David Rollins | I, prescient.

Hi there,

What can I tell you about my latest book, A Knife Edge, that you won’t get from reading it?

When I was writing the book in 2004-05, the conflict in Afghanistan was well and truly on the back burner. The US military was heavily engaged in Iraq and the ‘gan had receded from the public consciousness. There were a few hot battles, like the one at Tora Bora, after which everyone seemed to pack up and go home. History told me the Taliban was too easily pacified and that, like a virus, they would come back stronger.

A Knife Edge was written with this view in mind. If the West had to go back into that country again, I wondered, would the gloves come off? Would we launch cross-border attacks into Pakistan territory? And if the political situation in Islamabad went pear-shaped, what sort of government could take power there?

Click to read the rest of David’s blog and to comment.

Sandra Ruttan | Imaginary Friends

I was staring at the wall, my hands still. My partner assumed I was taking a break and started talking to me.

“Be quiet! There are voices talking inside my head and I have to hear what they’re saying!”

He muttered something like, “Okay crazy person,” and left me to talk to my imaginary friends.

Writing a novel is an extremely personal venture. For months, these characters live inside your mind as you get to know them and try to reveal their character, intent and actions on the page. When you write a series it’s even more personal, because you develop a long-term relationship with your protagonists.

In THE FRAILTY OF FLESH, book two of the Nolan, Hart and Tain series, the storylines are very personal. In book one, events from the past are alluded to but not exploited. In book two, Nolan is confronted by some of his darkest fears, Tain struggles with a deep personal wound that will never heal, and Hart suffers a devastating loss.

Some of my friends have wondered how I could put these characters through hell. As a reader, and as someone who loves series books and gets very attached to characters, I can understand that this might bother some readers.

As a reader, I know I never want to read the same book over and over again. I never want readers to think I’m writing the same book over and over again either. Love it or loathe it, the one thing I hope everyone will agree on is that I didn’t just recycle the first book and slap a different title on it.

Confronting my characters with their personal demons was hard. Your characters live and breathe for you, and many authors I know view their protagonists as friends or children. Each of my protagonists has something of me in them, but putting them in tough situations gave me a chance to get to know them better, and it also allowed them to grow.

I have been asked if I’ll go a bit easier on them in the third book, LULLABY FOR THE NAMELESS. I take that as a real compliment, that readers care enough about the characters to want them to be happy, but for now all I can say for now is that you’ll have to wait until next fall to find out.

Want to win a signed copy of THE FRAILTY OF FLESH? Enter before November 1 via Maine Crime Writer or by November 5 at Bookspot Central

Sandra Ruttan

Michelle Gagnon | Thrillerfest 2008

Sadly, I missed the inaugural Thrillerfest, which was held in Phoenix. I had recently given birth to my first child, and the thought of Arizona in July with a newborn was not terribly appealing. Which is a shame, because from what I understand it was one for the ages.

I made up for it by attending the past few Thrillerfests in New York, and I’m happy to report that despite the fact that everyone always says, “You shoulda been at the first one,” I’ve had an amazing experience each time.

My week kicked off with a joint reading at the Park Avenue Borders. Tim Maleeny, Laura Caldwell, J.T. Ellison, Mario Acevedo, Laura Benedict, Shane Gericke, Alexandra Sokoloff, and I participated in “Quick Thrills from Out-of-Towners.” Lee Child graciously served as our MC, and in completely disregarding our prepared bios introduced us with anecdotes a hundred times wittier than anything we could have come up with. Everyone read for five minutes to an incredibly receptive crowd. The store was quick to add rows of seats as the place filled, we auctioned off Borders gift certificates and stuffed snakes (which were more of a hit than the $100 certificates, go figure). A good time was had by all.

I don’t know of many other conferences where you can rub elbows with Jeffery Deaver, Carla Neggers, Barry Eisler, and Heather Graham in the hotel bar, or where nearly forty top agents show up to hear pitches from aspiring authors. The organizers also made a serious effort to host panels outside the norm, and it showed. The “Lethal Weapons, Bombs, and Terrorism Hands-on Weapons Demonstration” by the ATF was definitely something I haven’t seen before, and perfect for thriller writers looking to expand their knowledge base. Other high points for me included the reviewers’ panel with David Montgomery, Bob Gussin, and Bookreporter representatives Joe Hartlaub and Carol Fitzgerald dishing on how and why books really get reviewed.

I am of course biased, but I loved the two panels I was on. I felt a little out of place on “Don’t Look Now: Paranormal Thrillers,” (my first novel, THE TUNNELS, has some paranormal elements but my latest is a straight serial killer thriller). However it was so amazing listening to Vicki Pettersson, Heather, Mario Acevedo, and Cathy Clamp discuss their work. The downside is that it added another stack of books to my already towering TBR pile, and nearly forced me to check my carry-on bag thanks to the added weight (you should see my biceps after hauling that thing into the overhead compartment!) Then on Saturday bestselling author Michael Palmer led our discussion of “The Art of the Thriller,” complete with berets and a lively discussion of Macguffins.

Thrillerfest is slated to take place in New York for the next two years, a decision which has inspired some debate in terms of the cost of attending and the fact that in a city with so many other attractions, people tend to disperse. I straddle the fence on this one. Part of me hoped that next year it would be moved somewhere less expensive (you should have seen my hotel bill!), preferably a place like New Orleans that I haven’t yet had the opportunity to visit. On the other hand, if it was moved it’s less likely that so many amazing authors would attend, or that I’d have the chance to meet with my editor and agent in the same fell swoop. I’m also not certain they would be able to attract as many participants in Agentfest were it held outside the city. But at least for 2009 and 2010, the deal is sealed and we’ll see what happens. I for one will be there, $16 glass of house chardonnay in hand. After hearing all the stories from the first one, I don’t want to risk missing out.

I’m running a series of contests this month to promote the release of BONEYARD. Go to http://www.michellegagnon.com/, click on “win,” and I’ll toss your name in the hat for an Amazon Kindle, iPod Shuffle, digital picture frame, Starbucks gift certificates, and other fabulous prizes.

Michelle Gagnon is a former modern dancer, bartender, dog walker, model, personal trainer, and Russian supper club performer. Her debut thriller The Tunnels was an IMBA bestseller. Her next book, Boneyard, depicts a cat and mouse game between dueling serial killers. In her spare time she runs errands and puts money in her piggybank to cover the cost of conventions .

Michelle Gagnon

Brian Freeman | Are Crime Thrillers Moral?

It’s an odd way to make a living when you think about it. We write about things that would terrify and dismay people if they were real. Murder. Serial killers. Violence. And we do all this to entertain people.

I think about this issue whenever a news show covers an intimate tragedy like the disappearance of Natalee Holloway in Aruba or Madeleine McCann in Portugal. Cable news shows play on our love of mystery and drama to boost ratings. The difference is that, unlike a novel, the crime is real. Our news programs treat these dramas as whodunits, to an extent that we often cheapen or even forget the actual tragedy.

The question is: Are those of us who write mysteries any different? We invent our stories, but we strive to make the fear, crime, and drama real for the reader. The best writers make us gasp and cry, afraid to turn the page, but unable to put the book down. My only explanation is that mysteries make us confront difficult moral choices and decide for ourselves. Mysteries also give us something that the real world often cannot. Order. Resolution. Truth. The frustration in watching the news is in not knowing what really happened. In mysteries, in the end, we usually do.

That may explain it, but I’m not sure it gives us moral cover. Would there be a fictional Hannibal Lector without the real-life Zodiac killer? I’m not so sure. Those of us who make our living writing about murders perhaps owe more of a debt of gratitude to the people who commit them than we are comfortable admitting.

BRIAN FREEMAN

www.bfreemanbooks.com/
brian@bfreemanbooks.com

Author of STALKED (2008), STRIPPED (2006), and IMMORAL (2005)

Linwood Barclay | Five Days and Counting

My new book No Time For Goodbye comes out in North America in less than a week, and while this is my fifth novel, in many ways it feels as though it’s my first.

My four previous works of fiction have been about an obsessive-compulsive, well-meaning, but generally pain-in-the-ass character named Zack Walker. He made his first appearance in 2004 in Bad Move, which was followed by Bad Guys, Lone Wolf, and Stone Rain. While I consider these books legitimate mystery thrillers, they were also intended to be pretty funny. (I know, from writing a humour column the last 14 years for the Toronto Star, that even when you intend something to be funny, plenty of readers will go, “Huh?”)

No Time For Goodbye marks a significant shift in tone for me. After finishing the fourth Zack Walker book, I wanted to do something more ambitious, and darker. And not particularly funny. All I needed was the right idea to get me started. I awoke one morning at five, thinking about what it would be like if one day you got up and discovered your entire family was gone, vanished into the night. No Time For Goodbye was born.

The reaction from publishers and editors was overwhelmingly. Everyone had loved the Zack books, but this new one struck them as something else again.

And so that’s why it feels like a first book. The curious thing is, the book’s already out there.

No Time For Goodbye was released, in translation, in Germany back in June. (I know it’s odd that an English book makes its debut in a foreign country, but what can I say. That’s just how it all worked out.) Published as Ohne Ein Wort (Without a Word) the novel has been an enormous hit, selling about 300,000 copies to date. So expectations are high for the book’s release in the U.S. and in Canada, which is my neck of the woods.

So, five days and counting. Anticipation’s always a killer.

Linwood Barclay

http://www.linwoodbarclay.com/

Karna Small Bodman | Up Close Political Thrills and Suspense

KARNA SMALL BODMANI was scheduled to be in the staff car with White House Press Secretary Jim Brady on March 30, 1981 – the day of the assassination attempt against President Reagan. I was Jim’s Deputy at the time. At the last minute, Jim said, “There’s a lot of work to do today – a lot of press calls to return. Why don’t you stay back. I can handle this one alone – you go tomorrow. This is just a speech to some union group over at the Hilton. I’ll be back around 2:30.” As we all know, he never came back. That day, along with many others will always be seared in my memory, and when I sat down to write my first novel CHECKMATE, I spent time reflecting on those personal experiences, figuring I had a ton of material for a series of political thrillers.

Authors are always asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” Of course, any daily newspaper offers a veritable Petri dish of plot points, but I decided that “being there” is even better. When I later took the job as Senior Director of the National Security Council, we were dealing with crises almost GAMBIT by Karna Small Bodmanon a daily basis – any one of which could be turned into a pretty good novel: the attempted assassination of the Pope, the terrorist attack on the cruise ship, “Achille Lauro,” the shooting down of the Korean jetliner with an American Congressman on board (I use that one in the sequel, GAMBIT, out next February), the explosion of the space shuttle with the school teacher on board as well as the usual conflicts with Congress.

The actual inspiration for CHECKMATE President Reagan’s announcement of his program to develop a missile defense system (“Star Wars” as some dubbed it). So I put together a story about a beautiful young scientist who invents a breakthrough technology for a missile defense system, foreign agents trying to steal it, a handsome National Security Council staffer trying to help her, and a lecherous Congressman more interested in her bod than funding her project (just trying to make it authentic!)

I wanted to weave in a romantic sub-plot – always a challenge in a fast-paced thriller. After all, how quickly can they get together when dealing with a count-down? But check my website: www.karnabodman.com for more on the story. I also keep the romance going in GAMBIT where a love triangle develops involving the charismatic Vice President of the U.S. Bottom line: with these stories, I want readers (men as well as women) to feel like White House “insiders” showing scenes in the Oval Office, the Situation Room and providing a seat at classified briefings. As George Bernard Shaw said, “The best way to get your point across is to entertain.” And that’s exactly what I’m trying to do!

Now, I’ve been on a crazy book tour with over 80 speeches/events for groups around the country (my husband says I’m certifiable!) Again, there are details of many events on my website: www.karnabodman.com. If you’re nearby – please stop and say hello or drop me a note. I’d love to be in touch.

Karna Small Bodman