Temperatures soared to record heights in New York City during ThrillerFest this year, paralleling our skyrocketing attendance.The atmosphere was positive, alive, adrenalizing—exactly what one would expect with over 900 thriller enthusiasts coming together to celebrate the genre. M.J. Rose, ITW’s VP of Marketing, captures the mood perfectly when she shares, “There was a special energy to ThrillerFest this year, wasn’t there? I’m not sure what exactly it was…but everyone seemed aware of it. From each debut author to every superstar—there was a congeniality and warmth to our 8th ThrillerFest that made it one of the best ever!”
Between CraftFest, AgentFest, ThrillerFest, FanFest, and the memorable banquet, we had four incredible days of education, entertainment, and celebration, as we reconnected with old friends and made new ones.
CraftFest is our fastest growing section of the conference. Just a few years ago, we hosted 150 attendees, and it has now blossomed to almost 500. NEW YORK TIMES bestsellers like Michael Connelly, Steve Berry, T. Jefferson Parker, Michael Palmer, David Morrell, Catherine Coulter, Charles McCarry, John Sandford, and many others shared their secrets on the craft of writing during the two-day event.
We were honored to host the first co-writing workshop by the #1 NEW YORK TIMES bestselling team of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. Doug Preston recounts his experience of this entertaining class. “Linc and I shared with an enthusiastic room of aspiring co-authors advice from our 25 year experience writing books together. It was the first time Linc and I had talked about the lessons of our partnership. It was a great experience for us not just to teach what we had learned, but also to discuss with each other our strengths and weaknesses as writers. We even managed to get in a couple of zingers at each other, much to the amusement of the audience.”
Spotlight guest T. Jefferson Parker joined us for CraftFest this year, and had a phenomenal time. “I think my favorite part of ThrillerFest was all the good comments I got from the guests on my CraftFest presentation, and later, on the Spotlight talk with Doug Lyle. I was really sweating the CraftFest class I taught, because if there’s anything harder than outlining a thriller, it’s trying to teach somebody how to do it! I even had note cards to help remind me. But people seemed to like it and not one person snored!”
We were also thrilled to welcome Spotlight Guest Michael Connelly to ThrillerFest. His workshop on Series Characters resonated with our attendees, as they all dream of creating the next Harry Bosch!
We’d like to express appreciation to Russ Grandinetti, Amazon’s Vice Presidennt of Kindle Content, who was our keynote for the CraftFest luncheon, graciously answering the countless questions from the enthusiastic crowd.
People are still buzzing about Leonardo Wild’s unique workshop on Subtext at CraftFest—and hisentertaining tale about a late-night NYC adventure demonstrates that the thrills at ThrillerFest don’t end with the programming. One night, after visiting with friends at the Grand Hyatt bar until midnight, Leonardo headed back to Queens where he was staying at a friend’s apartment:
“As the N train left Lexington Avenue and was about to enter the Queensboro Plaza, the announcement came that it would be the last station. All passengers—quite a full train in spite of the hour—were sent off to get a bus, yet with no clear directions on where to take it. I used my Ecuadorian street-smarts to catch a transport in the right direction … but it didn’t take me all the way to Ditmars. As New York’s geospatial arrangement of streets wasn’t rocket science, I decided to risk it. I’d been a photographer in a gold survey expedition in the Upper Amazon, had crossed the Andes on foot into the jungle three times, and though I’d never been in this part of town, a stroll through Queens at two a.m. suddenly felt like a good way to end a thrilling day. And I thought, If Jack Reacher can walk it, so can I.”
Leonardo, we’re pleased that Lee Child’s iconic character inspired you to make the trek home!
East Meets West
As the various fictional mediums merge, many of our members are crossing over into Hollywood, signing TV and film deals. Perhaps you were lucky enough to get an autographed mini-poster from Joseph Finder at the conference? His book PARANOIA was turned into a movie that will be released on August 16, starring Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman, and Liam Hemsworth.
Joe shares his thoughts on this incredible opportunity to reach a new audience. “I’m excited about the movie’s release. Even though it will no doubt be quite different from the book, and I had nothing at all to do with making the movie, I’m hoping it brings in a new legion of readers—and makes for a good date movie!”
We want to give our members insight into the inner workings of Hollywood, so next year CraftFest Director D.P. Lyle, MD is “looking into a 4th CraftFest track that would feature a novelist and a screenwriter “facing off” over a craft topic. Each would share his or her perspective on such subjects as character and plot development, pacing, dialog, and other areas of story creation. The plan is to pair a novelist and a screenwriter, each teaching a 50-minute class, “facing off” as it were, and offering students differing views of each topic covered. These “face off” points of view should help authors and screenwriters look at story from a slightly different perspective and hopefully lead to better story creation. 2014 will indeed be special.”
Every year, AgentFest gives aspiring authors an incredible opportunity to pitch to the over 50 agents. Huge thanks to the fabulous AgentFest team of Boyd Morrison, Terry Rodgers, and Shane Gericke who work tirelessly to organize this dynamic event.
AgentFest Director, Boyd Morrison, shares “My favorite part of AgentFest is hearing the success stories from new authors. Even before the ThrillerFest weekend was over, I met Simon Gervais, who had just signed with Eric Myers, an agent he met at AgentFest only a couple of days before. It was also exciting to meet past AgentFest attendees who have gone on to big things. John Dixon met his agent at AgentFest just two years ago, and now he has a major TV series coming out on CBS next February called INTELLIGENCE. The best part about it is that Simon and John are both nice guys, so it’s great to see them taking the next steps in their writing careers and wonderful to know that AgentFest made it possible.”
We couldn’t agree more. This year’s first success story set an AgentFest land-speed record with Simon Gervais signing with his agent two days after the event. Simon is a Canadian federal agent and close-protection specialist who has guarded everyone from President Barack Obama to Queen Elizabeth II. We’re very fortunate he kindly donated his time and expertise to create the first-ever security team at ThrillerFest this year. Simon signed with agent Eric Meyers of the Spieler Agency, and they are already plotting how to take the publishing world by storm. Simon confides, ”When I signed up for the 2013 ThrillerFest last February, never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be signing with an agent before the event was over. I was confident the agents would like my pitch but never did I expect to hear from one of them only a few hours later. It was surreal…actually, when I think about it, it still is.”
We hope to report more success stories from AgentFest as the agents have time to read our attendees work. Stay tuned!
We were very fortunate to have the FBI join us this year. Betsy Glick, a public affairs specialist from Washington, D.C., helped us coordinate a pre-conference workshop, which received rave reviews, leaving our members clamoring for more. Special Agent Austin Berglas also joined us as the ThrillerFest keynote speaker, sharing his extensive knowledge in an accessible and entertaining manner. We’d like to express ourdeep appreciation to Special Agents Austin Berglas, Martin Feely, and Anne Beagan who stayed after the keynote to answer our attendees’ questions about the inner workings of the FBI.
Austin Berglas comments, “ThrillerFest provided the perfect opportunity for me to represent the FBI and dispel typical myths and misconceptions surrounding the special agent position and the Bureau’s role in cyber and other investigations. The conference allowed for plenty of interaction with writers and agents, both before and after the presentation. I was impressed by the level of detail in many of the questions, which encompassed sources, investigative jurisdiction, technical cyber scenarios, and inter-agency cooperation.”
Another memorable ThrillerFest VIII moment was M.J. Rose’s interview with Silver Bullet recipient Steve Berry and ITW Executive Director Liz Berry, talking about their efforts to make a difference via History Matters. As Steve recounts, “That was our first interview on stage together, and we so enjoyed it. Receiving the Silver Bullet was a once in a lifetime experience. Truly a big thrill.”
Members of the press were also caught up in the excitement. Tatsha Robertson from PEOPLE MAGAZINE, was bursting with enthusiasm, “I work as an editor of real crime, but reading thrillers and watching brilliant crime series like BBC’s THE FALL are my hobbies. I am working on my own thriller, so sitting down to talk with Anne Rice and Lee Child about how they got started was thrilling to say the least. I loved all the workshops, and bought four CDs of those workshops I missed. I finished them all and finished reading an anthology I bought at the Fest: THRILLERS: 100 MUST READS. I have become a student of the thriller, and ThrillerFest (my second visit) is my master class.”
The Debut Breakfast is one of the highlights of ThrillerFest every year. Saturday morning, bright and early, the debuts authors trek up to the microphone to share their excitement about their novels. Douglas Preston, the debut author mentor, introduced the new ITW members, and also took them on a field trip to a bookstore afterwards. Silver Bullet recipient Steve Berry kindly joined us as the keynote, helping the debuts with “secondbookitis,” a very real and crushing issue for many new writers!
Our Debut Author Liaisons, Anthony Franze and Jenny Milchman, worked tirelessly with the debuts to make sure their launch would be a success. It was a special year for Jenny, as she was on the stage celebrating her first book, COVER OF SNOW. “The Debut Breakfast was a thrill-a-minute, literally. Each sixty second introduction by twenty-eight Debut Authors had us all laughing, nodding, and even tearing up. When it came time to give my own little speech, I didn’t think about being nervous up there, in front of four hundred or so people. I just felt as if I were walking past family members…and talking to friends.”
Anthony Franze shares, “I was knocked out by the impressive group of debut authors—which included military officers, journalists, lawyers, teachers, and other distinguished professionals—who already have achieved amazing success as authors. What struck me the most, though, was the reception they received from the ITW community who listened to the debuts’ remarks with pride. I had the honor to sit at a table with ITW’s co-founder David Morrell as well as Steve and Liz Berry, and they couldn’t say enough kind things about this debut class.”
Our inaugural FanFest (created by M.J. Rose) was also a huge success, a wonderful opportunity for our ITW authors to give back to their fans. Author host Andrew Gross was touched by his interaction with his loyal fan Bill from Florida who has been a tireless caregiver for his wife over many years. Bill’s eyes lit up as he told Andy, “This was my best night in years.” What better gift could there be?
Author hosts Peter James and Simon Toyne even traversed the ocean to join us at the first FanFest celebration. Simon Toyne, who ran a phenomenally successful contest to choose his fans, shares, “Fanfest was a new thing this year at Thrillerfest, as was I, so we were clearly made for each other. In truth, I was pretty excited myself at the prospect of drinking cocktails in the same room as some of the authors listed and offered my five tickets up as a sweepstake to fans on my Facebook page hoping they might feel the same. Plainly, they did, as I got almost a thousand entries. I’d like to think this was entirely down to the prospect of clinking ice with me but, whatever the reason, a sublime evening was had by all. I had a blast, Thrillerfest—see you again next year.”
ThrillerFest Awards Banquet
The banquet had a magical quality this year. Brad Meltzer and his adorable daughter Lila presented both Silver Bullet Awards, and Brad made us laugh, cry, and inspired us to do more to help others. Steve Berry received a standing ovation, not only for his work on HISTORY MATTERS, but for all the time and care he has given ITW over the years.
We also had the pleasure of honoring Sloan Gibson, the President of the USO, as the USO received the Corporate Silver Bullet Award this year. Sloan kindly flew in from Asia just to join us at the banquet. “The recognition of the USO with the Silver Bullet Award at ThrillerFest was a special honor! We are so grateful for all the ITW does to support America’s troops and families. For me personally, I am always reading a thriller. To have the chance to meet many of my favorite authors was a special thrill!”
No evening would be complete without the entertaining trio of Michael Palmer, Daniel Palmer, and Brad Parks. Their annual song always leaves the audience breathless with laughter, and they even introduced puppets into their routine this year! Spotlight guest Michael Palmer’s highlight was “R.L. Stine’s wonderfully witty, impeccably timed introduction of Anne Rice. Bob is a treasure, and could make it in stand-up if he hadn’t sold a gazillion books around the world over the years. I have already marked my calendar for 2014.”
Anne Rice’s ThrillerMaster acceptance touched all of our hearts, and everyone was thrilled that she promised to return again next year. As M.J. Rose shares, “Anne’s energy, charm, her sincerity, her appreciation for our appreciation…all contributed. So did her son. Chris Rice conducted one of the best interviews ever of his mom. And it was especially wonderful because he’s such a great writer in his own right but he was there 100% for her.”
Every year, we reflect on how fortunate we all are that co-founders David Morrell and Gayle Lynds decided to start this supportive organization back in 2004. The International Thriller Writers is thriving, adding new members on a daily basis. Co-President Kathleen Antrim comments, “ITW has grown to an organization of almost 2,500 members in 41 countries. And ThrillerFest has become a premier publishing event with a team that continues to outdo themselves year after year.”
Looking back over the past nine years, David Morrell shares, “It seems like yesterday when at Bouchercon in 2004 Gayle Lynds and I organized the first meeting of what became International Thriller Writers. How quickly the time has passed and how much ITW has grown. This year’s ThrillerFest was the best ever, with even more enthusiasm and good nature. It’s a joy to see old friends and to make new ones. Next year, ITW has its tenth birthday. I look forward to the celebration.”
Gayle Lynds has similar feelings, “Our tenth anniversary is going to be a blast. No one should miss it. We’re not just celebrating what ITW has accomplished, but what the next ten years will bring. Stay tuned. It’ll be a thriller.”
To give you a sneak peek into next year’s programming, CraftFest Director, D.P. Lyle, MD, shares, “With the June 2014 release of FACE OFF, the new ITW anthology featuring tandem authors and their iconic protagonists “facing off” in new, original stories, next year’s ThrillerFest/CraftFest will embrace this face-off theme throughout. For CraftFest, we are considering offering classes taught by the FACE OFF author pairings. How could that be anything but great?” We’ll be updating the website in early fall, so please check in at www.ThrillerFest.com to learn more about this exciting line-up.
In the meantime, you can order CDs from this ThrillerFest VIII.
Thanks to our sponsors, our spotlight guests, our ITW board, our attendees, countless industry professionals, and all our special volunteers for taking the time out of their busy schedules to come together in NYC for such a fantastic celebration. Also, special thanks to Alan Jacobson for the incredible photos attached to this article.
See you next year, July 9-12, 2014, where we will honor ThrillerMaster Scott Turow!
Special Thanks to ThrillerFest photographer (and author) Alan Jacobson:
ThrillerFest VIII Press:
Kimberley Howe is the Executive Director of ThrillerFest. She’s also a medical, health, and fitness writer whose passion is international thrillers. She has a Master’s in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in Pennsylvania and has the honor of winning three Daphne du Maurier awards for Excellence in Mystery and Suspense. Travel and adventure fuel her imagination. She has raced camels in Jordan, learned how to surf in Hawaii, zip-lined in the Costa Rican jungle, dove with Great White Sharks in South Africa, and hung out with elephants in Botswana. Home is in Toronto, Canada, but she is often missing in action.
To learn more about Kimberley, please visit her website.