Feb 3 – 9: “When were you first inspired to write?”

thriller-roundtable-logo5“When were you first inspired to write?”

Join ITW Members Stephen Carbone, Lisa Von Biela, Kelly Parsons, William Lashner and Marc Cameron as they reminisce about the what first inspired them to write.

THE JANUS LEGACY coverLisa von Biela worked in Information Technology for 25 years, then left the field to attend the University of Minnesota Law School, graduating magna cum laude in 2009. She now practices law in Seattle, Washington. Lisa’s first short story appeared in The Edge in 2002. Her short works have appeared in various small press venues, including Gothic.net, Twilight Times, Dark Animus, AfterburnSF, and more. Her debut novel, THE GENESIS CODE, was released in 2013. Her second novel, THE JANUS LEGACY, is due out in February 2014, and her first novella, ASH AND BONE, is set for release in May 2014.

Doing Harm by Kelly ParsonsKelly Parsons is a board-certified urologist with degrees from Stanford University, University of Pennsylvania, and Johns Hopkins, and he is on the faculty at the University of California San Diego. He lives with his family in Southern California. DOING HARM, a medical thriller, is his first novel.

Time Of Attack by Marc CameronUSA Today bestselling author, Marc Cameron is a retired Chief Deputy US Marshal and 29-year law enforcement veteran. His short stories have appeared in BOYS’ LIFE Magazine and the Saturday Evening Post. He’s published ten novels, six of them Westerns (several as a ghost writer and two under his pen name, Mark Henry). TIME OF ATTACK, fourth in his Jericho Quinn Thriller series, is new from Kensington, February of 2014. Marc lives in Alaska with his beautiful bride and BMW motorcycle.

The Barkeep by William LashnerWilliam Lashner is the NEW YORK TIMES best-selling creator of Victor Carl, a character BOOKLIST called “one of the mystery novel’s most compelling, most morally ambiguous characters.” The eight Victor Carl novels have been translated into more than a dozen foreign languages and are sold all over the world. He is also the author of the best-selling thrillers THE ACCOUNTING and BLOOD AND BONE, as well as the novel KOCKROACH, which he published under the pseudonym Tyler Knox. Before leaving his job to write full-time, Lashner was a criminal prosecutor with the Department of Justice in Washington, DC.

Stephen Carbone is new to the novel writing world. His literary experience comes from penning regular articles for several aviation journals, a sort of open-door series. His thirty plus years in aviation were on both sides of the table – airline and government. Stephen has investigated major airline accidents; this first book, an aviation techno-thriller, closely parallels his first hand experiences with such disasters. Stephen and his wife of thirty-one years live in Virginia.

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  1. I was inspired several different times, but only got organized to really do it in the late 90s. In grade school, I entered–and won–a Daughters of the American Revolution essay contest. As first prize, I got to go to some tea in Beverly Hills where I *so* did not fit in!

    In high school, I spent part of one summer just pounding out stories ad hoc on a typewriter. I don’t know what happened to them, but I am sure they were utter junk.

    Then in the early 90s, I started thinking of interesting topics to write about, but didn’t really get a clue about how to proceed.

    It was only in the late 90s that I really embarked on writing in a significant and ongoing way. I started with my topics and decided to start by writing short stories and focusing on the dark fiction side of the world.

  2. For me, it’s always been about books.

    It started with tenth grade English with Mr. Giordano. It’s sometimes hard to remember how vital great teachers can be. We read Camus and Kafka, Sartre, the Book of Job, and everything Mr. Giordano assigned hit me deep. I didn’t really understand THE STRANGER, I still don’t, but it changed me somehow. After that class, even though I didn’t write all that much, I considered myself a writer. It’s funny how our conception of the self doesn’t always match reality. I still think of myself as a tennis player thought I haven’t picked up a racket in years.

    But then in college, I picked up this dowdy yellow paperback with a car and girl on the cover, not really knowing what it was. I expected it to be some trashy sex-laden road story, which it actually was, but it was also the most brilliant thing I had ever read. If Camus turned me into a writer, it was ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac that finally got me writing. I spent a lot of time filtering the world through a fake Kerouacian patter that’s more than a bit embarrassing when I look at it now, but that at least had me putting pen to paper.

    That started the writing part, and then I discovered Chandler.

  3. My third grade teacher, Miss Whitehead, was a supremely beautiful woman—at least she seemed so to my nine-year-old eyes. My Aunt Billie had given me an autographed copy of WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS and Miss Whitehead agreed to read it to the class. Like I said, she was gorgeous, so I watched her as much as I listened. When she reached the end of the story she closed the book and held it to her chest, breaking down in tears right there in front of the class. Half of us joined in before she pulled herself together. Even at that age, I knew I wanted to write stories that moved people like that.
    What I would call my first real kiss happened in the eighth grade with a girl named Amy. Giddy, I started writing an adventure story in the back of my science spiral, on the bus ride home after school. Now that I look back, it was suspiciously like The Moon Spinners, with Amy playing the part of Haley Mills.
    Boyhood crushes, favorite dogs and camping trips with buddies, all ended up scrawled on the pages of my spiral notebooks.
    Later, when I decided to pursue local, then federal law enforcement, I found I was living smack in the middle of opportunities that other writers would kill for. High speed chases, decaying bodies, knuckle-busting fights, brutal assaults and the gallows humor cops use to stay sane—all pushed me to write. Long, philosophy discussions with prisoners who happened to be murderers, rapists and terrorists made me want to create characters in stories of my own.
    On my first trip to New York I was detailed to the State Department, guarding the foreign minister of Japan. They put me behind the wheel of the armored limo—quite an adventure for a kid from Texas on his first driving experience in Manhattan. A couple of years later, on a protective detail for the Egyptian foreign minister, the threat level increased dramatically. I was assigned the “right rear” position in the follow car—the vehicle that provides muscle for the limo. My job was to hold the UZI submachine gun in my lap and keep any hostiles from overtaking the motorcade on that side. It crossed my mind more than once as I sat there in that dark Suburban full of armed Diplomatic Security agents and deputy U.S. marshals, speeding through the streets of New York, that I was living something out of all the novels and movies I’d ever read and seen.
    Nearly thirty years of working with some of the toughest and most interesting people on the planet allowed me to fill up dozens of spirals. It’s been ages since I wrote goofy romantic adventures on those long bus rides home, but they were the beginnings of my learning the craft.
    I’m retired now, and still, everyday, something inspires me to write. I can never tell what’s going to trip my literary Spidy Sense. I just know I have to keep a pen handy for that moment when I come across that magic something that belongs in a book.

    1. Marc,

      I was born in Manhattan and raised in the boroughs; it’s the furthest thing from Louis L’Amour I can think of. How did you get inspired to write Westerns?

      1. Hey, Stephen,
        I started my law enforcement career in a small Texas town out of Ft. Worth. They didn’t pay much back then so I had to take up horseshoeing to make ends meet. Ended up as a mounted police officer for my last two years before I left for the US Marshals. I started writing Westerns because that was the world I was living in at the time. I eventually moved to Thrillers because I had so many characters I wanted to write about that didn’t fit the Western motif.
        I like Manhattan. I don’t think I could live there for too long, but it vitalizes me to visit.

        1. Marc,
          So you have the best of two worlds. But just as long as you buy your picante sauce from San Antonio and not New York City.

          Have you thought about making a different genre big, namely the Western thriller?

          1. I have the best of many worlds. Thankfully, I haven’t gotten what I deserve or I’d be laying in a ditch somewhere.

            A Western Thriller… I like it. “Return with us now to the Thrilling days of yesteryear…”

  4. When was I first inspired to write? I’m sorry, it helps to repeat the question. I wrote my first story after my mother passed in 1987. It was therapeutic and gave me focus. It was an inspirational story that I hope to revisit, maybe get published some day. After that, my wife, children, and work pretty much absorbed most of my free time.

    Ten years ago I started writing a regular article piece in several aviation trade magazines, to open the door between the public and government. It was very successful and my articles were well received – I wrote what I knew; I asked for questions from the flying public to write pieces that answered their concerns. Despite some people who have to be critics, the communications were encouraging and I felt a desire to branch out.

    Several years ago I decided to write about my experiences in aviation accident investigation – albeit a fictional version. Many of the people who read the manuscript for accuracy pushed me to finish it and get it published. I did … and it is, but not after (as I’m sure many of you understand) numerous rejections, which after countless ‘no-thank-yous’ made me think hard about whether it was worth pursuing.

    But rejection isn’t a good reason to give up writing; it’s why you better yourself and steel your feelings against disappointment. Because nobody knows my story better than me. So what inspired me to start writing? My stories needed an audience; they were what inspired me to start writing.

  5. It started with a summer day, a sofa, and a paperback book.

    The summer I turned 15, my best friend handed me a dog-eared copy of Michael Crichton’s CONGO.

    Read this, he urged. You’ll love it.

    I studied the book jacket without enthusiasm. It was 1985, and I was skeptical for several reasons–not the least of which was that a book about an expedition into an African jungle in search of ancient diamond mines sounded pretty unoriginal.

    But I flipped through the first few pages anyway.

    And then I couldn’t stop.

    It was distilled, intoxicating escapism and the first book I ever read in one sitting. Killer hippos. High-tech gadgets. Crashing planes. Mutant gorillas. Lost cities. Exploding volcanoes.

    Did I mention the killer hippos?

    Plastered to the sofa in our family room, I discovered the simple but heady pleasures of a well-crafted thriller. By the time I finished the last sentence and finally came up for air, it was late at night—or maybe early in the morning. Who cared? I was exhausted and giddy and wanted more.

    So the next day, a bit bleary eyed, I headed to our local bookstore and bought a copy of THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN. As soon as I got home, I settled myself back onto the same sofa and turned to the first page.

    It hit me again, immediately: that rush of plunging into a completely absorbing world. It was scary. It was tense. It was fun.

    It was another late night. And I was hooked.

    I read more thrillers that summer—and many more in the summers that followed—on the sofa in our family room. All of the greats. Clancy. Follett. Grisham. Turow. I read, and I wrote, and I privately nurtured my dream of one day publishing my own novel.

    Eventually, I followed a calling into medicine. But, through all of my years of medical school and residency training, and all of the years that have passed since, the 15-year old kid on the sofa stayed with me—as did my passion for creative writing, and my dream.

      1. Dear Marc,

        Thanks so much for your kind words. I really appreciate it. And I love your own journey: from WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS to law enforcement. Hope to meet you soon–perhaps at ThrillerFest in July?



    1. Kelly,

      That is a *great* story. There is nothing better than a book that just grabs you firmly and takes you away like that. That’s what I wanted to be able to do myself. It gave me no end of pleasure when someone reported to me that he started reading The Genesis Code, my debut novel, at midnight on his vacation.

      And he finished it at 5am, in one sitting, because he couldn’t put it down.

      Oh my, that felt so good to hear!

      1. Dear Marc,

        Thanks so much for your kind words. I really appreciate it. And I love your own journey: from WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS to law enforcement. Hope to meet you soon–perhaps at ThrillerFest in July?



      2. Dear Lisa,

        Thanks so much. Yes–I can imagine that must be a great feeling, to hear someone say that about your work! Looking forward to your upcoming releases.



  6. I wrote a series of pocket guide books for the Highlands of Scotland. My wife said to me that she did not think they would keep her in her old age. I would have to write a blockbuster. So I turned to my waiting computer and began writing my first novel ‘Exciting Isn’t it’ 102000 words later I finished the first of fifteen books so far. That was in 2006,and I am still writing, still waiting for the blockbuster. I’m lucky I enjoy the writing, and there will be more books to come.

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