July 21 – 27: “Do you read or write in other genres?”

thriller-roundtable-logo5You write what you read, or so the old saying goes. This week join ITW Members and thriller writers Amy Lignor, Steve Philip Jones, David M. Salkin, Terri Anne Stanley, Merry Jones, Maegan Beaumont, Steve Attridge, Wendy Tyson, Sam Cabot, Alan Brenham, Luke McCallin, A.J. Colucci, Robert K. Lewis and Brian Poole to ask: “Do you read or write in other genres?”


seedersA. J. Colucci is the critically acclaimed author of THE COLONY and SEEDERS, stories that combine true, cutting-edge science with the adrenaline-rush a thriller. Her books have received praise from several New York Times bestselling authors including Steve Berry, James Rollins, Scott Sigler and Steve Alten. A.J. has also written hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles covering everything from the computer and film industries to fortune 500 companies as well as interviews with famous celebrity authors, actors and musicians.

perf5.000x8.000.inddTeri Anne Stanley has been writing since she could hold a crayon–though learning to read was a huge turning point in her growth as a writer. Teri’s first stories involved her favorite Saturday morning cartoon characters, followed by her favorite teen idols. She has also authored a recipe column (The Three Ingredient Gourmet), and scientific articles (Guess which was more interesting!). Now she writes fun, sexy romance filled with chaos and havoc, populated by strong, smart women and hunky heroes.

Front Cover (3)Alan Brenham is the pseudonym of Alan Behr, an American author and attorney. He served as a law enforcement officer before earning a law degree from Baylor University, and worked as a prosecutor and criminal defense attorney for twenty-seven years. His personal and official travels took him to several European and Middle Eastern countries, Alaska, and almost every island in the Caribbean. While contracted to U.S. military forces, he resided in Berlin, Germany, for two years. Alan and his wife, Lillian, currently live in the Austin, Texas area.

epMerry Jones is the author of the Elle Harrison suspense novels (ELECTIVE PROCEDURES, THE TROUBLE WTH CHARLIE), the Harper Jennings thrillers (OUTSIDE EDEN, WINTER BREAK, BEHIND THE WALLS, SUMMER SESSSION), the Zoe Hayes mysteries (including THE NANNY MURDERS). She has also written humor (including I LOVE HIM, BUT…) and non-fiction (including BIRTHMOTHERS: Women who relinquished babies for adoption tell their stories.)

DEADLY ASSETS front under 2 mbWendy Tyson’s background in law and psychology has provided inspiration for her mysteries and thrillers. Originally from the Philadelphia area, Wendy has returned to her roots and lives there again with her husband, three kids and two muses, dogs Molly and Driggs. Wendy’s short fiction has appeared in literary journals, including KARAMU, ECLIPSE, A LITERARY JOURNAL and CONCHO RIVER REVIEW. Wendy has authored KILLER IMAGE (Henery Press), the first in the Allison Campbell mystery series, and THE SEDUCTION OF MIRIAM CROSS (E-Lit Books). DEADLY ASSETS, the second novel in the Campbell series, will be released July 22, 2014.

Skin of the WolfSam Cabot is the pseudonym for Carlos Dews and S. J. Rozan. Carlos Dews is an associate professor and chair of the Department of English Language and Literature at John Cabot University, where he directs the Institute for Creative Writing and Literary Translation. He lives in Rome. S. J. Rozan is the author of many critically acclaimed novels and short stories that have won crime fiction’s greatest honors, including the Edgar, Shamus, Anthony, Macavity, and Nero awards. Born and raised in the Bronx, Rozan now lives in lower Manhattan. This is their second novel.

The Natural LawSteve Attridge has won RTS Awards, Writers Guild Awards and BAFTA nominations. His work includes stage and radio plays, TV series, individual TV dramas, and feature films, including the award winning GUY X. He wrote a book about the Boer War, and won an Eric Gregory award for poetry. His latest novel, his 15th book, published in July 2014 is called THE NATURAL LAW, the second about philosopher detective Paul Rook. The first, Philosophical Investigations, reached number 4 in the Amazon Kindle Singles bestsellers. Last year his play, CHAOS CARNAGE AND KULTURE, had a successful run at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

The Charlatans Crown_Final Online(1)As the daughter of a career librarian Amy Lignor grew up loving books; ‘Patience & Fortitude’ at the NYPL are still her heroes. Beginning in the genre of historical romance with, “THE HEART OF A LEGEND,” Amy moved into the YA world where her first team from THE ANGEL CHRONICLES became a beloved hit. Moving into the action/adventure world with TALLENT & LOWERY, Amy has created a new, incredibly suspenseful, team that has once again exploded with readers everywhere. Born in Connecticut, Amy is now living in the bright sunshine of Roswell, NM, delving into her next adventure.

Sacrificial MuseMaegan Beaumont, the author of the award-winning Sabrina Vaughn series, is a native Phoenician who loves writing take-you-to-the-edge-of-your-seat thrillers. When she isn’t busy fulfilling her duties as Domestic Goddess for her high school sweetheart turned husband, Joe, and their four children, she is locked in her office with her computer, her coffee pot and her Rhodesian Ridgeback, and one true love, Jade.


ccSteven Phi­lip Jones’­ novels an­d non-fict­ion books ­include KING OF HARLEM, TH­E CLIVE CUSSLER ADVE­NTURES: A ­CRITICAL R­EVIEW and COM­ICS WRITIN­G: COMMUNI­CATING WIT­H COMIC BO­OKS. ­Steven has­ also writ­ten over s­ixty graph­ic novels ­and a ­number of ­scripts fo­r radio dr­amas. A g­raduate of­ the Unive­rsity of I­owa, Steve­n has a Ba­chelor of ­Arts in Jo­urnalism a­nd Religion­, and was­ accepted ­into Iowa’­s Writer’s­ Workshop ­M.F.A. pro­gram.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00008]David M. Salkin is an award-winning author, the Mayor of Freehold Township, New Jersey and a Master Graduate Gemologist who co-owns a fine jewelry store. DEEP BLACK SEA is Salkin’s seventh published novel, and his first hard cover novel is due out in September of 2014. Salkin’s books have spanned military espionage, action-adventure, horror, mystery and science fiction. David has twice been a panelist at Thrillerfest in New York, and has been featured in newspaper and magazine articles numerous times. David M. Salkin titles include: CRESCENT FIRE, NECESSARY EXTREMES, THE MOP, THE TEAM, FOREVER HUNGER AND DEEP DOWN.

The Pale House ImageLuke McCallin was born in England, grew up in Africa, was educated around the world, and has worked with the UN as a humanitarian relief worker and peacekeeper in the Caucasus, the Sahel, and the Balkans. His experiences have driven his writing, in which he explores what happens to normal people put under abnormal pressures, inspiring a historical mystery series built around an unlikely protagonist, Gregor Reinhardt, a German intelligence officer and a former Berlin detective chased out of the police by the Nazis. THE MAN FROM BERLIN was published in 2013, followed by THE PALE HOUSE in 2014.

Grievous Angels_FinalBrian C. Poole is an author, attorney and all-around pop culture junkie. A Boston area native and graduate of Boston College and Suffolk Law School, Brian’s published novels include Grievous Angels and Echoes of a Distant Thunder. You may also have read some prospectuses that Brian wrote, but for your sake, he hopes not.


critical-damagesmlBay Area resident Robert K. Lewis has been a painter, printmaker, and a produced screenwriter. He is a contributor to Macmillan’s crime fiction fansite, Criminal Element. Lewis is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, the International Thriller Writers, and the Crime Writers Association. The Mark Mallen series first two novels are Untold Damage and Critical Damage. The third, Innocent Damage is out April 2015.


  1. I write what I read…for the most part. With two thriller titles under my belt, I’ve concentrated my reading and studying on mystery and thriller novels. That’s not to say other genres haven’t been read and studied. They have, but, with a background in law and law enforcement, my comfort level remains with the thriller and mystery genres.
    Will I write in other genres later? It’s very doubtful. I’m having too much fun making life miserable for my current protagonists.

  2. I constantly read and write in other genres. Reading widely nourishes you – you get ideas and material from reading around history, science, all sorts. I’m intensely curious about all sorts of things and sometimes the most abstruse piece of information can suggest an idea for a story or character or theme, especially as everything seems relevant when you’re writing something, and the trick is to know how to use it, if indeed you do. I’ve written children’s books, thrillers, a history book, comic novels, satire, and worked in TV and Film as well as fiction. I really think a good book is a good book, however it is categorised, and while genre writing is enormously rewarding because you are working within a tradition with certain kinds of accepted structures and conventions, it keeps me lively and sharp to try other things.

  3. I put the “disorder” in ADHD, I think. I read everything, and dabble in writing a lot of different things! Every couple of months I send my agent an email tome of ideas like “And then we could do an historical series about Scotsmen and bootleggers in communist China…” or “And then the lifeguard serial killer Svengali dude could slip through a wrinkle in the space-time-continuum…”
    And after a few days, she writes back and says something like, “You could do that, but what editors are really looking for right now is more…”

    Romance is my thing (thus explains the poor chilled fellow on the cover of my book up there by my bio), but mystery is my original love, when it comes to reading. I grew up with Nancy Drew, Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators, and Agatha. As a writer, I’m trying to stay focused on romantic suspense, contemporary romance, and am stretching my wings into some historical romance with a touch of mystery.

  4. Although I write suspense, I am a fan of historical fiction. Recently finished two books on Catharine the Great: EMPRESS OF THE NIGHT and THE WINTER PALACE. But my favorite books combine both suspense and history–Examples are Ken Follett’s EYE OF THE NEEDLE and KEY TO REBECCA.

    Fact is, though, that when I’m deep into my own writing, I don’t read other people’s novels. I live in the “world” of my emerging book, and I get distracted/interrupted by other writers’ voices, styles, structures, rhythms. My reading takes place in spurts, mostly between my writing projects. Do other writers have this pattern? I’d be interested to find out.

    1. Hey there! My reading takes place in spurts, too. However, I wish it could be longer spurts. 🙂 When I receive a book I WANT to read more than anything, I think my high school me comes back to life, because I set the writing project aside (and sometimes I shouldn’t), and hide in the bedroom. Feels a lot like calling in sick back then so I could get more sleep. LOL.

      By the way…I love THE WINTER PALACE. History and suspense coming together is a combo I find fantastic.

    2. I read constantly–I don’t watch TV before bed, I read–and at stop lights, and in line at the grocery store–um, back to that ADHD thing I mentioned earlier–
      And I do find myself wondering, in the middle of my WIP if I should be adding more X, Y, or Z, if the current work I’m reading has it–but I think it’s more about taking time away from getting work done than interrupting my voice or anything that makes me think I should maybe ease up a little. I do find myself more likely to do a re-read than a new read while I’m in the middle of a new WIP.

  5. Espionage thrillers are favorites of mine, probably because of my background. Alan Furst not only is an excellent writer, but his stories are in a different era, pre-world war II. Daniel Silva takes us into today’s world of brutal world of counterterrorism then we slip into the fine arts milieu. Place is important in my books and I’m now working on a story that starts in Sicily and ends in Yemen. Therefore, I’m reading a mystery by the Sicilian writer Andrea Camilleri, a travel book by Lawrence Durrell, Sicilian Carousel, and a memoir, the classic on Yemen, Motoring with Mohammed.
    However, this question got me thinking. I do read a variety of genres. Thanks for the opportunity of being a member of two writing groups; I read the work of authors who write in various genres. I read their romances, mysteries, and literary fiction. All that I enjoy. All the writings from which I constantly learn.

    1. I look forward to the book on Yemen, Arthur. I used to work there. It’s a fascinating place. One of the oldest, continually inhabited places in the world. You feel the history coming out of the rocks!

  6. My love for telling stories is a flip side to my love of reading them. I love thrillers, mysteries and other similar genre fiction, but my tastes are wide-ranging and I read a lot of stuff across the spectrum. I’m a fan of historical fiction and also of authentic period fiction. I’ll read classics or ultra-modern novels; highbrow lit or total junk food stories.

    Whether it’s a thriller, a family drama, sci fi or an absurdist comedy, I think I look for the same things, interesting characters that I can care about and an engaging plot. I look for something that hooks me, that speaks to something I recognize, even if the particulars of the character’s situation are radically different from mine, and makes me want to see what happens next. The pacing may be different, the stakes in a courtroom drama and a murder mystery on a submarine are quite different, but the upshot is the same: the characters and their lives are so interesting to me that I need to find out what happens to them.

    Right now, I’m reading The Custom of the Country, one of Edith Wharton’s bitchslaps to turn of the 20th century New York society. On deck after that is Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl; in between I’ll slip in various graphic novels. On the surface there’s not a lot to connect those works, other than that they all speak to some part of my brain. A diverse slate meets my needs as a reader and I think that exposure only improves my outlook as a writer.

  7. I am a fanatic – I want to read almost everything! 🙂 (Can you blame me? TV is a waste). And now…I sound like my Mom.

    Being a book reviewer, I believe, is what truly helps me branch out. Although I have certain ‘favorites’ like everyone else – whether it be the writer, themselves, or the genre – I love to discover new stories. I have found everything from YA to historical to suspense to non-fiction books that were so amazing, I have never forgotten them. So when I decided to write, I never actually thought of the genre. I love creating stories, new characters, plotlines that are unexpected – and when the combination is there, it’s a ‘have-to’ for me to write that story down, no matter what genre it would fall into.

    But I do have to say, that with both the YA series and the action/suspense series I’ve written, there is a small part that comes up in each one, and that’s the ‘puzzle’ factor. Putting puzzles together is what appeals to me. The emotional side of the books range from being the main point of the story to being a sub-plot, but that addition of a lesser-known fact, or detailing a location as it looked in a certain time period, is always embedded somewhere in the story. I love to read, so I am always on the lookout to discover that next awesome character, like (Preston & Child’s) Pendergast, or (Austen’s) Mr. Darcy, that will have me jumping up and down for more!

    1. I hear you on the puzzles! I took so much pleasure in rendering WWII-era Sarajevo. There were times I had to rein myself in, though: one can add too many little lesser-known facts!

      1. LOL. I know, believe me. You suddenly want to give them every piece of info like they’re studying for a Jeopardy tournament. 🙂

  8. Maybe I’m in the minority here, but I just do NOT read in the thriller or detective genre, when I’m working on a novel. I can’t, and I guess you can chalk it up to how easily I’m influenced, I dunno. I LOVE reading thrillers and detective novels, especially noir style stories, but I just can’t.

    However, I HAVE written in a couple other genres. I’ve written Urban Fantasy, and what you would call Literary Fiction. I read everything, however, when I’m working on a book, I usually end up reading non-fiction titles. Like now, as I work on a book, I’m reading Patricia Highsmith’s book on writing suspense fiction, “Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction”, however, I’m also reading a book on how to be a backyard astronomer. Also a self-help book (and BOY do I need help!) by Cherie Huber.

    But ask me to read my Thriller/Noir/Suspense Gods (Chandler, Ed McBain, Henry Kane, etc) while I’m WORKING on a book.


    I would always, ALWAYS advocate a writer try as many genres as possible. You just never know what you may find out about yourself.

  9. Oh, yeah. I not only write in other genres but also other media like novels, short stories, comics and graphic novels, radio plays and screenplays. As for genres, I’ve written thrillers, of course, but also westerns, horror, science fantasy, science fiction, superhero, mystery, historical fiction, adventure and romance as well as nonfiction like reviews and biographies. I have also strayed into advertising and copywriting when the chance arises. Basically, I love to write, and I’ll write anything for any form of communication.

    Now I realize this isn’t for everyone, and I’m not encouraging writers to write in other genres if they do not feel the urge. I once had a very successful comics writer and artist compliment me by saying, “You can write anything.” He thought this made me a better writer than he, but even if that were true, and I’m not convinced it is, he remains far more successful working in his limited area than I am working in my variety. There may be a lesson there, although what it is I have no earthly idea.

    Even if you prefer writing in one genre, and there is nothing wrong with that, you really should be reading things outside that genre. Ray Bradbury advised writers to read anything and everything, because you never know where that next idea that will grab you will come from. Plus, the more you learn, the stronger you will become as a writer. You will have more influences to draw upon and more knowledge to brace and expand your skills and imagination. Limiting what you read limits your abilities and leaves pockets of your talents underdeveloped. Why do that to yourself?

  10. Although I’ve been drawn to thrillers and suspense from a very young age, I’ll read anything that grabs my interest… which is why you can count on the fact that I always have two or more books going at once! Right now I’m reading Cover of Snow by Jenny Milchman, Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs and American Sniper by Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice. As you can see, my tastes pretty much run the gamut.
    When I was younger, before I discover Stephen King and Dean Koontz, I read a lot of fantasy—Lloyd Alexander and Robin McKinley (if one of my kids would just read The Hero and the Crown once, I could die a happy woman) were personal favorites. Non-fantasy faves were Katherine Patterson and Cynthia Voight.
    Since becoming a writer myself, I’ve taken a good hard look at what attracts me to a book and why and I’ve come to the conclusion that I love a fighter. A main character who is knee deep in it and instead of allowing themselves to be swallowed up by whatever is that’s trying to drag them down,they keep fighting…
    If a book can offer me that, then count me in.

  11. Well, this is my first post on this site and in this forum, so a big ‘hello’ to everyone!

    Reading or writing outside your genre. Absolutely for the first, not yet for the second. I think any writer–indeed, anyone–should read outside their preferred genre and comfort zone, and do so widely and voraciously because you’ll never know what you might find, and where you’ll find it.

    For instance, I’ve just finished Neal Stephenson’s ‘Anathem’ (amazing novel, but you know you’re only getting about a third of what he’s telling you!), and I’m reading Jonathon Littel’s ‘The Kindly Ones’, Reza Aslan’s ‘Zealot’, Mike Hulme’s ‘Why We Disagree About Climate Change’, and Timothy Morton’s ‘Hyperobjects’, which is a book that really ‘really’ makes you think about the world when it’s not tying your brain in knots…

    My first love, and still my go-to genre for ultimate relaxation and comfort, is science fiction and fantasy. Tolkien, Lewis, Donaldson, Gibson, Bakker, Dick, Niven and Pournelle… I love the intricacy of Tolkien’s world-building, the sense with Gibson that we’re looking five minutes into the future, the sheer breadth of Niven and Pournelle’s imagination (more discarded ideas in an afternoon than I’ll come up with in a year…). It’s that sense of wonder that inspired me to start writing, and I think it’s the attention to detail–paradoxically, perhaps, all the more important when you’re inventing a world, and because we SF&F fans may be geeks but we don’t swallow just any old rubbish!–that was a big influence on the care I like to think I take with my own research and writing.

    But here’s a question: does anyone read in another language, or read translated novels? Do you find that there’s more range to our chosen genre than we realise, other takes on the mystery, the thriller, the fantasy that we might not have thought of?

    1. Big hello back, Luke!

      I’ve read translated work, and also read thrillers from all over the place. There is DEFINITELY more range out there than I first realized. I would LOVE to read in another language if I could, as I feel this would make me a better writer (as in opening my eyes to other perspectives on the genre).

      And yes, if you read detective fiction from China, for an example, you see a very different take on it, imo. More character-driven perhaps.

    2. Way back in college I read “The Blue Angel” in the original German for a class assignment, but my facility with the language has withered from disuse and I doubt I’d get very far in a German-language book today. Like Robert, I’ve read many books translated from another language, especially Scandanavian suspense thrillers. It’s interesting seeing the translator trying to match up English language idioms with their foreign counterparts; they’re usually successful, but sometimes you have to stop and consider what the author was really trying to say before the translator got involved.

  12. Although I write mostly mysteries, and crime fiction is my favorite genre, I read other genres, too. I particularly enjoy horror/paranormal, historical fiction (love Sarah Dunant), science fiction, and literary fiction. I just finished DOCTOR SLEEP by Stephen King. While I’m in the midst of writing a novel, especially, I like to read in other genres. Like Robert, I don’t want to be influenced, and sometimes the change of pace and perspective is welcome.

    As for writing in other genres, my first novel (unpublished) was called RUNNING FOR THE TRAIN and it was contemporary women’s fiction. I’m working on another contemporary women’s fiction project, although it’s taking a back seat to the suspense novels that are in progress. Suspense is my first love. I enjoy the right brain-left brain nature of plotting crime fiction.

  13. I admire so many of my fellow thriller writers, and for so many reasons. Steve Berry for the seamless weaving of painstakingly-researched historical fact with complete imaginative fabrication; David Morrell for the Victorian joy of his new Thomas de Quincey series; Anne Rice for the breadth of her imagination and the lyricism of her writing; Lee Child for fully formed, believable characters and scalpel-like prose; Rebecca Cantrell for her pacing and unique vision. While I’m writing, I read none of them.

    In addition to thrillers, I write private eye novels, and I don’t read the masters in that field — Lawrence Block, Sara Paretsky — when I’m working on one of those, either.

    I’m easily influenced, you see.

    Not that I don’t know it. I do not mean I’m worried my prose would come out like the rusty version of Lee Child’s scalpel or the purple version of Anne Rice’s lyricism if I read them while I wrote. I mean, I’m a competitive kid. I would, and do, say, “Wow! How did she DO that? I want to do that, too!” The problem with that kind of up-and-at-’em attitude, I found out early in my career, is that even if I can actually do whatever the “that” is that I’m so impressed with, it’s rarely the right thing in the right place at the right time in the book I’m writing.

    I’ve been known to get way too lyrical, or way too action-oriented, or way too one thing and another, because of whom I’m reading. I’ve been known to alter a voice until it’s as unrecognizable as if I were using a device from Radio Shack. When I do those kinds of things, even when it’s right, it’s wrong; even when it’s good, it’s bad. A Sacred Harp song is a Sacred Harp song; whether you like one or not, it’s not improved by a salsa beat.

    So I read very little fiction while I write, and none of it in the genre I’m working in. Alas for me. However, the saving grace is this: I love non-fiction.

    Sometimes I call it research and justify taking the afternoon off that way. Other times I stick whatever non-fiction book I’m reading into my backpack and read on the subway, at the doctor’s office, before the movie starts. These books can be on subjects involved with the world I’m writing about. I’m working now on a thriller set in Mongolia — THE SHAMAN WEB, since you asked — and I’m reading Jack Weatherford’s book on the Mongol Queens. I just finished Marco Polo’s TRAVELS, and a biography of Sauel Taylor Coleridge, which, so help me, I found to be a page-turner. Good as these books are, well-written as they are, and relevant to my novel as they are, I still don’t find myself aspiring to reproduce anything in them.

    But give me one Christopher Rice novel, and I’m toast.

  14. One of my all-time literary heroes was the late Michael Crichton. He had the ability to write any genre he desired with equal ability.
    While I know that “commercially” it’s dangerous to cross genres while you’re still trying to build your audience, I follow Mike’s lead!

    I’ve written a dozen novels, and they’ve spanned crime, military-espionage, horror, sci-fi, vampire-romance / urban fantasy and mystery. The commonality is that they;re all “Thrillers”, with a pacing and excitement that I try and create in ever book, but the truth is, I write whatever I find interesting at that moment.

    June saw DEEP BLACK SEA released by Permuted Press, which is a sci-fi horror story three miles below the waves. In September, my first hard cover, HARD CARBON, will be released by Post Hill Press. Hard Carbon is an international crime thriller about synthetic diamonds, the Russian Mob, and the FBI. These two novels have NOTHING in common… except that I hope they both keep you up late at night!

  15. A LOT of my ideas come when I’m NOT reading thrillers or mysteries. I’m maybe reading some classic Sci Fi, or Literary Fiction. The birth of the protag from my series, Mark Mallen, happened from a Literary short I’d written and a piece of flash fiction that more horror than anything else.

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