The third time I met Vicki Pettersson, she offered up a confession. Squished in at a small round table in a local coffee shop, she leaned forward conspiratorially and said, “I was so intimidated when first we met. I thought if you were anything like Munroe, you were going to hate me.” I shook my head and tried not to laugh.
This type of reader reaction happens often enough that it became material for a tongue-in-cheek piece about the many traits I share with a quasi-psychotic, knife-wielding, butt-kicking, anti-hero, but I never would have expected it from Vicki. Her stories are just as dark as mine, if not darker, her characters as smart and capable, and her readers often think the same thing about her when they first meet.
Backing up a step: Munroe is shorthand for Vanessa Michael Munroe, a woman in the vein of Jason Bourne, first introduced to Vicki when a bookseller put The Informationist in her hands and told her that in this international thriller was a character that could give her own ruthlessly tough heroines and large-than-life settings a run for their money.
Vicki penned dark fantasy and I wrote real-world blood and guts, but he was right: there was a lot in common between our badass female protags and the worlds in which we placed them.
When Vicki discovered that we were both based out of Dallas, Texas, she shot off an email, asking if I might like to meet for coffee. We’ve since become fast friends, so it’s particularly gratifying that as I celebrate the release of THE MASK (6/30/15) the sixth in the Vanessa Michael Munroe series, Vicki is bringing readers SWERVE (7/7/15) her first mainstream psychological thriller. Serendipitously, we’ll be joint-signing at Murder by the Book, in Houston, Texas, on July 14, coming full circle to the bookstore that first brought us together.
By Alex Gilly
I have French heritage, and though we didn’t live in France, the comic-book “albums” I read were in French. We had hundreds of them at home—Tintin, Asterix, all of Blake and Mortimer. But my favorites, by an unreachable distance, were Blueberry by Charlier and Giraud, and Barbe Rouge—Red Beard—by Charlier and Hubinon.
Both were adventure stories. Blueberry is the nickname of a Union cavalry officer named Donovan, who, after the Civil War, rides into the untamed West, drinks hard, womanizes, plays his trumpet, and fights injustice and cruelty wherever he encounters it—which is pretty much everywhere. Red Beard, meanwhile, commands the three-masted Black Falcon, and has an adopted son, Eric. Together, they roam the 18th Century seas, mostly pirating but occasionally privateering on behalf of the King of France against the rapacious Spanish and duplicitous English.
The arrival of a new Blueberry or Red Beard album was always a momentous occasion for me. I would become utterly absorbed in every new adventure, disappearing from the sometimes airless real world into one in which bracing winds drove beautiful wooden ships across scintillating seas. I was fiercely loyal to my heroes. I needed them in my life, so the knowledge that I could count on them was profoundly reassuring. Blueberry always sided with the good guys. So did Eric, even if it was sometimes only to atone for the sins of his pirate father.
I met Jenny Milchman three years ago when I applied to ITW’s Debut Authors Program. A nervous new author, I was welcomed by this woman with seemingly boundless energy and enthusiasm. I soon learned a few things about Jenny. One, she loves Jack Reacher novels—I mean loves them. Two, she is one of the most talented, kind, and generous authors you’d ever hope to meet.
A little backstory: Jenny’s road to publication was not easy. She struggled for more than a decade—seven unpublished novels—before finally getting her break. Despite it all, including a pile of rejection letters a foot tall, she didn’t grow bitter or jaded or turn her back on the publishing community. Instead, she stuck to it, honed her craft, and stayed positive. She became an influential blogger, created a national holiday in support of booksellers, and was named chairperson of the Debut Authors Program—before her own debut novel was released.
For those who don’t believe in Karma, consider this: A bestselling author took pity on Jenny, read her unpublished manuscript, and loved it so much she shared it with her editor. That manuscript—Cover of Snow—was scooped up by Random House and ultimately won a Mary Higgins Clark award for best first novel. It also had a blurb from none other than Jack Reacher’s creator, Lee Child.
Jenny did not take her success for granted. Rather, she embarked on an unprecedented book tour, packing her family in the car—home schooling her children in the backseat—and traveled the country for months on end promoting her books. She also became Vice President of Author Programs for ITW, a position singularly aimed at helping ITW authors succeed. Through it all, she’s been a wonderful and supportive friend to an untold number of authors, myself included.
Jenny’s highly anticipated third novel, AS NIGHT FALLS, releases this month. It’s about a family in an isolated mountain home who are terrorized by two escaped convicts. If you’ve watched the news the past couple of weeks, you’ve seen that real-world events have conveniently coincided with Jenny’s book launch. Remember what I said about Karma?
Carey Baldwin’s first book, Judgment, the opening volume in her series featuring forensic psychiatrist Caity Cassidy and FBI profiler Atticus “Spense” Spenser, is a finalist for the prestigious Daphne du Maurier Award and the Booksellers Best Award. In addition, Judgment was named “A Best Book of 2014” by Suspense Magazine.
I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy of her new book, FALLEN, and I know readers will love it. Having met Baldwin at Bouchercon in Long Beach last fall, I know that besides being generous and optimistic, she has grit. She’s worked hard for everything she’s achieved in her life and is insanely supportive of other writers. Baldwin was kind enough to answer a few questions about her work and her latest book for The Big Thrill.
How on earth do you juggle writing and working as a fulltime physician and still write two full-length novels in about a year?
I really don’t do it all. People used to ask me that question even before I became an author because I was a single mother throughout medical school and for most of my career as a physician. The simple truth is that some things have to fall by the wayside, but I try to make sure that my family and my patients never do. It’s mostly sleep and housework that get pushed aside for writing. And boy, do I ever hate the fact that I don’t have time for housework—big sacrifice!
Your fourth book, FALLEN, comes out this month. Tell us about it.
Out of all my books to date, I have to say that FALLEN, the second book in my Cassidy & Spenser thriller series, was the most fun to write. It features two characters I’ve grown to love, an FBI profiler, Atticus Spenser, and a forensic psychiatrist, Caitlin Cassidy. This time the former rivals turned partners-in-crime-fighting are on the trail of a madman known as the Fallen Angel Killer. The setting is Hollywood, so for research purposes, I explored every tourist trap in Tinsel Town, took star tours, and I even learned how wax statues are made. The book is a thriller, but it has some good times built in. I hope readers will enjoy it, because I certainly loved writing it.
Acoustic Shadows Inspired by Patrick Kendrick
People have asked how I come up with ideas for my novels and my pat answer is, “I read the newspapers.” While this is not an original concept, with my newest work, ACOUSTIC SHADOWS, one cannot miss the headline-inspired storyline of the novel. It begins with a shooting at an elementary school.
When I was touring and doing signings for my last book, Extended Family, I would do a lecture on “Mass, Spree, and Serial Killers,” accompanied by slides, historical information, and anecdotes about various killers over the years. The lecture pointed out the differences between these types of killers: Mass murderers: one event, one location, multiple victims, usually targeted, meant to be a statement and garner lots of coverage by the media. Spree killers: several events over a few days, multiple locations, multiple victims, sometimes targeted, often random, sometimes making a statement, or a person just going over the edge due to some dramatic event such as a lost job or crumbling marriage. Serial killers: multiple events, multiple victims, typically over years; they want to be recognized for their heinous acts but do not want to be caught, so they are very careful.
When I began doing these lectures in 2012, there were a number of mass killings but they could be counted easily enough. Columbine is one of the first that came to mind, then Virginia Tech. But since 2006, these killings have increased exponentially and there have been some 200 cases or more since then. Currently, they are happening at a pace of about one attack every two weeks. They are always startling accounts of innocent people being slaughtered by someone, typically, with a long history of mental illness, living an isolated, socially inept life. For reference, I would suggest this site, based on the FBI’s current data.
For me, none were as disturbing, as heart wrenching, as the shooting that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Connecticut, a quiet, small town like thousands of suburban towns that exist all across the world. As a paramedic and fire fighter for many years, I have seen my share of disasters, trauma, and human suffering. I could not get over all of those children, so young and innocent, that were slaughtered by another one of these mad men that I often write about in my novels. I could not sleep at night and while I, like most people, wept as I watched the news coverage every night, I could not stop watching it while wondering why does this keep happening and, can it ever be stopped?
Brooklyn native Ronnie Allen worked for the New York City Department of Education for more than thirty years as a classroom teacher, staff developer, crisis intervention specialist, and mentor for teachers who were struggling. Along the way, she saw the horrors inflicted by child abuse on both the victims and society as a whole. She carries through this theme in her novel GEMINI, which also includes intriguing information about holistic healing and alternative therapies, such as Reiki and crystal healing.
Combining a love of the crime genre and her psychology background with her alternative therapies experience, writing psychological thrillers is the perfect venue for Ronnie.
In GEMINI, Barbara Montgomery, school psychologist by day and stripper by night, has an emotional meltdown and is given over to Dr. John Trenton for analysis in a seventy-two hour observation. But as the clock ticks down, her thirst for revenge only grows, until she breaks free and goes on a violent, killing rampage, targeting not only those who caused her to fall into an abusive foster care system, but everyone who stands between her and her revenge, including the NYPD, as well as Dr. Trenton … and his wife and the adoptive son they only recently rescued from the foster system.
Action, murder, sex, and healing all await you in GEMINI.
Here’s what Ronnie Allen had to say about her book in a recent interview.
What was the catalyzing event or idea that caused you to write GEMINI?
Well, I’m a NYC gal transplanted to rural central Florida. We’re here seven years. In 2011, I was bored. I missed the energy and fast pace of the city. I’ve been writing since the seventies. First in film and TV, not produced, but my screenplays were always in the crime genre. Then in the ’90s, I began my journey into holistic healing and I was published in a few professional journals. I was thinking about what I should do to occupy my mind. I was thinking about writing a novel and this was the time. I told my my friends at Mahjongg that I was going to write a novel and their reaction was like everyone else’s, “yeah right.” Well chapter by chapter everyone asked me, “What are you up to?” At the pool, this was daily. In all honesty, with people questioning and doubting, I was more motivated. I will always beat out anyone who says, “You can’t.”
In a split second, Jenna Gray’s world descends into a nightmare. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of a cruel November night that changed her life forever.
Slowly, Jenna begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating . . .
I Let You Go is a Richard & Judy Book Club summer read, one of eight titles chosen by the celebrity couple. I Let You Go has been acquired by Penguin USA imprint Berkley, and will publish in the U.S. and Canada in May 2016.
“A terrific, compelling read with an astonishing twist that floored me. I loved it and did not want it to end.” ~Peter James
“A hugely assured and gripping debut and a twist that made me green with envy.” ~Mark Billingham
FAMILY MATTERS is like early episodes of the TV drama Dallas. The plot is fueled by rivalry, jealously, greed, and, ultimately, murder. The setting is a stuffy New England town with an economic cast system. It is replete with good guys and bad guys.
In the novel, the first Adam Kingston builds a clothing manufacturing company from scratch. In his sixties, sick and depressed, he commits suicide and his son takes over the business. Adam II continues to build Kingston Industries until his reckless life style results in dementia. The courts turn control of the estate and business over to his son while his son Adam Kingston III ruthlessly operates the business.
The destinies of five townspeople in the quiet community of Old Pebscott, Connecticut, are transformed as they deal with the Kingstons. The interplay between Adam Kingston III and the townspeople provides a fast-moving drama as each of the main characters vies for position.
The reader is exposed to a myriad of emotions moving in and out of the character’s lives. Each has a good reason to hate the Kingstons, but only one of them hires an assassin to kill Adam III and his father and burn Kingston Manor to the ground. The novel ends with a fast-paced sequence of events that leaves the town of Old Pebscott reeling.
One year after the 9/11 attacks, Alex Vane—a brilliant, carb-obsessed reporter for The New York Standard—wants nothing more than to break into the flashy world of TV news. But when he stumbles on the scoop of a lifetime, Alex’s tightly controlled world is rocked: his editor buries his story, a source turns up dead, and he finds himself at the center of a violent media conspiracy.
Alex enlists the help Camila Gray—a captivating media professor—as he receives a series of tips from a mysterious anonymous source. Aided by an Internet genius, a billionaire’s sexy widow, and a washed-up sports reporter, Alex and Camila uncover a $500-million secret that could derail the largest corporate media merger in history.
It’s a secret that unearths dark memories from Alex’s past. It’s a secret that leads them back to the morning of 9/11. And it’s a secret that could get them both killed.
“The Anonymous Source evokes comparisons to John Grisham’s finest—The Firm and The Pelican Brief…with a touch of All The President’s Men…A high stakes, explosive debut novel from a talented new writer sure to do damage to the best-seller lists.”
~Robert Dugoni, #1 Amazon and New York Times Bestselling Author of My Sister’s Grave
The famous Reeperbahn in Hamburg, Germany. A young prostitute is found dead. It quickly becomes clear she has been brutally murdered. The police is not really interested in the case – but her best friend is. She partners with a cop who has not much to lose anymore. The next 48 hours become the most dangerous of her life. They uncover a crazy financial/political crime. Meet weird BDSM fanatics. And almost pay for all of this with their lives.
A brutal, fast paced debut thriller – set in the world famous harbor city of Hamburg. The first in a series featuring prostitute Michelle Müller and policeman Paul Hinnerken.
Svea Tornow studied American and Psychology. She worked on three continents, among others for an international fashion label and currently for a media company. She knows Hamburg from her time at university in all its facets, from Reeperbahn to City Hall.
Carla Norton’s crime fiction series began with The Edge of Normal, which won the FWA Royal Palm Literary Award for Best Unpublished Mystery in 2012, was internationally released in 2013, and was a Thriller Award finalist for Best First Novel in 2014. The sequel, titled What Doesn’t Kill Her in the US and Hunted in the UK, is being released the end of June.
Carla has also written true crime. Most notably, she co-authored Perfect Victim, about a shocking case of kidnapping and captivity. The book was put on the reading list for the FBI’s Behavioral Sciences Unit and became a #1 New York Times bestseller. “That case gave me nightmares,” she says.
Now Carla morphs those disturbing facts into fiction. Her critically acclaimed series features a survivor of captivity who is called upon to help others and ends up matching wits with deadly predators. The protagonist, named Reeve LeClaire (aka “Edgy Reggie”), is introduced as a 22-year-old in The Edge of Normal and is a year older in the sequel. Bestselling author J.T. Ellison says she’s “a brilliant heroine who takes recovery to a whole new level.”
The series is earning high praise from critics and crime writers alike. The Daily Mail calls Carla’s writing style “Hitchcock-like.” Booklist gives both books starred reviews, calling the latest a “high-octane sequel” and “a nonstop thriller.”
The first book was set in northern California, but the sequel is set mainly in Washington State. “I grew up in California, but lived in Seattle while finishing my MFA,” Carla says. “There was a creepy house in the neighborhood with an overgrown yard and ‘No Trespassing’ signs everywhere. It seemed perfect for a villain’s lair.”
When computer hacker Tucker is told that a dead man is lying outside his Boston home, he’s shocked to discover that the body looks just like his father . . . who died fifteen years ago. Tucker soon learns the terrible truth: the dead man is a half-brother he never knew he had. Determined to find answers, Tucker tracks down his father’s second family.
But Tucker’s first impressions of his long-lost relatives are spoiled when dark family secrets begin to emerge. Unresolved issues torment Tucker while he struggles to discover his place among his newfound kin. As he digs deeper into the murder and the family’s hidden life, Tucker becomes trapped in a dangerous scheme, and there may be no way out.
Author requests the following be included “Compulsively readable . . . Against a meticulously detailed Boston background, the likable but undisciplined Tucker lurches from one crisis to the next.”—PUBLISHERS WEEKLY (STARRED REVIEW)
When successful meteorologist Mason Griers is recruited to consult for a mysterious environmental firm, it’s the perfect chance to put his lifetime obsession with violent weather to practical use. Solstice Inc. promises a new technology that can accurately predict, and possibly control, catastrophic weather events around the world. Too late however, Mason learns that Solstice is made up of high ranking and powerful Druids, and he’s become an unwitting tool in the firm’s dark plot that could remake the world on a scale not seen since the last great extinction.
“Sakmyster spins a thrilling tale of action, intrigue, and the occult. You’ll keep turning pages late into the night!” ~David Wood, author of Atlantis
When Kit Doyle’s near-perfect mother tells her about the letter she’s written and locked away – a letter to be read only ‘if anything should happen’ to her – Kit thinks she’s being melodramatic. But the next day Kit’s mother is dead – and what she reads in that letter will change Kit’s life forever.
Armed with nothing but the secret letter, a tight-lipped father, and some good friends at the radio station where she works, Kit sets out to learn the truth about the shady past her mother has kept hidden for so many years.
But when a dead body turns up, Kit realizes that at least one person is determined to stop her.
2014: Police Capitaine Inés Picaut is called out to investigate a blaze in the old town of Orléans, the fourth in six weeks: and the first with a body in the fire. An Islamic extremist faction claims responsibility, but PIcaut cannot find any evidence of its existence. A partly melted memory card found in the victim’s throat is the only clue to his identity.
September 1429: Joan of Arc is in the process of turning the tide of The Hundred Years’ War. English troops have Orléans under siege, and Tomas Rustbeard, the Duke of Bedford’s most accomplished agent, finally has her in his sights. But he knows that killing ‘The Maid’ – the apparently illiterate peasant girl who nonetheless has an unmatched sense of military strategy and can ride a warhorse in battle – is not enough, he must destroy the legend that has already grown around her – and to do that, he must get close enough to discover who she really is.
As each thread of Manda Scott’s immaculately interwoven narrative unfolds, Inés and Tomas’s quests become linked across the centuries. And in their pursuit of the truth, they find that love is as enduring as myth – but can lead to the greatest and most heart-breaking of sacrifices.
Lawyer-cum-novelist Robert Rotstein was a member of the first generation that grew up watching television—he preferred legal dramas—which cemented his career path.
“At an early age, I became hooked on legal dramas—certainly Perry Mason, which was more mystery than legal drama, but also on more serious shows like The Defenders and lesser known shows like Judd for the Defense, The Young Lawyers, and The Trials of O’Brien—lawyers doing justice. Television then, as the multiple forms of media now, can definitely influence the impressionable young mind,” said Rotstein, author of THE BOMB MAKER’S SON, the latest novel in his Parker Stern series.
Further, Rotstein grew up in Culver City, CA, which was then the home of MGM Studios (now Sony Pictures) and the town he considers the TRUE Hollywood.
“The city’s motto is ‘The Heart of Screenland.’ Sometimes I think I learned to write fiction by civic osmosis!” he quipped.
Rotstein grew up in the politically-charged 1970s. He earned his undergraduate degree in political science at the University of California Los Angeles, graduating summa cum laude in 1973. In 1976, he earned his juris doctorate from the UCLA School of Law. A practicing attorney for thirty-nine years, Rotstein is a partner in the law firm of Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP in L.A., which has a strong presence in the motion picture, music, and video game industries.
“(It’s) been in existence for one-hundred-eight years and—no—I wasn’t there at the beginning,” Rotstein said, tongue-in-cheek.
By Tim O’Mara
John Farrow (pen name of author/playwright Trevor Ferguson) lives in Hudson, Ontario. I live in New York City. This makes him my first interviewee for The Big Thrill I’ve not had the opportunity to meet face to face. But, as chance would have it, it looks like that’s going to change soon. New York City’s only remaining independent mystery bookstore, The Mysterious Bookshop will be hosting the launch of John’s latest Emile Cinq-Mars mystery, THE STORM MURDERS, on June 3rd. (“I am exceedingly grateful,” said John.)
“Gotta love independent bookstores! My dream is to see them flourish once again. Some of these brick and mortar establishments may be coffee and books, or gifts and books, but to have people in stores sharing recommendations and joys—that’s priceless. I’d also like to give a shout out to The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, Arizona, and one of my long time favourites, The Owl and the Turtle in Camden, Maine.”
(The red spell check line is telling me to change the way John spelled the word “favourite.” I’m leaving it; he’s from Canada.)
One thing that fascinates me about John is that in addition to being the author of eleven novels, he’s also written four well-received plays. What’s the connection?
“Writing plays helped me to advance the use of dialogue in my novels. You can’t just allow two actors to stand on a stage and talk without something being at stake. Two people talk, and that conversation is driven and underscored by ego and insecurities and by competing agendas, but at its core the necessary contest is between the known and the unknown: which also happens to be the pulse of crime fiction. Characters fear what remains a mystery, and what remains unknown undermines their conviction in their own knowledge. That tension cuts through what people say to each other, and in this way all talk is a contest, a way of soliciting and procuring knowledge—and concealing it—which in turn creates more anxiety over what remains a mystery. God I love dialogue!”
A serial killer is not just on the loose, he’s been killing for decades but laying low. Until now. When the mutilated corpses of women start cropping up along the interstate, FBI Special Agent Sharon Ormsby jumps into the investigation. Unraveling clues that the killer is a trucker prowling the nation’s highways, Ormsby goes undercover to smoke out the monster. But this fiendish killer is not only secretive, he’s diabolically clever and he soon learns that he’s being hunted. So he lays a trap with Ormsby as his prey. The story lurches from one grisly crime scene to another before accelerating into a white-knuckle ride that careens over the pages to a horrific end.
Eric Red, author of WHITE KNUCKLE, recently answered a few questions for The Big Thrill.
This book is so different in tone and setting than your previous title about werewolves in the Old West. What brought you to this story?
The idea for the book came when my wife and I drove across America a few years ago and saw all those countless tractor-trailers driving those thousands of miles of interstate. If one of those big rigs was a serial-killer truck driver, I wondered, how would you know, how would law enforcement track him down? There are literally millions of trucks on the U.S. highways and it would be like finding a needle in haystack. That sounded like a solid mystery idea fraught with thriller possibilities. The notion of a serial-killer interstate truck driver is relatable because we all know what it feels like to drive on the highway and that shiver of fear we feel when a tractor-trailer eighteen-wheeler hurtles by a little too close. It taps into a universal fear.
By Jeremy Burns
From the novel that inspired recent Hollywood blockbuster Paranoia to the best-selling Nick Heller series, thriller legend Joseph Finder has been captivating readers for decades. But with his latest book, the author tells his most personal tale yet as a son’s quest to understand his incapacitated father leads him to a shocking discovery embroiled in political corruption and underworld conspiracies. Finder sat down with The Big Thrill to give readers a glimpse behind the curtain of his latest project, along with some fascinating information about the author himself.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am lucky enough to be able to make things up for a living. I’ve written thirteen books, twelve of them novels, and ten of them standalones. I studied Russian politics and history in college, then went to grad school in Russian studies and taught for a while before I wrote and then sold my first novel, The Moscow Club. Since then I’ve been a full-time novelist. I live in Boston with my wife, our daughter (well, sometimes—she’s in college) and our dog.
Tell us about your new book, THE FIXER.
THE FIXER is in many ways my most personal book. It’s a standalone story about fathers and sons, written in the wake of my own father’s death. It’s about a man’s discovery of the person his father really was, of the extraordinary things we find out about the people we thought we knew. The story starts with Rick Hoffman, a magazine journalist who finds himself out of a job and in desperate financial straits discovering, hidden in the walls of the old family house where he’s forced to live, millions of dollars. The only person who knows where all that money came from is his father, Lenny—a stroke victim in a nursing home unable to communicate. As Rick investigates, he finds he’s stumbled upon a conspiracy decades old and some very powerful people who don’t want the truth to come out.
By Jeff Ayers
NIGHT TREMORS is Matt Coyle’s second novel in the Rick Cahill series. His first novel in the series, YESTERDAY’S ECHO, took home the Anthony Award for Best First Novel, San Diego Book Award for Best Published Mystery, and the prestigious Benjamin Franklin Silver Award.
The follow-up promises as much if not more: Nightmares of the man he killed two years ago still chase Rick Cahill through his sleep. Memories of his murdered wife haunt him during waking hours. When an old nemesis asks for his help to free a man from prison wrongly convicted of murder, Rick grabs at the chance to turn his life around. His quest fractures his friendship with his mentor, endangers his steady job, and draws the ire of the Police Chief who had tried to put Rick behind bars forever. With the police on one side of the law and a vicious biker gang on the other—all trying to stop him from freeing the man in prison—Rick risks his life to uncover the truth that only the real killer knows. What really happened one bloody night eight years earlier?
Coyle took a few minutes out to chat with The Big Thrill.
Who is Rick Cahill?
Rick is a disgraced ex-cop who many years after his wife’s murder is still the main suspect. At the beginning of NIGHT TREMORS he’s working the adultery detail, taking photos of people doing what they shouldn’t, for a successful La Jolla private investigative agency. He’s made decisions and taken actions in his life that have had horrible consequences. Yet, he still lives by the code handed down to him by his late father: Sometimes you have to do what’s right even when the law says it’s wrong.
By Dan Levy
You know the feeling. When you lose a credit card, or your driver’s license, or find a charge on your bank statement that you don’t recognize, you feel exposed and vulnerable. You find yourself wondering: How exposed am I? What damage has been already been done? What damage is yet to come?
Governments and militaries are no different. Yes, they take greater precautions to protect their cyber interests, but it’s because the world (in many cases) is at stake. Today, the Internet is the new battleground, cyberwarfare the new fight, and computer code the new weapon. The shift in conflict also inspired a series of CODE novels by author Thomas Waite. We caught up with Waite as his latest novel, TRIDENT CODE (the second in the series), is set to debut. Below is our email interview with Waite (edited for length).
Growing up in Ipswich, along with your educational background, certainly gave you a great foundation to pursue a writing career. It seems that you took a respite from writing for pursuits in technology. What brought you back to writing?
In college, I poured my heart and soul into my creative writing courses. After graduation, I needed a job and my career in the technology sector was not at all calculated. But writing was a constant, at first ghost writing for others, and later under my own byline. If you read much of what I published in the Harvard Business Review, it is really storytelling. That can be as powerful in the business world as it is in literature. After building and selling a firm, I returned to my first love and started writing novels. And I love it!
What is it about computer code that is thrilling to you and makes it central to your novels?
With the advent of the Internet and much more sophisticated technologies, I recognized that cyberspace would become the next domain of terrorism and criminals with codes could wreak serious harm.
In Mason Cross’s new release, THE KILLING SEASON, the FBI calls upon Carter Blake, a modern high-tech bounty hunter, to track down Caleb Wardell, a serial-killer sniper who escaped during a botched prison transfer. Blake is teamed with veteran FBI agent Elaine Banner, and together they close upon Wardell, only to watch him slip away time and time again. The more Blake learns about the suspect, the more he’s convinced that the homicidal fugitive is acting on an agenda more sinister than simple murder. Worse, Carter and Banner discover too late that Wardell is actually at the center of monstrous conspiracy that could tear the country apart.
Sounds thrilling, right? I caught up with Cross for this month’s The Big Thrill, to talk to him about his hero, Carter Blake, and the inspiration behind his hot new release.
I commend you for deftly articulating a story with a lot of moving parts. You braided several subplots into a compelling and integrated whole. A challenge in any book is avoiding a soggy middle, and in a thriller there’s the danger that the various plot lines can veer out of control. How did you manage to keep so much story not only coherent, but moving forward with compelling momentum?
I started out with quite a simple narrative spine and ended up layering on a lot of subplots, plot twists, and character beats. Some of that was by design, some of it just grew out of the writing process. I’m really glad it seems well-integrated, because it took a lot of rewriting to streamline what ended up being quite a convoluted first draft into a reasonably coherent whole.
UGLY YOUNG THING brings readers back to the town of Grand Trespass, Louisiana where sixteen-year-old Allie is trying to piece her life back together after the death of her mother and only brother.
When the book opens, we meet Allie, a traumatized young girl forced to rely on her looks to survive. All she has left of her family are horrible memories from her traumatic upbringing, and disgrace from the infamy that now accompanies her name. That’s what happens when your mother and brother are both murderers, and you live in a small town.
Allie gets a break when a kindly older woman takes her in as a foster child. But is her new situation too good to be true, or does her new family have ulterior motives? This is a book that will keep you guessing right up until the shocking ending.
The Big Thrill caught up with author Jennifer James to talk about her new release.
You do a wonderful job portraying Allie as a sympathetic character despite her hard exterior. Was she a character that came to you fully formed, or did she take a while to develop?
Allie came to me fully formed. In fact, I’m a little surprised that I didn’t make her a bigger character in my first thriller, Never Smile at Strangers, where she first appeared. Although she was only a supporting character in the first book, she was very important to the overall story.
By E. M. Powell
As a reader, how do you know you’re in for a treat before you even open the book at page one? A quick answer would be to say that it’s written by Heather Graham. Graham is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than one hundred books, boasting a career that has garnered her numerous awards.
My treat this month was THE DEAD PLAY ON, which is the third book in Graham’s Danni Cafferty and Michael Quinn series. Based in New Orleans, Cafferty and Quinn solve unusual crimes that the cops can’t.
In this latest outing, an apparent suicide turns out to be one of a number of musicians who have been murdered. The body count continues to rise, with the saxophone of one of the dead men at the center of the mystery—and possibly sending messages from beyond the grave. It’s a colorful, atmospheric paranormal with a host of vibrant characters and a great heroine and hero at its heart.
In my The Big Thrill interview with Graham, she answers questions about the book and what has made her the writer she is.
For me, New Orleans was like another character in the book, providing the perfect atmosphere and setting for this gripping paranormal romantic suspense. Did the setting provide the inspiration for this series, or did Danni Cafferty and Michael Quinn come calling first?
A bit of both! I was in the city mulling the kind of series I wanted to do and I saw the perfect place for their shop on a corner of Royal Street. Also, the city really lends itself to a paranormal suspense—and has as long as I can remember. It’s also a writer’s city—Truman Capote liked to claim he was born in the Monteleone (also on Royal Street) though I think the truth is that his mom went into labor there. Tennessee Williams—think A Streetcar Named Desire!—spent a great deal of time at the hotel, as did Eudora Welty, and many more. Harriet Beecher Stowe was a guest at the Cornstalk House while mulling Uncle Tom’s Cabin after seeing the slave market and . . . the list is endless! I have a free booklet up at Amazon that’s a collection of blogs on why I love NOLA for anyone interested. The city was simply perfect for the people I needed for the series—and the people were perfect for NOLA.
By John Clement
BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO WEEP is the third book in Kristi Belcamino’s acclaimed series of thrillers chronicling the life of Gabriella Giovanni, an Italian-American crime reporter who happens to make a mean biscotti on the side. Not for nothing, Belcamino is herself Italian-American, and she knows a thing or two about baking biscotti as well, but it’s her career as a crime-beat reporter that imbues her fiction with a unique and rare note of authenticity. Her readers have come to expect suspenseful and gripping page-turners, and they’ll be happy to know that this new book does not disappoint.
I sat down with Belcamino to talk about her life, her work, and her latest novel.
BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO WEEP is out this month, and it’s already receiving high praise from readers and critics alike. Can you talk a little about the story?
Gabriella stumbles onto a horrific crime scene with only one survivor—a baby girl found crawling between the dead bodies of her family members. Reeling from the slaughter, Gabriella clings to the infant. When Social Services pries the little girl from her arms, the enormity of the tragedy hits home. Diving deep into a case that brings her buried past to the forefront, Gabriella is determined to hunt down the killer who left this helpless baby an orphan. But one by one the clues all lead to a dead end, and Gabriella’s obsession with finding justice pulls her into a dark, tortuous spiral that is set to destroy everything she loves …
It is a story about family, forgiveness, betrayal, and government cover-ups.
Known for capturing readers from the very first line and then surprising them with every carefully plotted twist and turn, what makes #1 New York Times bestselling author Harlan Coben’s books downright frightening is the underlying message reminding us just how frail the line is between order and chaos in our lives. With his latest, that message is as strong as ever. Coben once again reminds us there is a reason we call it the “American Dream” and the scary part is the possibility that we are all on the verge of waking up. THE STRANGER (Dutton; March 24, 2015) centers on the many secrets people keep when they think they’re anonymous – especially online – and how easily those secrets can be revealed when that information falls into the wrong hands.
In THE STRANGER, readers meet the Prices, who appear to be the perfect family. Adam and Corrine have a great marriage, with two wonderful sons, and a nice house in the New Jersey suburbs. Their world gets turned upside down when Adam meets the Stranger. Adam doesn’t know who he is, what his motive is, but the secret he has just shared about Corrine is not only devastating, it’s true.
The evening after he confronts his wife, Corinne disappears – and without even as much as a note to her boys. Did she run off on her own or could the stranger have had something to do with it? As Adam searches for Corinne and tries to track down the stranger that has just destroyed his life, he realizes he is tangled in something far bigger and darker than even Corrine’s deception.
By John Darrin
I was quite excited to get this assignment—Simon Wood, author of twelve novels, six short story collections, two audio books, and numerous non-fiction how-to articles. Quite a library of work. And I’m sure he’s sold a lot of them—over 500,000, I’m told. Five of those to me.
In THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY, Wood delves into the world of post-traumatic stress disorder, something we’ve all heard about and think we understand. His interest in the subject led him to study the subject with everyone from returning veterans and advocates for abused women, and he found that “PTSD is something people don’t understand generally. It’s something I didn’t really understand myself. I’ve attempted to highlight the issues and behaviors in the book with the hope people will look into the topic themselves.”
In addition to his own writing, Wood participates in writing and publishing events and even holds workshops on marketing. These came about in what has to be a formidable and impressive decision.
“About five years ago I was on the ropes career-wise. I’d lost one publisher, the rising popularity of ebooks and the recession was moving another publisher towards chapter 11 and my career looked dead. I was desperate, so I took a risk and invested in my writing. I negotiated my rights back, pulled together my backlist, repackaged it, promoted, advertised and did what I could to build a readership, and it worked. I built some momentum and ended up with new book contracts on the back of it. People asked how I did it and the workshops were born.”
By Jeff Ayers
Vincent Zandri is the NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY bestselling author of more than 16 novels including THE INNOCENT, GODCHILD, THE REMAINS, MOONLIGHT RISES, and his latest, EVERYTHING BURNS.
When Reece Johnston was a boy, a fire destroyed his home, killing his mother and brothers while leaving him scarred for life. It also kindled something dark inside him: an irresistible attraction to flames in all their terrifying, tantalizing power. But after two failed arson attempts and two trips to the mental ward he was finally able to put down the matches and pick up the pieces.
With a career as a bestselling crime writer going strong, Reece is working to fix his broken marriage to Lisa and be there for their preteen daughter, Anna. He’s not just dealing with his own demons; there’s a world of deadly hurt bearing down on him in the form of the jealous rival he’s bested in literature and love, who’s determined to see Reece crash and burn. But a guy like Reece knows how to take the heat. And thanks to his lifelong friendship with fire, he also knows how to bring it.
Vincent chatted with The Big Thrill about his new novel and his past work.
What sparked the idea (pun intended) for EVERYTHING BURNS?
The basis for the plot was derived from the true story of my second wife and myself. We divorced some years ago, but stayed very close. For a while, my ex dated a would-be novelist. I found this rather odd since we, novelists, don’t exactly grow on trees. So what are the chances of that? Then one day, for reasons I won’t go into here, my ex-wife and I decided to start dating again. During that time, she underwent cosmetic eye surgery. On the morning her mother picked her up for the surgery, I also found out that the ex-boyfriend-would-be-novelist had been calling and texting again. Bingo! The plot for Everything Burns suddenly shot into my brain like a transfusion. The bit about the fire and the pyromania came later.
As a monstrous blizzard threatens to bury Atlanta, GA, high-tech business executive J.C. Riggins braves the storm to deliver a company proposal. If he doesn’t, the company will lose a big contract—and Riggins will lose his career. Meanwhile, weatherman Tom Priz is also fighting to keep his job. He can’t tell his boss, the beautiful and ambitious Sophie Lyons, just how bad the snow and wind will get because if he guesses wrong, they’ll become media laughing stocks and get tossed out onto the frozen streets.
In BLIZZARD, H.W. “Buzz” Bernard delivers a thriller that will tumble over you like an avalanche. Here, Bernard took some time to answer a few questions about his latest release, offer up advice for new writers, and tease a little about what he’s working on next.
In BLIZZARD, the narrative is actually two big stories woven together—the plotlines of J.C. Riggins and Tom Priz each trying to save their careers. The story depends a lot on the narrative switching back and forth between what’s happening to J.C. and Tom, yet the two characters live in separate worlds. I imagine this type of story would be hard to manage as a pantser, so what was your process?
My first novel, Eyewall, involved three different plot lines. I was advised by an experienced author to write the first draft of the book as three separate “novelettes,” then fit them together into a single, coherent story. Easier said than done. The “fitting them together” bit turned out to be a lot like working on a jigsaw puzzle that required me to cut and whittle the pieces to make everything fit. I decided maybe that wasn’t the best way to do things. So, in BLIZZARD, I basically wrote in chronological order, switching back and forth between the plot and subplot, at a pace I thought would keep readers engaged.
Sophie Lyons, Tom’s boss, was a great foil to present the commercial realities behind the weather business. Was she based on someone you know?
Not really. She and Tom represent the extremes of a dichotomy that exists in the real world: the split between professional meteorologists who endeavor to present forecasts of major weather events in a responsible, objective manner; and, members of the media who are too often all about generating hype, headlines, and hyperbole. Both characters are products of my imagination.
Bestselling author Alex Kava burst onto the publishing landscape in 2000 with her breakout novel, A Perfect evil. Since then, she’s written thirteen books and is the creator of the bestselling Maggie O’Dell series. Now, Kava begins a new series featuring ex-marine Ryder Creed, debuting in BREAKING CREED.
Despite his tough exterior, Ryder has soft spot for animals in need and has built a business rehabilitating abused and discarded dogs he then trains to be search animals. His weakness for the underdog leads him to rescue and harbor a young girl being used as a drug mule—despite the fact that it will make him the target of dangerous and ruthless drug dealers.
In this Q&A, Kava takes time to answer some questions about her start in the industry, her writing process, and what inspired BREAKING CREED.
You’ve stated in interviews that the two years leading up to your first book being published were very tough. You were working several jobs, one of them delivering newspapers, and had to rely on credit cards to make ends meet. What was it that allowed you to persevere in pursuing your dream of writing full-time, when so many others would have given up and gone back to their day jobs?
I was totally burned out in my previous career. I’d spent fifteen years in advertising, marketing and public relations. One day I just decided: “I can’t do this anymore.” I gave my two-weeks notice and quit my job as director of public relations. I’d always wanted to write. So I told myself that while I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do next with my life, I’d write a novel and try to get it published.
Of course I had to give myself a time limit because I knew my savings would only last so long, and I couldn’t afford to go too far into debt. During those two years my roof started leaking, my car had to be replaced along with almost every appliance in my house, and I had to say goodbye to my fourteen-year-old dog. Now it sounds like a bad country western song, but it was very tough. Probably the thing that kept me going the most was simply that I no longer wanted to do what I had been doing for fifteen years. I desperately needed a change even if it meant jeopardizing my comfort level.