Tag Archive for: ThrillerFest

The Thrilling Lee Child

By Kay Kendall

When my
first mystery was months away from publication, other writers suggested I
should attend ThrillerFest, the high powered writers’ conference held every July
in New York City. I protested that a) I don’t write thrillers, and b) that
conference was pricy. Then I was told that International Thriller Writers, the
group that holds the annual meeting, has a special program for debut authors
that helps put newbies on the map. I was persuaded to attend, thinking I would
go only once in order to participate in that program.

Janet Maslin of the NY Times interviews ThrillerMaster Lee Child.

That was
back in 2013, and I have just returned from my fifth ThrillerFest in a row. Yes,
I got hooked, pure and simple. The authorial fire power at ThrillerFest can’t
be equaled, and contrary to its name, the International Thriller Writers do welcome
authors across the full spectrum of crime writing. Whether you write cozy
mysteries, true thrillers, traditionals, historicals, suspense, or whatever. It
does not matter. All are welcome.
An awards
banquet concludes each conference. Besides handing out six book awards, ITW
honors one author who is deemed the year’s ThrillerMaster. Beginning in 2006
when the conference debuted, in chronological order the honorees were Clive
Cussler, James Patterson, Sandra Brown, David Morrell, Ken Follett, R.L. Stine,
Jack Higgins, Anne Rice, Scott Turow, Nelson DeMille, Heather Graham, and—this year—Lee
Child. Also part of the hoopla centering on the ThrillerMaster is an hour-long
interview by another notable person. This year Lee Child was interviewed by
Janet Maslin, long-time film critic (1977-1999) and book reviewer (1999 on) for
the New York Times 
If you aren’t
up on your thrillers, here is some background about the suave and ever-genial
Lee Child, who hails from Coventry, England. Although a resident of New York
since 1998, he has not lost his gorgeous British accent—or his elegant manners
either, for that matter. Within the thriller/mystery writing community, his
name is a watchword for bestseller-dom. In fact, his twenty-one novels starring
the tall, sexy drifter Jack Reacher are so popular that I was shocked that Lee
Child had not been named an ITW ThrillerMaster years earlier.
Near the
beginning of his interview with Janet Maslin, Child announced that he had
become eligible for the award only three months previously. There was a
twenty-year rule that explained everything, one I had not known about. His
twenty-second Reacher novel is due out in the fall, and two popular films
featuring actor Tom Cruise as the legendarily tall Jack Reacher have been produced.
I will never forget when the news first broke that Cruise would play Reacher.
Much consternation ensued. Cruise is known to be well under six feet tall. Reacher
is described in book after book as six feet five, weighing 220 pounds, with a
chest expanse of 50 inches. To note: Child himself is six feet five, but his
frame is rail-thin.
Lee Child
says he tires of being asked about the choice of Cruise, but his ire is never
evident.  Which is a good thing. At the
awards banquet, two thriller authors performed a mashup of Beatles songs with
lyrics restyled to fit known events in the life and career of Child. The medley
opened with “Tiny Jack Reacher” sung to the tune of “Paperback Writer.” This
performance brought down the house. And Lee Child smiled through it all. He
also gave everyone in attendance a hardback of collected Jack Reacher short
stories that debuted just this month. Now that’s what I call class.

Read the first 20
pages of Kay Kendall’s second mystery,
won two awards at the Killer Nashville
in August 2016—for best mystery/crime and also for best book. 
first novel about Austin Starr‘s sleuthing,
ROW, was a finalist for best mystery
Killer Nashville in 2014. 

Conferences for Writers and for Readers—Part I

By Kay Kendall

Today I’m sitting in for Stiletto Gang colleague and friend, Marjorie Brody. A
sudden death in her family has left her with an unbearable list of things to
do. Pinch-hitting for Marjorie gives me the chance to make back-to-back posts
exploring the burgeoning phenomenon of conferences designed both for readers
and for writers.

Have suitcase…Will Travel!

Back in the days before I
was a published author, when I contemplated a writing career, I had no idea
that there would be so many opportunities to hobnob with other writers—and with
readers too. I had always thought that the life of a writer was a solitary one.
Then I discovered the wealth of conferences that blanket this continent. The
list of seminars for aspiring writers is long, and almost as long is the list
of conferences for both readers and authors. I swear you could spend your life
going from meeting to meeting. That is, if you had the money to do so.
I have ended up loving
the networking and marketing and meeting readers and other writers so much that
it’s easy to forget about the writing at the core of it all…which remains
sitting alone in that room and facing an empty screen and throwing type up on
it. For me, that is torture. Once I get past the first draft, then the rest is
Starting in 2004, I began
attending one regional writing conference per year. Then, beginning in 2011, I
started attending Bouchercon. It must be the world’s largest con aimed at fans
of mystery authors. Then in 2013, the year my first book was published, I
attended three conferences in one calendar year, and that has remained my
standard to this very day. If my budget and my writing calendar allowed,
however, I would do even more. The most marvelous part of these gatherings is
meeting many people who were Facebook friends and now have turned into real
ones, not just virtual.
Three days ago I returned
home from the annual ThrillerFest in New York City, sponsored by International
Thriller Writers. ITW celebrates its tenth anniversary this year so the
conference was even more star-studded than usual. I participated in an authors’
round table, renewed old acquaintances, made new ones, sold some books, and
networked like crazy. In tomorrow’s post I will talk in detail about some of
the famous writers who spoke at ThrillerFest.
The month of October will
begin with Bouchercon in Raleigh, North Carolina, and end with Killer Nashville
in Tennessee. Half the size of ThrillerFest and Bouchercon, Killer Nashville is
an exceptionally supportive and friendly gathering. My more introverted author
pals are drawn to smaller conferences like this one. At each event I’ve
attended, one of these introverts confides to me how difficult it is to endure
so many people at once.
But now I am back in my
author’s lair, facing that empty PC screen. The nasty thing keeps whispering to
me that I must start writing my third mystery featuring my amateur sleuth,
Austin Starr. Tentatively titled Tombstone
, this will be Austin’s most dangerous adventure yet when she and her
husband David tangle with Russian spies in Cold War-era Vienna. It opens only a
month after the conclusion of Rainy Day
, and David is still mad at her. Because she . . . but wait! I’m about
to give away too much. I must stop. I want this to be a spoiler-free zone!
Kendall is a long-time fan of historical novels and writes
atmospheric mysteries that capture the spirit and turbulence of the
sixties. She is a reformed PR executive who lives in Texas with her husband,
three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. Terribly allergic to her bunnies, she
loves them anyway! Her book titles show she’s a Bob Dylan buff too. RAINY DAY
WOMEN published on July 7–the second in her Austin Starr Mystery series. The
audio-book will be out soon. 



The Vampire Lestat’s Mom and Rambo’s Dad

By Kay Kendall
week the organization International Thriller Writers (ITW) celebrated its tenth
anniversary. The star power of authors present at the celebratory conference,
ThrillerFest, ran the gamut from supernova to red dwarf. Last year when I went
to my first ThrillerFest as a debut author, I was stunned by the numerous super
stars in attendance, and also by how kind and generous they were. This year’s
meeting was even more jam-packed with sparkling talent.

Anne Rice is in center, with her son Christopher the tall man over her shoulder. Others left to right are R.L. Stine, David Morrell, and Scott Turow. 

Rice wrote her first novel about the vampire Lestat in 1985—she was present. David
Morrell wrote his first Rambo novel in 1972, followed by 28 more novels of
various kinds—he was there. Ditto Lee
Child, father of Jack Reacher, who first appeared in 1997, with his nineteenth tale
out next month. Scott Turow dropped by to pick up his award, Thriller Master
2014. His novel Presumed Innocent put
the legal thriller on the map in 2000, and eleven more novels followed. Other
luminaries who spoke at ThrillerFest (whose books you no doubt either read or at
least recognize) include David Baldacci, Steve Berry, Michael Connelly, Lisa
Gardner, Heather Graham, M.J. Rose, and John Sandford.
Here I am with T. Jefferson Parker.
you’re in such company, you can either feel insignificant—or you can choose to
be inspired. I picked the latter. The atmosphere was so supportive, of any
writer at any level, that it was easy not to be intimidated.
One of the main purposes of the ITW organization is to
provide a way for successful, bestselling authors to help debut and midlist
authors advance their careers. Judging
from the two conferences I’ve attended, the contacts I’ve made, and the
networking that is ongoing, I can only conclude that this goal is being met

Ian Rankin with Steve Berry in background

Helping to put the
international in the conference was one of my favorite authors, Ian Rankin. He
flew in from his home in Edinburgh, Scotland, to participate on several panels.
He has written nineteen installments in his bestselling crime series featuring
Inspector John Rebus. Another of my favorites is T. Jefferson Parker. His twenty
crime novels are set in southern California, and his next book is due this
October, called Full Measure.  

I have met Rankin and
Parker at previous book events and corresponded with both of them. They recognize
me as both a super fan of their work and an aspiring novelist. It is
heartwarming and encouraging to be treated nicely by one’s literary heroes. Now
I can’t wait to return to ThrillerFest next year. 
(By the way, I participated on a panel but forgot to ask one of my pals
to shoot the photographic evidence. Darn.) 

Cheers to ThrillerFest!

Kay Kendall set her debut novel, Desolation Row—An Austin Starr Mystery,
in 1968. The Vietnam War backdrop illuminates reluctant courage and desperate
love when a world teeters on chaos. Kay’s next mystery, Rainy Day Women (2015) finds amateur sleuth Austin Starr trying to
prove a friend didn’t murder women’s liberation activists in Seattle and
Vancouver. Kay is an award-winning international PR executive living in Texas
with her Canadian husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. Very allergic to bunnies, she loves them anyway! 
Her book titles show she’s a Bob
Dylan buff too.

Stepping into the Big Leagues

by Marjorie Brody

When I imagined becoming an author, I visualized book signings, travel, interviews and photo shoots, writing on deadlines, searching for fresh ideas,
juggling personal and professional tasks, influencing book cover concepts and designing stickers for book plates, giving presentations, answering
readers’ emails, teaching craft and encouraging new writers, and even creating a new genre, but I don’t think I ever thought I’d be on a panel with
heavy hitters. Oh sure, I envisioned having friends who are best selling authors—and in fact, I do—but to be sitting next to a Hollywood screenwriter
and TV staff writer, attorneys with legal thriller series, and a host of a crime and science radio show, well, I guess my imagination didn’t stretch
that far.

In July, I’ll be on a panel at the International Thriller Writers conference. The topic is “Ego or Id, Unlock Your Character’s Psychology” and the
Panel Master will be Dennis Palumbo. On the panel will be D.P. Lyle, MD, Katia Lief, Laura Caldwell, Lynne Raimondo, and oh yes, a little known author
whose psychological suspense debuted last year, me.
So how will I not be in tongue-tied awe?

I could remind myself that all of these authors started with a single book. I could remember that they write
about what they know (forensics, or criminals and the legal system, or psychopathology and serial killers—well, they don’t need to know about that
personally, I assure you, although on second thought, maybe they do!), and I write about what I know (resilient yet flawed protagonists, and self-deluded, maladjusted antagonists). Or maybe I
could just see these panelist as colleagues who happen to share with me the same field in our second careers.

Or maybe I could remember why I was
asked to join this panel in the first place; someone thought I’d be a valuable addition to the group. So, I guess it’s time for me to knock the dirt
out of my cleats, pick up the bat, and step up to the plate. Who knows? I may just hit a home run. And even if I don’t, it’ll still be fun to play on the team.

Have suggestions for me based on your experience? I’d love to hear them.

Marjorie Brody is an award-winning author and Pushcart Prize Nominee. Her short stories appear in

literary magazines and the Short Story America Anthology, Vols. I, II and III. Her debut psychological suspense novel, TWISTED, delves into the secrets
that emerge following a sexual assault at a high school dance and features a remarkable teen who risks everything to expose the truth. TWISTED was awarded
an Honorable Mention at the 2013 Great Midwest Book Festival and won the Texas Association of Authors 2014 Best Young Adult Fiction Book Award. TWISTED is
available in digital and print at

http://tinyurl.com/cvl5why or http://tinyurl.com/bqcgywl.
Marjorie invites you to visit her at

Ramblings From Dru

The hardest thing about writing a monthly post is coming up with a topic that the audience will find interesting.

So here I sit, trying to think of a post to write.

Should it be related to writing? Well, since I’m not a writer, I don’t have to worry about that.

I am a reader, but how many times can I write about the number of books I’ve read since January (for the record it is 78 books).

My friends tell me that besides being a reader, I’m also a blogger/reviewer. I don’t consider myself a reviewer because my musings are short and not standardized. However on my blog I do offer a feature to authors about the day in the life of their protagonist or a recurring character from their stories.

I recently attended my fourth Malice Domestic Convention. I always have a good time and it’s a chance to attend panels; catch up with friends who I haven’t seen in a year, meet new-to-authors and reconnect with the authors I’ve already met. The one for reader fans are fun to attend and so far this year I’ll be going to four events. I’ll be at BookExpo America (BEA) where I’ll be attending the Power Reader event. Then it’s the Fan Fest at Thrillerfest this summer and last but not least I’ll be at Bouchercon in Albany. Is anyone attending any of these events?

Well, it looks like I thought of something to write.

What’s the hardest thing that you have to do?

Creating Thrilling Female Protagonists (Lipstick Optional)

First off, thank you to The Stiletto Gang for inviting me to guest blog.

I just got back from Thrillerfest where I presented a workshop with fellow authors/friends, Erica Spindler and J.T. Ellison. Ours was titled: Creating Tough, Smart Female Protagonists (Lipstick Optional). As thriller authors, we have a cache of personal anecdotes to share about the double standards we and our female protagonists experience. For example: are female protagonists allowed to swear? How about cry? I’m fairly certain my series character, FBI Special Agent Maggie O’Dell would never be allowed as many one-night stands as Jack Reacher.

We were surprised to find that almost all of the attendees agreed, that in the thriller genre, the bar is set slightly higher for female protagonists than males. There seem to be unwritten expectations. In fact, the reactions and comments we received made us realize we had only scraped the surface of this hot topic.

The trick is to overcome the double standards and shatter that glass ceiling, but to do it without reducing your female character to yet another clichéd, stereotype. Make her tough and smart but don’t make her give up her femininity – lipstick optional.

I like to share the story about my second book tour when a bookseller (who I respect tremendously) took me aside and told me that I really needed to get Maggie’s drinking problem under control. At the time, I thought she was joking. Sure Maggie threw back a few Scotches in SPLIT SECOND but it was nothing compared to what my male counterparts were having their male protagonists consume. Because Maggie’s mother is a suicidal alcoholic I thought it made sense that alcoholism might be something Maggie struggled with. Another tightrope for her to be walking. But according to this bookseller – and for the record, she was right – readers aren’t comfortable seeing a female protagonist deal with her problems by throwing back hard liquor. So now Maggie still struggles with “the urge” while she sips Diet Pepsi.

DAMAGED (released today) is my eighth in the Maggie O’Dell series and my tenth novel. This time, I actually have two strong females: my series protagonist, Maggie O’Dell and Coast Guard rescue swimmer, Liz Bailey.

Both women are brave and compassionate in different ways and through their necessary partnership I’m able to show their true characters. For Maggie, who is slow to trust and stubbornly independent, she learns to drop her guard with the younger Liz Bailey, who wins Maggie’s trust and respect early on.

With Liz Bailey I’m able to show a generation of women who don’t complain about the double standards in their male-dominated fields. Instead, they simply fight the stereotypes by proving themselves. At 28, Liz has more Katrina rescues over New Orleans than her air crew pilot and co-pilot have together, yet she’s the newbie on their crew. And although Liz yearns for the day they’ll finally call her “their rescue swimmer” instead of “the rescue swimmer,” she doesn’t begrudge the slight. She simply proves her talents and skills and bravery. It’s exactly what Maggie O’Dell has been doing in the FBI.

At the same time, neither woman is a superhero. Both have flaws and vulnerabilities. That’s also an important part of making them real and believable. Maggie may not be throwing back Scotches any more but she has a very real fear of flying, something many people (myself included) can certainly relate to. One of my favorite chapters is when she realizes that in order to view the crime scene she’ll need to get inside a Coast Guard helicopter. And because Maggie is a tough, smart female protagonist, she gets inside the helicopter.

Again, thanks to The Stiletto Gang for this opportunity. I invite all of you to discover more about DAMAGED and me at my website or on facebook.