By Julie Kramer
Are two imaginations better than one?
For outsiders, the process of co-authoring a book seems quite mysterious, but in this interview, New York Times bestselling thriller author James Rollins and acclaimed historical novelist Rebecca Cantrell explain the mechanics of how their writing partnership works five thousand miles apart. Their nuts and bolts answers about sharing the chores and credit of crafting their thriller, THE BLOOD GOSPEL, will intrigue readers and writers.
THE BLOOD GOSPEL combines two popular literary themes – the Catholic Church and vampires – and nets this author team raves for their first joint endeavor about the hunt for a miraculous and forbidden book. As SUSPENSE MAGAZINE put it: “It would be a sin not to read it!”
James, THE BLOOD GOSPEL smacks of secrets and the Catholic Church. How is it similar to the DA VINCI CODE and how is it different?
I think any book that touches upon Catholicism and proposes an alternate view of religious history, especially in regard to the life of Christ, is going to be compared to Dan Brown’s book. And while I expect some controversy to be raised by the central theme of this series, I think Rebecca and I were careful to show all sides. This book is both profane yet also deeply religious—not an easy line to tread. It will be up to the readers themselves to decide how to ultimately cast this book: Is it blasphemous or devout?
Rebecca, you’re best known for your Hannah Vogel series, how did your partnership with James Rollins come about? Whose idea was it for this series?
Jim had the idea, some pages, and a rough outline when he approached me. I met him at the Maui Writers Conference a couple of years before, and we’d kept in touch via email and at various conferences (like Thrillerfest) since. So, he called me up and said he had this great idea for a book and asked if I was interested.
When I asked what it was about, he said it was confidential, and he couldn’t really tell me. After I asked if he could answer yes or no questions he just caved and told me about a sect of vampires who live as priests hidden within the Catholic Church and subsist on transubstantiated wine. I was pretty much sold right there, because the idea was too cool to resist.
Wendy Corsi Staub is an Extra Terrestrial. She must be. It’s the only explanation. How else can one person publish nearly 80 novels in a 20 years span? There must be some other-worldly assistance at work. Or perhaps, just perhaps, she’s one of those rare human beings.
Staub, who’s also written under the pseudonym Wendy Markham, appears to belong to that unusual sub-species whose thoughts seem to roll out of her imagination and onto the page like water. She’s currently emerging from what she calls, deadline Hell. She’s just completed back to back releases, two books as part of a trilogy.
Let’s face it, Hell for most authors would be tantamount to sneezing a pumpkin through their left nostril by squeezing out one, perhaps two novels per year. But not for Wendy. For Wendy, skirting the white hot coals of Hell is touring for the release of two novels, NIGHTWATCHER and SLEEPWALKER with a the third in the trilogy, SHADOWKILLER, on sale in January, while delivering a new manuscript to her editor, which will kick off a new trilogy with Harper, launching later in 2013. In case you’ve lost count, that’s two book releases and a deadline for a third, all within a month.
For a reader of mysteries and thrillers, the word brings instant and enthusiastic recognition for the celebrated novels of John Sandford. Beginning with RULES OF PREY in 1989, he introduced a series that now spans twenty-two novels featuring charismatic and tough-minded investigator Lucas Davenport.From the beginning, the series proved to be a hit with readers. That same year, he published the successful Kidd series under his real name, John Camp.
As a former columnist and Pulitzer-winning journalist, Camp made a seamless transition to writing fiction at a brisk pace. In 2007, he took Virgil Flowers, a popular supporting character in some of the Prey novels, including Invisible Prey and Storm Prey, and made him a protagonist in DARK OF THE MOON. Breezy yet complex, Flowers is a top-notch agent for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension who often works the southern part of the state. The new series found extraordinary support among his legion of passionate fans, resulting in last year’s #1 NEW YORK TIMES bestselling novel, SHOCK WAVE.
In Sandford’s latest novel, MAD RIVER, Virgil Flowers is called on to investigate a brutal crime spree that terrorizes rural Minnesota. In a series of reckless crimes, teenagers Jimmy Sharp, Becky Welsh, and Tom McCall manage to elude arrest, much to Flowers’ growing frustration.Set for an October 2nd, 2012 release from Putnam’s, MAD RIVER is a spirited novel that once again showcases Sandford’s distinctive and unflinching style. He consulted with author and columnist Joe Soucheray, a peer from his former days as a journalist, to create a powerful story that remains gripping until the concluding page.
By Julie Kramer
Jamie Freveletti – a trial attorney turned author – is the ultimate International Thriller Writers’ success story. She found an agent for her debut at Thrillerfest and went on to win the Thriller Award for Best First Novel.
This month she unveils a Robert Ludlum sequel, THE JANUS REPRISAL, which Kirkus said, “turbocharges tension to nonstop levels.”
Next month, DEAD ASLEEP, fourth in her series with biochemist/ultra marathoner Emma Caldridge hits bookshelves.
The Big Thrill had questions about how Freveletti changed careers, what it’s like writing a new adventure for a hero someone else invented, and disputing the myth that men don’t want to read action thrillers written by women.
By Julie Kramer
LOVE IS MURDER says it all. Story after story. Romantic suspense is the theme of the latest International Thriller Writers anthology.
Sandra Brown, author of more than sixty New York Times bestselling novels, immediately accepted the task of editing the short story collection even though she’s never written a short story herself.
“The challenge of writing a short story is so daunting to me,” she said. “I’d rather write a
full-length novel than even attempt a short story because a good one requires a particular talent that, sadly, I don’t have. That’s why I was so impressed by the cleverness of the stories.”
The book’s appeal is also that Brown shares her gut reaction to each narrative’s mechanics and passion, heightening readers’ expectations story-by-story.
“These writers knew what they were doing,” she said. “Each is different. Some are poignant, others scary. Some focus on high octane action, while others are shatteringly emotional or psychologically terrifying. Reading them for the first time, I was truly, jaw-droppingly amazed by the variety of talent.”
Brown says the allure of romantic suspense as a genre comes because it crosses over so many other genres — mystery, thrillers, even science fiction. “Diehard readers of those genres find all the elements they expect and favor, plus the love story angle. The romance adds spice, certainly, but it also raises the stakes for the protagonists. Love is a dramatic and powerful motivator that can instill in a character strong emotions like rage, bravery, despair, all of which makes for great storytelling.”
Laura Caldwell embodies the American dream. Simply stated, she’s an amazing person who’s led a diversified and successful life. Published in over twenty-five countries, her novels have been translated into more than fourteen languages. In her other job, she’s a Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Loyola University Chicago School of Law.
Born in Chicago, Caldwell was raised in Crystal Lake and Woodstock, Illinois. She attended the University of Iowa and graduated with Phi Beta Kappa honors. After receiving her law degree from Loyola Law School, she traveled with two girlfriends to Italy and Greece. She didn’t know it at the time, but her overseas experience planted a seed. Caldwell then embarked on a successful career practicing law and became a partner in a downtown Chicago law firm where she specialized in medical malpractice and entertainment law.
But Caldwell felt a calling elsewhere, toward a more creative career. Her vacation in Europe had inspired an idea that wouldn’t go away. She had a story to tell and began taking writing classes. Using what little spare time she had, Caldwell wrote at night. Keep in mind this was her first attempt at writing a novel. Driven by an ever growing desire to finish the book, she took a risky sabbatical from her law practice and pushed hard to complete it.
By Brett King
J.T. Ellison fooled me.
I’ve always been impressed with the rich psychological themes in her novels and the complexity of her characters, but it goes beyond that. Her knowledge of psychology is real and insightful. I knew she had been a former White House staffer and a financial analyst, but I was convinced she’d made a serious study of psychology somewhere in her background.
“I loved psychology, and did take a few classes,” she told me. “At the time, I think it was lost on me, but as I’ve grown older, I’ve returned to it.”
No doubt about it. In fact, J.T.’s understanding of human nature is on brilliant display in her latest novel, A DEEPER DARKNESS, scheduled for release on April 17th. It represents an exciting step in J.T.’s writing career, one Publishers Weekly calls, “a scintillating first in a new forensic series.”
Beginning with her debut novel in 2007, J.T. has written seven books in her critically acclaimed Taylor Jackson series and her work has been published in 21 countries. The new series features Dr. Samantha Owens, a forensic pathologist and the Chief Medical Examiner for the state of Tennessee. Like her friend, Nashville homicide lieutenant Taylor Jackson, Sam is a strong female protagonist.
Sam is drawn back into her past when she learns about the death of a former boyfriend, an ex-Ranger named Eddie Donovan.Still reeling from a tragedy that claimed her husband and young children, Sam travels to Washington, DC, to conduct a second autopsy on Eddie.Facing her own obsessive-compulsive tendencies, she is compelled to explore the questionable circumstances surrounding his death, a brutal carjacking at the Navy Shipyard. It’s a classic J.T. Ellison novel, a masterful blend of riveting suspense,painstaking research, and vivid characters. As NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Jeff Abbot adds, “A DEEPER DARKNESS is not only a compelling thriller but a multilayered meditation on grief and loss.”
See? I’m not the only one who recognizes her talent for psychology.
By Julie Kramer
Besides being the world’s best-selling author, James Patterson delights in cultural cameos – whether playing poker with television crime author Richard Castle, appearing as Marge’s secret crush on the Simpsons, or simply being the answer to a JEOPARDY! question.
Patterson still gets a kick when he sees people reading his books in public and doesn’t mind when they stop to gush over him: “Yeah, I get recognized a lot, especially in airports.”
That’s no surprise because his author photo is on more book covers than any other writer. PRIVATE GAMES just came out last month and went straight to the top of the best seller lists. GUILTY WIVES will be released in a matter of weeks. Patterson is even listed in the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS for the most NEW YORK TIMES bestsellers.
His triumph can be partly attributed to being so prolific. While many authors take a year or even a lifetime, to write a book, Patterson can publish nine a year, by using co-authors for some of his stories. While ghost writers have always played a role in publishing, Patterson had no qualms about giving his colleagues equal billing on the cover. Some, Andrew Gross and Peter de Jonge, have used the visibility their collaboration brought to successfully go it alone.
By Brett King
There was a time when the face of crime fiction was a hardscrabble detective—a loner, usually—who solved crime after crime on a shoestring budget and a diet of black coffee, whiskey, and cigarettes. Hardboiled fiction was born during the Jazz Era and came of age during the Great Depression when iconic characters such as Sam Spade, The Continental Op, and Philip Marlowe enthralled readers of pulp magazines like Black Mask and Dime Detective.
Almost a century later, the legacy of hardboiled fiction is very much alive in the work of Reed Farrel Coleman. As a student at Brooklyn College, he discovered his calling during a night class in detective fiction, studying grandmasters like Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. Since that time, Reed has published fourteen books including two stand-alones and three series. His novels have made an impact. National Public Radio’s Maureen Corrigan called him a “hard-boiled poet”and the Huffington Post has named him a “noir poet laureate.”
“My favorite memory is of the tour of the hospital at Bagram. The dedication of the men and women who work there was readily apparent. They’re optimistic, hopeful, and determined to save lives. Their spirit was inspiring. The ceiling of Warrior’s Way, the emergency bay where the wounded arrive, is draped in an American flag that once flew over Ground Zero. Seeing that put a huge lump in my throat.” – Sandra Brown
I think Sandra’s words perfectly reflect the essence of Operation Thriller II. All of us who flew halfway around the world to thank and acknowledge our service members found it rewarding beyond words and we came home with more than we gave. This is a difficult feature to write because it’s hard to quantify the experience. It’s my sincere hope that as you read this feature, the thoughts and perspectives of Sandra, Clive, Mark, and Kathy will deepen your appreciation of our troops serving in harm’s way.
by Brett King
It began as an alliance. When International Thriller Writers was formed in 2004, its promise rested on bringing together established novelists with emerging writers. As part of its brisk legacy, ITW has championed the work of new authors, a dedication that shines in the breakthrough publication, First Thrills: High-Octane Stories from the Hottest Thriller Authors. Forge Books released the critically acclaimed anthology for the first time in paperback on May 24, 2011.
Under the careful editorship of New York Times bestselling author Lee Child, First Thrills brings together original short stories crafted by seasoned authors to help showcase work from debut authors. “The idea was to sprinkle some major attractions in the shop window, to draw your eye,” Child notes about the participation of bestselling authors. “[They] all contributed stories—free, gratis, and for nothing, simply because they remembered their debut years and didn’t want to stand by idle. Among them, they sell many millions of books a year, and we think they brighten up the shop window enormously.”
This month, it’s my honor to feature one of the supernatural thriller genre’s most interesting personalities, F. Paul Wilson. I’m not only a huge fan, I consider Paul a friend. At various conferences around the country, we’ve been on panels together and closed bars after hours. One of Paul’s most admirable traits is his protectiveness of his family and personal life. During this interview I made a valiant attempt to break in, but he held firm and the firewall stayed up! Paul might claim all that private stuff is boring anyway, but trust me, there’s nothing boring or dull about this amazingly talented writer. And you won’t find a kinder pro in the business. And if anyone’s curious, the F stands for Francis.
Between The Lines has featured many interesting authors over the years, but none of them ever drove an ice cream truck or sold vacuum cleaners door-to-door. Those early jobs didn’t pan out—our featured author ate his profit margin and never sold a single vacuum.
William Bernhardt was born in Oklahoma City and raised in a small suburb not far away. The heartland of America is rich with tradition and heritage and has produced some of our nation’s greatest artists and authors. Bill Bernhardt is no exception. His 29 titles have been translated into two dozen languages worldwide and his sales have topped 10 million books.
To give you a visual; if you laid 10 million books end-to-end, the line would stretch approximately 1,320 miles. It just so happens that’s the same distance from Bill’s birth place to the heart of the publishing industry, New York City. So the next time he flies from Oklahoma City to the Big Apple, he can visualize a continuous line of William Bernhardt books paving the way. And the line grows longer every day.
ITW’s international membership is far-reaching and expanding. A few issues back, Between The Lines featured Peter James from Great Britain. This month, we’re moving across the English Channel to Germany for a look at Sebastian Fitzek.
One word comes to mind. Maverick: A lone dissenter, intellectual, artist, or politician who takes an independent stand apart from his or her associates. I think this describes Sebastian well. He’s the kind of man who will prove you wrong when you tell him he can’t do something. He lives by the same “risk versus reward” philosophy that Lee Child does.
In 1971, Sebastian was born in Berlin where he currently resides. He’s happily married to Sandra, an amazing and kind lady who’s recently given birth (10-10-10) to their daughter, Charlotte. His dog, two rabbits, and horse make up the rest of his immediate family.
Is it difficult being a television reporter? Demanding? Stressful? Without a doubt. But those aspects of the job have never discouraged Hank Phillippi Ryan. In fact, she’s won 26 Emmys and 12 Edward R. Murrow awards to prove the point. She’s also received dozens of regional, national, and international awards for her unique style of “hard hitting investigative reporting.” There isn’t enough room in this feature to list them all.
Just as the FBI has adopted the words, Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity, Hank could adopt the words, Poise, Courage, and Commitment. She has all of these qualities and more. For three decades, her profession has been to investigate high profile news stories and then report the findings on television. Hank is also on call for live breaking news as it occurs, even at 3am.
As you read this interview, you’ll discover being a TV investigative reporter isn’t all roses—far from it. Some live shoots are inherently dangerous. You don’t have to be embedded with combat troops to be at risk. News reporters tend to follow the most spectacular events and Hank has reported from many hazardous situations. One of the interview answers below lists some of her more harrowing moments.
What is a thriller? And why are they so popular right now? I think it’s fair to say Christopher Reich has a handle on the answers. His eight titles have been translated into
20 languages with total sales approaching three million copies worldwide. Christopher also has the amazing distinction of reaching the New York Times bestseller list with his debut novel! NUMBERED ACCOUNT opened at #13 and stayed on “the list” for six weeks, peaking at #9. To date, over one million copies of NUMBERED ACCOUNT have been sold.
As you read the following interview, you’ll get a deeper look at the man behind these incredible espionage thrillers and some of the forces that shaped his life.
If the soul of a volunteer is golden, then Karen Dionne is worth millions. Simply stated, you’d have to look hard to find a more dedicated and hardworking author who is more generous with her time.
Not everyone featured in ITW’s Between the Lines interview needs to be a megastar. Karen doesn’t have millions of books in print and her work has been translated into just two, and not dozens of languages. She’s a charter ITW Debut Author–class of 2008-2009. But her debut status is about to change. Her second environmental thriller from Berkley, BOILING POINT, will publish in January 2011.
Who is the man with the infectious smile, charming personality, and overflowing generosity? The answer can be found within ourselves. Ridley Pearson represents the best humanity has to offer. His love of life and the intricate balance it seeks is plainly evident in the stories he crafts.
Although he’s quite modest about it, Ridley Pearson is a household name in more than 70 countries. With over 12 million copies sold worldwide, his 38-plus books have been translated into 22 languages.
Ridley’s novels resonate with his readers because there’s passion behind the words. Simply stated, he loves to tell stories. If he’d lived 15,000 years ago, he would’ve been the hunter sitting at the campfire recalling the day’s hunt to a captive audience.
In this month’s feature is one of England’s favorite sons. Representing the “I” in ITW, is Peter James. Peter is a Brighton born author, screenwriter, and film producer. His latest novel DEAD LIKE YOU went straight to the #1 slot on the Sunday Times Bestseller list–and hit #1 on all the other UK fiction bestseller lists as well. That’s a good trick. He even beat “The Man,” James Patterson who had to settle for the #2 slot. Sorry Jim, but he got you!
Peter’s books have been translated into 33 languages with an estimated total sales of 20 million copies worldwide. He receives fan mail from virtually every country on the planet–with one common question: When is the next Roy Grace novel coming out?
As a board member with the title of Vice President of International Affairs, Peter is heavily involved with ITW. He oversees six different sub-chairs, each representing a different area of the world. As ITW continues to encourage and promote international authors, Peter is at the forefront of that effort.
This month it’s my pleasure to feature one of the industry’s most amazing talents–Heather Graham. She’s classy, multi-talented, prolific, and endearing. The list of compliments could on and on. Loyal. Hard-working. Generous. Dare I say–beautiful?
Yes, I’ll make that statement: Heather Graham is beautiful!
I first met Heather at the 2008 ThrillerFest. I’d read many of her books, but to discover the person behind the pages was so charming and personable, took me by surprise. After all, Heather has written over 150 novels and novellas, has 75 million books in print, and her stories have been translated into 25 different languages. Yet she talked to me as a peer. Now admittedly, I’m a small fish in a big pond–I have no illusions about it–but at that moment in time, it sure didn’t feel like it.
Later that night when I met her husband, Dennis, the feeling returned. They’re both down-to-Earth, genuine people who share a profound love of the profession. What impressed me the most was how approachable they are at conferences. Heather goes out of her way to interact with fans and authors alike. She even hangs with Joe Konrath, but we won’t hold that against her!
One of the nice things about being an editor for ITW is featuring some of the publishing industry’s biggest names, and Janet Evanovich is no exception. Her Stephanie Plum books have been translated into 27 languages and distributed to at least three times that many countries. How many of us could even name that many languages? Janet’s not sure how many books have been sold, but it’s somewhere between 70 and 100 million!
I’ll try to put that in perspective. Let’s average the two numbers and use 85 million for the tally. Let’s also assume the average reader needs around 24 hours to read one of her books. Some people will read faster, others slower, but 24 hours sounds about right. Doing the math produces a truly astonishing number. I ran the calculation twice to be sure I had it right.
With 85,000,000 books sold, Janet Evanovich has (cumulatively) provided the world’s readers with 9,703 years entertainment! That’s a boatload of time. 97 centuries ago, wooly mammoths were still roaming North America. And no, Janet wasn’t around back then!
Jack Reacher. Men want to be him. Women want to have his children. What is it about this tall, unassuming, street-smart man, with an atomic clock in his head who wanders the countryside looking for adventure? Why are we so fascinated with his unique lifestyle? And what spawned this phenomenon?
The answers are found inside Lee Child’s soul. Reacher isn’t just some random concoction, he’s the result of a lifetime’s worth of experience and influence. Simply stated, Jack Reacher is more real than any of us will ever know.
Lee Child’s legacy is forever secured. Reacher is a household name in more than 51 countries and 36 languages. Reacher is timeless. If he’d lived in the Egyptian era, he would’ve kicked Marc Antony’s butt, seduced Cleopatra, led a slave revolt, and moved on. In medieval times, he would’ve been a sword wielding Crusader fighting injustice against peasants. And in the old west, he would’ve been a nomadic gunslinger who helps a rancher defend his home against murderous cattle rustlers.
Lee’s approach to the Reacher books isn’t complicated. It doesn’t have to be. “For a so-called noir or hard-boiled writer, my books aren’t really very gray. There are good guys and bad guys, and the good guys win–count on it.”