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

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Celebrate Craft! - Matching Book Trailer Venues with Audience Expectations

Celebrate the Craft! - from the Future Perfect Publishing blog

A couple of weeks ago I attended a film festival where several book trailers were played on a movie theater screen. Sitting in the dark, popcorn in hand, surrounded by others in the audience, I realized that the way I felt about the videos on the movie screen was different than how I responded watching them online.   Though the content was identical, my experience of the videos was quite different when delivered on different platforms.
The fact is that different platforms come with different expectations from the audience. Mobile phone platforms feel suited best to short form video of 10, 15 or 30 seconds. Yes, people will accept longer videos, but only if the videos are chosen by the viewer through a venue such as YouTube or some similar site on which the viewer knows longer forms reside.
movie on iPhoneMy daughter downloaded the movie Boltto her iPod and she has watched it several times.  But she chose that long form to put on her portable device.  iPods and the iPod Touch are platforms where people can play entire movies, so a longer video is acceptable.
We are experimenting with video on portable devices.  Circle of Seven Productions (COS) offers video on mobile devices such as smart phones and iPhones and any other mobile phone device that allows for video. In addition we have video on the iPod, iPod Touch, PSP and even the Wii.  Again the feel of watching a video on each of those platforms can vary.
Watching the videos play on the large movie theater screen as though they were real movie trailers was thrilling. Even more thrilling was observing the audience around me as they watched them. The videos that appealed most to this audience were those that were acted out. True “book trailers.”  Priest of BloodLady of Serpents andOne With the Shadowscaused quite a stir among the viewers. This particular crowd was there to watch independent films at a festival. The trailers were part of the festival, so there was a lot of audience chatter after each video played. The quality was incredible and so were the CGI effects. But that was expected on the big screen.
turbulent sea book trailerOnline video play has evolved and viewers have their own expectations, but again venues matter. YouTube videos can play up to 2 minutes without a general audience complaining about the length; as long as it is entertaining. MySpace is a little more tolerant of long form video as well, but Facebook is faster paced and the preference seems to go to shorter video.  Also, venues that are specific to readers want shorter videos unless the book is written by a celebrity author. The bigger the author’s name, the longer their video can be. Christine Feehan’s video for Turbulent Sea, which runs 2 minutes and has tens of thousands of views across the internet is an example of this. According to the analytics provided by YouTube the viewers watched the video all the way to the end.
If the video goes up as an ad it should be created as 10, 15 or 30 second spots according to the platform. For social media that is not specifically a reader site, 90 seconds is ideal. People on social sites want to feel that you are entertaining them, not advertising to them, so you have to be creative and you have to give them a little more for their time and attention.
We have taken a single video and cut it into several lengths for different platforms. One book trailer was cut into a 15 second then a 30 second video for online and television advertising, then a one minute spot for reader sites and a 2 minute spot for social sites. It seems like a lot of extra steps, but being more thoughtful of the delivery of your video and how the receiver/viewer reacts or interacts with the video can mean the difference between a sale or no-sale, entertained or annoyed.
Technology is ever-evolving and the end user continues to evolve in their expectations as well. Video is still hot, but it needs to be delivered to the venue and in the form most appropriate for the intended audience.

Sheila Clover English, the CEO of Circle of Seven Productions, is a pioneer in book video production, marketing and distribution for authors and publishers.

You can celebrate craft with us at CraftFest in New York in July!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Sample the Thrill - A Touch of Evil

One of many great articles that you can find each month in The Big Thrill!

Colleen Thompson and I sat down at a virtual coffee shop to chat about her upcoming book, Touch of Evil. With readers clamoring for her latest, I wanted to find out a little more about Colleen and what drives her. Twice nominated for the Rita for Best Romantic Suspense, Colleen has also been honored with the Texas Gold award, multiple Romantic Times Top Picks and KISS awards, and nominations for RT Reviewers Choice, Daphne du Maurier, and Dorothy Parker Awards of Excellence, along with a starred review from Publisher's Weekly. A former teacher married to a Houston firefighter, Colleen brings emergency responders and her Texas home to life.

So of course, we want to know about the new book, Touch of Evil. What's the book about?

Recently elected to complete her late husband's term of office, Sheriff Justine Wofford is boxed in on all sides, investigating a series of gruesome hangings everyone else considers suicide. Hospitalized by a severe blow to the head, unable to remember the details of the attack, under fire from her own department, she reaches out to the man she's sworn to avoid at any cost.

Is there a theme in your books, a thread that you see coming up in your stories often?

I would say that most of my books feature "regular people" forced by horrendous, unexpected circumstance to find a hidden reservoir of strength that changes them forever.

I'm always interested in what draws a writer to the dark side? Ever since I was a kid, my stories leaned to the dark side of human nature. Do you know why you were drawn to suspense?

I've always been attuned to real-life stories with powerful emotional resonance, particularly tales of survival in the face of seemingly-insurmountable odds. There's something deeply cathartic about watching someone who seems quite ordinary find the courage and resilience to fight her way from hell to heaven. This type of story gives us faith that we, too, can overcome the tough stretches that are a part of every person's journey, and suspense may be its most powerful form.

You wrote seven historical novels under Gwyneth Atlee and Colleen Easton. What made you change direction and focus on romantic suspense?

As a reader, I started devouring suspense, mystery, and romantic suspense novels. I was soon drawn to the challenge of weaving a mystery plot into my stories, along with the driving action and heightened romance that can occur in these kinds of books. The balancing act was the hardest thing I've every attempted, but it was so satisfying, I quickly became hooked. And I was happy to find that the same research skills/enthusiasm that made writing Civil War-set romances such a pleasure came in really handy when it came time to learn the ins and outs of modern emergency services, law enforcement, and judicial matters.

I know writers aren't supposed to love any of their "children" more than the others, but some of our characters just reach out and grab us by the heart. Is there one character who did this to you?

I have to admit, I absolutely adore Sheriff Justine Wofford, the heroine of Touch of Evil. One of the things I love about this character is that she's a single mom - a recent widow -- struggling to raise her autistic son alone while dealing with the challenges of stepping into her late husband's role. Her "everywoman" worries about balancing financial, emotional, and family needs, along with the possibility of new love, collide head-on with a situation that could easily cost her life.

Is there a book you're longing to write that you haven't had the opportunity or time to yet? Something completely different from what you're writing now?

I was so drawn into Justine Wofford's life in Touch of Evil (and in my previous book, Beneath Bone Lake, where she was introduced as a secondary character) that I could easily imagine making her a mainstay in a mystery/suspense series with a long term romantic arc. Which got me to thinking it would be really intriguing to stay with one couple and watch their relationship slowly unfold throughout a longer span of time. It would be the same sort of book, but would allow to layer in more complexities with both the main and secondary characters.

But I have to say, I'm thoroughly hooked on contemporary mystery/suspense with a relationship angle. I love exploring the world in which we live through the lens of my characters.

Do you have any writing rituals before you begin a book or begin working every day?

I often begin by reading research books and materials surrounding the premise I have in mind. Much of my fiction is informed/inspired by real-life events, which I start playing with as I wonder how a person might react and learn to overcome such harrowing circumstances.

What does your writing space look like?

My writing space is most often a very cozy chair in my family room, off of the kitchen. It's usually a bit messy, with assorted books and notes stacked on the lamp table, but it's very comfortable.

What's the best way for reader's to get in touch with you? Do you Tweet/blog/etc.?

I'm always happy for readers to contact me via my website. In addition, I blog about the writing life at www.boxingoctopus.blogspot.com or you can find me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/AuthorColleen.

Thank you, Colleen, for filling me in on your latest book and your life. Can't wait to read it!

Thanks you, Jaime, for taking the time to chat with me!

For more on Colleen and her books, visit her website at: http://www.colleen-thompson.com

Missing the romance, relationship drama, and action of her favorite television shows, X-Files, Roswell, and Highlander, Jaime Rush created her own mix in the Offspring series, from Avon Books. Jaime Rush is a pseudonym for bestselling Tina Wainscott, author of eighteen novels for St. Martin's Press and Harlequin. Contests, sneak peeks and more at www.jaimerush.com.

Find out more about great authors at ThrillerFest 2010!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Sample the Thrill - Frame Up by John F. Dobbyn

One of many great articles that you can find each month in The Big Thrill!

Frame Up by John Dobbyn is being framed! Robin Hathaway, author of Sleight of Hand, calls it, "A poignant tale of brotherhood, torn and mended, and a thrilling mix of foreign intrigue and Mafia mayhem," while Alafair Burke, author of 212: A Novel, claims, "Frame Up is the best kind of legal crime fiction."

It was enough to make me want to do some investigating of my own. What I discovered was that Frame Up is a twisted tale of mafia gangsters and international intrigue providing an in-depth view of the criminal justice system.

In Frame Up, Michael Knight's best friend at Harvard Law, John McKedrick, takes the low road--he becomes the sole associate of a notorious mob lawyer. Meanwhile, Michael has teamed up with legendary trial attorney Lex Devlin to form their own firm. When John is murdered in a car bombing bearing the signature of his questionable clientele, Lex Devlin urges Michael to represent the alleged bomber, son of Lex's childhood friend (now the head of the Boston Mafia). In building the defense, Michael is drawn into a high-stakes art fraud that leads him into the world's most dangerous and deadly places.

I then did some digging on the author and learned a few interesting facts:

Dobbyn was born and raised in Boston--a distinct advantage in getting to know all of the streets, restaurants and hangouts frequented by his main character, Michael Knight. Later, Dobbyn attended Harvard Law School, the same place Knight earned his degree and met his best friend (who ends up dead in Frame Up).

An education at Boston Latin School gave Dobbyn the tools for writing and storytelling that he later honed during military service and the years of "central casting" experience gleaned in courtrooms following his graduation with a Masters of Laws degree from Harvard. According to Dobbyn, that's where he "gained a catalogue of characters for future stories by way of both the lawyers and their clients who appeared in the judges' courtrooms.

After several years of practicing law, came the creative writing course and the published short story that set Dobbyn on a new career path. He had taken the bait, and publishing had set the hook. According to Dobbyn, "Once set, the hook holds - even through enough rejection slips for future stories to paper a small ballroom." Eventually he went on to learn the "hidden parts of the trade of storytelling well enough to sell a story to Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, and followed by about twenty-five short stories in both Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine."

Then, in March of 2007, Dobbyn burst onto the mystery/legal thriller scene with his first novel, Neon Dragon. In that book, he partnered his two favorite characters, Michael Knight and Lex Devlin, weaving an adventure through the streets of Boston's Chinatown. That partnership continues in Frame Up. About which, Jeremiah Healy, author of The Only Good Lawyer, says "If you enjoy gritty legal thrillers, you will love Frame Up. From the chilling first chapter to 'negotiations' with the Mob over the death penalty without benefit of the formal criminal justice system, the characters are drawn with depth and empathy, the action with crisp claps of interpersonal thunder. Settle back in your favorite chair for a polished book that will be compared to Dennis Lehane's Mystic River."

Dobbyn currently teaches at Villanova Law School. He and his wife Lois live in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. For more information, please visit his website at: http://www.johndobbyn.com.

Christine Goff is the award-winning author of the bestselling "Birdwatcher's Mystery" series. She began her career writing non-fiction for local, regional and national publication. Chosen Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers' 2002 Writer of the Year, two of her novels were named finalists for the prestigious Willa Literary Award for Best Original Paperback Fiction; and her latest novel, DEATH SHOOTS A BIRDIE, was a named finalist for the Colorado Authors League 2008 Best Genre Fiction Award. Her novels focus on environmental concerns through bird-related issues. Currently, she is working on a new book; a thriller set in Israel.

Find out more about great authors at ThrillerFest 2010!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Villainy! - Celebrate the Craft

Celebrate the Craft! - From the blog of Joe Konrath

Let's talk about bad guys.

Some of my favorite books have villains that are just as memorable as the hero.

But what makes a good antagonist? Other than being in competition/conflict/opposition to the hero, what are the traits an adversary needs to have?

Here are a few things your villain should be:

  • Charismatic. The reader should be attracted to the villain in some way, even if it is a car-wreck type of attraction.
  • Powerful. The villain should be more powerful than the protagonist. Underdog stories are as old as the bible, and show no signs of losing public favor.
  • Motivated. A villain should have goals, dreams, desires, and reasons for doing what they do.
  • Cruel. Bad guys do bad things. That's what makes them bad.
  • Active. Like heroes, villains shouldn't be passive. The need to be doing things, moving the plot along, rather than simply reacting to things.
  • Realistic. If the reader doesn't believe the villain, the tension is gone.
Many crime novels don't have strong villains. Either the bad guy isn't revealed until the end, or the story dwells more on the protagonist's journey.

This is a missed opportunity to engage and excite the reader. Good vs. Evil is conflict in its purest form, and any sports fan can tell you that competition is a lot of fun.

Take a look at your WIP. Does it have a villain? Does the villain embody the traits listed above? How can your villain be improved?

Who are your favorite villains, and why?

You can celebrate craft with us at CraftFest in New York in July!

Book, Booking, Booked...for ThrillerFest!

I know it seems ThrillerFest is far away. July seems far off as I look out my window and see gray skies. I still have BEA to prepare for and about 3 other conventions before ThrillerFest gets here, but I know from experience that it is best to think ahead.

I keep looking at the list of authors who will be attending. Some are my clients and I know I want to touch base with them. Some are dear friends and some of them I am a total fan-girl for and plan on getting autographs and sneaking in some pictures I can brag about later of course! lol

I have paid my registration, put together books I want to bring to have signed and am now booking my flight. I don't know if I will fly or take the train. That's what I'm looking into right now. By July I could actually drive to New York, but I don't want to have to drive IN New York if you know what I mean. lol

I'm still putting together a list of workshops I want to take and meetings I hope to make, but I know that if I wait until the last minute I won't be able to enjoy my experience as much. I like to plan ahead and relax while I'm there.

I am going to sign up for the big dinner at the end too. I know it's a little more money, but I went last year and it was so very worth it! It was one of the highlights of my experience. If you can do it, splurge a little. The food is great, the presentation is fun, entertaining and awe-inspiring. You won't regret it!

Be sure to check out the website often to see who is coming and what's going on as we get closer and closer to July!


Friday, March 12, 2010

Sample the Thrill - Hell Gate by Linda Fairstein

Celebrate the Craft! - From the blog of the The Big Thrill

Linda Fairstein is a prolific and bestselling author of legal thrillers starring Alexandra Cooper, a New York City sex crimes prosecutor. For more than a decade, readers have turned to her books for ripped-from-the-headline crimes, cutting-edge investigations, and vindication for victims. In her twelfth novel, Hell Gate, Alex Cooper finds her attention torn between investigating a shipwreck with contraband cargo - human cargo - and the political sex scandal of a promising New York congressman. The bridge between these cases leads our heroine down a darker and deadlier road than she ever imagined. Hell Gate is landing rave reviews, including this dandy from Kirkus: "Thrills, gossip, sex, history, self-righteous indignation and hints of parallels to the contemporary rich and famous, all whipped to a fine frenzy."

You write about a political sex scandal in Hell Gate. Were you inspired by any real life ones?

I like to think I've got a good imagination, but all of the political sex scandals I dreamed up were nothing compared to the real life antics that kept grabbing the headline space - in New York and all over the country. Just when I thought the last one couldn't be topped....along came the next guy. Yes, I was certainly inspired by some of the real-life sexcapades (including a certain governor who was my colleague in the Manhattan DA's Office), and it was kind of hilarious that I had to tone most things down a bit so they'd be more believable.

One of your trademarks is to incorporate New York landmarks and their history in your work. Tell us about Hell Gate and why you decided to make it the crime scene of your latest thriller.

Once I focused on political scandals, I was drawn to some New York landmark locations, which always have such fascinating historical background. I've been a guest at many receptions at Gracie Mansion - the Mayor's home since the 1940's - but my research took me into some very dark aspects of its past. It's quite a glorious spot - set against the treacherous currents of Hell Gate (an actual place in the New York waterways, which has been the scene of hundreds of deaths over the years) - and its history includes the involvement of its owner, Archibald Gracie, in a really interesting homicide two centuries ago. I just find if you dig beneath the surface of some of these fantastic settings, you discover all kinds of mysterious goings-on. And here's this stunning mansion that our mayor has abandoned in favor of his own, so imagine the nefarious things that can happen there at night.

With thirty years experience running Manhattan's Sex Crimes Unit, you're considered one smart author. In fact, Lee Child calls you "the queen of intelligent suspense." Any pressure to stay smart book after book?

As all of us who write know, there is enormous pressure to stay smart, whether you're writing a series or stand-alones. I think we've got terrifically smart fans, who expect solid, nuanced plotting and characters who evolve over time, based on the experiences they encounter. I back off it and relax a bit when I think about how 'smart' I had to stay as a prosecutor for thirty years, when peoples' lives really hung in the balance every day. So this is intelligent (which I love), but it's fiction, and that's a much more comfortable thought for me than dealing with justice every single day. (And how generous of Lee Child to say that, don't you think?)

In your novels, the crimes end up being solved. In real life, I'm sure there were cases you couldn't solve. Can you talk a little about how you balance those two outcomes - resolution being necessary in fiction but not always possible in real life?

One of the great pleasures for me in writing crime fiction is being able to control the outcome of the case - something that was rarely available to me in real life criminal justice! I'm one of the people who actually doesn't mind it when all the threads aren't tied together at the end of a story. As hard as I tried to do that in case after case, it didn't always happen. And sometimes the bad guys beat us. But most of my editors haven't seen it that way. It's great fun when Alex gets to stand up to a mean judge or get a perp who got away from me, and I love having that fictional power.

Neither Alex Cooper or her detective pal Mike Chapman are married. So why haven't they slept together? We know you can write sex scenes because you're always throwing Alex in the arms of other men.

This question really made me smile. I get more mail about Alex and Mike than about anything else in my books. As Alex has revealed to her closest friends, she's sort of tormented about what to do in her relationship with Mike. She loves him, he covers her back better than any guy she has ever known, and she is terrifically attracted to him. But she knows that the minute she gets into bed with him, the professional relationship changes forever. (Now really, readers, do you want that to happen?). So most of my devout followers suspend disbelief and understand that the sexual tension between Alex and Mike is a plot device that keeps the dialogue lively and the action moving. Where it will lead, I'm not quite sure. I'm often reminded of the TV show Moonlighting (Bruce Willis and Cybil Shepherd). It was a huge hit because of the sexual tension throughout several seasons, and the minute they climbed into bed together, over and out. So bear with me, please, and remember that Alex only ages about three months between capers, so it's not that much time that has evolved.

Can you tell us a little about your writing process?

You just can't imagine how much I love to write. For me, a really good day is when I can get up in the morning, have coffee with my husband, then hole up in my writing room - my bat cave - and just get into the words and the story and the rhythm. The first one hundred pages of a novel are like having root canal - sounding out a strong opening, laying in characters and clues, plotting a careful story that will make sense at the end. It's harder for me to isolate myself in the city, because of so many of the things I stay involved in (I'm still a lawyer and do lots of non-profit work for victims of violence). We spend four months on Martha's Vineyard, where I actually have the luxury of a separate cottage, and I leave 'home' to walk down the hill for a day's work. It's tranquil and magnificent and isolated, and I take lots of breaks to swim and clear my head. Best for me is the last quarter of the story, when I know exactly where I'm headed, and it's like skiing downhill to the finish line. My prosecutorial job was so collegial and reliant on partnerships with detectives and DA's (like Alex) that the isolation of writing was the hardest adjustment for me to make. But at the end of the writing day, there's a glass of Dewar's waiting for me in front of the fireplace.

Hell Gate is book twelve for you and your protagonist. JK Rowling knew how she was going to end Harry Potter. Charlaine Harris claims to know how she is going to end her Sookie tales. And Sue Grafton is shooting for the letter Z. Do you know how your series will end?

So far, no end in sight for Alex Cooper. Hey, I had her job for thirty years, so I expect she is in it for the long haul. I remember exactly where I was when my literary agent (and dear friend) Esther Newberg called to tell me there was a 'bidding war' for my first novel in the series - Final Jeopardy. Of the three houses, it was Scribner (Alex's first great home) which asked - "Does Linda think she can do two books?" My answer to Esther was without hesitation - "I know I can do ten." So here we are at number twelve, and I've got lots of stories to tell. I think that Hell Gate has 'thriller' pacing, and I'm so delighted to be part of this terrific community.

For more information about Linda Fairstein, check http://www.lindafairstein.com/

Contributing editor Julie Kramer's MISSING MARK, landed a rave review from People Magazine. "Smart dialogue and a fleet pace make this second outing in Kramer's fledgling series a crowd-pleaser." Her debut, STALKING SUSAN, was a nominee for the Mary Higgins Clark, Anthony, Barry, and Shamus awards. Her third, SILENCING SAM, is coming this summer.

Find out more about great authors at ThrillerFest 2010!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Celebrate the Craft - Veracity, Laura Bynum

Celebrate the Craft! - From the blog of the The Big Thrill
In Laura Bynum's debut thriller Veracity, Harper Adams was six years old in 2012 when an act of viral terrorism wiped out one-half of the country's population. Out of the ashes rose a new government that maintains order through whatever means necessary, including the restriction of language that might inspire a longing for truth, freedom, and authenticity.

Harper joins the resistance driven by memories of a daughter lost, a daughter whose very name was erased by the Red List. Guided by the fabled Book of Noah, this underground army is determined to shake the people from their apathy and ignorance, and start a war in the name of freedom.

In the tradition of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, Laura Bynum has written an astonishing debut novel about a chilling, all-too-plausible future in which speech is a weapon and security comes at the highest price of all.

"Ms. Bynum has a beautiful, distinctly poetic style that makes Veracity a lush, eminently readable book...The narrative style, reminiscent of Margaret Atwood as mentioned above, is stunningly effective... There's a sense of intimacy and empathy with Harper as she struggles to save her daughter. In fact, the most touching, believable, human thing about Harper was her emotional devotion to her child; the fact that all of this, the danger she faces each day is for her little girl - a girl whose very name the government took away..." --The Book Smugglers

"Bynum deftly paints the drab, fear-filled existence led by Confederation citizens. Harper is a compelling protagonist...as doubtful as anyone that she has the strength to succeed at her self-appointed task, and this tension propels the narrative....this bleak vision of the future feels real and truly chilling." --Kirkus Review

Laura Bynum was born in Springfield, Illinois in 1968. She completed her Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Communications at the University of Illinois at Springfield and Eastern Illinois University respectively. In 2006, Laura won the Rupert Hughes Literary Writing Award at the Maui Writer's Conference. As a result, Laura's first novel, Veracity, was published in January of 2010. The day Laura signed the contract with Simon and Schuster, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and has since been successfully treated. She lives in the Piedmont area of Virginia with her husband and three daughters.

You can celebrate craft with us at CraftFest in New York in July!

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Cold Room - Sampling the Thrill

One of many great interviews with authors that you can find each month in The Big Thrill!

It's not easy to get into the heads of killers, to relay their thoughts and feelings and deep, dark secrets in a way that makes them seems so real and so frightening. But J.T. Ellison does it, and she does it well.

Ellison is the best-selling author of the Taylor Jackson series of thrillers (All the Pretty Girls, 14, Judas Kiss, and The Cold Room). She has published numerous short stories in a variety of publications, including the anthologies Killer Year: Stories to Die For, First Thrills, and Surreal South 09.

Recently, I chatted with J.T. Ellison about her latest book, The Cold Room, and her upcoming thrillers"

In your latest thriller The Cold Room, you introduce the reader to the Conductor, a serial killer who keeps his victims in glass coffins until they starve to death. Draw us into the world of the Conductor and your protagonist, homicide detective Taylor Jackson.

The Conductor loves classical music, opera, and art. How much more normal could you get, right? There's just one catch. He's also a burgeoning necrosadist, with online friends he shares his fantasies with. Taylor Jackson, recently busted back to Detective by the Office of Professional Accountability, is trying to save face and solve one of the strangest murders she's seen in years. And to top it all off, her fiancée, FBI profiler Dr. John Baldwin, believes he has seen this scenario before, on an international scale.

What makes Detective Taylor Jackson such a strong woman, and how does this help her catch the Conductor?

Taylor is a woman of convictions, of morality, of a code. She's a hero, flawed but with incalculable focus. She enjoys a challenge, isn't afraid of much, and has a badge and gun to back her up when times get tough. She's also very stubborn and enjoys intrigue, and the Conductor presents a puzzle she's not seen before. The fact that Baldwin has a foot in the Conductor's world already is a help too--she has an excuse to work with him again, something she always enjoys. 

Why is the Conductor such a fascinating serial killer?

His MO is relatively rare. He's not interested in hurting women, which is a bit of a departure from what we normally see--usually fictional serial killers are psychopaths who are brilliant dynamos, always a step ahead of the cops. Gavin Adler is a regular Joe, making mistakes, testing the waters. I almost felt sorry for him--he's driven by this compulsion to have sex with dead women, and he's not sure how to satisfy that urge. He's obviously a sociopath, unable to feel emotions properly, but he's got human edges, like the adoration he feels toward his cat, Art, and his love for music and art. A well-rounded killer, our Gavin.

You stated The Cold Room was the "by far the most difficult book [you've] ever written"--both structurally and emotionally? Why?

For starters, the research on this book was both fascinating and repulsive. I started having rather horrible nightmares soon after I started the book. The story is huge in scope--spread among four law enforcement agencies and two continents, with new characters in Taylor's life, and many, many plot shifts. I was trying to avoid falling into the trap where people would read it and say, "Oh, come on. No way." So it was a challenge to write, and then at the eleventh hour, the book was pulled. We changed the release date, title, art, all the outside components, and I went back into the manuscript to flesh out some of Taylor's story. I'm so glad we did, because the book ended up being so much stronger than it would have been. Lesson learned: always listen to your editor.

A professor in college told you you'd "never get published." It was years before you started writing again and proved her wrong. What did you learn from this experience, besides the obvious response--that she was wrong?

Never, ever, let someone outside of your world derail your dreams. I respected that particular professor, and though she crushed me, looking back I see she was right. My voice was there, but I lacked that special something that makes writers into authors. But if she'd encouraged me just a little, I might have found that spark sooner. It's the nature of the artist to need some bits of affirmation, but sometimes we can overemphasize that part of our lives. I advise all new authors to listen to their gut, and focus on their dreams.

You stated, "it takes a very specific personality type to make it as a cop, especially a homicide detective. The horror and depravity that they see every day . . . anything I write pales against the realities they live with day to day. There is endless capacity for evil in people. It's such an honor to write their stories, and I strive to make the non-law enforcement world understand the people who keep them safe." Why is this so important to you, and how do you think this comes across in your work?

After you do a few ride-alongs with law enforcement, you will be hard pressed to see them as anything less than heroes. I wanted to tell their stories, as accurately as I could, so the general public would have some idea of just how intense their jobs are. Cops get a bad rap in the press, with accusations of brutality and other illegalities, but 99% of cops are decent, honest, hardworking, long-suffering men and women who are just trying to keep the rest of us safe.

What advice can you give aspiring thriller writers?

Read everything you can get your hands on, and work hard to develop your writing habit.

What's next for J.T. Ellison?

The Immortals, book five in the series, will be out in October 2010. And I'm frantically running into my deadline for book six, The Pretender, which is a sequel to 14. There are a few shorts stories debuting this year as well. All that's on my website,  JTEllison.com.

Janice Gable Bashman is co-author (with Jonathan Maberry) of WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE: Vampire Hunters and Other Kick-Ass Enemies of Evil (Citadel Press 2010). She wrote sidebars for THEY BITE:  Endless Cravings of Supernatural Predators (Citadel Press 2009) by Jonathan Maberry and David F. Kramer. She also writes for leading publications, including the NOVEL & SHORT STORY WRITER'S MARKET, THE WRITER, WILD RIVER REVIEW, INDUSTRY TODAY, and FOOD & DRINK QUARTERLY. And, her writing won multiple awards at the 2007 Philadelphia Writer's Conference.

Find out more about great authors at ThrillerFest 2010!