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You think your holidays are stressful? Kyle Colbert just wants to go home for Christmas. So why does everyone suddenly want to kill him? Kyle savors his train commutes from a hectic Manhattan job to his idyllic small town. But as he arrives on Christmas Eve, his family tries to kill him. His neighbors and entire community suddenly want him dead. He can’t flee to authorities because even the FBI is in a deadly pursuit. With a $1,000,000 reward for his “Death or Whereabouts,” can he stay alive long enough to solve the mystery and stop an even greater tragedy?

Award-winning author Richard Wickliffe met up with The Big Thrill for a quick Q&A about his latest thriller, DON’T BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS:

No spoilers, but what can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the PR material?

I write all my books as screenplays first. Mostly because I think cinematically and wish they were movies. But the exercise helps me flesh out the entire plot, characters, and dialogue, which really helps when it’s time to write the manuscript. And yes, I’d love to sell the rights to DON’T BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS.

What authors or books have influenced your career as a writer, and why?

Harlan Coben is a genius of balancing terror with levity. Michael Connelly is a genius of explaining realistic law enforcement procedure for the readers. And (classic) Grisham’s folksy but detailed writing.

Can I enjoy the book if I don’t celebrate Christmas or if I’m on a summer beach?

Absolutely! I debated whether to put “Christmas” in the title. But the plot is pure thriller, with circumstances almost anyone can envision, that could plausibly happen to anyone, anytime.

How does this book make a contribution to the genre?

To balance the terror, action, and violence, I weave in a fair bit of dark humor. I believe levity can keep readers engaged. If they laugh and have nightmares from the same book, I’ve done my job.

What attracts you to this book’s genre?

I never knew if “Holiday Thriller” was a subgenre or not—so I figured what the hell. Everyone loves the holidays, and a thriller is sort of a contradiction.

Which took shape first: plot, character, or setting?

Plot came first. With the annual debate whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie or not, I was inspired to write my own full-throttle thriller, and I’d put “Christmas” right in the title to remove all doubt. It’s just about a man trying to go home (but everyone wants to slaughter him).


Richard Wickliffe was awarded Best Popular Fiction at the Florida Book Awards, joining previous winners Brad Meltzer and Carl Hiaasen. That thriller, Storm Crashers, was previously optioned by Twentieth Century Fox. Rich enjoys speaking about creative crimes including the FBI’s InfraGard Counterterrorism seminars. He is the recipient of the FBI’s Exceptional Service in the Public Interest Award.

To learn more about the author and his work, please visit his website.