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thriller-roundtable-logo5Thrillers. Mysteries. Crime fiction. They all follow a well-established formula…or do they? This week we’re joined by ITW members Jennifer J. Chow, Cara Putman, Tim Waggoner, Richard Z. Santos, Katharine Schellman, Geoff Hyatt, Elizabeth Goddard and Melissa Kosciuszko as they discuss how hard it is to avoid “formula” writing. Scroll down to the “comments” section to follow along. You won’t want to miss it!


Cara Putman is the author of more than thirty legal thrillers, historical romances, and romantic suspense novels. She has won or been a finalist for honors including the ACFW Book of the Year and the Christian Retailing’s BEST Award. Cara graduated high school at sixteen, college at twenty, completed her law degree at twenty-seven, and received her MBA. She is a practicing attorney and teaches undergraduate and graduate law courses at a Big Ten business school.


Tim Waggoner has published nearly fifty novels and seven collections of short stories. He writes original dark fantasy and horror, as well as media tie-ins, and his articles on writing have appeared in numerous publications. He’s won the Bram Stoker Award, the Horror Writers Association’s Mentor of the Year Award, and he’s been a multiple finalist for both the Shirley Jackson Award and the Scribe Award. He’s also a full-time tenured professor who teaches creative writing at Sinclair College in Dayton, Ohio.


Jennifer J. Chow writes the #ownvoices Sassy Cat mystery series (Berkley/Penguin Random House). She also published the Winston Wong Cozy Mysteries under J. J. Chow. Her short fiction has been featured in Over My Dead Body! magazine.



Richard Z. Santos received an MFA from Texas State University. He is a board member of The National Book Critics Circle, and his fiction, essays, and reviews have appeared in multiple publications, including The San Antonio Express-News, Kirkus Reviews, The Rumpus, The Morning News and The Texas Observer. Previously, he was a political campaign operative. A high school English teacher in Austin, Texas, this is his first novel.


Elizabeth Goddard has sold over one million books and is the bestselling, award-winning author of more than forty romance novels and counting, including the romantic mystery The Camera Never Lies—a 2011 Carol Award winner. Her Mountain Cove series books have been finalists in the Daphne du Maurier Awards and the Carol Awards.


Geoff Hyatt is the author of the novels Follow You Down and Birch Hills at World’s End. In his spare time, he collects vintage toys, psychedelic posters, and horror comics. A Michigan native, he now lives in Chicago with his wife and an assortment of personal demons.



Katharine Schellman lives and writes in the mountains of Virginia in the company of her husband, preschooler, and the many houseplants she keeps accidentally murdering. She was named one of BookPage’s 16 Women to Watch in 2020.   The Body in the Garden is her debut novel.



Melissa Kosci is a fourth-degree black belt in and certified instructor of Songahm Taekwondo. In her day job as a commercial property manager, she secretly notes personal quirks and funny situations, ready to tweak them into colorful additions for her books. She and Corey, her husband of twenty years, live in Florida, where they do their best not to melt in the sun.