6-25-2015 11-38-58 AM

In preparation for ThrillerFest X, the annual conference of the International Thriller Writers, we interviewed four bestselling, award-winning authors… who also all happen to be book reviewers. These ITW members shared their unique perspectives on writing & reading book reviews, trends in the Thriller genre and community, and even shared a few stories that made us laugh. We hope you enjoy this inside look as much as we did—and hopefully take away a book recommendation, or two!

It’s our pleasure to welcome:

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Bruce DeSilva
grew up in a tiny Massachusetts mill town where the mill closed when he was ten. This parochial little place was sadly bereft of metaphors—and assonance and irony were also in short supply. Nevertheless, his crime fiction has won the Edgar and Macavity Awards; has been listed as a finalist for the Shamus, Anthony, and Barry Awards; and has been published in ten foreign languages. His short stories have appeared in Akashic Press’s award-winning noir anthologies. He has reviewed books for The New York Times Sunday Book Review, and his reviews for The Associated Press continue to appear in hundreds of publications. Previously, he was a journalist for forty years, most recently as writing coach world-wide for AP, editing stories that won nearly every major journalism prize including the Pulitzer. A Scourge of Vipers, the fourth novel in his hardboiled crime series, was recently published by Forge.

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Jon Land
is the USA Today bestselling author of 37 novels, including six titles in the critically acclaimed Caitlin Strong Texas Ranger series of which the most recent, Strong Darkness, won the 2014 USA Books Best Book Award and the 2015 International Book Award in the Thriller category. That followed Strong Rain Falling winning both the 2014 International Book Award and 2013 USA Best Book Award for Mystery-Suspense. His most recent book, Black Scorpion, was published on April 7 with the next in the Caitlin Strong series, Strong Light of Day, coming in October. He’s a 1979 graduate of Brown University, lives in Providence, Rhode Island and can be found on the Web at jonlandbooks.com or on Twitter @jondland.

Jeff Ayers


Jeff Ayers
is a freelance reviewer of suspense/thrillers for the Associated Press, Library Journal (2012 Fiction Reviewer of the Year), Booklist, and RT Book Reviews. He’s the author of Voyages of Imagination: The Star Trek Fiction Companion (Pocket Books), the library thriller Long Overdue (Stonehouse), the YA mystery co-written with Kevin Lauderdale titled The Fourth Lion (Booktrope), and the e-book original thriller Assassin’s Agenda (Detective Ink). He co-wrote the short story Last Shot with Jon Land that appeared in the anthology Love is Murder, edited by Sandra Brown. Jeff co-hosts an Internet radio show with John Raab of Suspense Magazine called Beyond the Cover, which has interviews with book industry professionals plus reviews and discussions about the world of publishing. He is on the board of directors for the Pacific Northwest Writers Association, and a member of the International Thriller Writers, Inc.

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Myles Knapp
has been held at gunpoint by the Rio police, fought for his life against a hammer-wielding psycho and lost more full contact judo fights to Marines than he can count. As a reviewer, he’s read over 5,000 thrillers and is determined to read another 5,000. Since 2001, his column, “Grit-Lit,” has appeared in major newspapers and websites including The San Jose Mercury, Oakland Tribune, Contra Costa Times and affiliates.

A marketing and sales professional, he has lived and worked in the United States, Asia, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. When not busy completing his second and third Revenge School novels, Myles is reading, lifting heavy weights and riding his motorcycle or bicycle.

From your unique perspective of being a Thriller author and a book reviewer, can you describe the Thriller community? Is there anything unique amongst those contributing to and interested in this genre that perhaps isn’t a characteristic of other literary communities?  

Bruce: Writers of thrillers (and their close cousins, the mystery writers) constitute an incredibly welcoming and supportive creative community. As someone who has been writing, editing, and teaching for more than forty years, I can tell you with utter certainty that most writing communities are not like this. There’s a lot of competition and jealousy out there. For example, my wife is a poet. We know a lot of very nice poets, but as a group, they’re given to cattiness and backstabbing. And academic writers? Fuhgeddaboutit! But from the moment my first novel, Rogue Island, appeared six years ago, the thriller community opened its arms to me. Even the biggest stars–people like Joseph Finder, Dennis Lehane, and Harlan Coben—went out of their way to offer advice and encouragement. For that, I’ll always be grateful.

Jon: Trying to challenge me right from the start, eh? Hey, I love talking about the thriller community because, thanks to ITW, it’s become unusually tight-knit. I say unusually because writers are normally perceived, rightfully so, as an amorphous, disconnected bunch with each living in his or her own little box. Since its inception, ITW has expanded that box and left a side open so everyone is welcome to come in. I can’t truly say if this unique among other literary communities because I’m not a part of them. But I can say that the very mission of ITW is basically creating a community where the haves reach out and down to the not-yet-haves. Writers helping writers, in other words, and, yes, I do believe that is somewhat unique anyway perhaps because we’ve come to realize that the better the genre does, the better we all do.

Jeff: There are so many different subgenres in the world of thrillers – everything from legal and historical to romantic and action/adventure. So you can imagine how diverse thriller writers are. They get the adrenaline flowing, and keep the reader up all night – so they have that in common. Without exception, everyone I have met in the thriller community has been wonderful, friendly, and very gracious with their time and advice. It may be unique to the thriller community, however, that we regularly alarm taxi drivers and restaurant servers with our discussion of how to hide bodies and cause explosions.

Myles: I am very fortunate to review almost exclusively thrillers so most of my experiences are with thriller readers. In general, I find thriller readers to be more active and engaged than readers of tea cozies or “literate writing.” Continue reading “Author Interview – Thriller Edition”

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We’re excited to start sharing author interviews with our community, in partnership with Feedbooks.

Emily Schultz

Interviewed by Lara Touitou - Emily Schultz is a Canadian writer based in Brooklyn. She is the co-founder of the literary journal Joyland. The Blondes is her third novel and was one of the finalists for the Trillium Book Award.

The Blondes by Emily Schultz

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The Blondes is published in the US by Thomas Dunne Books

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The protagonist, Hazel, writes a thesis about women's looks and how they can be perceived. With the virus impacting only blonde women, the increasing climate of defiance against women is chilling in its resemblance with our own world. Is the novel itself a way to hold up a mirror to society's distorted depiction and representation of women?

I like to think of writing more like a radar than a mirror. We should be scanning and looking for these turns in our culture early. As I was writing The Blondes I was looking for situations that seemed realistic, even within my outlandish premise, and I did not have to look far.

The Blondes can be seen as a dystopia, or speculative fiction, all the while being also literary fiction, with references to pop culture. How meaningful is it for you to explore different genres?

I love playing with genre. Movies like Hitchcock’s The Birds or Cronenberg’s Rabid influenced this work, but so did novels like Camus’ The Plague. As I think about it, I am realizing I have a lot of French influences. Catherine Breillat is one of my favorite filmmakers and is always exploring ideas of beauty and femininity using dark humor. Claire Denis’ Trouble Every Day was also an influence and both are great examples of women who look at genre through a feminist perspective.

How did you decide that the narration would consist of Hazel addressing her unborn child?

I had not yet been pregnant when I began the book—but being in my mid-30s then it was very much on my mind and I was trying to decide if motherhood would fit into my life. Writing The Blondes contributed to my decision. I became pregnant and had my son during the writing of this novel. I really didn’t talk to my abdomen, but a lot of women told me they did. For Hazel, I felt a personal story had to ground the more fantastical and dystopic elements, and that walking around the cabin talking to herself (or her soon-to-be baby) was one way to do that. She leads the reader through chaos, so it was important to hear her voice. I also thought it was important to show how a woman, her goals and sense of self, changes throughout the various stages of pregnancy, which is why Hazel could easily have not become a mother early on, but is very committed later. And on a very basic, technical level, it was a solution to have an isolated character be able to converse.

Although a part of the novel is set in a chalet in Canada, the first part is set in New York where Hazel works on her thesis. There is notably an arresting passage about Hazel's mental map of New York, built from memories, imagination and movies. How does the city, and urban landscape in general, in every shape and form, resonate with your work?

Even though I’ve now lived in New York for five years, writing The Blondes was still challenging because New Yorkers are a distinct culture of people, and it was hard to get the voices (and the actions) of the characters right. Strangers interact a lot more here than in Canada or the American Midwest, but connections are fleeting. By making Hazel a bit of a tourist, she still sees New York with a romanticized vision when the blonde disease begins to change the people around her. In horror movies, and especially plague narratives, the characters are always fleeing the city to try to get to the country where it will somehow be safer. I wanted to explore that dynamic too.

You publish your own literary magazine, Joyland. Do you feel it has an influence on your writing as a novelist?

To be constantly reading new work by others is inspiring. Joyland is organized by city, so that the work is showcased in a regional manner. I started the website with my husband, Brian Joseph Davis who is best known for his project The Composites. We were traveling a lot at the time and meeting writers from elsewhere. We liked the idea of being able to peer in on a writing community somewhere else, and that was what we wanted to accomplish with the magazine.

To read more interviews please visit the Feedbooks interview archive, and stay tuned for your favorite authors!

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