August 24 – 30: “Do you read or write outside of the thriller genre?”

thriller-roundtable-logo5This week we’re joined by ITW Members Mauro Azzano, Laura McNeill, Tim Tigner, Barb Han and Shelley Coriell to answer the question: “Do you read or write outside of the thriller genre?”




texas preyUSA Today bestselling author Barb Han lives in Texas-her true north-with her adventurous family, a spunky golden retriever/poodle mix, and too many books (if there is such a thing). She loves romance novels, thriller movies, and cooking. Her favorite hobbies include hiking, swimming and skiing.



death by deceitMauro Azzano was born in Italy, north of Venice. He grew up in Italy, Australia and finally Canada, settling on the west coast outside Vancouver, Canada. He has a broad experience to call on as a writer, having worked as a college instructor, commercial pilot and a number of other unusual occupations. Currently, he is working on the Ian McBriar Murder Mystery series and training as a distance runner.


center of gravityAfter six years behind the anchor desk at two CBS affiliates, Laura McNeill moved to the Alabama Gulf Coast to raise her family. Her accolades in broadcasting include awards from the Associated Press, including Best News Anchor and Best Specialized Reporter. Laura was recently awarded a 2-book deal with Thomas Nelson Publishing, a division of HarperCollins. Her novel, Center of Gravity, set in Mobile, Ala., will be published in July of 2015. Her writing awards include those from William Faulkner-Wisdom Creative Writing Competition, Writer’s Digest, RWA, and the Eric Hoffer competition.


COERCION CoverTim Tigner writes fast-paced espionage thrillers with the tagline: Devious Devices, International Intrigue, and the Deadly Mistake of Messing with the Wrong Guy. A Soviet Counterintelligence Specialist and Veteran of the Green Berets, Tim worked out of Moscow throughout perestroika, Brussels during the formation of the EU, and more recently Silicon Valley as a startup CEO. Please visit his website to download one of Tim’s thrillers for free.


The_Blind_Low_ResShelley Coriell is an award-winning author of romantic suspense and novels for teens. Her debut romantic thriller, The Broken, was named one of the Best Books of Summer 2014 by Publishers Weekly and the follow up, The Buried, was nominated for a 2015 ITW Thriller award for Best Original Paperback. An avid foodie and former restaurant reviewer, Shelley lives in Arizona with her family and the world’s neediest rescue weimaraner.




  1. I’ll be honest. When it comes to fiction, I stick to thrillers. Time is the dominant driver of this. Just within the genre, my to-read list grows faster than my read.

    But there’s a strategic element as well. Professional golfers don’t go to a batting cage to improve their game. They practice, practice, practice on their golf swing.

    One can argue that practice should include variety, both for enrichment and for comparison. I’d argue that even the subgenres are broad enough to yield those benefits. Lee Child to Vince Flynn is already quite a stretch. Throw Daniel Silva and Stuart Woods into the mix and you’re an Olympic gymnast.

    I’ll end with tactics. I study authors, and I study books. Breakout novels like The Firm are my bibles. I learn from each successive reading—more than I do from a random new book. The same applies on a different scale to bestselling series. Studying those takes time. Lots of it. Which brings us back to the beginning.

    1. Great to see a writer with such a solid vision and action plan, Tim. I’m curious, though, are you still able to read fiction for pleasure?

      About three years ago I became so intensely focused on the craft and business of writing that I lost my long-time love of reading. Picking up a novel meant hauling out multi-colored highlighters, dissecting, and analyzing. Realizing I’d lost the joy was a brutal blow. I discovered that reading in other genres and watching movies brought me back to a place where I could once again enjoy story journeys.

      1. Hi Shelley. Yes, I’m a planner. Fortunately, I do still love reading, although it’s almost all audio these days due to time constraints. Writing has made me a lot harder to please, but more appreciative of art when I see it. I can reread Ken Follett and Lee Child all day long and never tire of it.

        The other thing that’s changed is going to the movies, as I find that thinking about plot all the time makes it much easier to predict what’s going to happen.

        Loved your story about THE BROKEN. Ooh, that auction must have felt good! In COERCION my publisher assigned an editor with a hybrid background including romance. If I were to take it a step further and do what you did, what novels would you recommend (that also come in audiobook form.) Does JD Robb count–she’s the closest I’ve come?

  2. I love reading. Finding a great story is one of the best experiences for me, so I’m game for almost any genre if I think I’ll enjoy the characters and plot. I do read a lot of Thrillers (Lisa Gardner, Harlan Coben, and Sandra Brown are a few of my all-time favorites) and Romantic Suspense (Cindy Gerard, Allison Brennan, and Iris Johansen top my list) since those are the genres in which I primarily write. However, the last book I read was EVERBLAZE by Shannon Messenger (literally got up early this morning to finish it before I started on my work day). This series is shelved as Middle Grade Fantasy and I love that it’s something I can share with my daughter who is also hooked on the series. It’s incredible to have another rabid reader in the house and we have a lot of great discussions about the characters and storyline (so many interesting characters and plot twists!).

    I also read Y/A Fantasy (I’m one of those ‘Rowling-effect’ readers who misses the Potter series and looks for more). I also love a good Dystopian Fantasy, so THE HUNGER GAMES, THE GIVER, and DIVERGENT–all engaging reads.

    So, I guess you could say that I have pretty broad taste.

    1. Glad to see another kidlit reader here, Barb! Some of the best fiction out today can be found in the “young reader” section of bookstores. I, too, started reading MG/YA as a way to keep connected with my tween/teen daughters. Love Shannon’s KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES books. Another great MG fantasy series: Lisa McMann’s UNWANTEDS. As for YA, I adore Robin LaFevers’s GRAVE MERCY trilogy. Amazing YA historical fantasy!

    2. You got me thinking, Barb, mentioning reading to your daughter. I’m guessing every author with kids thinks about writing a children’s book. You too?

      Co-authoring one where my daughters illustrate is a fantasy I’ve been enjoying for years. I’m just not sure how my thrillers would sound after spending weeks creating Seuss-like rhymes.

  3. Hi all.
    Let me say off the bat that I don’t like fiddle music, horses, or pickup trucks.
    That said, I remember reading ‘Shane’ and being mesmerized by the story.
    I agree; good writing is good writing. The genre, like location, is a prop more than an integral part of the story.
    After finishing ‘Death By Deceit’ I wanted to keep writing, but my wife suggested I ‘cleanse my palate’ and write in another genre.
    As a joke, I said I’d write a ‘chick lit’ book, but only if I put her name on it, not mine.
    I’m halfway through ‘A Man for the Summer’, a romance set in central Oregon. Surprisingly, the structure of the story is very close to my mysteries- it’s just that I can’t get out of a chapter with a car chase or a gunfight.

    Also, I asked my publisher if, since ‘The Dead Don’t Dream’ was reviewed as more of a romantic mystery than a pure thriller, could I reissue it as a romance? I even came up with a name- ‘Savage Justice’- and a Fabio/bodice-ripper cover.

    The pigeonhole our books are placed into does not always reflect the true scope of the work. Any good book, like ‘Shane’, is not held to one genre. ‘Les Miserables’ is about two men’s interactions with each other, set in a turbulent time. My oft-mentioned ‘The Maltese Falcon’ is about a man’s struggle to do what’s right for a friend who was not that good a friend, because it’s the right thing to do, more than it is about finding a treasure.

    1. >>The pigeonhole our books are placed into does not always reflect the true scope of the work.<<

      Excellent point, Mauro. My romantic thrillers are more thriller than romance. However, I'm shelved in romance at brick and mortar stores, so I'm sure I'm missing out on a big part of my target audience. It's always a thrill to get e-mails from male readers who say their wives insisted they read my books and now admit to being fans of "romance."

  4. I’m literally on the fence on this one, straddling a career as an author of dark romantic thrillers and young adult contemp. Although I have two vastly different readerships and branding is challenging and diluted, writing in two genres makes me a better craftsman and storyteller.

    For example, I wrote THE BROKEN (Book #1 in my Apostles series), and it was rejected by the then-Big Six NY publishers. Five of the six rejections had a common thread: the editors didn’t connect with my heroine at an emotional level. So I studied books featuring my favorite heroines, including YA standouts THE TRUTH ABOUT FOREVER by Sarah Dessen and GRACELING by Kristin Cashore.

    For my next book, I challenged myself to write a YA. No more relying on plot twists that drive my fiction. No more puzzles that keep readers in their heads. Instead, I came at story through character and with a rawness teen readers demand. I focused more on introspection and self-awareness. Out of head. Into heart. And yes, I stopped throwing in dead bodies every time the pacing slowed.

    Using what I learned in YA, I revised THE BROKEN, and it sold to NY at auction.

    As for reading outside my genre, absolutely. I’m a huge fan of memoirs and narrative non-fiction. Such powerful stories and a great way to grow my knowledge base. Just finished A THOUSAND DAYS IN VENICE by Marlena de Blasi. Delicious!

  5. This is totally off topic, but I love telling this story.

    Coming back from seeing my parents, we were on a flight from Venice to London.
    A flight attendant ran up and down the aisle, asking ‘does anyone here speak English, Italian and Spanish?’
    This was an interesting one. I stuck my hand up, volunteering.
    “I speak all three.” I said. My Spanish is spotty, but I felt confident.
    The flight attendant leaned down. “We have a ninety three year old lady going to London, and from there going on to Buenos Aires.” She explained.
    “Can you tell her to stay in her seat after we land, and we’re going to bring up a wheelchair for her.”

    I cheerfully squatted down beside the lady and asked, in Italian, if she spoke Italian. She did, she said. I explained to her what the fight attendant had asked me to say. The old lady stared at me for a few seconds, then let out a slew of words which would make a longshoreman blush.
    “Ferchrissakes!” The lady said. They’ve told me that three times now. I’m old, not stupid!”
    The flight attendant watched all this, curious. “What did she say?” She asked.
    I stood up and smiled. “She said, thanks for letting her know, and could you remind her again when we land?”

    I went back to my seat.

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