By Brian Knight and Ellie Knight
Emmy Rushford convinces her sixth-grade classmates to help her provide food for two hungry children. The project quickly turns perilous when the needy children, and their mother, vanish. As Emmy tries to find out what happened to them, she must deal with a car crash, a belligerent neighbor, a cat thrown into a Dumpster, and the necessity of keeping her actions secret from her parents in order to protect her mother’s job.
Peg Kehret’s new novel, DANGEROUS DECEPTION, is now available from Dutton, and Peg was kind enough to let me and the best young reader I know—my sixteen year-old daughter, Ellie—talk to her about it.
Hi Peg. Thanks for the opportunity to visit with you.
Hi, Brian and Ellie. Thanks for asking me. I always like a chance to talk about my books.
Brian: Your new release, DANGEROUS DECEPTION, seems to be a blend of drama and comedy, a serious premise spiced with unexpected and outlandish twists and turns. Is it as funny as the synopsis leads me to believe?
Although there’s some funny dialogue in the classroom scenes, DANGEROUS DECEPTION is definitely a suspense story, not a comedy.
Ellie: Is Dramady (Drama / Comedy) your favorite genre?
My favorite genre is memoir, both to read and to write. I’ve published three: SMALL STEPS: THE YEAR I GOT POLIO is the true story of when I was paralyzed from the neck down when I was twelve. FIVE PAGES A DAY: A WRITER’S JOURNEY tells how I became a professional writer, including the many rejections and the 50-words-or-less about Kraft Macaroni and Cheese that won me a new car. My most recent memoir (Dutton 2012) is ANIMALS WELCOME: A LIFE OF READING, WRITING AND RESCUE.
Janice Gable Bashman has become a force to be reckoned with. When I met her ten years ago she was a student in the writing classes I was teaching at the Writers Room in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Janice always had more energy, focus, and enthusiasm about writing than any ten other people. And, damn…she could write, too. (Not always a given among those folks who have a desire to publish).
She’s come a long, long way since then, dividing her writing output between nonfiction and fiction. She’s written for the NOVEL & SHORT STORY WRITER’S MARKET, THE WRITER, WRITER’S DIGEST, WILD RIVER REVIEW, and is co-author of the Bram Stoker Award® nominated book, WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE (co-written with me for Citadel Press 2010). Janice is the editor of THE BIG THRILL, and is a popular speaker and workshop leader at writers’ and genre conferences including ThrillerFest, Backspace, Pennwriters, The Write Stuff, Stoker weekend, and others. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Mystery Writers of America, Horror Writers Association, and the International Thriller Writers, where she serves on the board of directors as Vice President, Technology. She is a member of the Liars Club and is a coordinator for the Writers Coffeehouse (more on those later in the interview).
And now she’s a novelist, with a superb first Young Adult thriller that has some serious teeth.
What’s the lowdown on PREDATOR? Without giving away any spoilers, tell us about the book.
Sixteen-year-old Bree Sunderland must inject herself with an untested version of her father’s gene therapy to become a werewolf in order to stop a corrupt group of mercenaries from creating a team of unstoppable lycanthrope soldiers.
When Bree went with her scientist father to Ireland, she thought it would be a vacation to study bog bodies. She never expected to fall in love with a mysterious young Irishman and certainly never expected to become the kind of monster her father said only existed in nightmares. Dr. Sunderland discovers that lycanthropy was not a supernatural curse but rather a genetic mutation. When they return home, her dad continues his research, but the military wants to turn that research into a bio weapons program and rogue soldiers want to steal the research to turn themselves into unstoppable killing machines.
Bree’s boyfriend Liam surprises her with a visit to the United States, but there are darker surprises in store for both of them. As evil forces hunt those she loves, Bree must become an even more dangerous hunter to save them all.
PREDATOR gives the werewolf legend a couple of new spins by introducing the Benandanti (an actual folkloric belief that certain families of Italy and Livonia were werewolves who fought against evil), as well as a modern scientific approach to mutation and the science of transgenics
By Brian Knight and Ellie Knight
When Thea discovers a new role-playing game online, she breaks her parents’ rules to play. In the world of the game, Thea falls for an older boy named Kit whose smarts and savvy can’t defeat his near-suicidal despair. Soon he’s texting her, asking her to meet him, and talking in vague ways about how they can be together forever. As much as she suspects that this is wrong, Thea is powerless to resist Kit’s allure, and hurtles toward the very fate her parents feared most. Ripped from a real-life story of Internet stalking, WHO R U REALLY? will excite you and scare you, as Thea’s life spins out of control.
Margo Kelly’s debut novel WHO R U REALLY? is now available from Merit Press, and Margo was kind enough to let my daughter, Ellie, and I gang up on her to talk about it.
Hi Margo. Thanks for agreeing to talk with my daughter, Ellie, and I.
Brian: As a public speaker, you’re already something of a professional communicator, but there is a difference between the spoken word and the written one. Was the transition from orator to author a challenging one for you?
In some ways, yes, because much of my public speaking has been on non-fiction topics such as business, sales, and recruiting. Now I’m writing fiction for the young adult audience. These are two completely separate worlds. However, any great public speaker includes stories, personal details, and a bit of hyperbole to keep the interest of the listeners. So that art of engaging the audience has definitely helped me translate stories to paper.
Ellie: Did writing WHO R U REALLY? bring back the trauma of your daughter’s experience?
The process of writing the story was very therapeutic for both me and my daughter. As she recovered from the ordeal, we would play the “what if” game. What if she’d done this instead of that? What if the predator had done that instead of this? The tough part for both of us was when we received the advance reading copies from the publisher. That was when we both realized the story was actually going out into the world for everyone to read. I have to admit there was a flash of panic for me. It was an extreme moment of vulnerability—feeling naked. Not only would people be judging the story for its merit, but also people would be judging my parenting choices and my daughter’s naivety. We wish we could explain a couple of things to every reader: 1) This happened to my daughter six years ago when she was eleven going on twelve. 2) This book is mostly a work of fiction. While many of the scenes happened in real life, there are also many that are a product of our “what if” game all those years ago.
By 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.
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.
Allen Zadoff’s new young adult novel I AM THE MISSION is a finalist in the Young Adult category for this year’s Thriller Awards. It is the second book in his acclaimed series about a teenaged assassin.
Zadoff wrote four stand-alone books, a memoir, and three novels before his smash series about a clandestine organization that recruits kids to commit crimes normally associated with organizations like the CIA or the KGB. The Unknown Assassin (or Boy Nobody) persona is perfect for a hit man (or, in this case, a hit boy): No name. No past. No remorse. Just a youthful killing machine who can blend in with others his age, ingratiate himself, and then take out the targets selected for him by characters called “Mother” and “Father”—no his real parents.
Zadoff, a Boston native (and, later, resident of upstate New York, Manhattan, Los Angeles and Tokyo) is a graduate of Cornell University, the Harvard University Institute for Advanced Theatre Training, and Warner Brothers Writers Workshop. He shared these insights into his series and his life with THE BIG THRILL.
What, exactly, triggered the idea for the teenaged assassin of I AM THE MISSION who floats about on assignment anonymously? Did it come to you in a dream? What?
The Unknown Assassin came to me, not in a dream, but on a whisper of inspiration. Often ideas come to me in the form of character, and in this case the character was a sixteen-year-old boy. He told me he had no name, that he traveled from place to place, assuming a new identity on every mission, and his job was to befriend the children of high-value targets so he could get close to and assassinate their parents. I was shocked. When a character with such an intriguing story begins talking to a writer, the writer is wise to listen.
By Stacy Mantle
When your life centers around words, there are few things you can do other than teach and write. Author Kym Brunner has managed to integrate both careers into a very busy life with the release of WANTED: DEAD OR IN LOVE, the first of two young adult books.
WANTED is about a teen girl who, after cutting herself on a spent bullet extracted from Bonnie Parker’s dead body, becomes obsessed with the legend of Bonnie and Clyde. When the notorious outlaw begins communicating with her through thought, she realizes she’s in over her head.
We caught up with Brunner to discuss how she manages to consolidate historical fact with modern characters to create a wonderfully entertaining story.
Most of your books are set in or around Chicago. What is it that fascinates you most about the region?
What doesn’t fascinate me about the region would be an easier question, because I LOVE my hometown! I grew up in Chicago and lived there until my mid-twenties, moved to the suburbs after I got married, but I still visit the city frequently. The downtown region is gorgeous; the people that live in the Midwest are friendly and thus, love to talk (which is a fabulous benefit to observant writers like us). Besides, the weather is great three months a year. (Okay, so that part’s not so great—but it certainly gives us something to talk about.)
By Lee Lindauer
I had the pleasure to serve on a panel last summer at ThrillerFest VIII with John Dixon and from that I got a sense of his talent. Now I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to interview him about his YA thriller, PHOENIX ISLAND, and I came back with a rare insight into his writing and his devotion to the genre.
Tell us a little bit about PHOENIX ISLAND.
PHOENIX ISLAND is being called “a thriller for all ages” and is the inspiration for the upcoming CBS TV series INTELLIGENCE.
When sixteen-year-old boxing champ Carl Freeman’s defense of a helpless stranger lands him in real trouble—a two-year sentence at an isolated boot camp for orphans—he’s determined to tough it out, earn a clean record, and get on with his life.
Then kids start to die.
Realizing PHOENIX ISLAND is actually a Spartan-style mercenary organization turning “throwaway kids” into bloodthirsty super soldiers, Carl risks everything to save his friends and stop a madman bent on global destruction.
You taught middle school English. PHOENIX ISLAND is a YA novel. What is it about teenagers that inspired you to work with that genre?
Kids are cool. They’re discerning and demanding but open minded and really appreciative and enthusiastic if they like what you do. I like the challenge of writing for them. They demand strong characters, fast pacing, and compelling stories that make them feel. Specifically, I wanted to appeal to both females and males. While I’m overjoyed to see an increasing number of strong female characters in teen fiction, most strong male characters are in middle grade and adult fiction. I wanted to provide young readers with a male character who was tough, ethical, and serious.
By Jeremy Burns
Lissa Price burst onto the scene in 2012 with her debut YA thriller, STARTERS, an international bestseller published in thirty countries that garnered several awards and spots on a slew of “Best of 2012” lists. How does a powerful new name in fiction follow up a debut of that magnitude? With ENDERS, the sequel to STARTERS, which hits shelves next month. Amidst the maelstrom of preparing for one of the most anticipated YA releases of the year, Lissa sat down with THE BIG THRILL to take readers behind the scenes of her world and her upcoming book.
Tell us about your new thriller, ENDERS.
ENDERS is the sequel to STARTERS, a YA thriller set in a future L.A. where desperate teens rent out their bodies to seniors, so they can be young again temporarily. But one senior plans to do more than party; she plans to murder someone.
In ENDERS, Callie has shut down Prime Destinations but the Old Man can still access her chip and control her. In fact, all the ex-body donors are in danger of being turned into human bombs. So Callie is about to give herself up to the Old Man when she’s kidnapped by a guy who claims to be the only person who can help her defeat the Old Man.
But can she trust him in this world where no one is who they seem?
KIRKUS REVIEWS said of FAKE ID, Lamar Giles’s debut Young Adult thriller: “Fast action, judicious plot twists and sufficiently evil teens and adults should keep thrill-seeking readers awake long into the night.”
Published in January 2014 by Harper Collins, FAKE ID focuses on a teenager, Nick Pearson, who gets caught up in the death of a friend and in the federal government’s witness protection program. The book so impressed its publisher that it bought a second YA thriller, ENDANGERED, on the basis of a summary and a couple of chapters.
Giles, who holds down a full-time job, lives in Chesapeake, Virginia, with his wife. He recently answered some questions for THE BIG THRILL:
What is the genesis of FAKE ID?
It started when I read a mystery/thriller by Steven Barnes titled CASANEGRA. I loved it and started brainstorming some ideas that would fit the genre. At the same time, I’d stumbled across a nonfiction book called WITSEC: INSIDE THE FEDERAL WITNESS PROTECTION PROGRAM by Gerald Shur, the man who founded the program. Mr. Shur tells a number of tales about the very first witnesses to join his program. The stories that stood out to me were the ones about criminals who couldn’t follow the rules, thus blowing their cover and forcing the program to relocate them again. A seed of an idea sprouted, but I still didn’t have what would eventually become FAKE ID. Not Yet.
Since age ten, sixteen year-old Mia has rebelled against the iron fist of a fundamentalist preacher who lured her mother away to join a fanatical family of followers. At “Edenton,” portrayed to be a Garden of Eden deep in a South American jungle, everyone follows the deranged reverend’s strict and arbitrary rules. Mia dreams of slipping away from the armed guards who keep followers in and the curious out. When rebellious newbie, Gabriel, arrives, Mia sees her chance to escape and to free her family. But scandalous secrets the two discover beyond the compound’s façade are more shocking than anything they imagined. While Gabriel has his own terrible secrets, he and Mia bond, more than friend and freedom fighters. But there’s no time to think about love as they race against time to stop the preacher’s paranoid plan to free his flock—but not himself—from this corrupt world. Can two teens crush a diabolical mastermind? And who will die in the fight to save the ones they love from a madman whose only concern is his own agenda?
Debut novelist Elisa Nader added, “ESCAPE FROM EDEN is about a teenager coming into her own, and questioning what she’s been told. She finds courage she didn’t know she had, escapes a cult—and discovers horrific secrets along the way.”
By Stacy Mantle
Co-Authoring: A KILLER’S INSTINCT with Dawn Dalton & Judith Graves
When you’re collaborating on a novel about the paranormal, you have to retain an open-minded approach both to writing and to the world – something that authors Dawn Dalton and Judith Graves do well together. KILLER’S INSTINCT is their first co-authored monster-hunting tale that appeals to both teens and adults.
In KILLER’S INSTINCT, young Hope is shocked to learn that her dead mother’s corpse is wreaking havoc amongst the living, so Hope does the only thing she knows to do – enroll in a militaristic “monster-hunting” school to learn how to lay her mother’s soul to rest.
We had the opportunity to interview Dawn Dalton, one-half of the Dalton-Graves team that created this fast-paced, young-adult thriller.
Why did you decide to co-author the novel?
I met Judith at a young writer’s retreat put on by my former employer. She was giving a presentation to young writers about how to write FICTION TO DIE FOR. To quote a cliché, she had me at hello. I immediately connected with her writing style, her enthusiasm, her work ethic, and her personality. We became critique partners, and shortly after, began brainstorming ideas for projects together. It got to a point where we didn’t ask, “Hey, want to write this together?” It was an assumption.
By John Raab
Fans of Jordan Dane have been eagerly awaiting the release of CRYSTAL FIRE, the latest book in her “The Hunted” series. CRYSTAL FIRE is a young adult novel, but it’s also a book adults will enjoy. Jordan had a lot to live up to after the successful release of the first book in the series, INDIGO AWAKENING, and she did not disappoint. Here’s a summary:
A storm is brewing on the streets of LA, one that has intensified since a tragic and deadly confrontation claimed an innocent life.
While Gabriel Stewart trains his army of teen psychics to stop Alexander Reese—the obsessed leader of the Believers—the fanatical church becomes more bent on the annihilation of all Indigo and Crystal children. They’re silencing the voices of the telepathic hive, one soul at a time, with frightening experiments cruelly executed on vulnerable minds.
When the Believers torture a mysterious homeless boy, Oliver Blue, they brainwash him into betraying his own. The boy becomes a deadly pawn to take Gabriel down. As the fires of chaos burn around him, Gabe is running out of time. He’ll need to confront his past—and the man who made him—before the hope of peace for the future is silenced forever.
Jordan graciously agreed to talk to THE BIG THRILL about her new book:
By Ethan Cross
WOULD YOU PUT YOUR LIFE ON THE LINE TO BE NORMAL?
Diagnosed with a rare and untreatable heart condition, Scarlet has come to terms with the fact that she’s going to die. Literally of a broken heart. It could be tomorrow, or it could be next year. But the clock is ticking…
All Scarlet asks is for a chance to attend high school—even if just for a week—a chance to be just like everyone else. But Scarlet can feel her heart beating out of control with each slammed locker and vicious taunt. Is this normal? Really? Yet there’s more going on than she knows. And finding out the truth might just kill Scarlet before her heart does…
Tell us about BROKEN.
BROKEN is my very first YA thriller and features a heroine who knows everything about dying but nothing about living.
Scarlet has spent her entire life shuttled from doctor to doctor and hospital to hospital only to be diagnosed with a lethal cardiac disease, leaving her literally dying of a broken heart.
Because of her sheltered upbringing, Scarlet is very naïve and all she wants is to live like a normal teenager, so she convinces her parents to allow her to attend high school for a week…a week that gives Scarlet her first ever friends, first kiss (maybe the worst first kiss in recorded history, but she’ll take what she can get!), and a new outlook on her life, her disease, and her family as she unearths secrets she never suspected existed.
By Thomas Pluck
What if Secretariat was cloned? A young man rents out small boats on Sarasota Bay, but his easy-going life ends when he accepts a colt from his dying father. He enters the underbelly horseracing with crooked trainers, loan sharks, and a wealthy sheik. But his biggest problem might be the illegal colt.
That’s the premise of SECRETARIAT REBORN by Susan Klaus, which questions our loyalties to family, our duty to the rules, and our responsibility to achieve greatness.
Susan, tell us a bit about your background and how it inspired the book.
I’ve always been an animal fanatic, showing cats, grooming dogs, and working for a veterinarian for a decade, but for the last 13 years, I’ve bred and raced Thoroughbreds. Every horse breeder looks at their newborn colts and prays one will be another Secretariat, so the inspiration for the book was a no-brainer. If you’re going through the expense to clone an animal, why not clone the greatest horse of all time?
With the help of first daughter Amy, Linc has to uncover Culper Ring spy history dating back to the Revolutionary War and George Washington, to recover a coat with mysterious powers. Before it’s too late…
Debut ITW author Geoffrey Girard will have his first two novels published on the same dayas Simon and Schuster gets a little extra creative and releases both CAIN’S BLOOD (a dark techno thriller) and PROJECT CAIN (a Young Adult companion novel) simultaneously on September 3rd.
Both novels center around a secret Defense project to develop bioweapons built from the genetics of violence, a program which includes dozens of young men who are the clones of infamous serial killers. When the most dangerous teens are set free by their creator, former black ops soldier Shawn Castillo is hot on their trail and enlists the help of a boy who has just learned he is the clone of Jeffrey Dahmer. As this unlikely pair races across the country after the rampaging teens, Castillo must protect the boy who is the embodiment of his biggest fears, and who may also be his last hope.
Initially submitted as a standalone novel for teens, Girard’s agents — Peter McGuigan and Stephen Barbara, at Foundry Literary + Media — felt they could have two books on their hands and asked Girard to rework his story. The result was a dark thriller for adults told from multiple POVs and centered primarily on Castillo and also a YA novel told in first-person by teen Jeffrey Jacobson, the clone of Dahmer.
By Rick Reed
DECEIVED introduces Gabrielle aka/Elle Smith, a senior and a new student at Francine Francis, an Ohio private school. Ever since she could remember, Elle has had to hop from town to town to keep up with her dad’s demanding career as a corporate insurance agent. Each time, a recurring nightmare followed her wherever she went–until the day that the frightening figures haunting her at night became all too real.
When news of a serial killer spreads throughout her new school, Elle worries that the Reaper has been leaving her his calling card in the form of cigarette butts on her doormat and an unusual ribbon in her locker.
With the help of Brian, a boy she meets at a flea market, she discovers that this isn’t her first encounter with the murderer and that her father has been concealing her true identity for the past twelve years. But despite her father’s desperate attempts to protect her, Elle comes face to face with the darkness she has been running from her whole life. Trapped in the woods and with help hundreds of miles away, will Elle be able to confront the Reaper and reclaim the life that has so long been denied her?
F+W Media will release DECEIVED in September2013. In addition to DECEIVED, Julie will see the release of four other books in 2013: DECEIVED, two romances, and two other mysteries.
By Thomas Pluck
Every summer three families take a trip together—this year it’s to a remote resort in the mountains of upstate New York. Scotty, a teenager who’s just come out, is nervous about how his friends will react to him. A late night visit to an old nearby cemetery seems like a great idea to the bored teens, but the old cemetery holds dark secrets hidden for almost a century—secrets that might have been better left undisturbed.
And what originally seemed like a boring week in the mountains gradually becomes a nightmare of terror for the teens and their families…
So begins LAKE THIRTEEN by Greg Herren, author of the Chanse MacLeod mysteries and the Scotty Bradley P.I. series.
Hi Greg. It sure sounds like thirteen will be an unlucky number for Scotty. Tell us a bit more about him and the dangers he’s about to uncover.
Scotty’s a good kid, an only child with parents who are slightly over-protective. He’s an athlete—plays tennis and runs track at his high school—and is dating another boy who lives down the street from him who has a really homophobic and abusive father. When Scotty and his friends go ghost-hunting at the cemetery near the lodge where they’re staying, Scotty has an experience there…well, he connects with the spirit of another boy who died over a hundred years earlier…and that’s when all the creepiness really starts.
By Jamie Rush
I’m sitting down with Amy Christine Parker to find out all the juicy details about her new YA romantic suspense, GATED.
Amy, how exciting it must be to see your debut novel come out! Congratulations! Tell us what this story is all about and what drove you to write it.
GATED follows a teenage girl named Lyla who has been living in a religious cult after the disappearance of her sister. While her parents are hopelessly under the sway of the group’s leader, Pioneer, Lyla is drawn into a dangerous situation when she begins to question Pioneer’s prophecy about the impending apocalypse.
At its heart, this story is about a girl who is beginning to realize that all she’s accepted as truth for most of her life may in fact be a lie. She has to decide what she believes in and what she’s willing to do to fight for her right to those beliefs. The story came to me as I was watching a TV show about extreme apocalyptic shelters. I was amazed at how elaborate they were and how many people around the world were beginning to build them. It got me thinking about how a person becomes convinced that the end is near and what they’re willing to do to ensure their own survival. When I combined this line of thought with my ongoing fascination with cults and their dynamics the story just grew from there.
By L.J. Sellers
Kirkus Reviews called DON’T TURN AROUND, the first book in the Persefone trilogy, “A pulse-pounding scary great read…Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for preteens and teens, a surefire hit.” Now readers of all ages anxiously await Michelle Gagnon’s second installment, DON’T LOOK NOW.
In this taut thriller, former foster kid Noa Torsen is on the run. Having outsmarted the sinister Project Persephone, Noa and her friend Zeke move stealthily across the country, rescuing runaways before they become test subjects for horrific experiments. Until the final explosive confrontation, where Noa and her team become trapped in the one place they thought was safe.
With cover copy like that, Gagnon’s new YA thriller should be another huge success! The bestselling author of novels such as THE TUNNELS and BONEYARD tells us how she keeps upping her game with each new story.
What motivated you to start writing YA thrillers? Is it working for you?
I was having lunch one day with a friend who’s also a book editor. She pointed out that in nearly all of my adult thrillers, there’s a teenager who not only has a POV, but plays a major role in the story (like Madison, the fifteen-year-old kidnapping victim in THE GATEKEEPER). This friend recommended that I take it a step further and narrate an entire book from a younger perspective. So I gave it a shot. And it was like a breath of fresh air; I ended up finishing the rough draft of DON’T TURN AROUND in eight weeks.
T.L. Costa’s first thriller PLAYING TYLER is released this month from Angry Robot Ltd as a trade paperback. Costa is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and has a Masters of Teaching from Quinnipiac University. Author Sean Cummings, POLTERGEEKS, said, “Wildly original storytelling that is as authentic as it is engaging. PLAYING TYLER is one of the best YA books 2013.”
T.L. recently discussed her novel with the BigThrill:
Give us an elevator pitch about PLAYING TYLER.
I like to describe it as SAY ANYTHING meets ENDER’S GAME. When gamer Tyler MacCandless gets the opportunity to beta-test a drone piloting game to try and win a spot in flight school, he takes it. But when the game seems too real, he teams up with the game’s designer to uncover the truth, questioning everything he knows about morality while having to fight for love in a world at war.
Boy Nobody is the perennial new kid in school, the one few notice and nobody thinks much about. He shows up in a new high school, in a new town, under a new name, makes few friends and doesn’t stay long. Just long enough for someone in his new friend’s family to die — of “natural causes.” Mission accomplished, Boy Nobody disappears, and moves on to the next target.
But when he’s assigned to the mayor of New York City, things change. The daughter seems so much like him; the mayor reminds him of his father. And when memories and questions surface, the Program is watching. Because somewhere, deep inside Boy Nobody, is somebody: the kid he once was, the teen who wants normal things like a real home and parents, a young man who wants out. And who just might want those things badly enough to sabotage The Program’s mission.
By Andrew Zack
I’ve written about a variety of different authors for the BIG THRILL, but was really intrigued to chat with Toby Tate, author of GOD PARTICLE: A CHLOE JOHANSSON THRILLER (CrossRoads).
We all know about traditional publishing and we all know about self-publishing, and even the hybrid, managed self-publishing that I provide via Author Coach and Endpapers Press. But Mr. Tate was the first to tell me about what I’m going to call publishing “by invitation only.”
Whereas traditional publishers look at a book as a business opportunity, CrossRoad Press, run by David Niall Wilson, operates more on an author-to-author, invite-only basis, Mr. Tate told me. I wonder if the term “co-op” might apply, as their website mentions, “We have a small army of folks working for us proofing and copy-editing, mostly for the love of books, or for free reading of the rest of our library.” I wonder if Mr. Tate has to copy-edit a book in exchange for someone copy-editing his. Then it really would be a co-op, I think.
Tate is without an agent and yet has found success publishing through small publishers. Perhaps the appropriate comparison is an indie filmmaker who has yet to find a major distributor? GOD PARTICLE is his third book and he told me he had tried about eighty-five agents on his first book and probably more on his second. He found his way to CrossRoad because it published the eBook of his first novel, which was published by Nightbird, but which did not publish eBooks.
By Thomas Pluck
“THE TESTING is a devious dystopian thriller that all fans of THE HUNGER GAMES will simply devour.” –Jonathan Maberry
The Seven Stages War left much of the planet a poisoned wasteland. Humanity survives in the United Commonwealth, where the next generation’s chosen few rebuild civilization. But to enter this elite group, young candidates must first pass The Testing.
Cia Vale is proud to be among the chosen like her father before her. But his warning to Trust No One steels her for the toughest challenge, to decide who is her friend and who will do anything to pass The Testing.
I loved THE TESTING. It reminded me of ENDER’S GAME, the post-apocalyptic Fallout video games, and the Tripods series by John Christopher. Tell us a bit about the protagonist of THE TESTING, Cia Vale:
Wow! Thank you. As someone who read and loved ENDER’S GAME when I was just out of high school, I am stunned and amazed to be compared to that story.
Cia Vale is a young girl who has just finished her high school education. Despite the fact leaving home will mean leaving behind the family whom she loves, Cia wants nothing more than to be chosen for The Testing so she can sit for the examination that determines those who go to the University and become the next generation of leaders. Cia comes from the smallest colony of the newly recolonized United States (now United Commonwealth). She has pushed herself to learn as much as possible so she can help rebuild the world the way her father has. But though she is well-versed in physics and calculus, coming from a community where everyone wants the best for everyone has in many ways made her unprepared for the sometimes less than cooperative spirit than exists in other parts of the country.
By James Phelan
SURVIVOR is the second novel in my ALONE trilogy. It’s a YA thriller with a teenaged protagonist, set in a post-apocalyptic NYC. Some say it has zombies in it. Some call them vampires. I’ve termed them Chasers – they’re infected and it makes them really, really thirsty, pretty much for any liquid on offer. I guess it’s a little like THE WALKING DEAD, minus all the soap opera crap.
SURVIVOR is published this May by the good folk at Kensington. It’s published in the UK by Little Brown, and in Australia (my home) by Hachette. It’s been translated to several languages, which is pretty cool, and it seems to be doing well in Russia (who knew they’d enjoy a post-apocalyptic NYC?).
The trilogy came about in 2008. My life as a professional, full-time novelist had started three years earlier, aged 25, when I signed with Hachette to write two adult thrillers. I’d worked at a broadsheet newspaper for five years, while doing my MFA, always with the goal to being a novelist.. The novels did well, and I signed on for two more. When I delivered the 3rd international thriller in my Lachlan Fox series, I knew I needed a break from that world. Titled BLOOD OIL, it was a dark and angry novel. It had taken me 6 months to write and edit, I was earning good money, and had book 4 due a year away; I had time to kill. I wanted a new writing challenge, a different head-space, to fill that time. I turned to YA. Writing more than one book a year made business sense to me – it’s the kind of perpetual production that you need to do these days, to keep in the minds of book buyers amid the huge amount of volume being published.
By Ethan Cross
When an ordinary kid learns he’s the heir to a secret agent dynasty, F.A.L.C.O.N. puts him on a case to protect a famous rock group and find a missing journalist. Before he knows it, Colt Shore has gone from body guard to rock star to full-fledged agent when he learns that a human trafficking ring plans to kidnap a group of teenage girls. It will take more than his ingenuity and skills and a couple of cool gadgets to protect his new friends and rescue the captured girls before it’s too late.
Tell us about Agent COLT SHORE: DOMINO 29 in one line.
Teenage Colt Shore, who works for a humanitarian NGO, saves a group of girls from a trafficking ring using his sense of purpose and sense of humor, some fast cars, faster planes and nifty gadgets, and a gorgeous rock star sidekick. Does that still count as one line?
Tell us a bit about F.A.L.C.O.N.
FALCON is an international humanitarian organization that is part think tank and part world-saving agents. It has four elite schools that train kids to think for themselves, try to understand the world around them, the underlying root of many problems, and what can be done to begin to solve them. The kids are also taught how to drive fast cars and usually by high school, they’re third degree black belts across multiple martial arts disciplines.
By J. H. Bográn
Seventeen-year-old Veerle is frustrated with life in suburban Brussels. But a chance encounter with a hidden society, whose members illegally break into unoccupied buildings around the city, soon opens up a whole new world of excitement—and danger.
When one of the society’s founding members disappears, Veerle suspects foul play. But nothing can prepare her for the horror that is about to unfold when an old foe emerges from the shadows… No one is safe, and The Hunter will strike again…
What inspired the premise SILENT SATURDAY?
I lived in Flanders (the Dutch speaking part of Belgium) from 2008 to 2011 and I took Dutch lessons to help me integrate. My Dutch teacher told the class the tradition of Silent Saturday, the day after Good Friday. All the church bells in Flanders fall silent on that day, and the children are told that it is because the bells have flown away to Rome to collect Easter eggs from the Pope! I remember hearing this story and thinking that if I were a little Flemish kid, I would be desperate to get into the church bell-tower and see whether the bells have really flown away or not. And that is how my book starts – with the heroine Veerle (then aged 7) and her friend Kris climbing the bell-tower to see if the bell is there or not. Of course it is right there where it always is, but then they look out of the window and see something horrific happening in their village…everything that happens later on somehow stems from that moment.
By Ethan Cross
Barry Lyga’s novel GAME, the sequel to I HUNT KILLERS, has been described by BOOKLIST as “the most serious (and bloodiest) crime series yet for teen readers.” What if your father was the world’s most notorious serial killer? In the first book, readers met Jazz and watched as he used the skills taught to him by his father to track down a brutal serial killer. Now, in GAME, Jazz’s father Billy has escaped prison and is on the loose. Plus, a new killer has New York City terrified. Can Jazz help New York’s Finest and also find his father, without losing his soul in the process?
Tell us about GAME in one line.
I think the first sentence of the book sort of sums up its mood and intent: “She screamed, but she did not cry.”
Describe your typical writing day. How do you balance your writing with marketing, editing, plotting, and all other commitments?
There really is no “typical” day, despite my best efforts! I try to have some kind of schedule or routine, but it’s usually interrupted. But on a good day, I tend to get up, eat breakfast, then spend a couple of hours focused completely on writing. Then I hit the gym, eat lunch, and spend some time on e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Basically, whatever needs to be done in those realms. Then I usually jump back into writing until dinner or — depending on where I am in a project — spend the afternoon doing research.
By Jeremy Burns
Though she might be a new name to some in our readership, Starr Gardinier Reina is no stranger to suspense. An executive editor of SUSPENSE MAGAZINE and author of five hit mysteries, she takes readers on a paranormal twist in her new book, THE OTHER SIDE: MELINDA’S STORY. And though she’s marketing this one as a young adult novel, that’s no reason for readers of any age to pass by this gripping tale that Jon Land praises as “the best exploration of paranoia and insular terror since Ira Levin’s classic ROSEMARY’S BABY.” Starr sat down with THE BIG THRILL recently to tell readers about her new book.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I started writing when I was about fourteen. I was influenced by Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys series. I read just about every book I could get my hands on at that time. I was intrigued. I thought that perhaps I could write like that. So, I tried. I felt that my father, being the avid reader of the family, would be the right person to ‘critique’ my new found career path. I had him read the first four chapters I anguished over and put on paper. After reading it, he sat me down and gave me a half hour lecture on plagiarism. To a fourteen year old, that’s devastating. Those were my words, but I thought if my father didn’t have the faith in me, it wasn’t something I should consider doing.
Then I grew up. As an adult, the influence my father had over me dimmed a bit. I thought I should give writing another whirl. So, I did. I now have five books published. Ironically, the first book to see the light of the world was released on Father’s Day. Appropriate, at least to me. I started out with ‘early’ young adult books. I say ‘early’ because they were done early on in my writing career. Since that time, I’ve learned and adopted so much. Following, I published the Ivanovich series: IN THE NAME OF REVENGE, DEADLY DECISIONS, and ONE MAJOR MISTAKE, which were all of the crime/suspense genre. However, an idea called to me. One I couldn’t ignore. THE OTHER SIDE: MELINDA’S STORY was born from that idea. Many have told me, and I do believe it, that I finally found my voice and style with this young adult paranormal.