Thursday, July 26, 2007


“An underground steam pipe explosion tore through a Manhattan street near Grand Central Terminal on Wednesday, swallowing a tow truck and killing one person as hundreds of others ran for cover amid a towering geyser of steam and flying rubble.”

A great first line from a new thriller? No, an actual news report, courtesy of MSNBC, of an event that followed on the heels of the 2nd annual International Thriller Writers’ conference, known as ThrillerFest. While there weren’t any explosions during the conference, there were parties, panels, auctions, and fun for all 600-plus attendees.

ThrillerFest kicked off with a spotlight interview that had Tess Gerritsen chatting with Lisa Gardner. Lisa talked about how she wrote a bakers dozen of romances under a pseudonym, and when she moved to thrillers with her "debut", THE PERFECT HUSBAND, it was published as a mass market paperback. Apparently that was such an unusual move at the time that the New York Times wrote an article about it, giving this new thriller author a big boost. Lisa also talked about how she got a lot of her ideas for her thrillers - she reads a lot of true crime and does lots of research - she's "a planner, not a plunger". Lisa has the need to "see it, touch it, taste it, to write it."

Lisa feels people like reading thriller novels because "we want to see people confronting the worst." Her next book is SAY GOODBYE, due out next year. Lisa has this unbelievable contest on her website called "Kill a Friend, Maim a Buddy" where you can nominate people to be killed in her next book - the next one starts in September, so be sure and mark your calendar to enter. To get a glimpse of a different side of Lisa Gardner, be sure to view her video on YouTube as she explores "a day in the life of a writer" - it's a hoot!

The Random House Readers' Reception quickly followed, where a mass signing was set up for the recently released paperback edition of the Thriller anthology. Steve Berry, Lee Child, Lisa Gardner, Tess Gerritsen, Michael Robotham, and Lisa Unger were there, to name just a few. The place was packed, there was lots of great food, a cash bar, and everyone was busy working the room.

Friday morning brought First Blood: 2007 Debut Thriller Authors Breakfast, emceed by Lee Child. Lee is simply an amazing man. He not only is a NY Times bestselling superstar, he is also most generous with his time and knowledge. He's been a force in helping this new organization, and has thrown his support behind many new authors. He even is mentoring one, J.T. Ellison, whose first thriller, ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS, comes out in November.

All twenty debut authors were assigned their own tables, where they broke bread with readers and other writers. Lee introduced them, and each author got to stand up and do a little show and tell with their new book. I breakfasted with Michelle Gagnon, author of THE TUNNELS, a thriller about an old, abandoned tunnel system beneath a prestigious New England college that becomes the gruesome stalking ground of a serial killer. She was smart and lovely, and it was so much fun meeting these new authors. Marcus Sakey, author of one of my favorite books this year, THE BLADE ITSELF, was adorable and looked even younger than on his jacket photo. I asked him how old he was, wondering if he was twelve? He was very gracious in the light of my rudeness, as he told me his mom had dropped him off that morning. I heard he won some award for the "best hair at ThrillerFest" or something...

After breakfast I went to one of the most popular panels from last year, updated for TFest 07, called “Thrilling Sex: Part Deux with Booze.” Mimosas were served at the morning panel, along with comments from the moderator, Steve Berry, who said he had one sex scene in his first novel, THE AMBER ROOM. His ex-wife suggested he take it out, offering the advice that he should “write what you know.” Barry Eisler, who has a great sex scene in his latest, REQUIEM FOR AN ASSASSIN, and was Marcus Sakey's biggest competitor for "best hair at ThrillerFest," admitted he often has to fight with his “inner fourteen year old”, and John Lescroart offered the thoughtful comment that sex helps make characters real. He suggested that Dan Brown would have had a much bigger hit on his hands if he had added a sex scene to THE DA VINCI CODE. All the writers agreed that there are certain terms that should never be used in writing a sex scene: Eisler suggested avoiding "member", MJ Rose suggested ditching "rosy nipples" and "thrust", and Lescroart shirked away from "coltish calves."

I missed the spotlight interview with Vince Flynn, but I don't think he missed me - I heard it was packed! A lot of women were anxious for that panel for some reason...can't imagine why. Plus some lucky audience members got advance reader copies of upcoming thrillers.

I did get to another panel though, "Notorious: Series character, blessing or curse?" which was moderated by the always funny Jon Land and featured some really great writers I'd been wanting to meet - Jack DuBrul (HAVOC) but he also co-writes a series with Clive Cussler, Sean Chercover (BIG CITY, BAD BLOOD), Marcus Sakey (THE BLADE ITSELF), and series writers Christine Goff and Judith Kelman. It was a very lively and thought provoking discussion. Jon Land offered that he felt the mark of a great thriller is that you "should be able to open any page and be grabbed by it." Marcus Sakey told us about his next book, a stand alone thriller about an Iraqi war veteran who returns home to find a similar war on the south side of Chicago - an intriguing premise for sure.

I had planned to go to "The Devil's Alternative: Protagonists who hover at the edges of humanity" that featured one of my favorite authors, Jonathan Santlofer, as well as some new-to-me authors: Rebecca York, Laura Benedict, Diane Emley, and Erin Grady, but due to some technical problems back home - my fax machine was answering every call instead of the answering machine! - I just caught the tail end of "A Dangerous Fortune: High Finance Thrillers" instead. Joe Finder moderated a panel consisting of Matthew Baldacci from St. Martins Press, and authors Katherine Neville, Jim Fusilli, Twist Phelan and Robert Dugoni. I especially wanted to meet Dugoni, whose books I really enjoy, and I was not disappointed other than I wish I had brought my camera - he was really nice, as well as being very bright, personable, not to mention very good looking. He made a comment I found very interesting. He offered the advice to "write honestly" and said he would never have written a sex scene in DAMAGE CONTROL if he had thought about his mother reading it - she told him it was "disgusting!" Sometimes the best advice is the most obvious, and Matt Baldacci offered the very practical advice of marketing books to "the people who buy hard cover books."

The first day ended with a spotlight interview with Heather Graham, followed by "The Making of a Thriller Writer", a presentation by David Morrell. David spoke about how much he admired Sterling Silliphant, the writer of Route 66, and how much Silliphant influenced his decision to become a writer. He then showed one of his favorite episodes, featuring a very young Robert Duval.

Please check out my report on CraftFest, ThrillerFest 2007: The Middle & ThrillerFest 2007: The End (for this year.)

A much abbreviated version of this report will appear in the September 1 issue of Library Journal. Copyright © 2007 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.

1 comment:

Vickie said...

Gotta say, that is so freakin' cool to have been able to attend this and meet who all you met. I added Michelle Gagnon's book to my shopping list for my visit to High Crimes, my favorite little mystery bookstore in Boulder CO. I get to meet Karin Slaughter on 7 Aug at a booksigning.
Love your blog!

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