Wednesday, July 18, 2007


brought to you by Karen Harper

The second annual Thrillerfest Conference, sponsored by International Thriller Writers, was held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City from July 12 – 15. A great contingent of Mira Books authors and editors attended. They appeared on various panels, emceed presentations and oversaw programs and awards. Heather Graham even donned black hose and a chorus-line-style tuxedo to sing backup with the Killerettes for the Killer Thriller Band at the banquet the last night. And she sang a duet with author Michael Palmer called “Ode to Pink Slips”—a writer’s rejection of rejections!

Your intrepid reporter for the gathering is Karen Harper, New York Times bestselling Mira author, who was panel master (both moderator and panelist) for a workshop called “Psycho: Thrillers that Haunt You.” In honor of our title, we all began our discussion wearing masks of either Janet Leigh as Marian Crane, (her notorious expression was from the famous screaming shower murder scene) or Tony Perkins as Norman Bates.

Trivia for the day: Janet Leigh authored two Mira books in the 1990’s. I got to meet her at a Mira author party in California where she surprised us by admitting she was nervous to meet us!

On our Psycho panel, we covered such topics as how to get readers into the story and some great ways to surprise, shock and scare them. We also discussed how a scary setting can either be an apparently calm one that lulls you into complacency before danger strikes (after all, JAWS starts with sunny summer beaches; small towns make great noir) or settings which are creepy from the get-go, such as in JURASSIC PARK or a weird mansion as in the classic Gothic romances.

I talked about how well the peaceful Amish countryside worked for my romantic suspense novels, DARK HARVEST and DARK ANGEL. The Amish areas look calm and quaint but the Amish lives isolated lives. With their massive, dark barns and the tall corn fields growing right up to their houses, who knows what is out there which could harm them?

Below are some ThrillerFest tidbits about or by Mira authors and editors:

Miranda Stecyk, Mira editor: “I’m amazed to hear authors talk about the amount of research that is needed for a thriller. I’m also impressed by the sharing and mentoring that goes on among these authors and by their support of debut authors.”

Michelle Gagnon, Mira author of TUNNELS: “I got a lot of good info from M.J. Rose about to blog or not to blog. She’s a master blogger, but she suggested not starting your own unless you have a lot of time, are working with other authors or are very famous. She advised plugging your blog comment in somewhere else for a while. It wasn’t what I thought she was going to say.” M.J. herself is a Mira author. Her thriller THE REINCARNATIONIST will be out this September.

Heather Graham, New York Times bestseller and longtime Mira author: “I use prologues to grab readers. Always start your books with what is most gripping, the big bang, then bring your reader up-to-date.”

New Mira author Rick Mofina was in charge of awards for Best First Novel, since he was a finalist last year. Rick has a long career as a reporter and author. He’s a Canadian who writes like he’s an American. His forthcoming book is A PERFECT GRAVE.

New York Times bestseller Alex Kava was in charge of the awards program and also two panels, one on serial killer stories and one featuring the award nominees. Alex said she “loved the laid-back conference atmosphere, even in busy NYC.”

Longtime Mira author Erica Spindler was also in attendance. A New York Times and international bestseller, she has a Mira book, LAST KNOWN VICTIM, coming in October. Erica was the panel master for a workshop which asked: Do thrillers about child crime cross the line?

Mira author and New Yorker, Jason Pinter, was on a panel which discussed how writers and publishers can work together to attract readers to buy their books.

At the final night awards banquet I sat with Mira staffers Executive Editor Margaret Marbury, editor Linda McFall and new Mira author J.T. Ellison, whose first novel, ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS, will be out from Mira in Nov. 2007. They all enjoyed the conference’s blend of professionalism and fun.

Margaret was interviewed on the first day of the convention as one of the top thriller editors in the business. Mira published the anthology THRILLER which has contributions from many great thriller writers. The collection is newly out in paperback and the Barnes & Noble on-site store had a lot of copies which were going into a lot of conference bags which bore the logo, MIRA: FICTION AT ITS BEST.

Several attendees flew in from the Dallas Romance Writers of America Conference for the NYC gathering. (Unfortunately, the conferences were the same time this year.) Carla Neggers arrived for the last two days of the Thriller conference—even though her luggage didn’t make it in time. Tara Taylor Quinn, Mira and Harlequin author, was expected but did not make the panel Heather hosted because of travel complications.

My take on the entire Thriller Writers experience was that it was a supportive group of very talented people who love writing and value their readers. And NYC was a great venue because so many publishing professionals were available to attend. As busy as everyone was at the conference, there was always that attraction of NYC: so many places to see, to eat, and to love in the Big Apple.

And now that the second ThrillerFest is history, we are all inspired and getting back to thinking up something truly thrilling to write....Wait 'til next year!

Karen Harper's recent titles are INFERNO, a short story in MORE THAN WORDS, and HURRICANE. But check out the great offer of THE STONE FOREST, BLACK ORCHID and THE FALLS--all available at an amazing $3.99 price.


Carla Neggers said...

Great report on Thrillerfest. I was very relieved when my luggage arrived. Technically, it was "delayed," not lost.

The steam pipe explosion occurred a block from the Thrillerfest hotel the day after I headed home. I thought about the wonderful hotel staff. Must have been frightening.


Isabel Swift said...

My husband just was informed he will never see his bag again--Heathrow has it and it's not coming home--so happy to hear yours was just slow.

Wow, have been out of NYC for the last few weeks & have yet to get back. Frightening indeed! I'm thankful it didn't happen when you guys were there--though it might have made for some pretty thrilling stories!