Welcome to the Thrillerfest V Blog!

We hope you'll bookmark us, just as you bookmark so many of the hundreds of the International Thriller Writers that participate in our annual conference, held in New York City in July.

ITW is a youthful organization, always ready for a new way of looking at things. You'll find that dynamism here, in blog posts from authors, agents, editors and Thrillerfest attendees, past and present.

And that same excitement you feel from your favorite reads is evident in everything ITW does, and no wonder--the organization, staffing and publicity for ThrillerFest--including this new blog--is undertaken by volunteers, most of whom are ITW authors themselves.

So pull up a chair and stay awhile ... discover the latest news on what Thrillerfest V--the fifth anniversary of the conference--has to offer. Visit old friends, make new ones, ask questions, and hear about the remarkable things in store for the conference.

Whether or not you can come see us in New York--and we hope that you can!--please join us here. It's gonna be ... a thriller!

Kelli Stanley, Thrillerfest Publicity Committee Chair

Thrillerfest Publicity Committee:
Jeannie Holmes
CJ Lyons
Carla Buckley
Grant McKenzie

Friday, February 27, 2009

Interview with Literary Agent Stephany Evans

Last year marked a bold experiment at ThrillerFest 2008. Basically, The Powers That Be wondered what would happen when approximately forty agents are thrown into a room with a horde of ravenous authors searching for The One Who Will Represent Me.

In order to determine if the experiment was a success, we tracked down one of the survivors -- uh, participants, Stephany Evans. Here is what she had to say to ITW Debut Author Jennie Bentley (FATAL FIXER-UPPER; SPACKLED AND SPOOKED) about her experiences:

Jennie Bentley: You attended Thrillerfest/Agentfest last year, right? Was that your first time?

Stephany Evans: Yes, last year was the first Agentfest (at Thrillerfest) I've attended.

JB: Will you be attending again this year? If not, sometime in the future?

SE: I'm not scheduled to attend this year, but wouldn't rule it out for the future. Thrillers aren't a key category for me, but I do represent mysteries and am interested in romantic suspense. I haven't really found a great deal that has grabbed me yet, but both of those are categories that Thrillerfest attracts - along with numerous other sub categories that could very broadly be called "thrillers."

JB: Why did you decide to attend last year?

SE: Well, really to "Talent Scout." There was certainly talent there, but the question is always to find the great writer who wants to write (or has written) the story one personally wants to read. When I signed on to do Agentfest, on my bio I wrote "glitz OK" - or something like that. I'm open to those big glitzy international scurries, through fabulous settings, whether it be an escape or a race to save one's corner of the world. But nobody pitched me anything like that. And certainly I was open to other things as well. I'm probably not the right agent, though, for super violent stories (no serial killers) or stories about killer viruses. And it'd be unusual for me to fall for something that didn't have a female protagonist (though this has happened) but generally, I try to keep an open mind and see what might catch my fancy.

JB: Did you have fun?

SE: I generally have a little fun among so many authors and agents. It's always nice to spend time with friends.

JB: Did you sign any new authors as a result of attending?

SE: Not this time.

JB: Do you have any tips for aspiring writers when it comes to putting their best feet forward at the pitch sessions?

SE: The best advice I can give is to just try to be relaxed. Many authors stress themselves out about sitting in front of an agent and it's not necessary. Definitely prepare what you want to convey, but remember to breathe. It'll go a lot more smoothly if you simply prepare well and then just tell us about your story. This is guessing, but it seems to me that some authors get so keyed up about how to convey their story that they say to themselves, "Oh the heck with it. I'll just wing it." I actually don't recommend this. Practicing your pitch will always make you feel more comfortable about your ability to deliver it, and thereby make you more relaxed.

Secondly, authors should remember to keep it brief. It's helpful if they can just initially give a log line - a single sentence that conveys the concept - and then expand that to about the length of pitch that could be containged in a single page letter. In this type of situation agents are hearing pitch after pitch after pitch. We can't even take in all the info contained in the "5-page synopsis" version. Our eyes will glaze, our brains will implode (you can't see it, but that's what's happening inside the skull). It's seriously painful and you won't be asked to send your work. Just hook the agent quickly - if s/he wants to hear more, s/he'll ask.

JB: Any tips for how to get the most out of Thrillerfest when attending, in other ways?

SE: I'm not really qualified to answer this since I only attended the pitch session, but I know there are lots of groovy things to do. Here's a general tip for any conference - familiarize yourself with the program early on. Can't tell you how often I've missed something neat that was happening on the first day or first few hours because I didn't get a chance to read the sked til later.

JB: Did anything especially fun/interesting/horrible/awesome happen to you at Thrillerfest, that would make a good story?

SE: In the fun category... Barbara Vey stopped by the table to say hello. I read her PW blog "Beyond her book" when I get the chance so that was neat to say hi in person.

In the horrible/awesome category... Well, make that the awesomely horrible category... The pitch sessions were held in a long, low-ceilinged ballroom - picture rows of small tables, from end to end, in this crowded room. Each table has an agent sitting at it with one person sitting opposite, and a line of a few people behind that person. There were about 40 agents and a couple hundred authors. The session moderator had in his hand a very loud brass bell, supposedly "the real bell from the TV show McGyver." OK. I confess. I've never watched McGyver. But this is the bell and that's meaningful to large numbers of the assembled, I have to assume. This bell was used to announce the conclusion of each pitch session. When it rang, it was time for the person seated to move on and the next person would sit. The moderator with his McGyver bell was standing directly in front of me. So I was getting the full brunt of the McGyver bell, every few minutes, when it was rung loudly enough to be heard at both ends of the room. In between rings I was to focus on the new person's story, often told either haltingly or in excessive detail. We had been given glasses of water - but no Exedrin to go with it. A very long couple hours.

JB: So there you have it. Huge thanks to Stephany for taking the time out to answer our questions. We really appreciate it. And although she won't be at Agentfest this year, she's accepting queries at her office. If you've written a glitzy international scurry, or something else you think she might like, feel free to visit her website, FinePrint Literary Management, for submission guidelines.


Thank you, Jennie and Stephany, for sharing, and we hope to see both of you at future ThrillerFests!

-- Introduction written by ITW Debut Author Jeannie Holmes (CRIMSON SWAN).

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


By Matt Hilton
ITW Debut Author of DEAD MEN'S DUST

I’m a Thrillerfest virgin. The 2009 event in New York City will be my first and I have to say that I am really looking forward to what promises to be an exciting and thrilling experience. Just look for the wide-eyed Englishman who has a passing resemblance to Meatloaf (according to some), John Candy (according to others) and to George Clooney (according to me) and that will undoubtedly be me.

Not many people will know my name as I write this, but hopefully (hands clasped firmly in prayer) by the time Thrillerfest comes around some - or even better many - of you will have read my debut book, DEAD MEN'S DUST. Thrillerfest will be my first real opportunity to gauge people’s reaction to the book in the US and I look forward to hearing their views with a mix of excitement and not a little trepidation. It’s scary stuff, but tempered by this will be the fact that I’ll be reacquainting myself with friends I met at last years Bouchercon in Baltimore and meeting some new friends who until now I’ve only ever talked to via the medium of email and blogs. I’m a member of ITW’s Debut Author Programme and part of the attraction of attending will be to shake hands with some of the nicest, most supportive people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.

This won’t be my first time in NY. But it will be my first opportunity to take a look around a city that grabbed my attention the first time I saw King Kong topple from the top of the Empire State Building (in black and white). My last visit was a quick 2 hour turn around where I got off an Amtrak train at Penn station, came out by Madison Square Garden, took a couple photos on my mobile phone of said ESB sans Kong, then was whisked to a traditional Jewish diner by my US agent. I ate great food, though I’ve no idea what it was, then went directly back to Penn Station and back on a train heading for Baltimore. I only remember New York in a series of disjointed flashbacks, so I’m going to take my time and have a good look around this time. I can’t wait.

I don’t really know what to expect, but that’s all part of the thrill.




Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Having a Blast at ThrillerFest

I’ve attended every Thrillfest since the beginning, and I’ve had a great time at each one. The energy at the first, in Phoenix, was off the charts. Thrillfest had the coolest vibe in the hottest climate. Every time we stepped outside we were blasted with blowtorch heat, but once inside the party continued. I’m a runner, and every day I’d stagger outside at dawn in an attempt to beat the sun. Not only was it still ridiculously hot, but a serial killer was shooting joggers in Phoenix at that time (I’m a fiction writer, but I swear I’m not making this up), and the knowledge that he was out there imbued me with real motivation to run as fast as I could.

New York as a venue is more expensive, it’s true, but publisher and agent attendance is higher, which offsets some of the cost. The conference is loaded with industry professionals, and it’s an excellent way to make new connections or renew some old ones. I met my agent, editor, and publicist at Thrillfest- a real trifecta!

New York as a venue also provides its own brand of fun. I think the writers took the hotel by surprise the first year there. We’d congregate in the bar after the day’s panels, and one waiter was stuck navigating a gauntlet of thirsty authors. A group of us decided to give the poor guy a break and headed out to a cigar bar in the village. We had a blast that night.

Each year Thrillfest hosts a debut authors breakfast. I made sure to be there, no matter how late I was up the night before. I’d attend each one, listening to those who were realizing their dream to be published. Hearing others who were debut gave me the inspiration to keep going forward. I’m debut this year, which is a blast. My novel, Running from the Devil, launches in May and I can’t wait to attend that breakfast.

I’m looking forward to connecting with old friends, meeting new ones, and just having a good time!

Jamie Freveletti
Running from the Devil

Saturday, February 14, 2009

All Things Red and Lovely

When Kelli first asked me to write a special Valentine’s Day themed posting about ThrillerFest, I said, “Sure! No problem!” However, reality soon settled in and I began to wonder what the two had in common.

Valentine’s Day is a celebration of that little winged naked guy who flies around and shoots arrows into people’s butts so they fall in love. (Okay, the real reason behind V-Day is much more complicated, but thanks to over commercialization, the little winged naked guy wins the battle.)

ThrillerFest is a celebration of all things thriller-y. I’ve attended TF for the past two years (and will be returning again this year) and haven’t seen any little naked guys or people suffering from arrow wounds to their posterior regions...yet. (We never know what may happen at TF. That’s part of the fun.)

However, as you can see, the two don’t have much in common. So I did what all writers do when faced with a Question of Unknown Answer – research!

I searched Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Wikipedia – the list goes on. I scoured ITW member websites. Someone, somewhere had to have something that would help me connect Valentine’s Day with ThrillerFest. In the end, I found my missing link on the ThrillerFest website, itself.

“ThrillerFest is Summer Camp for readers, fans, writers, industry professionals and those just looking for a great time! It's a place to see old friends and meet new ones.”

These are the opening words of a message from Kathy Antrim, Vice-President of National Events for International Thriller Writers. Personally, I’ve never attended summer camp. (Hey, I’m from rural Mississippi. I remember asking my parents if I could go to summer camp. My dad pitched a tent in the back yard and said, “Have at it.” Gee, thanks, Dad.) Despite my lack of experience, I can understand Kathy’s point of view, but I liken ThrillerFest more to a family reunion. Here’s why:

Thriller writers are a small group when compared to some other genres within the larger publishing world. We come from across the globe and reflect different branches of the central “family tree” – political thrillers, espionage, eco-thrillers, Roman noir, paranormal thrillers, you get the idea. Regardless of what we write, we’re all cousins, descending from the same patriarchal/matriarchal lines that started long ago with writers such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie. We converge on a single location once a year to celebrate both our individuality and our commonality.

And, our greatest commonality is love. Love of a well-crafted plot. Love of a diabolical villain and a flawed hero. Love of a pulse-pounding, there’s-no-way-I’m-putting-this-down-now book. Essentially, it’s our love of the thriller genre that brings us together as colleagues, as friends, as family.

The little winged naked guy may be making his round today and filling butts with arrows, but come July, he’ll trade his bow and arrows for a high-powered sniper rifle, clip the wings, and don a pair of urban camouflage fatigues. Yes, love will be in the air at ThrillerFest and I, for one, can hardly wait.

Jeannie Holmes