June 20 – 26: “Can you write from any location?”

thriller-roundtable-logo5Can you write from any location? Does changing your setting, time or place, spur new ideas? This week, those are the questions we ask ITW Members J. M. LeDuc, Tim Baker, Mike Dellosso, Tom Breen, Mary Burton, Gordon Chaplin, Camille Minichino and John Farrow.




SEVEN DAYS DEADJohn Farrow is the Canadian author of five thrillers; and another seven novels and four plays under his real name, Trevor Ferguson. Seven Days Dead, the second in The Storm Murders Trilogy, has received a starred review in Booklist, while a great review in the New York Times (Marilyn Stasio) is forthcoming on June 12th. The Detective Émile Cinq-Mars series has been called the best of our time by Booklist, the best of all time by Die Zeit in Germany.



Fever City Europa World NoirTim Baker’s debut noir thriller, FEVER CITY (Europa Editions & Faber), has just been longlisted for a CWA Dagger award. Other longlisted writers this year include Stephen King, Don Winslow and Lee Child. Prior to publishing FEVER CITY, Tim liaised with international authorities on cases involving murder, kidnap, terrorism and disappearances in North Africa and Europe. He currently lives in the South of France with his wife and son. Twitter: @TimBakerWrites



Device Trial cover.inddTom Breen has practiced law over twenty five years and is currently a partner in a law firm in downtown New York. Tom’s litigation experience has enabled him to realistically create courtroom and deposition scenes with tense dialogue and interesting characters that simulates actual courtroom dynamics. He lives with his wife on Long Island and their two daughters are practicing attorneys living in New York City.



painted beautyMark Adduci, writing as J. M. LeDuc, shares his love and life with his wife, Sherri and his daughter, Chelsea. Blessed to have had a mother who loved the written word, her passion was passed on to him. It is in her maiden name he writes. J.M. LeDuc’s first novel, “Cursed Blessing,” won a Royal Palm Literary Award in 2008 as an unpublished manuscript in the thriller category and was published in 2010. The rest of the Trilogy of the Chosen: “Cursed Presence” and “Cursed Days” followed in 2012, as well as a novella, “Phantom Squad”—a prequel to the trilogy. “Cornerstone,” the continuation of the Phantom Squad series was published in 2013 to critical acclaim. Two years after its original publication, “Cornerstone” became a # 1 Best Seller on Amazon in November or 2015. “Sin,” the first book in the Sinclair O’Malley series was published in May of 2014. “Painted Beauty,” the second in the series, followed in May of 2016.


kill devilMike Dellosso is the author of several novels of suspense, an adjunct professor of creative writing and popular conference teacher, a husband, and a father. Born in Baltimore, Mike now resides in southern Pennsylvania with his wife and four daughters. KILL DEVIL is a Jed Patrick novel.




Mary Burton THE SHARK cover image from PW articleNew York Times and USA Today bestselling suspense author Mary Burton’s writing has been compared to the works of James Patterson, Lisa Gardner, Lisa Jackson and Steig Larson. Her new novel, THE SHARK, the first of her Forgotten File novels, debuts May 24th, following the success of her recent books Vulnerable, I’ll Never Let You Go, Cover Your Eyes and Be Afraid. Mary is the author of twenty-nine published novels and five novellas. In addition to her “Morgan Family” books, Mary’s other “connected” stories include The Seventh Victim, No Escape and You’re Not Safe, featuring investigators from the Texas Rangers and Senseless, Merciless and Before She Dies, all set in Alexandria, Virginia. Her short story, The Keepsake, is featured along with those by Jeffrey Deaver, Anne Perry and others in the recently published anthology Killer Nashville Noir: Cold Blooded.


deathCamille Minichino (aka Margaret Grace, Ada Madison, and Jean Flowers) has written more than 20 mystery novels as well as short stories and articles. Latest release: DEATH TAKES PRIORITY, November 2015. A retired physicist, she’s married to her webmaster, loves writing, but misses her helium-neon laser.




paraisoGordon Chaplin is the author of the novel Joyride and several works of nonfiction, including Dark Wind: A Survivor’s Tale of Love and Loss and Full Fathom Five: Ocean Warming and a Father’s Legacy. A former journalist for Newsweek, the Baltimore Sun, and the Washington Post, he has worked on sea conservation with the group Niparaja and since 2003 has been a research associate at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. He lives with his wife and daughter in New York City and Hebron, New York.



  1. I generally write on a laptop so I can take my writing with me wherever I go. Most of my writing takes place on the sofa in our living room in the early morning hours. But I’ve also written on the shores of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, in the woods of Maine, and overlooking the Rocky Mountains. For me, I write in my home out of necessity but would much prefer writing in nature. The peacefulness and tranquility of the gentle ebb and flow of the ocean or the myriad of sounds found in the forest stir my creative juices and help me focus. Writing is a creative process so what better location to inspire creativity than surrounded by creation.

  2. We would never be competing for space, Mike! I like noise and write with as much background as possible. It might come from the fact that my childhood bedroom was about 3 feet from the jukebox in the pizza place next door!

  3. Trains, planes and … but no, not automobiles.
    I love my office and my desk, but I can work anywhere except behind the wheel of a car. Sometimes there’s been no choice, and I’ve typed away in a crowd or on a commuter train. What’s the point of flying for five hours if you can’t tuck in a new chapter, or at least perk up yesterday’s work? Other times I do have a choice, and while I am usually at my desk, I might be in the mood for a café — I can live with the cliché — or I’ll head for the allure of nature, such as by a lakeside, if only for the change.
    I learned early that you can’t always pick your spots. Long, long ago, in a land far away, I was working on the railway building bridges, and living in communal bunkhouses. We were bereft of electricity in a wilderness in the Canadian north. External entertainment was nonexistent. I wrote. My fellow workers living at such close quarters, however, posed obvious problems. In order to defend the privacy of my work, and having heard that Wm. Faulkner could write a chapter on the back of a postage stamp, I set out to do just that. And did! The handwriting was so infinitesimal that I can’t make it out today, but fared well with it way back when. (Examples are now in the National Archives in Ottawa, Canada.)
    Another time I was writing about the wilderness but living in a city, and feeling a need to reconnect with the land in a visceral way. One day, I took my pen and pad and headed for St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal, which is a replica of Saint Peter’s in Rome. Midday, no one was there. I’m not Catholic, but with that extraordinary dome over my head, and a sense of being infinitesimally tiny in a vast space, the visceral sense of forest and mountain, river and fauna returned in full measure, and I was able to persevere with what would be my first novel. These were vital lessons to a very young writer at the time: you can find what you need anywhere, and you can work anywhere. Doubtless, the work I accomplished away from my desk was either a little different, or a lot different, than the work that might have been accomplished had I stayed home.

    1. Great stories, John! Thanks for sharing these. It’s inspiring to hear of the lengths authors will go to for the love of their craft. You’ve had some wonderful and intriguing experiences.

  4. It wasn’t until I started thinking about this panel that I realized that all my earliest writing was done while I was traveling. By train, car, hiking or hitching, I’d always find a place and a time to write.

    A lot of it was simply taking note of my adventures – the people I met, the places I saw. A mood. A climate. I still have many of those battered notebooks although have never gone back to them, and think of them as my ‘insurance plan’ – when I run out of ideas, I just might find something interesting there.

    All of which makes me appreciate how lucky we writers are, compared to other artists who depend upon performance or creation spaces, or who might be impeded by the tools of their trade – a pianist needs a piano and a director a cast and theater, whereas we only really need some paper and a pen.

    When I got serious about writing, I took to traveling with a Royal portable typewriter, lugging it around in its special carry case. It always got a lot of comments when I passed through customs. Today, like Mike, I travel with a laptop. No one says a word…

    1. You know, Tim, I never thought of how fortunate we are as artists to be able to take our work with us. Writing is very portable, unlike a lot of arts! Great perspective.

  5. I realized a long time ago that if I wanted to write, I was going to have to be flexible. Life didn’t care if I’d made my daily page count or if I had a deadline. If I wanted to write, I’d have to figure a way to fit the work into whatever pockets of time I could find.

    I started off working on a card table in my empty living room until I was able to find second hand office furniture. And thirty plus novels later, I’m still in the same office and working at the same desk.

    But as my children grew older and became engaged in more sporting activities, I realized I needed to be even more flexible. I switched to a laptop. I worked in my office during the school days but in the afternoons I wrote in the back seat of my car while parked at whatever sports practice was on the day’s docket for the day.

    The kids are out of college and living on their own now. I’m back to the desktop now but also still use the laptop when I travel. I’ve worked on trains, plane, in hotel rooms and lobbies. Hopefully, I’ll also get the chance to write on a cruise. ☺

    Even though it’s a challenge working around kids or travel, I know mixing it up has enhanced my work and given me ideas I hadn’t considered. The settings in I’M WATCHING YOU can be traced back to Richmond’s Bandy field where I sat while the kids’ attended triathlon practice. I finished one novel while stranded in a Seattle hotel for two days during Superstorm Sandy and the extra time in Seattle sparked ideas for THE SEVENTH VICTIM. The Morgans of Nashville novels came out of travelling to and working at the KillerNashville conference. (Maybe . . . novels evolved as I traveled to and worked at several Killer Nashville conferences.)And I worked out the details of THE SHARK while on vacation in North Carolina.

    I’ve learned I can work just about anywhere and that “anywhere” always sparks an idea that more often than not ends up sharing the page with a serial killer in the next book.

    1. Appreciate the discipline, Mary. It’s the only way! Every so often in life I’ve met parents, men and women both, who present kids as the excuse for not writing, but it’s persons like yourself who show the way.

  6. Hello all. I was finally able to slip out of work and join the discussion.
    Although I totally agree that lap top computers are the most efficient means to memorialize words, I continue to hand write my sentences on a yellow legal pad with today’s version of the 29 cent blue Bic pen. I keep a pad in my brief case at all times so I can scribble a few pages when ever I encounter down time during the course of the day. I might be in Court waiting for a hearing or on a subway traveling to a client’s office. Noise and distractions don’t bother me, with the only problem being the occasionally missed subway stop due to lack of attention to surrounding events.
    While I do enjoy the tranquility of writing while on a bench looking at the Hudson River,
    I don’t need it as a required environment. I have only one place where I simply cannot write because the words just don’t materialize. That one place is my desk at the law firm where I work. If, as sometimes happens, I have a thought that should be expressed immediately, I take the elevator from the 30th floor to the lobby and walk outside the building, pad in hand.
    Everone finds inspiration in their own way, but we are often conditioned to let different surroundings induce an increase or decrease in the creative flow.
    Tom Breen

  7. I can only write in spare rooms in other people’s houses, in cafes, or in motel rooms. Writing at home just doesn’t work at all. Therefore I’m constantly on the move from place to place and the special karma of each place may only last for a short time. It’s very time consuming and exhausting. I don’t recommend it at all but it’s the only way for me.

    1. “In spare rooms of other people’s houses” . . . Gordon, I’m not sure if your serious or not but that has a certain creepiness to it that I like. I think there’s a story there somewhere 🙂

      1. I’m totally serious. The best writing I ever did was in a third floor garret in a professor’s Victorian house off Brattle Street in Cambridge, Mass. I’ve been trying to get back there ever since.

  8. Interesting, Gordon — most of my ideas come in places other than home. I did my college homework on Boston’s MTA, and that kind of environment has become my comfortable thinking spot. I don’t recommend the MTA anymore, but I have no trouble recommending moving around to wake up the muses.

  9. Gordon’s comments about not being able to write at home might strike a chord with many writers. I know two who can’t write at home because they constantly get distracted by domestic issues.

    Of course finding an alternative space is not always easy. If you are uncomfortable writing in public, libraries and cafes are out. Or you can take Mike’s idea of writing in nature – but there are still potential obstacles from weather and school excursions to nosy dogs and running your batteries out.

    John Cheever found a creative solution: every morning he would wake at the same time and get dressed in suit and tie as though he were going to work in an office in Manhattan. He’d even leave his home, then turn around and go back in, go to his desk and start writing. In many ways his creative solution was obvious: after all, writing’s all in the mind…

    1. I have a full-time “day job” but if I ever wrote full-time I think I’d like to try Cheever’s solution. For me there would have to be a separation of home and writing.

  10. Great story, the Cheever, Tim. Now there’s a neurosis on display. To have a phobia about working at home, or a home that didn’t permit sufficient peace and quiet, would be a major pain. I feel for Gordon. Although it’s not always about peace and quiet. While I prefer quiet, if the juices aren’t flowing I have been known to turn up the rock music and dance around the room, then get back to work. It’s an advantage the home office has over other venues.

    And Tim, your earlier portable typewriter story reminds me of visiting my parents’ home while still a teenager a zillion years ago. Having nowhere to work with all the siblings and their friends around, I confiscated the living room. In those days I’d write a minimum of seven drafts by hand, but the time came when a beast had to be typed. No desk on which to place my manual typewriter? No problem. I took the living room door off its hinges and laid it flat between two chairs, sat on a kids’ stool and typed away. Not sure that my parents were amused.

    Later in life, and at the time I was writing literary novels exclusively, I was trying to purchase a house, dealing with offers and counteroffers, and putting off a final sale because I needed to make the down payment and was relying on the stock market for that, so I was buying and selling constantly. The phone rang every few minutes with good news and bad. A hopeless task, of course, and I don’t recommend the experience, but it happened to work out this time. In that frantic, pressure-ridden, desperate experience I also wrote pages I’m probably the proudest of in my career. So you just never know.

    1. That’s a great story, John. I’m sure your parents were impressed with your tenacity! And tenacity is one of the essential attributes all writers need if they’re going to succeed.

  11. Cheever story reminds me of a famous New Yorker cartoon showing a guy in suit, tie, carrying briefcase, leaving his house. “Wait, where am I going? I’m a writer.”

    1. Let’s not forget about Gay Talese, who put on a suit every day but never actually left the house. He just went down into his office in the basement. Probably still does.

  12. Although I like to think I could write from most locations, there are some places that are just so conducive to writing that they spoil you for every other place.

    I remember walking into a hotel room in southern Crete once and being stunned by the room – there was even a desk in exactly the right place, looking out onto the sea, and the room was flooded with a calming light.

    It was such a perfect, peaceful place to write in that I found myself missing it years later. It really made me wonder about associations between locations and positive (and negative!) energy. That room was so positive. Or perhaps it was just the state of mind that it put me in.

    Maybe that’s why locations are important, and perhaps why we should keep experimenting until we find one that works best. They can change our state of mind, but they can also reflect it.

  13. Tim, right off the bat, let me say that I envy you the Crete experience. I can feel it calling to me now. For young writers eavesdropping on these conversations, however, allow me to issue fair warning. As someone who has taught writing at the university level, I’m aware that some writing hopefuls go to such lengths to make certain that their environment is perfect, that when it isn’t, they have a ready excuse for not writing. That’s extreme, but subtler variations on the theme crop up. (I didn’t like my pen; my computer ran out of battery power; I didn’t have enough light.) For writers, there are no excuses. Nature might beguile me, so I’m less likely to write out of doors, but if obliged to write outside I would. But I think I can handle Crete. In fact, I think you’ve instilled it in me. I want Crete! Now you’ve done it.

    1. John, you are so right and it goes along with the “I don’t feel inspired” excuse. I know budding writers who can only write when they “inspired.” Location may inspire (like Crete) or it may not (like the sofa in my living room or the front seat of my car) but writers still must write. That feeling of inspiration is nice but it’s certainly not necessary.

  14. Crete! Crete! Crete!
    But seriously, I’d be staring out the window day and night. For me, better no view except the inside of my brain.

    John makes a good point– so many of my would-be-published students are the most creative when it comes to making excuses. Not only a less-than-perfect environment, but waxing the hallway floor often presents itself as a more urgent deadline than turning in an assignment. I realize that it’s sometimes hard to match creative energy with deadlines, but isn’t that how we all got here?

  15. That’s great advice from John and Camille. And perhaps there’s a warning here as well: over-waxed floors can lead to nasty falls!

    When we ask if we can write from any location, I think of Hemingway writing in cafes in Paris. Of course back in the 20s, many Paris apartments and most hotels had limited facilities. There were public baths in lieu of private bathrooms, and cafes had heating in the winter, whilst many apartments didn’t.

    So creature comforts and conveniences were probably at play when choosing to write in a cafe. And it was inexpensive. One drink kept you there for hours.

    On the down side, cafes were smoky and noisy and full of distraction. Perhaps good discipline for a focused mind…?

  16. Just a thought that stems from Tim’s fine remarks on café life.
    Paris apartments, of course, remain very small, so socializing still occurs in the cafés there, which helps keep Paris Paris. That’s a good thing. And writers still take up their craft in them. (The wine is cheap!) Socializing and writing at the same time doesn’t mix, but I’ve noticed that café life does impose a discipline which might well be beneficial for the fledgling writer, or any writer. While there is something Hemingway-esque about writing in a café, and therefore a tad precious — there is always a degree of look-at-me-the-writer in that scene today — the fact is the writer can’t actually get up and walk around, or nod off, or read a paper instead. Or strike up a conversation, or send a text message. If he or she is to maintain appearances, he or she has to at least LOOK as though progress is being made, that words are going down, so that one might suppose that someday the world might really pay attention. My point is that, to write, one must emulate what writers do, which is to write, write, write, and if emulating what writers do in public forces the discipline on a young scribe, then go for it. As well, if attaching romance to the act of writing is beneficial to one’s creative impetus, then enjoy that as well. But no matter what, in public or in private, the writer has to get back there the next day and do it again.
    And, these days, the cafés are no longer smoky. There’s that, at least.

    1. Excellent comments, John, especially the part about using whatever it takes to help you to write, including a notion of romance or glamour…

  17. Scene from a recent visit to a nearby Peets Coffee:

    Young Man at keyboard typing madly, clearly seeking attention.

    Cute Woman at the next table: What are you writing?

    YM: A screenplay to send to Will Smith.

    CW: You know Will Smith?

    YM: I have his address.

    Me (to myself) Good luck.

  18. Can you write from any location? Does changing your setting, time or place, spur new ideas?
    I love this question. Location changes everything, including my concentration and ability to break through any funk I may be experiencing. I tend to write in one of two types of atmospheres. The first is in quiet solitude. The location may vary from my home office or a study room at the local library. For whatever reason, these locations work better when I’m editing / rewriting.
    The second type of atmosphere is one where there is a lot of activity and noise. I do a lot of my writing in a Panera and in a coffee shop. The noise and activity seems to help stimulate my imagination and churns out ideas. I like to writing in these venues when drafting a manuscript.
    The craziest place I ever wrote in was a bar. It was a few years ago. I dropped my daughter off at work and had some time to kill. When I dropped her off, it was around 7:00 p.m., so the bar was quiet. I sat at the bar, pulled a notebook from my back pocket, and began to write. As people came and went, my senses and imagination were bombarded with constant stimulation. By the time I looked up from my writing, it was close to midnight, the place was packed, and it was time to pick my daughter up from her job. I can only imagine what the patrons thought about this nut, who sat alone, drinking coffee, in the middle of a crowded bar writing page after page in a notebook.
    As far as time is concerned, I write when I can. I’m an Assistant Academic Dean at a nursing college, so during the week, time is limited. I always carry a jump-drive (and my trusty notebook) with me because you never know when a few minutes will open up. On days off, it’s pretty much an all day affair.
    J.M. LeDuc

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