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By Brett King

Twenty-two thriller masters. Two masterful thrillers. One fascinating experiment in creativity.

It was a bold idea. Gather many of the world’s finest thriller writers and challenge each one to compose a chapter during a two-week window before handing it off, no questions asked or advice given, to the next author. Based on an idea by New York Times bestselling author Jeffery Deaver, Watchlist blends two novellas, The Chopin Manuscript and The Copper Bracelet, into a single book, available in paperback on December 7th. Brimming with explosive twists, one novella deals with a mysterious manuscript containing a deadly secret while the sequel centers on an international terror plot that threatens to escalate into the next world war.

Deaver crafted the inaugural chapter featuring former war crimes investigator Harold Middleton. He set the story in motion for his colleagues to follow his lead, adding that he developed “opportunities” that were “open-ended so that my comrades could go where they wished.” The rare collaboration showcased authors including Lee Child, Lisa Scottoline, Joseph Finder, David Hewson, Gayle Lynds, P. J. Parrish, and many others. Jim Fusilli served as editor while Deaver wrote the concluding chapters, bringing each novella to a riveting conclusion.

Initially conceived as the first audio serial thriller, The Chopin Manuscript was awarded Audio Publisher’s Association’s Audiobook of the Year before appearing as an International Thriller Writers publication. In a starred review, Publisher’s Weekly called Watchlist a “suspenseful, action-packed international thriller filled with plenty of twists and turns.” USA Today called it “Entertaining and intriguing” and added, “the action is full-boil.”

In the spirit of The Chopin Manuscript and The Copper Bracelet, I conducted a serial interview with the Watchlist authors. In some cases, I asked the questions. At times, the authors interviewed each other. I began with Jeffery Deaver, asking how this project deviated from his traditional writing style.Some authors take a free-form approach in their writing process while others are dedicated to more structured outlining. Without question, you fall into the latter camp. Was it a challenge working without an overarching outline?

Jeffery Deaver: I’m the least free-form writer there is. It takes me a year to write a book, and I spend about eight months of that year doing nothing but the outline (along with the research). In my most recent book, Edge, the outline was about 140 pages long, and that was one of my shortest outlines. This is because I write multi-plotted books, which take place over a very short time period, and are filled with plot twists. It is critical that all aspects of the story be planned out ahead of time. Yes, I’m a little crazy about it, but this is a formula I’m comfortable with and wouldn’t start a novel without knowing exactly where the story was going and where it would end up….except for the novels in Watchlist!

It was a very curious—and unnerving—experience for me to approach a full-length novel without a single idea of where the story would go. Probably like skydiving…you need an element of faith. But since the subsequent authors, who took up the story after my first chapters, were so talented and conscientious, I wasn’t worried at all about the quality of the product.

The project was an illuminating example of how a story could organically grow out of a well of creativity; I’d call it a purely right-brained effort. I found it fascinating.

In an earlier interview, Lee, you described The Chopin Manuscript as an “exercise in ESP.” What did you mean by that?

Lee Child: Well, when each of us writes our own books solo, we salt things early that are going to come back and have significance later, either in terms of clues or mood or theme, in order for the book to have coherence, to be organic. So I felt I was reading the earlier chapters trying to guess what the earlier authors had intended to be meaningful, had intended to have resonance later. The first book—I guess the title was a clue!—was very musical, with Deaver and Hewson—both music lovers—setting an agenda from the beginning, so I felt my chapter should use music or musicology as major turning points. In the second book, I picked up on Joe Finder’s mention of Russian nesting dolls…he and I are quite similar in our thought processes, and those dolls just screamed significance for me, so I used them much later as a metaphor for increasing complications, for things within things. Having done that, I described the rest of my contributions as “power without responsibility”, in that I could chuck in whatever I wanted, and the following authors—especially poor old Jeff—would have to deal with it. Normally we’re very careful, because we know it’s ourselves that will have to deal with it.

Lisa Scottoline: Lee’s right about it being like ESP, but my ESP is terrible. I can never tell what anybody’s thinking. I’m divorced twice for a reason.

What was the single biggest challenge involved in inheriting a storyline from your colleagues?

James Phelan: I stated from the get-go that I could only work towards the end of the project, as I was on deadline for both my 4th Lachlan Fox thriller, as well as the first in my YA post apoc trilogy, Alone. By the time my turn came to write on The Copper Bracelet, it was the penultimate chapter. Yikes. I’d been reading my colleague’s work and, as the story progressed, I was consistently amazed and shocked—“Really, they’re doing THAT now? Really?” It was heaps of fun to pick up the story beats and run with them, particularly writing my action-packed chapter where I got to bring some story threads and ideas together (BTW, if I had been free to write an earlier chapter, I’d have loved to introduce some zombies for the next authors to deal with…so probably good that I came next-to-last). For me, the challenge with this project was twofold: writing scenes that made sense given what had gone before, and bringing the story towards a satisfying ending. In hindsight, once I’d read the finished novel, it’s probably a project where we could have agreed to write two chapters, so as to have made the story a longer length and greater depth in this age of short chapters. Hell, if [James] Patterson had been at the helm, with the 22 of us, this novel would have been, what, 50 pages? In the end, this was a heap of fun, a brilliant and thrilling concept, and a challenge I hope to take up again someday soon.

Jim Fusilli: For me, in The Chopin Manuscript, it was fairly easy because once I read S.J. Rozan’s chapter, I knew I was going to pick up the thread she’d begun—I wanted to write about Leonora Tesla. In The Copper Bracelet, I needed to do a little pruning—that is, I needed to kill somebody.
David Hewson: For me the first question was: do you follow the previous chapter or break the rhythm and give someone further down the line the chance to improvise out of the initial thread too? Both Chopin and Bracelet are fast-moving stories. But you can’t keep running at a heavy metal pace.

I was early in the game so I checked with Jim Fusilli about this. He said: go with your instincts. So in Chopin, I write the second chapter and open out a narrative thread in Rome with a new character who comes (I had no idea this would happen) to feature in the climax (Jeff kindly said he was a bit in love with her). In Bracelet, I’m third in the ring behind two blasting, very active chapters from Jeff and Gayle Lynds. I decided to shift the rhythm with a chapter very much set in a single room with this same character offering some footholds people can grab hold of if they want later in the story.

That makes me sound very sweet and collaborative. But a part of me was also looking at the names to come further down the list and thinking…Ok pal, fix that! It wasn’t a collaboration, see. It was a relay race and once that baton was passed it was gone.

Lisa Scottoline: I loved writing Watchlist, with this extraordinary group of authors, but it was one of the hardest writing exercises ever, and I was one of the authors who wrote in both serial novels. In other words, I asked for it. Each time I got the half-written manuscript, and both times my chapters came somewhere in the middle, I had a heart-clutching attack of “can I do this?” I didn’t know if I could follow these great writers, with each chapter better than the last and a plotline hurtling along like an express train.

It was about to come to the proverbial screeching halt.

With me.

There is no single biggest challenge when you’re writing a serial novel. They’re all the single biggest challenge. Why? We writers are adorable people, but our dark secret is that were also control freaks.

Adorable control freaks.

And in our own novels, we get to control the story, characters, dialogue, and even punctuation marks. For example, I don’t use many dashes. It’s a quirk of mine. And my novels, eighteen in eighteen years now, are the amalgam of all of my quirks, and that, in a nutshell, is something called voice.

Bottom line, our book is our baby, but Watchlist wasn’t just someone else’s baby. Watchlist was everybody’s else’s baby. Watchlist has a gumbo of daddies and mommies, a complete diversity of voice, all in the same stew.

It could have turned out a dog’s dinner, or a delicious meal.

I think it turned out delicious, if I may say so.

I think we all did the only thing we control freaks could do—we did our own voice, added our own twists, wrote our dialogue the way we would have. And each of us stayed true to her or himself, so it became a truly great story, and the whole became greater than the sum of its parts.

James Grady: Writing a serial novel requires a choice: either write it all in one voice, as we did, or have each contributor write in his or her own voice and style. I’m wondering if any of my co-conspirators would have (like me) loved to have brought their own individual voice to each chapter and whether they think our readers or listeners might not have found that quirk enjoyable.

David Corbett: I felt no compunction whatsoever about writing in my own voice—or rather, I did not deliberately eviscerate my voice for the sake of the project. Not knowingly, anyway. Subconsciously there may have been some harmonizing, but I thought that some of the fun for readers—and for Alfred Molina, the narrator—would be experiencing different authorial takes not just on the action (and preferred setting—Christ, I’m surprised we didn’t have a chapter on the moon) but in style.

I’m embarrassed to say I’ve neither listened to either book in their original audio form nor read them in the Watchlist compendium. I only read what came before me in each book, wrote my chapter, and let go. (Too busy with other stuff to be that obsessive, which for me is saying something.) So I can’t speak to the artistic cohesion of either project, but knowing Jim and Jeff, I’m sure their editing smoothed out any conspicuous rough spots or bouts of stylistic idiosyncrasy that jeopardized the narrative flow.

The joy of the project was the freedom: I could do as I pleased. I did. Even in The Copper Bracelet, where I had the Where The Hell Are We and Why Chapter, I did not feel constrained stylistically half as much as I did by the simple requirement to rein things in and push the story forward in a single direction, rather than the scattershot directions it had previously been allowed to take. And that challenge was to find a compelling way to assess all the information that had come before, explain it without “explaining” it, and point a way forward.

Put differently: The only limits placed upon me were created by the wanton liberties—ahem, I mean challenges—presented by the immensely talented writers who preceded me. (You see? Irony is not dead.)

P.J. Parrish: The subject of voice fascinates me, probably because my sister and I get this question so often: How do collaborators manage to hide the seams? For us, the “trick” has always been to modulate our own natural voices so a third one can emerge. We often compare it to Lennon and McCartney: They had distinct voices when writing solo, but a third one dominated when they wrote as The Beatles. Thus, I was sure it would be easy with the ITW serial thrillers. I was right—and wrong. The temptation was strong to resort to our “Parrish” voice. But we recognized—just as we do as a duo—that it had to be submerged for the greater good. Although, I think you can “hear” us in our chapters if you listen hard, I think our writing changed, becoming faster paced, less descriptive—more staccato than legato. But it was a good lesson. We recently turned in our first stand-alone first-person thriller—a true departure from our mysteries/police procedurals. While writing it, I found myself thinking often of the style honed in the ITW thrillers and realized it taught me something fundamental about the differences between the two genres.

Gayle Lynds: Like those fabulous Parrish sisters, I’m fascinated by voice. What? I have a VOICE!!!! Gee whiz.

I liked the notion that the book resonated with one voice, but alas I don’t agree. I thought there were telltale signs throughout of different authors, different voices, and what struck me in particular was the strength of it.

To me, the novel’s voice shaded from chapter to chapter, author to author, and made the story more fascinating, gave it depth. And finally, one advantage of the tremendously fast pace was that the story itself became paramount. After a while, who cared who wrote which chapter? We wanted to find out what happened next!

I loved working on this project, particularly with Jim at the helm and Jeff coming in to clean up after us. Since I wrote chapter two, I had the joy and the luxury of creating mayhem and wondering what in heck David Hewson (who followed me) would do. In the editing process at the end of the book, one of my characters vanished, which meant some rewriting. I also enjoyed very much discovering what my fellow collaborators chose to do with what was wrought in the beginning, and was pleased to see the Scorpion was indeed poisonous.

John Ramsey Miller: I only worked on The Chopin Manuscript. If it was written in one voice, it was accidental on my part, unless everyone else wrote in my voice, of course. I wrote after James Brady, which was the first clean up chapter, but to the best of my memory, I did introduce a couple of characters.

Erica Spindler: Like Gayle, I participated in The Chopin Manuscript, but not The Copper Bracelet. And also like Gayle, I thought the whole point was different authors, different voices. When the first chapters came in, I sort of panicked because it was all so very different from what I do. I write intimate thrillers, focusing on personal terror. The whole sweeping, international thing was, well, foreign to me. I calmed down by reminding myself that the whole point of this project was different authors writing the story in their own way and their own voice. What a hoot to see that other participants took the opposite approach!suppose all this is what made The Watchlist such a success.

Brett Battles: I came aboard for The Copper Bracelet, but I never approached the project thinking I needed to change my voice. In fact, the thought never even crossed my mind. Which I’m kind of glad about because I was really concerned about the fact that I was supposed to write one of the later chapters. This meant it was partially my responsibility to try and start bringing things back together. (A belated, tongue firmly planted in check, thank you to my co-authors who wrote the chapters before mine.) But, truthfully, trying to figure how to start bringing the story in for a landing turned out to be as fun as I imagine writing one of the earlier chapters had been. Of course, one of the first rules of fiction, when you see “truthfully” in a sentence, you should take anything that follows with a certain amount of skepticism.

Were you surprised at the direction the story took after it departed your hands or did the novella, for the most part, follow your expectations?

S. J. Rozan: I was completely surprised. I wanted to do a chapter for the front of the book, so I could help make the mess, not clean it up. I took a character and setting that had only been mentioned in passing and made them central, left some threads dangling, and was amazed at the direction the book took.

Jim Fusilli: In every instance, the story went in a far different direction than I’d expected—and with fantastic results, some sinister, some whimsical, but all thrilling.

David Hewson fittingly referred to the characters in both novellas as “open source.”Did a particular character emerge in either The Chopin Manuscript or The Copper Bracelet that you would enjoy developing in one of your novels?

Linda Barnes: In working on The Copper Bracelet, I found, much to my surprise, that I enjoyed getting into the head of the villain, Jana, rather than communing with one of the heroes of the piece. Such a pleasure dealing with someone who had no morals and few redemptive qualities. It seemed to me that I had short-changed the evil characters in many of my own books, and I have vowed to change in the future. Someone more like Jana could certainly make an appearance in a new piece.

James Grady: I was early at bat in The Chopin Manuscript, and as I followed the direction the others had set out, I suddenly saw two characters who came from the streets of Washington and had nothing to do with the action or the drama, but who seemed to me to be natural, fascinating, and “propelling elements” on their own. They created that kind of simple twist of fate everyone from Bob Dylan to Charles Dickens and all of us love to use. Then that became a problem: I fell in love with them and for a few hours—OK, for many hours—considered “rescuing” my duo from the ensemble book and letting them come to life on their own. But they were born in that world, and wanted to live in that world. So there they are.

Was there anything in the work of your collaborators that amused or even troubled you?

Jim Fusilli: I could probably mention something each author did in his or her chapter. In The Chopin Manuscript, David Hewson gave us the wonderful character Felicia. PJ Parrish and Lisa Scottoline shocked all of us with the decisions they took in Chopin and The Copper Bracelet, respectively. Lee Child’s chapters are taut little miracles—not a wasted word or gesture. I could go on and on. Everyone did something that added to the magic.

Was there any self-imposed pressure to create something unique without deviating from the style and direction of the book?

Joseph Finder: Oh yeah. I think that’s the appeal of these projects, not just to me as a writer but to the readers, too. Part of it is that natural competitive urge; among a group of writers like this, I think we all feel obligated to bring our A games. In my own books, I’m always looking for that next twist, and in these books, we were all looking for that next twist. Which, of course, made Jim’s job that much harder.

James Grady: Anytime you work on a collaborative project with top-notch colleagues who you respect, the pressure is more about responsibility than any kind of competitiveness. You feel that you owe the best to them—not just your best at that given moment, but the best in a way that honors and reflects well on them. That’s both cool and daunting.

Jim Fusilli: By the time it was my turn to write, the previous contributors had established a fast-paced, reader-focused story, so the tone was well established. It felt like a matter of stepping into the flow.

In a story where you are crafting a single chapter, does the placement make a difference? Is it more difficult writing in the first act or in the middle or in the final act?

Lee Child: Both times, I was pretty late in the book, and both times, I felt it was necessary to focus, condense, and re-channel the narrative, ready for the final act … it can’t just keep on spiraling forever. Like a pre-pre-editor role. So I suppose there’s less freedom in the later chapters.

Jim Fusilli: Placement makes a difference. It’s easier to open a plotline than it is to bring it to a believable conclusion. That being the case, I would’ve said the third act would’ve been the most difficult, but Jeffery did a masterful job in bringing together all the threads of The Chopin Manuscript. By doing that, he showed us how it could be done in the sequel.

If you contributed to the first act, were you tempted to give suggestions or hints to the authors of subsequent chapters?

S. J. Rozan: Well, sure. I think we all gave hints—and threw roadblocks, on purpose or inadvertently—all along. I disguised my bad guy, left it unclear whether he was dead, had my protagonist run off with a couple of important, but unidentified things. It was clear to me which direction I’d have taken all that, but I loved it that those weren’t the choices the writers after me made.

Peter Spiegelman: Working on Chopin was a very different writing experience for me. When it comes to plotting, I’m a planner—an outliner. I find that having the mechanics of plot worked out, at least at a high level, frees me to think about things like character development, sense of place, etc. Chopin was another kind of animal altogether.

Lacking my friend SJ’s foresight, I cavalierly (foolishly?) answered “Whatever” when Jim ask if I cared which chapter he assigned me. As it happened, I got Chapter 11— a point about two-thirds of the way through the story, and very much on the receiving end of the first-act mischief-makers (yes, SJ, I’m talking about you). My colleagues had built quite a rollercoaster—all twists and loops and altitude—but I had to think about getting the passengers back on the ground. No outline, no net, but lots of fun.

John Gilstrap: As I wrote my chapters, I consciously opened doors and teed up conflicts for writers down the line to resolve. As I did this, I knew exactly how I would resolve them. What I found most fascinating about the project is that those downrange writers chose completely different avenues than I would have, and it all worked beautifully.

David Liss: I was involved only in The Copper Bracelet, and I specifically asked Jim to put me in somewhere in the late first act or early second act. My thinking was that I wanted to be able to respond to what other people had done already, but I didn’t want to have to tie up a lot of loose ends. It turned out, however, that I got to do both, and the most interesting thing about the process for me was trying to figure out what each writer had been attempting to accomplish in each preceding chapter, take each of these efforts seriously, and then add on to it in a way that would make organic sense. By the time I jumped in, there were a lot of balls in the air, and I felt that the manuscript would be best serviced by focusing some of their trajectories. The amazing thing about story-telling is how possible it is to take so many disparate elements and see a pattern in them as though everything was always supposed to go in a particular direction. I think the later you are involved in a project like this, the more of a challenge you face, and the more rewarding the challenge is. Hats off to everyone who came in for the third act. Those are dangerous waters.

P.J. Parrish: Okay, time to fess up. When we got to our chapter in The Copper Bracelet, we thought the stage was getting too crowded so we decided to kill off one of the villains, Jana. Well, we wrote this really nifty scene where the heroine chases her into the basement of a Paris bistro and blasts her away. But when Jim Fusilli got our chapter, he said he thought it would hamstring the subsequent writers too much. So with our blessing, Jim waved his hand and resurrected her from the dead. I really really wanted to kill that woman, but good editors always prevail.

David Corbett: At the end of my chapter in The Chopin Manuscript, I had an unidentified woman apprehend Harry, take his arm, and murmur that he’d best come along if he wanted to see his daughter again. Jim said, “I know who that is.” I replied: “Good for you, because I haven’t got a clue. Not my problem.” Bwaaaahahahaha…

If you contributed to the final act, was it difficult to pull together all the disparate plot threads and characters?

I jumped in towards the end of the first book (The Chopin Manuscript). At that point, Jim Fusilli was worried. He asked Peter Spiegelman (who wrote the chapter proceeding mine) and I to put our heads together and try to figure out what the hell was going on. You had all these interesting characters being introduced in one chapter then bumped off in novel ways in the next. Entertaining, yeah. But what was it all about? Who was driving the action, what were they trying to accomplish, and by what means? We came up with the idea of the manuscript imbedded with a secret code. Maybe you think it works, maybe you don’t.

Either way, it presented an interesting creative challenge. A kind of rabbit-out-of-the-hat maneuver. The point is that most mysteries and thrillers start with the author having some idea of where the action is going—in other words, what the antagonists are trying to accomplish. The Chopin Manuscript forced all of us to think differently. A good thing, I’m sure.

Did you spend more or less time rewriting your respective chapter compared with a typical chapter in one of your novels?

Lee Child: bout the same, given the in-the-groove mid-to-late positions I had both times. The first one took about two hours, which is typical speed for me when I’m on a roll—but what was interesting to me was that technically I was on someone else’s “roll”—a lot of people’s collective or cumulative “roll”—but it felt the same to me as if the preceding stuff was all mine. I remember feeling we were all jamming in a jazz club somewhere, and now it was my turn to step up and take my solo, and I just surfed on the energy that was already in place. My chapter in the second book maybe took me a little longer to write, but nothing out of the ordinary. Which was good, because inevitably the later you are in the process, the more vulnerable the whole thing is to delays building up…I could feel a little between-the-lines panic coming from Jim, who sadly had responsibility without power, poor guy…so I aimed for a one- or two-day turnaround in both cases, and hit it.

John Ramsey Miller: I want to say (and I know we all feel the same way here) that Jeffery set up the story so perfectly that it was easy for us to run with it. I didn’t spend any more time than I usually spend on a chapter, except that I had to read the lead ins a couple of times before I addressed the chapter I wrote. I was glad my chapter could take place in the United States, because I am not an International kind of guy.

The problem I had was the authors before me had so much great stuff happening and so many characters running about that I decided to slow things down and wrap up some things to make it easier for the author who came in after me. I don’t know if it was harder to make a funnel, or write more action. One thing about so few thriller authors writing chapters was that there was plenty of action and set up.

Jim Fusilli: Less. There was no time for fifth or sixth drafts, no time to let the work sit and settle before editing. The chapter had to be turned around fairly quickly.

Based on your experience with Watchlist, would you participate in a serial novel again?

Jenny Siler: I had a blast doing my chapter for The Copper Bracelet, and would definitely participate in something like that again. Of course, there were challenges with voice and continuity, but that was all part of the fun. The process could not have worked as it did without Jim, and without Jeff’s strong voice to start us off.

Jon Land: Well, I came on board The Copper Bracelet late to replace another author and considered it a great honor, especially since my chapter was considered “climactic” and thus allowed me to really ratchet up the suspense. So the short answer is, yes, I’d do another just like I’d do anything creative for ITW. That said, I think this was about the hardest writing I’ve ever done. It felt like work, since I had no acquaintance with the characters I was writing about. Doing a book for me is about learning about my characters, both new and old, as the story develops. Doing a serial novel was limiting, challenging, but also very rewarding in the sense that I felt I was part of something collaborative toward a wonderful cause. I also felt a great responsibility to make sure my chapter lived up to the terrific work of my predecessors. Imagine if someone had totally dropped the ball at any point along the way. The whole project could have collapsed under the weight of that. I don’t think enough credit has been given to Jim Fusilli for holding the whole thing together from the get-go. I served as managing editor of ITW’s YA anthology Fear and I’ve got to tell you my job was nothing compared to the challenges he faced. The fact that this book came out as good as it did is a huge credit to him as well as Jeff for providing the original voice!

David Corbett: I’d like to echo Jon’s remark: The sense that this project had a single voice, despite having in fact so many distinctive ones, is due to Jeff’s and Jim’s care, their focus, their vision. Without them, this thing is a herd of cats.

Erica Spindler: Perfect, but more like herding a herd of cats. And yes, props to Jeff and Jim.

David Corbett: “Herding of cats” sounds so much more gentile than “clusterfuck.” Or maybe that’s just me.

Let’s say you are advising an editor of a future serial novel. What changes would you suggest based on your Watchlist experience?

Jim Fusilli: No new characters after the end of Act One. Write that in stone. Really big letters.

John Gilstrap: I would advise a future editor to study the success of Watchlist. For me, one of the beauties of working on this project was the fact that our managing editor, Jim Fusilli, had the courage to let us run free. I can only imagine the nightmare he and Jeff Deaver faced as they were cleaning up the mess and tying the loose ends, but in the end, I think it was all worth it. As a general rule, I don’t work and play well with others (does any writer?), so I confess that I was a bit nervous about the project at the beginning. Because there was no end game in sight, though, there was no need to micromanage the plot, and I think that freed up everyone’s imagination to have a good romp. What pleased me most—and, frankly, surprised me a little—was the way everyone took their duties so seriously. I halfway expected someone to introduce an invader from Planet Xanthar, but we all behaved ourselves. I contributed to both parts of the book, and I am very proud of what we did.

What were the differences between working on The Chopin Manuscript in contrast with The Copper Bracelet? Because of the first novella’s success, did you find more pressure in writing the sequel?

Lee Child: The first one felt very experimental, very nothing-to-lose. The idea was first mooted relatively long ago—Audible was quite new, the idea of audiobook-only seemed very niche, the whole downloading thing was new. So it felt kind of under-the-radar at that point, and I think as a result we all attacked it with gay abandon. Then very quickly it all wasn’t new anymore, and it was a big success, so yes, the second one seemed to have some serious real-world pressure. Typical sophomore expectations, I suppose, which we all remember well, I’m sure.

Jim Fusilli: There wasn’t much pressure with either, I’d say. The Chopin Manuscript was a lark. We had no idea whether we could pull it off. And then Jeffery submitted his chapter and we had such a strong beginning that I think it boosted our confidence. With The Copper Bracelet, we were playing with house money. We knew we could do it and a good spirit had developed among the contributors.

Lisa Scottoline: The only analogy for is me is rowing on a crew. I used to row in college, and when you sit in a racing boat with eight other women, each one has to pull for the same goal, at the same time. But still, we all rowed in our own way. We had to.

We’re humans, not robots.

And when you row, recall that your back is to the finish line. Where it is, you have no idea. You know it’s there, but you can’t see it. You can’t row for it, or aim there.

You have to trust.

And when we rowed, the eight of us together, pulling hard, we trusted that the end was out there, in the chop of the river, in the huff of our ragged breaths, and if we just kept rowing and tried our hearts out, we knew we’d reach the finish line, flying.

And we did.

That’s Watchlist.

BONUS Thriller Roundtable discussion! From December 6-12: “What’s it like to write a serial novel?”

To celebrate the paperback release of WATCHLIST: Two Serial Thrillers in One Killer Book, contributors Lee Child, David Hewson, David Corbett, John Ramsey Miller, Brett Battles, Ralph Pezzulo, James Grady, Gayle Lynds, Jim Fusilli, James Phelan, SJ Rozan, David Liss, John Gilstrap, Erica Spindler, PJ Parrish, Peter Spiegelman and Joseph Finder, along with MJ Rose (who wrote the introduction) will talk more about what it was like to write a serial novel. Be sure to join the discussion in the comment trail!

Brett King