Interestingly in the Finnish tv-series on the books, Joutsamo and Suhonen had a relationship, although I’ve never written that into the stories.
Being (or having been) involved in reporting crime news in Finland, what do you feel this background brings to your crime writing? What sort of edge do you feel this gives you in developing your stories?
If I wasn’t a crime journalist, I would’ve never written crime novels. Following the real stories really helps with the realism and making the fiction believable. One of the main ideas in writing these Helsinki Homicide stories is that they are fiction, but could really happen.
By Cathy Clamp
Fifty years ago, a zombie uprising changed the face of the United States. Finally, the coasts have recovered to become thriving metropolises, but not everything is back to normal. Edward Schuett, the first person to ever come back from being a zombie, possesses a unique ability that made him the most powerful biological weapon in history. He’s created a small colony of Z7s, people like him who were once undead but are once again alive. Unfortunately, the fragile utopia they’ve created is about to be challenged when the latest Z7, Sandra Wolfe, shows uncontrollable powers far beyond the others. When she escapes, Edward and the others must find her before she brings the wrath of the outside world down on them.
THE BIG THRILL’s contributing editor Cathy Clamp sat down and talked with the author about a zombie reality unlike any other.
This is the second book in what might be considered a futuristic horror/thriller. For readers just learning about your reality, what can you tell them about the world of Z7?
The series takes place about fifty years after the Zombie Uprising. Unlike many other zombie stories where it’s all about survivors right after the zombies have risen, the characters here view the coming of the zombies as a historical event the same way we would Pearl Harbor or 9/11. Society has adapted to zombies roaming the wastelands and has rebuilt, although with varying levels of success. Into this I introduced the main character of the first book, Edward Schuett, who was a zombie that slowly regained his humanity. By the start of the second book he has learned how to make this happen to others as well, and he’s built a small community of former zombies far from the rest of society.
Is this a book that’s closer to Young Adult or more Adult in themes and “scare factor”, since the heroine is a teenager?
It’s weird, but I never thought of it as Young Adult. There’s a tendency these days to classify anything with kids or teenagers in it as being for a younger reading level. It certainly works for a teen audience, but I don’t think it has a teen as one of the main protagonists. I think that’s because a young adult audience can handle much more than many people give them credit for. They’re perfectly capable understanding adult themes, because many teenagers still have to deal with deep, dark things in their own lives. So I think it works on either level.
EVERYONE LIES, first in a series by A.D. Garrett, was a hit in the UK, delivering vivid characters, an intricate story set in the violent Manchester, England underworld, and forensics details with the ring of authenticity. The American edition, recently released by St. Martin’s, received raves from Kirkus and Booklist and a starred review in Publishers Weekly, which praised the novel’s brisk pace and its balance between the intricacies of forensics and the cerebral instincts of criminal investigation.
In EVERYONE LIES, two former colleagues who almost destroyed each other’s careers in the past reunite to solve a string of murders that no one else is taking seriously. Kate Simms has spent five years rebuilding her life after being demoted for giving forensics analyst Nick Fennimore privileged information about the disappearance of his wife and daughter. Fennimore has been quietly teaching at a Scottish university and mourning his murdered wife and his still missing child. They should stay away from each other. But if they don’t work together, the killer may never be caught.
The series is a collaborative effort by crime writer Margaret Murphy and forensic scientist Dave Barclay, writing under the pseudonym A.D. Garrett. Murphy, who does all the writing, is the CWA Award-winning author of nine psychological suspense novels under her own name (all now available as e-books through her website). Recently she talked about the new series and about partnering with Barclay.
First of all, Margaret, welcome to ITW! I understand you’re a new member.
ITW has been incredibly welcoming, and I just want to take a moment to say how strongly I feel that both writers and fans benefit from having an organisation like this to introduce readers to writers and to support those writers in their work.
Born and raised in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland, writer Adrian McKinty has lived across the globe. He left his home country to study politics and philosophy at Oxford. From there, he landed in New York where he spent seven years living, and struggling, in Harlem. Life then took another turn, this time to Denver, where he taught high school English. Today, McKinty lives in Australia.
Despite his travels, it was the return to his roots in Ireland that brought him success. McKinty is regarded as one of the brightest lights in Irish crime writing, garnering numerous literary awards and comparisons to storied crime writer Raymond Chandler. Publishers Weekly has called him “one of his generation’s leading talents.”
From 10,000 miles away at his home in St. Kilda, Melbourne, McKinty graciously agreed to answer a few questions for THE BIG THRILL.
First off, please tell us a little about your new book, THE SUN IS GOD.
It’s based on a true story of German intellectuals who set up a nudist colony on a remote South Pacific island in 1906. They believed that worshipping the sun and eating only coconuts would make them immortal. Alas, it didn’t and one of them was murdered on the island. The German authorities went to investigate and that was the basis for my novel.
Your Sean Duffy series has been so well received, why the departure from the series to write THE SUN IS GOD?
The story was just too crazy not to do. I was flabbergasted when I read it and amazed that no one had written it up as a true crime book or a novel. True crime seemed like a lot of work (getting all the facts right, etc.) so I wrote it up as a novel instead.
By Cathy Clamp
Nick Donovan gave up his Black Ops life for a more satisfying role with AEGIS: an elite team of ex-military men working under the radar of most governments, helping people with nowhere else to turn. Unfortunately, just saying you’ve left the life of an operative behind doesn’t mean your enemies won’t keep coming after you . . . or your family. When a drug cartel decides to use his sister-in-law as a hostage to bend Nick to their will, they wind up abducting the housesitter instead. One minute Jennifer Grayson is minding her best friend’s house, and the next she’s abducted to a foreign brothel. Jennifer is planning her escape when her first “customer” arrives. Nick, the man who broke her heart years ago, has come to her rescue. Can Nick keep the woman he loves safe against an enemy with a personal vendetta?
THE BIG THRILL contributing editor Cathy Clamp sat down with the author at the Romance Writers of America conference to ask her more about her intriguing ‘mistaken identity’ thriller.
AEGIS is an interesting band of ex-military working in the private sector. What gave you the idea for the group?
That’s actually an interesting story. My son has Asperger’s Syndrome and has had a series of tutors to help him with his schooling. One of his tutors was ex-DEA who worked for a private security company before starting to work with special needs kids. Talking about his past experiences when he visited our home was fascinating and I started doing research on the concept.
Research is always a strong element in thrillers. You use foreign locales in both this book and the first book in the series, HARD TARGET. Did you visit the areas to experience those little details that make the book read so authentic?
Not yet, but I hope to someday. I watched a ton of videos and read blogs from ex-pats who lived in the region to get some of the finer details down. Travel videos tend to show the highlights of a town, but not the mundane things. I wanted to put in that sort of detail because it’s what I like to see when I read books. I get lost in research. It’s one of my favorite parts of writing.
By Barry Lyga
“Watch out for the Ewoks,” my brother told me.
Let me explain.
The time: A couple of years ago. The topic: The third and final book in my thriller series I Hunt Killers, titled BLOOD OF MY BLOOD. The book hits shelves on September 9, but at the time of the conversation with my brother, I had just begun writing it.
“Watch out for the Ewoks.”
The I Hunt Killers series takes place very much on earth, in the present day, with nary a lightsaber, hyperdrive, Jedi, or Bantha in sight. It tells the story of Jasper “Jazz” Dent, the son of Billy Dent, the world’s most notorious serial killer, and his quest to figure out if he’s been damned by nature and by nurture to follow in his father’s footsteps. It’s gruesome, intense, and very, very down to earth.
So why was my brother exhorting me to beware the fuzzy alien critters from Return of the Jedi?
It’s my own damn fault. You see, when I wrote the second book in the series, GAME, I ended it on not one, not two, but three cliffhangers, leaving all three of the major characters in serious life-or-death jeopardy: Jazz shot and left to die in a New York City storage unit. His best friend Howie bleeding out on the floor of Jazz’s own home. And Jazz’s girlfriend, Connie, worst of all, in the clutches of Billy himself.
My editor was leery of GAME’s cliffhangers. She was worried readers would be upset and, sure enough, when the book hit, my email inbox and Twitter timeline clogged with readers ranting, imploring, and wheedling. It was just the passionate reaction I was looking for: If readers don’t feel invested in your characters and in your story, all the cliffhangers in the world won’t get a reaction out of them.
“How could you do this to me?” they screamed at me.
Shiloh Walker has been a storyteller for as long as she can remember. She put pen to paper as early as third grade and has never looked back. The author of more than one-hundred books and short stories, she sold her first book in 2002 to Ellora’s Cave when electronic publishing was in its infancy. Romance and urban fantasy are her chosen genres, and she has written many popular series in both.
SWEETER THAN SIN is the riveting second book in the Secrets and Shadow series and takes place in the small town of Madison, Indiana. There is an ugly history in this fictionalized version of Madison: a group of prominent men have established a secret society to carry out their abuse of their young sons. The society has been disbanded and the men brought to justice, but when a series of murders are committed, suspicions arise that the heinous society has resurfaced. Adam, the town lothario, is forced to face his own demons when a woman from his past returns to town and they work together to solve the murders and the secrecy behind them.
Shiloh Walker recently talked to THE BIG THRILL about her newest book and her writing life.
What inspired the Secrets and Shadows Series?
A small town. Nothing particular about that small town except for the fact that I’m drawn to small towns…I love them. But then I’m always looking for weird things. People are going to start putting up roadblocks when they see me coming because I do bad things when I visit small towns.
What research did you need to do for SWEETER THAN SIN?
Does it count if I say I visited the town a few times and drank wine from the local winery? I also read some articles but I can’t go into detail about that without spoiling things.
THE BIG THRILL caught up with New York Times bestselling author Karen Harper while she was reading the edited copy of the third book in her new suspense trilogy, The Cold Creek Novels. She was kind enough to answer some questions about the trilogy launch book, SHATTERED SECRETS, (Sept.) to be followed closely by FORBIDDEN GROUND (Nov.) and BROKEN BONDS (Jan.). She admits that she’s familiar with this interview format because she’s usually on the other end, asking ITW authors about their new books for THE BIG THRILL.
What is your novel about? It obviously sets up the next two books in the trilogy.
SHATTERED SECRETS focuses on the youngest of three sisters, but it is Tess’s life which shattered the entire family. She was abducted from the cornfield behind their house when she was young, and later, somehow, escaped her captor. Traumatized, drugged, she recalled nothing of her ordeal. Now as an adult, she’s back in Cold Creek to sell the old family home. But when another child is taken in much the same way, Tess is forced to face her buried memories to help the sheriff try to save a life—because two other abducted girls have never come back.
This is the third trilogy you have written. Does that three-book format suit your style?
I have written a nine-book series The Queen Elizabeth I Mysteries, but I prefer the three-book format, which I think of as a mini-series. It lets the reader spend time with the characters and the setting and gives me time to develop plot and people. However, my trilogies always have a new hero/heroine in each book, because I think that keeps things fresh. In The Cold Creek Novels, the main characters are three very different sisters. Each is impacted by and helps to solve a terrible crime with the help of a man she hopes she can trust. The same small town/ Appalachian setting helps to tie the stories together.
By Ken Isaacson
After graduating from Harvard University, Weyman Jones served as an enlisted man and then a junior officer in the Navy. He began his writing career with short stories and went on to publish three books for young readers. His historical novel for pre-teens, THE EDGE OF TWO WORLDS, went to seven printings and earned the Lewis Carroll Shelf and the Western Heritage Awards. A non-fiction book on computers was published in several languages, and his biography is included in SOMETHING ABOUT THE AUTHOR, a reference series about prominent authors of juvenile and young adult literature.
Following his retirement as vice president, public affairs for the Grumman Corporation, he began writing thrillers. EVIL IN RETURN is his latest page-turner.
Jones graciously agreed to answer a few questions for THE BIG THRILL.
Tell us about EVIL IN RETURN
The title, “Evil in Return” is from Audin: “Those to whom evil is done do evil in return.” It’s about a contemporary Cherokee who believes he should avenge his ancestors by killing descendants of those who wronged them. The aboriginal Cherokee had a belief system like that. This guy wants to revive the ancient tribal values by posting videotapes of his payback on YouTube for the Cherokee to see.
I think there’s a pattern here. This isn’t the first time you’ve written about revenge or obsession, is it? What is it about those themes that intrigues you?
I think we read fiction to taste powerful emotions and experience high-risk moments. I create characters driven by obsession to meet those expectations.
By Jeremy Burns
An incredibly prolific up-and-coming thriller author, Michael McBride integrates elements of science-fiction and horror into his books. His latest, SUNBLIND, continues that trend while delving into one of today’s most controversial topics and completely turning it on its head. Michael sat down with THE BIG THRILL to take readers behind the scenes of his latest gripping adventure.
Please tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a third-generation Coloradan, born and raised in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. My wife and I have a whole slew of beautiful children ranging in age from four to twenty-two, three dogs, and several iguanas. When I’m not writing, I’m shivering in an ice rink, examining patients in a radiology department, or immersed in all things football and hockey. My dream is to one day create a serial character as beloved as Jack Reacher or Harry Bosch, through whose exploits I can vicariously live out my days.
Tell us about your new book, SUNBLIND.
SUNBLIND is about a group of undocumented aliens who set out across one of the deadliest regions on the planet in search of a new life in America. It’s about their suffering at the hands of the merciless desert and something else…something that’s survived in complete geographic isolation. Mostly, though, it’s a story about hope and the triumph of the human spirit. It’s about learning how far we can physically push ourselves and to what lengths we are willing to go to survive.
How is this book different from other books you’ve written?
SUNBLIND is my first story told from the female perspective. Writing Mayra’s part was challenging because it forced me to work outside my comfort zone and make choices I might not have otherwise made. And the book’s better for it. I believe the reader will be able to identify with her suffering and appreciate the sacrifices she makes in order to survive.
Cathy Perkins’s fourth novel, CYPHER, just released and Rachel Grant, bestselling author of the Evidence series, says it’s “A twisty mystery mixed with a compelling romance. CYPHER kept me up long after I should have gone to sleep!”
In CYPHER, when a hit-man mistakenly kills the wrong person, a Greenville, SC detective confronts hidden agendas and conflicting motives in a powerful local family while trying to control his attraction to the intended victim—a woman who should be dead but instead is hell-bent on saving the remnants of her family. Unwilling to stand by while her family and world are destroyed, she rips apart the secrets surrounding Cypher, the company her father built and will take any measures to defend.
An award-winning author, Cathy Perkins works in the financial industry, where she’s observed the hide-in-plain-sight skills employed by her villains. She writes predominantly financial-based mysteries but enjoys exploring the relationship aspect of her characters’ lives. A member of Sisters in Crime, RWA (Kiss of Death chapter) and International Thriller Writers, she is a contributing editor for THE BIG THRILL, handles the blog and social media for the ITW Debut Authors, and coordinated the prestigious Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense.
When not writing, she can be found doing battle with the beavers over the pond height or setting off on another travel adventure. Born and raised in South Carolina, the setting for CYPHER, HONOR CODE, and THE PROFESSOR, she now lives in Washington with her husband, children, several dogs, and the resident deer herd.
Three of your novels are set where you were born and raised in South Carolina. What is it about the state that makes for intriguing mystery settings?
South Carolina is a state in transition, still coming to terms with its past and struggling to define its future. My South, the South of my novels, is so much more than the stereotype you see too often in stories that are set there. Although there are successful family businesses located throughout the entire United States, with CYPHER I wanted to layer in the family dynamics that are particular to the South—the expectations and obligations of family ties.
A HIDDEN ELEMENT, the new novel by Donna Galanti, returns readers to a treacherous sci-fi-tinged world first visited in A HUMAN ELEMENT.
In the first book in the paranormal trilogy, Laura Armstrong and Ben Fieldstone confronted a madman with a terrifying and murderous mission. In the new volume, the couple, now married, face the abduction of their son seven years later.
He’s the target of a madman out to breed an alien community. Their son’s special powers are a key to a world-dominating plan, in fact. That forces Ben and Laura to trust the madman’s son, Caleb Madroc, who has children of his own at stake plus a desire to save oppressed people just like himself.
It’s a new journey for all, and a new nightmare in a world made up of what Bram Stoker award-winning author John Everson called a blend of “all my favorite elements—psi-powers, aliens hiding among us, sex as a weapon, and secret rebellions that could change worlds.”
With A HUMAN ELEMENT available in a new edition from Imajin Books and A HIDDEN ELEMENT rolling out, Galanti answered a few questions about the tale and the world of the Element trilogy.
A HIDDEN ELEMENT picks up action begun in A HUMAN ELEMENT and returns readers to that novel’s universe, which is an interesting blend of science, paranormal, and thriller. Did you discover new things about that world as you wrote the new book?
Book two takes place in a secret cult-like community hidden deep in the Oregon wilderness, but unrest hides within the compound over forced breeding, communal living, and harsh punishments. With the community losing faith in its leadership, many members flee, widening the crack in this insulated compound and opening it to increased dissension—and death. The world in this book throughout the trilogy is a paranormal world and I discovered it’s one that really takes place inside us—it could be a world positioned anywhere. And while book one dealt with paranormal violence in a wild, unrestrained vein, book two also reveals violence through paranormal activity in a planned, methodical manner.
By Dawn Ius
LJ Sellers is no stranger to thrill. She’s an adrenaline junkie who has jumped from a plane multiple times and even—gasp!—performed a stand-up comedy routine in front of an unsuspecting audience.
While many of her thrill-seeking adventures make it onto the page, Sellers hasn’t yet found a place for comedy in her novels.
“I admire authors who do,” she says. “There are moments where my characters may do something funny, and I can play up on that, but personally, I haven’t found a way to merge the comedy and thriller genres.”
Instead, LJ focuses on plot, which she admits is her favorite part of the creative process. As a self-defined linear author, Sellers carves out a rough outline and then begins with the first chapter, continuously plotting and writing until the first draft is complete.
“I love writing complex plots,” she says.
Actually, she loves writing—period.
Her latest Detective Jackson novel, DEADLY BONDS, releases this month, but she’s already written two books since completing final edits, and has started a new story. Prolific, certainly, but perhaps partially out of necessity.
“It’s a competitive market out there,” she says. “One of the only ways to stay visual is to write a lot of books.”
DEADLY BONDS is the ninth novel in the Detective Jackson series, a thrilling story that will show readers a softer side of her beloved rough and gruff character. Inspired by a new development in her life, Sellers introduces a young boy into Jackson’s, drawing from him many of the emotions she has experienced since welcoming a new granddaughter into her world.
By Duffy Brown
Recently I sat down with Mary Kennedy to discuss NIGHTMARES CAN BE MURDER, her life as a psychologist/novelist, and why Savannah is the perfect setting for a mystery series. NIGHTMARES CAN BE MURDER is the first in her new Dream Club series and is available at stores and online this month.
Like most writers, you’ve had a rather checkered career (and I mean that in a good way!). You’ve been a copywriter for a rock radio station, a television news writer, a spokes-model, a university professor and now you’re a clinical psychologist. Will all these characters appear in your books?
Most of them, at least the interesting ones. I once went for a job interview and the person across the desk said, “Well, you are either the most versatile person I’ve ever met or you show a shocking lack of direction in your life.” Naturally, I asked him if we could go with “the most versatile person he’d ever met” theory. He laughed and gave me the job of PR Director for a major travel company. I haven’t used that character in a series yet, but I may.
I love Dr. Maggie, the psychologist turned radio talk show host in The Talk Radio Mysteries. Now you’ve moved on to the Dream Club Mysteries. Was it much of a stretch, going from psychology to dream interpretation?
No, I think it was a natural progression. Most of my clients love to talk about their dreams and I’ve done quite a bit of research on them. Freud said dreams are the “royal road to the unconscious.” Many psychologists think that dreams give us a unique insight into our thoughts, our fears, and out fantasies. Other people think they are just random firings of the brain as it rests and rehashes the day.
But how did you take the next step and write a whole series about a dream club?
The New York Times did a big piece on the popularity of dream clubs here in the northeast. I’m not sure how far they’ve spread across the rest of the country. The idea is very appealing. It’s like a support group. You meet with a small group of trusted friends every week and talk about your dreams. Of course, in NIGHTMARES CAN BE MURDER, the members not only analyze their dreams, they solve a murder or two.
Since dropping out of medical school, Ovidia Yu has been a copywriter and one of Singapore’s most popular playwrights (thirty plays and slightly fewer awards) with short stories, novellas, and one volume of children’s fiction published in Singapore, Malaysia, and India. AUNTY LEE’S DELIGHTS, her first mystery featuring busybody widow Rosie “Aunty” Lee, was published to good reviews in the United States last year and the next book, AUNTY LEE’S DEADLY SPECIALS will be available from 30 September 2014.
What is the best thing about being a mystery writer?
You get to read mystery books and tell yourself that you’re working. In the name of research, you get to ask people questions that would normally get them mad at you (“What’s the one that that makes you really angry with your husband?” and “If your girlfriend killed your sister by accident what would you do with the body?”). You get to meet all kinds of people you wouldn’t normally—like I was speaking to private investigators to find out what their work is really like. “It’s like going fishing,” one told me. “Only the scenery is not so peaceful. Most of the time you are sitting there for hours doing meditation with your eyes open.”
Apparently in Singapore the police and the PIs get along better than they do in most mystery books. There’s a course you have a take to become a private investigator and part of it covers how to collect and record evidence that can be used. I’m thinking of signing up for the course myself—once I’ve finished the current book. In fact, it could lead to a new job; they told me that if “this book business doesn’t work out you can try working for us” because they need more women. Apparently, one or men look suspicious following people, but a woman or a couple draws no attention.
And another big plus is getting to go to mystery conventions like Bouchercon and Crimefest and talking to other people who love books and reading and writing. And, of course, you can collect more books!
David Swatling’s debut thriller CALVIN’S HEAD, set in Amsterdam, is suspenseful, atmospheric, violent, and yet playful. Literary while very much accessible. Using rotating points of view, the story is about what happens when a young homeless man with a dog attempts the riskiest gambit imaginable: trying to manipulate a calculating, conscienceless killer.
After a career of acting followed by journalism, Swatling, who has lived in Amsterdam since the 1980s, branches out into fiction with impressive results. He sold his novel to Bold Stroke Books.
You grew up in a small town. How did you land in New York City?
As a kid I dreamed a Disney agent would discover me mowing the lawn and whisk me away to Hollywood to be the next Huckleberry Finn. That never happened. But when I got to Syracuse University to study theater, I had no intention of remaining in rural upstate New York. My new destination: the bright lights on Broadway. That never happened either. I did play the butler in an Off-Broadway hit, The Passion of Dracula.
Did anything in your acting career help you later on with your storyteller craft?
Absolutely—everything from theater history to acting class! It’s all about story, whether it’s Shakespeare or Sam Shepard. From classics you learn about structure, pacing, conflict, climax, all the elements to keep an audience on the edge of their seats. As an actor you get inside a character’s head, create his back story, figure out how he moves, how he thinks. The playwright provides dialogue but the rest is up to you and your imagination. I think that’s why many thriller authors have a theater background.
By Ian Walkley
Following the success of BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA, author April Genevieve Tucholke has penned the concluding episode of the YA gothic thriller romance between “semi-orphan” Violet, and the morally ambiguous River Redding, in BETWEEN THE SPARK AND THE BURN (from Penguin/Putnam).
With its shades of Stephen King and Daphne du Maurier, Tucholke’s writing has been described by Kirkus Reviews in these terms: “The faded opulence of the setting is an ideal backdrop for this lushly atmospheric gothic thriller, which, happily, comes with a satisfying conclusion. Darkly romantic and evocative.”
This story follows the search for River Redding and his brother Brodie, who disappeared after bringing chaos to the small seaside town of Echo last summer. When a late-night radio show whispers of eerie events in a distant mountain village, Violet seizes on it—this could be River or Brodie. She and the other Redding brother, Neely, hunt for River in frenzied mountain towns, cursed islands, and an empty, snow-muffled hotel. They discover a girl who’s seen the devil, a sea captain’s daughter, and a sweet, red-haired forest boy who meets death halfway. All the while, Violet’s feelings for Neely grow sharper, the stakes higher, and the truth harder to pin down. If only Violet knew that while she’s been hunting the Redding boys someone’s been hunting her.
April Tucholke has lived in many places, including Scotland, and currently lives in Oregon at the edge of a forest, in a house with an attic, wine cellar, and “secret passageway,” where she can hear coyotes howl at night while she’s writing. She loves classic horror movies and coffee.
Armed with a journalism degree from New York University, an impressive resume of reporting for major media outlets, and a vivid imagination, Kira Peikoff is a writer of medical thrillers that seamlessly and relentlessly blend suspense with topical scientific themes. Her books have been praised for their excitement, plausibility, and timeliness.
Her debut novel, LIVING PROOF, a near-future tale of assisted reproduction and the ethical issues surrounding it, garnered rave reviews from the likes of Douglas Preston, Steve Berry, and Lisa Unger. Lee Child noted that LIVING PROOF makes “you think, makes you sweat, leaves you happy—everything a good book should.”
Now she returns with her second novel, NO TIME TO DIE, a white-knuckle yarn exploring the genetics of aging. The late Dr. Michael Palmer called NO TIME TO DIE an “intelligent, exciting tour d’ force” and a “crackling good read.”
Ms. Peikoff recently offered her thoughts on a range of topics including the art of crafting a medical thriller, Dr. Palmer’s mentorship, and the worst writing advice she ever received.
The biology of aging plays a central role in NO TIME TO DIE. How did you first get interested in this topic?
My interest in biology goes back to a fascinating science course I took in college that opened my mind to the exciting possibilities of biotechnology and the ways that researchers are innovating creative solutions to improve our health. I’ve also always been keenly aware of the aging process in a way that most people my age probably aren’t, because I have a dad who’s much older than the norm (he’s now eighty). So the biology of aging interests me on both a personal level and an intellectual level.
By E. A. Aymar
I almost missed the deadline for this article and it’s all Barry Lancet’s damn fault. I got so absorbed in his second thriller, TOKYO KILL, that I ended up reading it slower than I usually do, savoring each line, observing how expertly and subtly the plot twists and complications were built. Those who are familiar with Lancet’s JAPANTOWN, which was a Barry Award finalist for Best First Novel and optioned for television by J. J. Abrams and Warner Bros., will be excited to catch up with Jim Brodie’s newest adventure, which takes place largely in Japan and pays homage to that country’s beautiful and mysterious customs and society.
These customs are introduced to the reader both through Brodie’s interactions and personal knowledge, as well as through his side career as an art collector. The two cases he’s been involved with have both involved relics related to Japan’s past, and the country’s history is revealed to the reader as Brodie begins to unravel the mysteries behind the homicides that end up on his doorstep.
In addition to his writing, Barry Lancet has worked in publishing. He resides in Tokyo, and was gracious enough to answer some questions about his work (the Russian spy story is especially fascinating):
Your debut novel JAPANTOWN won four “best” book citations, is a finalist for a Barry Award, and has been optioned for TV by J. J. Abrams. Do you feel any pressure for the next installment in the series?
No, I’ve been too busy. JAPANTOWN reprinted three times before publication, and a fourth was scheduled the week the book came out. All the interest generated a lot of interviews and talks so, ironically, I had no time to think about the second- or third-book jitters when it came time to write them. I just jumped right into stories. I already had several threads for the books in mind, and so it was a smooth transition.
TOKYO KILL begins with a Japanese proverb, The reverse side also has a reverse side. What does that mean to the story?
The quote is true of the Jim Brodie books and life in Japan in general. Think of it in terms of a coin. You look at a coin, and you think, “Okay, the coin’s on heads.” Something happens and the coin is now on the reverse side, tails. But then something else happens, the coin’s face changes again, but it is neither heads nor tails. It’s something else entirely. Does the coin have three sides? What’s going on?
With MARTINI REGRETS, the sixth installment of the Sherri Travis series, Phyllis Smallman brings you Sherri’s most frightening and spine tingling misadventure yet. The story transports you from a gritty crime scene in the Florida Everglades to a black-tie masquerade ball in Sarasota before reaching its shocking conclusion on a remote island in the Gulf of Mexico.
It’s almost midnight and Sherri Travis is about to take Alligator Alley across the Everglades when she realizes she’s low on gas. She turns off the main road and into the swamp to find a service station on Last Chance Road. Her pickup is carjacked and Sherri is left alone at night in the Glades. Hiding from dangerous men and in fear for her life, she stumbles across the body of a man. From alligators and snakes to the men called swamp rats, evil comes in many disguises and offers no second chances for Sherri.
Phyllis Smallman’s first novel, MARGARITA NIGHTS, won the inaugural Unhanged Arthur award from the Crime Writers of Canada. Her writing has appeared in both Spinetingler Magazine and Omni Mystery Magazine. The Florida Writer’s Association awarded CHAMPAGNE FOR BUZZARDS a silver medal for the best mystery and her fifth book, HIGHBALL EXIT, won an IPPY award in 2013. LONG GONE MAN won the Independent Publisher’s IPPY Gold Award as best mystery in 2014. The Sherri Travis mystery series was one of six chosen by Good Morning America for a summer read in 2010. Before turning to a life of crime, Smallman was a potter. She divides her time between a beach in Florida and an island in the Salish Sea.
Although you’re Canadian, several of your novels are set in Florida, more specifically the Everglades. What is it about this state and this area that makes for intriguing mystery settings, and why particularly for the Sherri Travis series and MARTINI REGRETS?
Thirty years ago my husband Lee and I took a little holiday in Florida and bought a house. Well, actually we bought a trailer, and while other properties have come and gone from our lives, we still have our little shack near the beach. I fell in love with Florida, not least of all because of the characters. The state is like a giant bug light for crazy people. They all rush down there with their schemes and dreams and start creating havoc. You just have to open the paper to read about grannies selling drugs out of the baby’s stroller or a developer cutting down a tree to get rid of an eagle that’s holding up a new condo site. Honest, I don’t make this stuff up. Pretty much any writer who sets a book in the Sunshine state is going to deliver eccentric characters.
By Ethan Cross
Booklist describes Nicholas Kaufman’s work as possessing “a real sense of style and wit,”while Suspense Magazine compares him to Dean Koontz and hails his latest novel, DIE AND STAY DEAD, as “creepy, fun, and immensely entertaining.”
In this pulse-pounding sequel to DYING IS MY BUSINESS, Trent, a man who can’t stay dead or retain his memories, tries to uncover his connection to a deadly doomsday cult bent on destroying New York City.
A brutal murder in Greenwich Village puts Trent and the Five-Pointed Star on the trail of Erickson Arkwright, the last surviving member of a doomsday cult. Back in the day, the Aeternis Tenebris cult thought the world would end on New Year’s Eve of 2000. When it didn’t, they decided to end it themselves by summoning Nahash-Dred, a powerful, terrifying demon known as the Destroyer of Worlds. But something went wrong. The demon massacred the cult, leaving Arkwright the sole survivor.
Now, hiding somewhere in New York City with a new identity, Arkwright plans to summon the demon again and finish the job he started over a decade ago. As Trent rushes to locate a long-lost magical artifact that may be the only way to stop him, the clues begin to mount…Trent’s past and Arkwright’s might be linked somehow. And if they are, it means the truth of who Trent really is may lie buried in the twisted mind of a madman.
Tell us about DIE AND STAY DEAD in one line.
Oh jeez, can’t you start off with something easier like “Tell us the meaning of life?” One line, oof. Okay, then. How about: “While racing against the clock to prevent a madman from summoning a demon that will destroy the world, Trent, a man who has lost his memories, must confront the dark truth of his past and the awful secret of who he really is.” Hrm. Yeah, I don’t think I’m very good at the one-line thing, but that’s the gist of it.
By Tim O’Mara
“All right,” I said as we both settled into a new booth a few moments after the waiter spilled milk on the signed copy of his Robert B. Parker novel. “You’re probably tired of talking about it, so you get to make one statement about taking over the Jesse Stone series.”
Reed Farrel Coleman leaned back and smiled. “You know,” he began in that gravelly voice that sounds as if he’s ordering one more slice of pizza, “everyone loves Spenser. People look at him like he’s the Everyman: the boxer, the PI. But Jesse’s more like most people. He struggles with the stuff a lot of us struggle with: drinking, relationships, regrets. And he’s got the regrets most of us can relate to. His failed marriage, the baseball career cut short by injury, lost opportunities. We all have that woman who got away, that job we didn’t get, something we said that we wish we could take back.”
In the past six weeks, I’d read Coleman’s HOLLOW GIRL; the last Moe Prager novel; BLIND SPOT,his first in Robert B. Parker’s Jesse Stone series; and ONION STREET, the novel that shows us how Moe became a cop. In that order. It’s very clear that Reed is a writer who understands regret.
“Man,” he said, “I took on all my parents’ foibles. I was a resenter, a regretter, I was jealous. It took me eight years of therapy to work that out. I moved to Milwaukee to to be with a woman. Probably the worst decision I ever made, but it made me realize at the age of twenty-one, I needed help.”
Twenty-one? That’s kind of early too figure something like that out.
“I was always introspective. I’ve been writing poetry since I was twelve. But I was a quitter.” His voice took on a retrospective tone. “Back in high school, I was the long snapper for the football team. I was good. One time in a big game, I snapped the ball over the punter’s head. And I decided it was time to quit. Like I said, I was good at it, but I was afraid of failure. I got that from my dad.”
I pointed out the obvious: quitters don’t become novelists.