April 24 – 30: “Of the books you have written, which is your favorite?”

thriller-roundtable-logo5This week we’re joined by ITW Members Lisa von Biela, John Hegenberger, Vicki Delany, Toni LoTempio, Cara Putman, DiAnn Mills, Lori Rader-Day, Alex Segura and A. J. Kerns who will discuss their favorite books…that they’ve written: “Of the books you have written, which is your favorite? And do your readers necessarily agree?”


While Toni Lotempio does not commit – or solve – murders in real life, she has no trouble doing it on paper. Her lifelong love of mysteries began early on when she was introduced to her first Nancy Drew mystery at age 10 – The Secret in the Old Attic. She (and ROCCO, albeit he’s uncredited) pen the Nick and Nora mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime – and the just released Cat Rescue Mysteries from Crooked Lane! The first volume, Purr M for Murder is out now! She, Rocco and company make their home in Clifton, New Jersey, just twenty minutes from the Big Apple – New York. Catch up with them at www.catsbooksmorecats.blogspot.com or at www.tclotempio.net.


Inspired by the likes of Stephen King and Rod Serling, Lisa began writing horror and sci-fi short stories near the turn of the century. Her first published story appeared in Greg F. Gifune’s small press ‘zine The Edge in 2002. She stayed with short fiction, honing her craft and seeing more of her work published, before finally embarking on her first novel, THE GENESIS CODE, released in 2013. After working in Information Technology for 25 years, Lisa dropped out of everything—including writing—to attend the University of Minnesota Law School. She graduated magna cum laude in 2009, and now practices law and writes in the Seattle area.


Vicki Delany is one of Canada’s most prolific and varied crime writers, author of twenty-five crime novels, including standalone Gothic thrillers, the Constable Molly Smith series, and the Year Round Christmas Mysteries. Under the pen name Eva Gates she writes the Lighthouse Library cozy series from Penguin. The first Sherlock Holmes Bookshop novel, Elementary She Read, will be released in March 2017 by Crooked Lane Books. Vicki is the past-president of Crime Writers of Canada.


DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She creates action-packed, suspense-filled novels to thrill readers. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Library Journal presented her with a Best Books 2014: Genre Fiction award in the Christian Fiction category for Firewall. Connect with DiAnn here: www.diannmills.com


Cara Putman graduated high school at sixteen, college at twenty, and completed her law degree at twenty-seven and her MBA when she should be thinking about her kids going to college. A woman who doesn’t let a moment go unused, Cara has written twenty-five books, teaches undergraduate and graduate law courses at Big Ten business school, practices law, and is a homeschooling mom of four. She lives with her husband and children in Indiana.


Lori Rader-Day, author of The Day I Died (forthcoming 2017), The Black Hour, and Little Pretty Things, is the recipient of the 2016 Mary Higgins Clark Award and the 2015 Anthony Award for Best First Novel. Lori’s short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Time Out Chicago, Good Housekeeping, and others. She lives in Chicago, where she teaches mystery writing at StoryStudio Chicago and is the president of the Mystery Writers of America Midwest Chapter.


Born and raised in the heart of the heartland, Columbus, Ohio, John Hegenberger is the award-winning author of several series: Stan Wade LAPI in 1959, Eliot Cross Columbus-based P.I. in 1988, Tripleye, the first P.I. agency on Mars, and Ace Hart, western gambler from Wyoming to Arizona in 1877. He’s the father of three, tennis enthusiast, collector of silent films and OTR, hiker, Francophile, B.A. Comparative Lit., Pop culture author, ex-Navy, ex-marketing exec at Exxon, AT&T, and IBM, happily married for 46 years and counting. Active Member of SFWA, PWA and ITW.


Alex Segura is a novelist and comic book writer. He is the author of the Miami crime novels featuring Pete Fernandez, SILENT CITY and DOWN THE DARKEST STREET. The next Fernandez mystery, DANGEROUS ENDS, will be released in April 2017 via Polis Books. He has also written a number of comic books, including the bestselling and critically acclaimed ARCHIE MEETS KISS storyline, the “Occupy Riverdale” story, the ARCHIE MEETS RAMONES crossover, and the upcoming THE ARCHIES one-shot. He lives in New York with his wife and son. He is a Miami native.


yemenArthur Kerns is a retired FBI supervisory special agent and past president of the Arizona chapter of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO). His award-winning short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies. He is a book reviewer for the Washington Independent Review of Books. Diversion Books, Inc. NY, NY published his espionage thriller, The Riviera Contract, and the sequel, The African Contract. The third in the series, The Yemen Contract, was released in June 2016.


  1. Of the books I’ve written I’d have to say that my favorite book is one that was published years ago by a small press. Ebony was the story of a young girl who, while investigating her sister’s strange disappearance, finds herself drawn into a dastardly plot that involves – yes – zombies. It was one of the few forays I made into the horror/thriller market before I switched over to writing cozy mysteries.

    Did readers like it? Truthfully, I doubt it reached very many readers. I liked it, although looking back I can see where it would benefit from a good editing. I guess I’ll have to pick my second favorite – the first Nick and Nora mystery, MEOW IF ITS MURDER, which introduces that tubby feline detective, Nick Charles. Judging from the reviews and reader feedback, it seems as if the majority love Nick and the way he spells out his clues with Scrabble tiles, although I have to admit that now the orange tabby in my new Cat Rescue series, Toby, is giving him a run for his money!

  2. An excellent question.

    I have published 25 books, and I can pick one out as my favourite. MORE THAN SORROW was published by Poisoned Pen Press in 2012. It’s a psychological suspense, sort of a modern Gothic thriller. It’s a contemporary story, about an internationally-renowned journalist injured in an IED explosion in Afghanistan. She goes to live on her sister’s small scale vegetable farm to recover and meets an Afghan refugee. The backstory is about the original settlers to the farm: Loyalist refugees fleeing the United States after the revolution.

    It sunk like a stone.

    Now, I guess I could understand some American readers not caring for it (the Loyalists were the good guys), although it did get good reviews in the US. But it got no reviews, no attention, and almost no sales in Canada.
    In other words, readers didn’t like my favorite book.

    Shortly thereafter I began writing cozies, and I am happy doing that now. My next favourite book is my most recent, Elementary She Read, the first in the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop series. I’ve had enormous fun writing that book, dropping in bits of Sherlockania, saying to myself, “What would Sherlock do?” That book has proved to be very popular.

    And I’m pleased about that.

  3. My favorite book is still the first one. After so long writing and rewriting and then receiving rejection slips, it was quite a thrill to see a novel that I wrote in print. All writers have felt that enjoyment. It was also the novel that had everything my agent and I wanted, even though it has many characters and multiple plot lines. Oddly, the publisher edited my subsequent novels more than I wanted and I’ve always felt I’d like to go back and add those deletions.
    Many of my readers agree THE RIVIERA CONTRACT is an enjoyable start for reading the series. I believe aside from the action and characters this is to due to the location, the South of France. People are attracted to the locale, with its climate, cuisine, wine, and joie de vivre. The novel I’m working on now is situated in Tuscany. Location. Location.

  4. Maybe it’s because I’ve only published three books so far—all standalones—that I can’t say I have a “favorite” among them. I suspect it’s kind of like naming your favorite child. You might be able to, but your opinion might change in five minutes. Or maybe it’s best not to allow that a favorite can be chosen, so that everyone continues to get along.

    I will say this—people want to know this question. I just got off the phone with a book group in Wisconsin a few minutes ago and this is one of the questions they had for me. Truthfully, I’m proud of each of my books, maybe for an individual reason. The Black Hour was my first published novel, and I think it stands up; I’m happy with the two first-person narrator structure and some of the fun I had with the two narrators telling each other only part of the story. Little Pretty Things was the book I wrote to quell the doubts I had when no one knew what to call The Black Hour (“is it a mystery?” “I would call it a thriller….” on and on). My second book was written in reaction to the first. (Oh yeah? Watch me Nancy Drew the heck out of this.)

    And then my third novel, The Day I Died, is actually the first novel I ever wrote. I shelved it then revived it. It was published just two weeks ago, ten years from when I started it. A book that took me ten years to get right? Sounds like my favorite, right? No. But it’s my mom’s favorite of the three, for whatever that’s worth.

    Honestly, I think my favorite novel is the one I get to work on next. The shiny new idea that brings me back to the blank page after having finished that last arduous journey is my favorite. For now.

  5. I recently reread several of my books and was delighted how good they were. What did you expect me to say?

    Seriously, as tempting as it is to plug one of my books here, the honest truth is that my favorite is always the one I am currently working on. The reason is: every book I have written has been better than each of the ones that came before… at least in my mind. Most writers learn as they go, so you can be sure that the quality improves over time. As a result, when I look back at the books I written, I find that the last one is the best one and thus is my favorite.

    Now as to whether the readers agree or not, we have to take in account the time lag between when a book is written and when a reader finally gets to experience it, sometimes years later. This means that the reader usually likes the book I wrote two books back, while I’m still in love with the one I’ve just finished.

  6. This question is like asking me which one of my children or grandchildren are my favorite. Always the newest release is my favorite, in this case Deep Extraction, because it’s my newest “baby” sent off into the world to face readers and reviews.
    But I will say Firewall tugs at my heart. I loved the idea of a woman being manipulated into marriage, of being deceived in order to relay knowledge of a government project.

  7. I’m with Diann on this one. Like picking your favorite kid!

    I’ll always love The Genesis Code. It was my first, and took me more than two years to write because I was learning how to write work that long. I thought the premise was good at the time–and since, the premise has become reality. That’s both terrifying and satisfying all at once.

    I love The Janus Legacy because one of my readers–who actually has Crohn’s–said I nailed that part perfectly (what it’s like to have, as well as the emotions of it, both as someone who has it and the parent of one who has it–key to the book).

    I love Blockbuster because it scared the hell out of me as I was writing it–and I worry it could become reality.

    I love Broken Chain because it, too, scared me, and is my first stab at a dystopian novel. I worry it could happen, with all the messing around with our food chain that goes on.

    One of my readers loves Skinshift best of all, mainly because it tends more toward horror.

  8. I have to agree with Diann. This question is like asking me to name a favorite child. However, I love Beyond Justice. It allowed me to write a bigger story that pulled on my legal training, was set in a city I adore (Washington DC), and is filled with characters I’m enjoying coming back to in future books. But I have to tell you coming up with the legal hook was work. I know I have to love an idea for two years from proposal through writing and editing and then to promotion. Finding that hook took awhile, but now I know it was the right one. Juvenile immigration issues are important and worth wrestling with.

    My other favorite is very different. In Shadowed by Grace, the hero is a monuments men working his way up the boot of Italy in WWII. The heroine is a war photojournalist who’s looking for something in Italy. Together they race across the boot finding priceless art and much more. This was a story I had to write as soon as I learned about the important, but largely unknown, work of the Monuments Men. It’s intrigued readers as much as it intrigued me.

  9. I’m in a similar boat to Lori – having written only three novels, it’s hard for me to choose one as my favorite. Doubly so because they’re in a series, so the second and third wouldn’t exist without the first, Silent City. I look back on each one fondly (and with unique stress) – the first novel in the Pete Fernandez series, Silent City was a huge learning experience. I’d never written a novel before. I learned the ropes, for better or worse, and by the end of it, knew I wanted to keep hanging out with this novice, wannabe PI. Down the Darkest Street was the work of a (hopefully) more seasoned writer, looking to try new things, like shifting narration and a not-so-reliable narrator for certain sequences. I also thought I’d write a serial killer novel, but add a twist I’d always wanted to read about as a fan. Dangerous Ends, my latest, is extremely personal to me because it deals with Miami and Cuba’s tumultuous and bloody history, and was inspired in many ways by actual events (both the main crime, which is loosely based on the Jeffrey MacDonald case and the Cuba/Miami thread, which was spurred on by things that happened to my own family). All that said, I think you always love your latest, because, at least for me, I feel like my newest book is my best. With Dangerous Ends, I really pushed myself to tell a different kind of story – wider in scope and really cementing the bond between Pete and his hometown, Miami. Ask me this time next year if I like the new one more, though. 🙂

  10. I will agree that my NEXT book is always my favorite, maybe because there’s always hope I’ll get it right, and it will be the book I hoped to write.

MATCH UP: In stores now!


ThrillerFest XVI: Register Today!



One of the most successful anthologies in the history of publishing!