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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
By Basil Sands
Ladies and Gents, may I introduce to you Jon McGoran and his newly released Eco-Thriller, DEADOUT.
If you are worried about genetic modification, transgenics, cloning, irradiation, and the release of genetically engineered foods into the environment may become a nightmare for the world, rest assured Jon’s got enough real life science mixed with heart pumping action to make your fears leap off the page, then get clobbered.
Jon, tell us about DEADOUT.
DEADOUT is the sequel to my previous novel, DRIFT. It’s a biotech thriller about genetically engineered foods and Colony Collapse Disorder, which is killing the world’s honeybees. Detective Doyle Carrick is visiting his girlfriend Nola, who is working on a farm on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, and something mysterious starts killing the island’s bees. A biotech company brings in genetically engineered bees that are supposedly immune to Colony Collapse, dividing the island’s farmers. As the protests turn violent, Doyle realizes the bees aren’t the only thing being modified, and he has to figure out what’s really going on and stop it before it can spread to the mainland, and the world.
When folks think of thrillers, they easily conjure up pictures of terrorists, spies, cops, and even mad-scientists, but seldom do they think of food, and bees even less. How did you land on this topic as a thriller plot?
Thrillers have always drawn on real threats to make their plots more compelling—Nazis, the cold war, terrorists. Today, I see the dangers to our food systems and the environment—and the corporate misbehaviors that aggravate them—as serious and potentially existential threats. And whereas the public has often perceived threats like terrorism as greater than they really are, in these areas, I think the danger is actually under-perceived. Hopefully, the fact that the scary and dangerous issues in DRIFT and DEADOUT are also real will make the dangers encountered by the characters in the books seem more real, as well.
By Amy Lignor
Joan Hall Hovey is the definition of an “artist.” From her writing that has taken the form of suspense novels, as well as short stories and articles, this woman has not only taken the suspense world by storm, but also dabbles in the theater community. In addition, Joan makes time to work with other authors, giving them the information and help they need to embrace their talent and become a part of the literary world.
Born and raised in Saint John, New Brunswick, Joan has a family she adores, including Scamp, the family dog. She looks out every day at tall pine trees and the stunning view of the Kennebecasis River. But although that view is certainly inspiring, her fans will tell you that it is Joan’s view—the scenes and characters within her own creative mind—that is truly unforgettable. This is a talent who brings vibrancy to the page, creating locations that, even in the light of day, chill readers to the bone.
The works of Poe, King, and other masters of the mystery world inspired Joan to write. And now, with her latest novel—THE DEEPEST DARK—she once again hits the nail on the proverbial head, drawing readers into a world of fear that will leave them absolutely breathless.
Let’s begin at the beginning. You have an incredible mind for suspense, and are able to weave together an absolutely frightening plot. When was it that you decided to become a suspense author? Was there a specific reason why you chose that genre?
Like most authors of suspense, I have always been drawn to the dark side of human nature. From childhood I loved anything that was scary; from zombies to vampires to noir movies. Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Vincent Price—these were my anti-heros. I read stories by Edgar Allan Poe, Shirley Jackson, and others. When you love the genre, you immerse yourself in voices that write in that genre, until finally you want your own voice to rise from the page.
Early on Ethan Cross knew he wanted to be a writer. With a partially finished screenplay in high school, he contemplated a move to California to pursue a career in the film industry, and then threw it over for a more promising profession—music. A parent’s nightmare! And, yet, he succeeded. Opening for national recording artists as a lead singer and guitar player, recording a few CDs—but the stories just wouldn’t leave him alone.
His dream came to fruition on a grand scale with the release of his first book, THE SHEPHERD. An international bestseller, he followed it up with four more great titles. Now, his latest book, the third installment of The Shepherd series, FATHER OF FEAR has hit the bookshelves.
To give you a snapshot, in FATHER OF FEAR a father returns home to find his family has been kidnapped and the only way to save their lives is for him to kill another innocent person.
So begins a journey that will force Special Agent Marcus Williams of the Shepherd Organization to question all that he believes, unearth his family`s dark legacy, and sacrifice everything to save those he loves. In order to stop the serial murderer whom the media has dubbed the Coercion Killer, Williams must enlist the help of one of the world`s most infamous and wanted men: the serial killer Francis Ackerman Jr.
The praise for the Shepherd series comes from greats such as #1 New York Times bestselling author Andrew Gross, who said about The Shepherd, “A fast paced, all too real thriller with a villain right out of James Patterson and Criminal Minds.” THE BIG THRILL was lucky enough to catch up with Ethan Cross to ask a few questions.
I read in your long bio that you grew up as the youngest in your family, so far behind your older siblings that you were in many ways raised as an only child. An only child myself, I know how you have to learn to entertain yourself. Was making up stories part of that entertainment?
By John Clement
The phrase “a skeleton in the closet” entered the lexicon of popular culture in the early 19th century with the rise of the Gothic novel—an enduring genre blend of horror and romanticism that’s as beloved today as it was in Victorian England. Here’s Edgar Allen Poe, in his classic short story The Black Cat, first published August 19, 1843, in The Saturday Evening Post:
“Gentlemen, I delight to have allayed your suspicions,” and here, through the mere frenzy of bravado, I rapped heavily upon that very portion of the brick-work behind which stood the corpse of the wife of my bosom. The wall fell bodily. The corpse, already greatly decayed, stood erect before the eyes of the spectators.
Every family has a skeleton in the closet. If yours doesn’t, that just means you don’t know about it… yet. Author Leigh Perry has taken that notion one step further, creating a new mystery series that is as clever as it is entertaining.
The first book in the Family Skeleton Series, A SKELETON IN THE FAMILY, came out last fall. Can you talk a little bit about the main characters? Is there anything unusual about any of them?
The two main characters are best friends Georgia Thackery and Sid. Georgia is an adjunct English professor and the single mother of a teenage daughter who is house sitting for her parents in a small New England town. Sid is single, an avid reader, and lives in the Thackery attic. Nothing all that unusual.
Wait! Did I mention that Sid is a skeleton? An ambulatory skeleton—or osteo-American, which is what he calls himself.
By Wendy Tyson
Raised on a farm in southwest Pennsylvania, author Annette Dashofy has had a variety of careers, including emergency medical technician, groom at a racetrack, and yoga instructor, and she has drawn on her interesting and varied past to create the Zoe Chambers mystery series. In the first Chambers novel, CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE, Dashofy introduces us to EMT and deputy coroner Zoe Chambers and Police Chief Pete Adams. In the second book, LOST LEGACY (due September 16), we follow Chambers and Adams as they investigate an apparent suicide that may be linked to a pair of forty-five-year-old suspicious deaths.
John Lawton (producer, director and author of the Inspector Troy series) said, “New York has McBain, Boston has Parker, now Vance Township, PA (“pop. 5,000. Please Drive Carefully.”) has Annette Dashofy, and her rural world is just as vivid and compelling as their city noir.” I have had the pleasure of meeting Annette in person and she is as captivating as the colorful characters she creates. I am so pleased that Annette agreed to answer a few questions for THE BIG THRILL.
LOST LEGACY is the second in the Zoe Chambers series. As with the first Chambers novel, CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE, the setting—a small town in rural western Pennsylvania—is a character in the story. You grew up in a similar environment. How did your own experiences in rural Pennsylvania influence your novel?
Southwestern Pennsylvania is very much my home and my heart. It’s second nature to add it to my books. Having grown up in a farm family, I was always keenly aware of the weather because a farmer’s livelihood depends on getting enough snow in the winter, having enough dry weather in the summer to get the crops in, but enough rain so everything doesn’t dry up. And goodness knows we have a wide variety of weather to work with here! It just makes sense to me to have the weather and my surroundings play a big part in the story.
By Dan Levy
There’s a reason most of us write fiction—we don’t want to actually endure what we put our protagonists through. Sure, it’s fun to live that life in our minds for a few hours at a time and chronicle what we see. But as fiction writers, we revel in the comfort that we still get to play God on the page and are in total control.
Those who chose to live the life of a thriller protagonist—or antagonist—find their books to be welcome on the memoir, true crime or autobiography shelves. However, there are a few exceptions where fact and fiction merge—most notably the connection between Ian Fleming’s time in the British Secret Service and James Bond.
Add Mark Pryor to the list of people who seem to live the lives they write about. A former crime reporter in the UK, Pryor moved to the US, got his law degree and became an assistant district attorney in Austin, Texas. His prosecution wins include a Mexican mafia enforcer, murderers, rapists, robbers and a transvestite prostitute—to which he admits feeling a bit bad about. He prosecuted a cold case that got the attention of CBS’s 48 Hours and was the impetus for Pryor’s true crime story AS SHE LAY SLEEPING.
Turning Fascination to Fiction
So why does Pryor, an admitted adrenaline junkie (prior to having children, anyway), need to write thriller fiction? “I’m very interested in the criminal mind. I’ve never understood how, in a premeditated way, people do very bad things to other people.” Pryor noted that HELTER SKELTER was a “gateway book” for him. “I grew up on a farm in England, and had a very bucolic childhood. [In] reading that book, everything was so bizarre and twisted. I couldn’t understand it. I’ve been fascinated by it ever since.”
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 John Raab
A BETTER WORLD is the second book in Marcus Sakey’s Brilliance Saga series, with his newest character Nick Cooper.
Marcus was born in Flint, Michigan, and attended the University of Michigan. He mentions that he had two majors, both promptly ignored. He spent ten years in advertising and marketing, which gives him the perfect experience to write about thieves and killers. He is the writer and host of HiddenCity, which can be seen on the Travel Channel.
Other books by Marcus include BRILLIANCE, the first book in the new series, as well as THE TWO DEATHS OF DANIEL HAYES, THE BLADE ITSELF, ACCELERANT, THE GOOD PEOPLE, and THE AMATEURS.
THE BIG THRILL was lucky enough to catch up to Marcus and ask him some questions.
What can you tell us about A BETTER WORLD that is not on the back cover?
The Brilliance Saga is the story of an alternate present, a world very much like ours with one fundamental difference: since 1980, one percent of the population has been born with exceptional abilities, akin to savants. Many of the talents aren’t much more than curiosities—able to instantly multiply huge numbers, or play perfectly a song heard only once. But some of them are world-changing, capable of spotting patterns in the stock market, or reading your darkest thoughts from body language.
But this isn’t a superhero novel; to me, the brilliants aren’t the point. The point is how the world reacts to them. What would happen if one percent of the population was objectively better than the rest of us? How would society adapt, or fail to adapt? Would we become dependent on them? Would we enslave them? Would they, in fear for their own safety, work against us?
By George Ebey
In the shadow of the Mormon church, a nineteenth-century conspiracy is about to be shattered by a twenty-first–century forensic artist. In 1857, a wagon train in Utah was assaulted by a group of militant Mormons calling themselves the Avenging Angels. One hundred and forty people were murdered, including unarmed men, women, and children.
When renowned forensic artist Gwen Marcey is recruited to reconstruct the faces of recently unearthed victims at Mountain Meadows, she isn’t expecting more than an interesting gig and a break from her own hectic life. But when Gwen stumbles on the ritualized murder of a young college student, her work on the massacre takes on a terrifying new aspect, and her research quickly becomes a race against modern-day fundamentalist terror.
We recently caught up with debut author Carrie Stuart Parks to learn more about A CRY FROM THE DUST and to find out what she has in store for us next.
First, how does it feel to be so close to the release of your debut novel?
I’m excited beyond belief. It’s hard to go through the day-to-day chores and work when all I want to do is hover over the computer.
Your story touches on the field of forensic art. Could you tell us a little about this field as well as your background in it?
I’ve been a forensic artist since 1981, so it was natural to “write what I know.” I’m also married to a forensic artist, Rick, who worked as a Visual Information Specialist for the FBI in Washington, D.C. Together we work on cases and travel across the nation teaching forensic art to law enforcement professionals. The stories I’ll be telling in this series are loosely based on our cases and the work we’ve done in the field.
Military action dominates today’s thrillers, but diplomacy can generate even more tension and suspense. If you need proof, read Todd Moss’s hyper-realistic and high-powered debut thriller, THE GOLDEN HOUR.
The novel revolves around a sudden crisis in Africa. A coup d’état in Mali overthrows the president and the State Department is counting on its new experimental Crisis Reaction Unit to handle the situation. The unit is the brainchild of Judd Ryker, who recently left academia to test his theories in the real world of international diplomacy.
Ryker is not the typical gun-wielding thriller hero. He’s a soft-spoken professor who finds being chief of the Crisis Reaction Unit a major challenge.
“Judd’s much more comfortable with numbers than people,” Moss says. “This, he finds, is a problem for a diplomat. Judd quickly learns that he must build personal relationships to figure out what’s going on and to do his job.”
Of course, the challenges mount quickly. A senator’s daughter is kidnapped in Timbuktu. A violent new Jihadist cell rises in the desert. The American embassy is at risk of a terrorist attack. And Ryker has just one-hundred hours to set it all right again.
Parts of the story may sound fantastic, but Moss knows whereof he speaks. A former top American diplomat in West Africa, he draws on his real-world experiences to reveal both the exhilaration and the frustrations of modern-day diplomacy. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sent him in to negotiate after the 2008 coup d’état in Mauritania. Today he works at a Washington DC think-tank and still deals with men very much like his fictional Ryker—successful and brilliant analysts who, in his words, “could work on their people skills.”
By Cathy Clamp
Brilliant kids around the country begin disappearing, and Search and Rescue pilot Deb Lansing’s sister Ashley is one of them. She trusts only one other person to help her rescue the brilliant teenager—Gabe Montgomery, a former SWAT officer on covert assignment. As bodies start to turn up, Deb and Gabe discover that the one common element is the video game Point of Entry, a game Ashley frequently played. The clock is ticking as a brilliant serial killer known only as The Warden turns his attention on Deb and Gabe. Can they save Deb’s sister, or will they even be able to save themselves?
THE BIG THRILL’s contributing editor Cathy Clamp sat down with the author to learn more about this new thriller:
This is the third book in the Montgomery Justice series. What inspired you to create the reality?
Montgomery Justice actually started with a single character who wasn’t even a Montgomery. My first novel, IN HER SIGHTS, features a female SWAT Team Sniper, Jazz Parker. While attending a SWAT Team presentation at a writer’s conference one of the attendees asked if women could be considered for positions. The SWAT Team Commander indicated that there were no rules against it, but the applicant would have to pass all the physical tests. From there, Jazz was born: a female sniper. Her motivations were key to the story, and she ended up being someone who was utterly alone in the world.
I needed conflict with the hero, so Luke Montgomery came into being. An ex-Army Ranger from a big, boisterous family he could always count on. As I explored their world, I realized that though they stood side-by-side through everything, all was not perfect. From there, the Montgomery Clan was born. They won’t stop until justice is done!
By Jeff Ayers
It seemed an innocent enough idea. After Barnaby Gilbert got laid off with a nice severance, his boss suggested he take up a new hobby to fill up his free time. On his regular commuter train, Barnaby got an idea what that hobby would be. He decided to satisfy a curiosity he’d long had. An avid birder, he began tracking some regular passengers—people he’d always wondered about—to see where they went and what they did. In following a Chinese man, a schoolgirl, and a sexy woman, he used the same techniques he had to add hawks and herons to his life list. But in THE COMMUTER, a quirky, compelling, tongue-in-cheek thriller, he found out pretty fast that humans were a much more dangerous species.
Patrick Oster is a managing editor at Bloomberg News in New York. He was previously editor-in-chief of the National Law Journal and has worked for Business Week in Europe, Knight Ridder in Mexico, and covered the White House, State Department, and the CIA as Washington Bureau Chief of The Chicago Sun-Times.
He recently took the time to chat with THE BIG THRILL.
When did you realize you had the writing bug?
While doing some long-form journalism that used personal tales to tell a real-life story. For example, while reporting from Mexico I did a big take-out on what had happened to Oscar Lewis’s Children of Sanchez, one of whom I met while covering Mexico City’s twin earthquakes in 1985, 25 years after his classic work.
I used that story as part of my 1989 book, THE MEXICANS: A PERSONAL PORTRAIT OF A PEOPLE. And Lisa Drew, my editor at William Morrow, the hardcover publisher, said my use of real life short-stories in the book indicated I had some talent to write fiction, which is just another kind of story telling. So how could I not give it a try?
Working in journalism, what prompted you to want to write books?
For THE MEXICANS, it was mostly a desire to tell a fuller, more interesting story than is allowed in the space allotted newspaper stories. I also had accumulated a lot of information about Mexico in my four years there that never made it into my daily newspaper stories.
By Steph Cha
J.T. Ellison is a seasoned thriller writer with more than a dozen novels holstered to her belt. She’s written both series and standalones, made bestseller lists and won accolades, including the 2010 ITW Thriller Award for best paperback original for her novel THE COLD ROOM. In her latest venture (one of them, anyway), she’s teamed up with the formidable Catherine Coulter, for the Nicholas Drummond series, about a Brit in the FBI. THE FINAL CUT came out last year and sold like thriller-stamped hotcakes, and the sequel THE LOST KEY hits stores this month.
J.T. took time out of her busy thriller-cranking schedule to talk collaboration, discipline, and White House gaffes.
I’ll start with the most obvious question—what’s it like collaborating on a novel, and with Catherine Coulter in particular? Enquiring lonely writers want to know.
It’s awesome. Absolutely one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. I wasn’t in the market to co-write, and I wouldn’t have done it with just anyone. But I’ve been a huge Catherine Coulter fan my whole life. I’ve been reading her books—both romances and thrillers—since well before I wanted to be a writer. The opportunity to work with one of my all-time favorite writers was impossible to pass up. And as it happens, it’s bigger and better than I could have ever hoped. Not only am I getting a Ph.D. in writing, we have a real synchronicity together that leads to heights of creativity we’d never find ourselves. We’re downright combustible together.
Writing is supposed to be a lonely occupation, but I’ve always had creative people around me that make me better, from my first critique group, to beta readers and editors, and now Catherine. They do it in screenwriting, so why not novels?
THE LOST KEY is the second in your Brit in the FBI series, featuring new agent Nicholas Drummond. How did you go about doing research for this novel? Did you and Catherine divvy it up?
I do a lot more research than Catherine simply because she’s got a Master’s in early 19th Century history, and a career of research behind her for both her historicals and her FBI thrillers, and I’m playing catch up. For THE LOST KEY, we spent a lot of time working on the story together, doing a pretty comprehensive outline, then I went off and worked on the actual writing, and did most of the research on the fly as I went. It was incredibly broad for this book, including a research trip to Scotland to get everything just right. My kind of research, actually, the hands-on work.
Bestselling author Lauren Beukes is based in Cape Town, South Africa. Her works include the international bestseller THE SHINING GIRLS, which tracks a time-traveling serial killer and a surviving victim who turns the tables and begins to hunt him down, and ZOO CITY, “a gritty phantasmagorical noir about magical animals, pop music, refugees, murder and redemption in the slums of inner city Johannesburg” that took home an Arthur C. Clarke Award and a Kitschies Red Tentacles.
BROKEN MONSTERS is her latest novel. It features a large cast of characters who collide in the underbelly of Detroit. As detective Gabriella Versado tracks a crazed killer, the complexities of the bizarre and twisted case reveal urban lives trying to survive in a decaying city. BROKEN MONSTERS will be launched during a six-city US tour in September.
Beukes took some time to talk to THE BIG THRILL.
Congratulations on your new book. Who, or what, are the Broken Monsters? Can you describe the essence of the novel and what it means to you?
Thank you! It’s about twisted art and disturbing tableaus of half-human, half-animal bodies turning up in abandoned places in Detroit. It’s a procedural about fear and ambition and pride and being seen or trying to be forgotten, art and social media and new journalism, haunted cities, haunted people, the things that rise from the dark.
We’re all broken monsters. We all have little broken pieces inside. We’ve all experienced bad things in our lives, on a scale, of course, but it’s how we live with it that determines who we are. But it’s also a statement that even the monsters don’t work. We talk about a notorious killer as a “monster,” like apartheid torture camp operator Eugene de Kock for example, who was recently up for parole. But it’s much worse than that. He’s human. There are no monsters. There’s only us and everything we are capable of, good and bad. We have to be able to face that—the monstrousness within, whether it’s cruelty or ambition or pride or powerlessness.
THE BETRAYED is New York Times-bestselling-author Heather Graham’s most recent book in her Krewe of Hunters series and the third in her latest Krewe trilogy, after THE CURSED and THE HEXED.
In THE BETRAYED, New York FBI agent Aiden Mahoney is a new member of the Krewe, the Bureau’s unit of paranormal investigators. One night, Aiden receives a visit in a dream from his old friend, Richard Highsmith, an up-and-coming politician whose future seems unlimited: mayor of New York City, governor, perhaps even President of the United States. The very next day, Aiden is dispatched to Sleepy Hollow, New York, the setting of Washington Irving’s classic story about the legendary Headless Horseman. During a campaign appearance in the town, Highsmith disappeared without a trace.
Maureen (“Mo”) Deauville lives in Sleepy Hollow and works with her dog, Rollo, to find missing people. To her horror, she and Rollo find Highsmith—or more precisely his head—stuck on one of the town’s many statues of the Headless Horseman.
Risking their own lives, Mo and Aiden explore both past and present events to figure out who killed Highsmith. As they work together, they discover that they share an unusual trait—the ability to communicate with the dead. They also share an attraction that’s as intense as it is unexpected. The problem is that they might not live long enough to enjoy it.
Heather Graham graciously agreed to answer some questions about her compelling new novel.
Please tell us about the Krewe of Hunters series.
I’ve worked with the Krewe of Hunters for a while now and we’ve reached that scary place where I want them to be real! Years ago, in a book called HAUNTED, I introduced a character named Adam Harrison. A very wealthy man, he was always kind and a philanthropist and also friendly with many important dignitaries. He began to find people like his son to investigate when strange things were happening. Eventually, he joined with the powers that be at the FBI to provide his people with training and all the modern tech needed. The Krewe come from different vocations, all adding something to their special talent—basically, the ability at times to see the dead.