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With just one more Roundtable discussion before ThrillerFest VII, we try to answer the question: “Which comes first, plot or character?” Join ITW Members Joseph Amiel, Charles Martin, Michael D. Urban, Allison Leotta, Jon Land, Meg Gardiner and John Hartness.


Allison Leotta served as a federal sex-crimes prosecutor in Washington, DC for twelve years. Her most recent novel, DISCRETION, comes out July 3rd. #1 best-selling author Douglas Preston said, “DISCRETION is the best legal thriller I’ve read this year, beautifully crafted and frighteningly real.” The Washington Post called her debut novel, LAW OF ATTRACTION, “a racy legal thriller, taking on a still-taboo subject.” A free e-short story, TEN RULES FOR A CALL GIRL, is available for e-readers. The ABA has named Allison’s blog, The Prime Time Crime Review, one of the best legal blogs in America. Allison is a graduate of Harvard Law School and Michigan State University.

New York Times bestselling author Karen Harper writes contemporary suspense for Mira Books–not with real people. But she also writes historical novels, most recently MISTRESS OF MOURNING, a Tudor-era murder mystery, for Penguin USA and Random House UK. Each of her historicals centers on a real woman from English history. Harper won the Mary Higgins Clark Award in 2006. A former university and high school English teacher, she has been published since 1982 with over 50 novels, many of which have been translated into foreign editions.

Meg Gardiner writes the Evan Delaney and the Jo Beckett novels, best-selling series that have been translated into twenty languages. CHINA LAKE won the 2009 Edgar for Best Paperback Original. Gardiner practiced law in Los Angeles and taught at the University of California Santa Barbara. She lives near London. Her latest novel is RANSOM RIVER.

Charles Philipp Martin, who grew up in New York City, is the author of the Hong Kong suspense novel NEON PANIC. After spending a few years playing bass in the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, he switched to writing, spending years as a newspaper columnist, feature writer and radio presenter. He now lives in Seattle with his wife and son. His jazz radio show, 3 O’Clock Jump, can be heard every Saturday on Hong Kong’s Radio 3. Martin is at work on the second Inspector Lok novel.

Jon Land is the bestselling author of thirty thrillers, most recently the Caitlin Strong series that includes STRONG ENOUGH TO DIE, STRONG JUSTICE, and STRONG AT THE BREAK. The next entry, STRONG VENGEANCE, will actually be debuting at ThrillerFest. He’s also bringing back his longtime action hero Blaine McCracken in PANDORA’S TEMPLE for Open Road Media this coming November and this past year published his first ever nonfiction book, BETRAYAL.

Mike Urban was born outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  A Dartmouth College graduate, he now lives in New England with his wife, daughter and Portuguese Water Dog (who happens to have the same grandfather as Bo Obama). DRAKE’S COFFIN is the beginning of a planned series of several adventures featuring his DRAKE’S COFFIN hero, Zach Colt. DRAKE’S COFFIN was named a Finalist in Action/Adventure by the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. It is also nominated for Best Thriller and Best eBook Cover by the Global eBook Awards. For over a decade Mike lived and traveled throughout Central America.  He worked in federal law enforcement both in the States and overseas. Most recently, he was a trial lawyer in private practice.  As a boy, he did dive in search of Sir Francis Drake’s lead coffin, which has been resting for over 400 years somewhere on the ocean floor near the entrance to Portobelo Harbor, Panama.  He has not found it — yet.

Joseph Amiel is an internationally best-selling author, whose novels include STAR TIME, BIRTHRIGHT, DEEDS, HAWKS and A QUESTION OF PROOF. He has also won awards for screenwriting and for his comedy-mystery web series Ain’t That Life. A graduate of Amherst College and Yale Law School, he is married and lives in New York City.