May 2 – 8: “What are your characters’ favorite activities?”

thriller-roundtable-logo5Characters in thrillers seem far too active to be couch potatoes. This week we ask ITW Members Kate Kessler, Patricia Rosemoor, Dave Edlund, Susanna C. Calkins, E. Michael Helms and Radha Vatsal what are your characters’ favorite activities?




it takes oneKate Kessler is a former juvenile delinquent who went from reading Nancy Drew to Sidney Sheldon by age eleven.  A peculiar addiction to soap operas at a young age, and an overblown sense of curiosity often resulted in landing her in trouble, an affliction that continued into her teens. These days. She lives in New England with her patient and supportive husband and four cats, who provide all the external drama her life needs.


his deceptionNew York Times and USA Today bestselling author Patricia Rosemoor has had 98 novels with 8 publishers and more than 7 million books in print. Her novels are romantic suspense or paranormal romantic thrillers. Patricia won a Golden Heart from Romance Writers of America and two Reviewers Choice and two Career Achievement Awards from Romantic Times BOOKreviews; she taught Suspense-Thriller Writing at Columbia College Chicago.



DEADLY DUNES coverE. Michael Helms grew up along the beautiful beaches of the Florida panhandle, the setting for the Mac McClellan mysteries. His battlefield memoir of Vietnam, THE PROUD BASTARDS, has been called “As powerful and compelling a battlefield memoir as any ever written . . . a modern military classic,” and has been in print for 25 years. Helms is also the author of THE PRIVATE WAR OF CORPORAL HENSON, an autobiographical novel and sequel to his memoir; OF BLOOD AND BROTHERS, a Civil War/Reconstruction saga; and The Mac McClellan Mystery series. He lives with his wife in the Upstate of South Carolina near the Blue Ridge Mountains, where he continues to listen as Mac McClellan dictates his latest mystery.



death alongSusanna Calkins writes the Lucy Campion mysteries, set in 17th century England. Her books have been nominated for several awards; her third—The Masque of a Murderer (Minotaur Books, 2015)—was shortlisted for the Mary Higgins Clark Award, the Agatha for Best Historical Mystery, and the Bruce Alexander Historical Mystery Award. Her fourth book—A Death Along the River Fleet—was released April 12, 2016. Born and raised in Philadelphia, she lives outside Chicago now with her husband and two sons.



DS front coverDave Edlund is a graduate of the University of Oregon with a doctoral degree in chemistry. He resides in Bend, Oregon, with his wife, son, and four dogs (Lucy Liu, Diesel, Murphy, and Tenshi). In addition to authoring several technical articles and books on alternative energy, Edlund is an inventor on 101 U.S. patents. An avid outdoorsman and shooter, he has hunted across North America, and he has traveled extensively throughout China, Japan, and Europe. A member of the International Thriller Writers, his debut action/political-thriller Crossing Savage received the 2015 Ben Franklin Silver Medal for Popular Fiction, and was a 2015 INDIEFAB finalist for Best Suspense/Thriller. Deadly Savage, the third novel in the Peter Savage series, will be released in May 2016. Edlund is the Founder & CEO of an alternative energy company, and he serves on the Central Oregon Writers Guild Board of Directors.


FrontPageAffairRadha Vatsal grew up in Mumbai, India, and came to the United States to attend boarding school when she was sixteen. She has stayed here ever since. Her fascination with the 1910s began when she studied women filmmakers and action-film heroines of silent cinema at Duke University, where she earned her Ph.D. from the English Department. A Front Page Affair is her first novel. Radha lives with her husband and two daughters in New York City.

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  1. As a servant-turned-printer’s-apprentice, my character wouldn’t even begin to understand the concept of a couch potato. Living as she does in 17th-century England, ‘idle hands are the Devil’s tools’ was one of the prevailing notions of the day. From dawn to dusk she works, fixing meals, emptying slops, setting type, helping run the printing presses, and even selling books on street corners. Being so active and busy allows her to travel and eavesdrop and discover murderers…

    1. Characters who are busy doing physical tasks are always interesting to watch. I like the concept of ‘idle hands’…I’m assuming your murderers are more well-off?

  2. It would be an understatement to say Mac McClellan’s favorite pastime is fishing. Growing up in the mountains of western North Carolina, a youthful Mac could often be found on a stream or lake casting for bass, bluegill, or trout in the abundant waters surrounding his hometown of Brevard. A twenty-four year career in the Marine Corps with numerous combat deployments left scant time for Mac to pursue his boyhood passion.

    After marriage, fatherhood, and retirement, Mac is faced with empty nest syndrome and divorce papers. With his twin son and daughter safely settled in college, and his ex and her Navy pilot boyfriend now living in what was to be his dream retirement home, Mac sets sail for the Florida panhandle, a long-awaited fishing vacation, and time to ponder what he wishes to do with his post-Corps life.

    As fate would have it, Mac’s “relaxing” fishing vacation becomes the catalyst that launches him into a secondary career as a crime-solver. The opening sentence in the first Mac McClellan Mystery, Deadly Catch, sets the stage:

    The first cast of the day turned my dream vacation into a nightmare.

    From there, Max is off and running, eventually progressing from amateur sleuth to licensed Florida private investigator. He now awaits your comments and questions. Although priding himself as a Southern gentleman, Max is still learning the ropes, and is not afraid to step outside the bounds of the “gray area” between what’s legal and what’s not quite so. And as a career Marine, he lives by the code of Semper Fidelis—“Always Faithful.” He can be your best friend, or worst nightmare. Max awaits your comments and questions. And don’t worry, he won’t bite (well, most of the time, anyway).

      1. Hi, Chris! Mac enjoys wetting a line whenever he gets the opportunity. We’re first introduced to Mac during an angling outing where he snags a decomposed body, resulting in his initial case. He later combines a fishing excursion with a stakeout (from his boat) of a commercial fishing business he suspects is involved in drug-smuggling. Another fishing venture finds him contemplating about the clues of a case he’s working on.

        While many of his fishing ventures do occur off-stage, readers will occasionally find Mac with rod & reel in-hand combining work with pleasure. Living on the beautiful Florida panhandle coast provides Mac with ample opportunity for both salt and freshwater fishing.
        Thanks for the question, and good luck with your writing career!

          1. Hi again, Patricia! The short answer is: a LOT!
            I served in the Marine Corps myself during the Vietnam War and experienced my share of combat in 1967-68. I chose to make Mac McClellan a retired Marine with extensive combat service in order to be able to get inside my protagonist’s head and learn what makes him “tick.”
            Mac is suffering from PTSD but hasn’t yet sought treatment for it. That’s where his (at times) excessive drinking comes from. He’s also hyper-vigilant, and although generally a “Southern gentleman,” can explode if he feels threatened or is pushed too far.
            Mac is also well-versed in weaponry and not hesitant to use his 8-round pump shotgun or.357 Magnum revolver if necessary. He still hasn’t shed the ingrained habits of a twenty-four year career as a Marine, and can appear overly “bossy” at times. Bit-by-bit he’s learning to readjust to civilian life, but he’ll always retain the markings of a Marine (“Once a Marine, always a Marine”).
            Semper Fidelis (Always Faithful) is the code he lives by. Faithfulness and loyalty are everything to him.

  3. My characters tend to spend a lot of time eating, so I need to give them some sort of physical activity to balance their love of food. In IT TAKES ONE, Audrey Harte is a runner. Not only has she spent the last 17 years trying to out-run her past, but she uses running as an outlet from the stress of her job as a psychologist. She’s has also taken fighting classes, because a woman that angry has to have a way to let out her aggression. This is a hobby that will become more of a regular habit for her as the series progresses. Maybe some of her love of physical activity will rub off on her creator! 🙂

    1. You say you’re hoping some of Audrey’s physical activity will rub off on you. Have you taken some fighting classes, and do you think you’ll use that skill in a future book?

      1. Oh, thanks for asking! I run some, but I’m terrible at it. I have to run for a bit and then walk for a bit. I do like to run cross-country, though. Also, I love kickboxing. I’m nervous about taking classes though, because I don’t like being the one who doesn’t know what she’s doing! lol. I do want to take classes, though. I would definitely use it in a book!

  4. Hero and heroine of His Deception:

    Thorne Hudson honed fighting skills in the Army to stay alive in Afghanistan. Now, a private bodyguard, he’s obliged to stay in shape. I imagine him training incessantly when not on a case, running through woods, jumping across gorges, climbing trees, swimming rivers—anything to challenge himself.

    Katelyn Wade fell in love with the Lake Geneva area when her mom took her there as a kid, and as she grew up, her dream was to own a business on the lake. She’s a boater and a hiker and game for just about any outdoor activity, but she doesn’t have much down time because she now owns and runs Lakeside Guest House and Café.

    1. Hi, Patricia! My protagonist, Mac McClellan, is also former military. A “lifer,” he served twenty-four years with the U.S. Marine Corps and has several combat tours under his belt. I’m curious as to how Thorne, a professional bodyguard, and Katelyn, a business owner, met. Were they involved in some outdoor activity, or? Is their relationship strictly professional, or did they become involved personally and then work together? Inquiring minds want to know! 😉

      1. Hi, Michael —
        Thorne is Katelyn’s “secret” bodyguard, hired by her father after she refused to let him hire one for her. Her father owns several companies, including one that produces arms for military and law enforcement. One of the assault weapons ended up in the hands of someone who took it to a campus. Seven students were killed and one of the parents is sending emails to the father threatening to kill one of his children in return. Because Katelyn is a child outside of his marriage, she doesn’t have her father’s last name and they don’t live in the same state, so she assumes (wrongly, of course) that she’s safe. So unbeknownst to her, Thorne, her new bartender replacing the one who “disappeared” in the middle of the busy season, is there to protect her.

  5. Indeed, the main characters in thrillers cannot be couch potatoes—especially in action-thrillers! Since my love of the action-thriller genre began with Clive Cussler, Dirk Pitt is the first character that comes to mind in commenting here. What sets Pitt aside from the more common military-type protagonist, is that he’s not military. I like that. Consequently, we know Dirk Pitt as an engineer; collector of antique automobiles, rail cars, and aircraft; scuba diver; and all-around lady’s man. In the latter sense, Pitt is reminiscent of James Bond, but without the spy craft or license to kill.
    My thriller series is crafted around a male protagonist named Peter Savage. Like Mr. Pitt, Peter is not a military veteran. He is a scientist and inventor; he’s devoted to his family and loyal to his friends. In fact, you might even find Peter Savage somewhat boring to the degree he is ordinary. In his spare time, he does enjoy the outdoors. And living close to the Cascade Mountains of Oregon, he is a frequent hiker, camper, and hunter. He also can’t resist taking in rescued dogs. Peter often has the bad luck of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and then he applies his knowledge of science and his skills practiced through his hobbies to get out of trouble… or further into it!

    1. He sounds like a MacGyver-type. I loved that character. Do most of your books take place outdoors so he can use his outdoorsman-ship? And how does he use his science? Can you give an example. I’m definitely going to check out your books.

      1. Hello Chris. Yes, there is a MacGyver streak in the protagonist, Peter Savage. Especially in book #3 (Deadly Savage, just released). Peter has a degree in chemistry, which comes in handy as he finds himself under siege within the chemistry building at the Belarusian State University. His skills in the wilderness–stalking and hunting–are prominent in the first book. A major part of the plot unfolds on a remote Aleutian Island, where terrorists are attempting to terminate a scientific expedition. Peter’s father is one of those scientists. I’ve returned to the outdoor-survival mode in book #4 (manuscript form) in which Peter will become both hunter and prey in the Cascade Mountains west of his home town of Bend, Oregon.

  6. In a FRONT PAGE AFFAIR set in New York City in 1915, nineteen year old Kitty Weeks works for the Ladies’ Page of the New York Sentinel, and when she’s not working, she drives around town in her sporty Stutz Bearcat automobile.

    At that time, women and girls of her class (Kitty is well-off and boarding-school educated) would have been involved in gentler pursuits, perhaps charity work or some other form of philanthropy. Instead, Kitty choses to work (although she only works half days) and finds herself investigating a murder that takes place at July 4th party that she’s been assigned to cover for her newspaper.

      1. Hi Parricia,
        Thanks for your question. Kitty does both. She investigates in her newspaper’s archives, but also gets involved in active/thriller type situations.

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