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:
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.
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 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.
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”