The ink had barely dried on my contract when my new editor asked if I was going to Thrillerfest. Top thriller authors giving craft workshops? A chance to meet other thriller authors and my publisher? July in NYC? Who could resist such temptation?
Not I. “Of course”, I replied without hesitation. In anticipation of the long-awaited event, I have interviewed my fabulous editor, Executive Editor Valerie Gray, MIRA Books, about MIRA’s thriller fiction line and why she recommends her authors attend Thrillerfest.
PAM: When did MIRA start its thriller fiction line? What is the vision for the line? And where did the name MIRA come from?
VALERIE: MIRA Books got started way back in 1994 and began publishing a range of editorial including Romantic Suspense. Over the years this genre did very well for us and was always a strong part of the program. Then, about five years ago in 2004, we decided to really focus on Thrillers per se. We felt this was an important segment of the publishing business and we focused our attentions on ensuring our books had a strong female presence that was aimed at the female reader. This mandate is still relevant today. Many men enjoy our books, and we are happy about the so-called “crossover” reader, but we never want to lose site of the fact that our Thriller books remain female driven.
As to the name MIRA, it was chosen because it means “star”, and we like to think our authors and their books are the brightest stars in women’s fiction.
PAM: What do you look for in a thriller? Why do you enjoy editing thriller authors?
VALERIE: For me, it’s all about the writing and storytelling. I want to be surprised and moved; I want to be impressed. I want to think about something I’ve never thought about before. I want to engage powerfully with the characters, and I want to feel anxious and excited. I am a self-confessed snob when it comes to the words on the page—make me stretch as a reader and make me gasp with anticipation and make me wish I could do it.
As a group, I’ve found the Thriller community to be supportive, inventive and inclusive, and they are just about the nicest group of people you could meet—and so normal! It makes me laugh when I try to fathom where on earth a mild-mannered reporter, or a reclusive, anxious lawyer come up with these crazy, scary ideas. Must have been something about their childhood! What’s not to like about working with people like that?
PAM: Thriller 2: Stories You Just Can’t Put Down, edited by master thriller author Clive Cussler (MIRA Books, June 2009) is a very slick anthology. What’s the story behind the stories?
VALERIE: A few years ago ITW had the idea to publish an anthology of short stories by some of the best known names in Thriller fiction. Naturally, several publishers were interested in this project and MIRA Books was the lucky winner. The first anthology was published in 2007 and was titled Thriller: Stories To Keep You Up All Night edited by the esteemed James Patterson. The book was a terrific success.
Now, two years later, MIRA Books is proud to publish the second volume. The anthology this year features some of the best known names in the genre, along with new writers who are just making names for themselves. MIRA Books is very proud to be associated both with ITW and with these two wonderful volumes.
PAM: In your experience, how often have you signed on a new author from a pitch? What is the best pitch you’ve ever heard at Thrillerfest?
VALERIE: We rely heavily on agents to vet our material for us. If they tell us they have something exciting, we’ll look at it. So if you want to submit to us, getting an agent is your best bet.
Usually pitches make me nervous because, often, the writer is nervous and it can be a difficult experience. I spend the whole time hoping to be enthralled and knowing I probably won’t be. The best pitch I ever experienced was not at Thrillerfest, but at the Surrey International Writer’s Conference. I was riveted for more than half an hour and that is saying something. It is the only time I’ve ever bought a book as a direct result of a wonderful pitch. And, of course, the book was even better.
PAM: What is your favourite part of Thrillerfest?
VALERIE: Editors are groupies, too. It was a thrill to hear people like Steve Berry and Lee Childs, R.L. Stein, Karen Rose, Laura Lippman and James Patterson to name a few offer their encouragement and support for their fellow authors. The various cocktail parties are always fun, as is the closing banquet. As you will discover, many Thriller writers are also excellent musicians and singers. And there is no shortage of humor and bon mots.
PAM: What makes Thrillerfest stand out in your mind?
VALERIE: Thrillerfest stands out in my mind because of the unabashed support these authors have for one another.
PAM: What was the most fun you’ve had at Thrillerfest?
VALERIE: If I had to single out any one thing it would be the hilarity at the closing banquet. But, be warned, dress for the arctic. The ballroom was like a meat locker.
PAM: Why do you recommend that your authors attend Thrillerfest?
VALERIE: You will meet wonderful people who will inspire you. There is no other reason.
That’s reason enough for me. What I love about conferences is the serendipitous nature of them, where a chance remark can stoke the creative fire. And that’s why we all began writing, isn’t it?
See you in NYC.
Pamela Callow is the author of a new legal biomedical thriller series for MIRA Books. DAMAGED will be released in June 2010, followed by INDEFENSIBLE in January 2011.