Tag Archives: suspense & thriller

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Writing Tips from Beth Lewis, author of The Wolf Road

We know readers tend to be writers too, so we feature writing tips from our authors. Who better to offer advice, insight, and inspiration than the authors you admire? They’ll answer several questions about their work, share their go-to techniques and more. Now, get writing!  How would you recommend creating and getting to know your characters? Stop thinking of your characters as characters and start thinking of them as people. Let them evolve and grow naturally on the page and have them react to situations believably. I believe it’s the writer’s job to figure out what the character wants and then do everything you can possibly imagine to stop them from getting it. Nothing should come to them easily, where’s the fun in that? Conflict creates character and I’ve found the best way to get to know them is to put them in difficult situations, whether emotionally or physically. It’s how we act when pushed to our limits that show who we really are. After developing an idea, what is the first action you take when beginning to write? I tend to get new ideas around the 70,000-word mark of the previous idea, which is really distracting. I usually get a picture in my head of the opening scene, like the very first frame of a movie, or I might get the opening line. Then a vague sense of the story, and that’s about it. I make a note of it all in my phone for when I’m ready. When I’m able to start the new project I grab my laptop, go to a cafe and stare at the blank page for while. I’ll go on Twitter, read the news, go on Twitter some more and then, once the double espresso kicks in, I’m off. What’s the best piece of advice you have received? Don’t be boring. Of all the writing advice out there – and there’s a lot – this is the only one I see as a firm rule. You can do anything you want with your story as long as it isn’t boring. Do you ever base characters off people you know? Why or why not? Not consciously but I have read back over my work sometimes and thought, huh, that sounds just like my mother, better change it! For me, the best part of writing is creating new characters that don’t exist anywhere else. Sure they may have the odd trait in common with someone just as a child shares traits with their parents, but for me, I want my characters as a whole to be fully original. What are three or four books that influenced your writing, or had a profound affect on you? Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell Such a wonderful, far-reaching book and a masterclass on voice and setting. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte Wild, beautiful, and heart-rending. It drags you through all the emotions twice. Weaveworld by Clive Barker All five senses are taken to the max in this book, you get drunk on it.   Learn more about the book below:
trynottobreathe

From the Editor’s Desk: Linda Marrow, Editor of Try Not To Breathe

Editors get very passionate about books they work on – the Editor’s Desk series is his or her place to write in-depth about what makes a certain title special. Get the real inside-scoop on how books are shaped by the people who know them best.

The manuscript of Try Not To Breathe came in to me at about 9:30 one night and due to some happy intersection of title and description and still being too awake to go to bed, I made a cup of tea at about 10 and decided to glance at a page or two before turning in.  At about 1 a.m. I forced myself away from the book for the night but could barely fall asleep – so full was my head and my heart of the story of the two young women Holly Seddon had created.  When I was in the world on her pages I had that magical and delicious feeling every lifelong reader knows when your actual surroundings melt away and all you can see are the streets and houses the characters are seeing. I finished reading the manuscript the next night and for days after I couldn’t stop thinking about Amy and Alex and what both joined and separated them.

Hopefully without giving too much away, the novel is about two women, Alex and Amy, both 30 years old and from the same area of England, where they grew up going to neighboring schools. Told in alternating points of view, their lives intersect in a way that will change everything for both of them. Alex is a journalist whose life has spiraled completely out of control. She had seen tremendous success as a writer very early in her twenties when she beautifully and movingly documented the last year of her mother’s struggle with terminal illness. During this time she became incredibly sought after in London magazine circles and also married the love of her life. But when her mother dies, Alex loses her moorings and plummets into alcohol and reckless behavior, finally moving back to the house she had grown up in.

When Alex is at her local hospital one day working on a small, routine story (the only kind of writing work she can now get)about vegetative cases – she finds herself staring at a young woman, a patient, asleep. The girl looks familiar to her, and suddenly she realizes that  this is Amy Stevenson, a girl who had disappeared when both she and Alex were 15, only to be found near death in the woods. Amy has been in a coma ever since, and the police were never able to discover who had assaulted this girl. Amy’s family and the whole town were left mystified and damaged.

Alex finds herself haunted by her own memories of that time and cannot stop herself from beginning to investigate the story. She realizes that in the fifteen years since the attack, Amy has gone from being at the center of notoriety to having been nearly completely forgotten.

Of the many themes explored by Holly in the novel, two are favorites of mine. One is the phenomenon of locked in syndrome, which Holly researched and uses so brilliantly for the character of Amy, showing us the heartbreak of a young girl trapped mutely within her body.  My other favorite is the music of the novel. From its title on, Holly has imbued her book with a perfect soundtrack as iconic song after song from the early to mid-90s seems to play in the background. And by the end one can see that Try Not To Breathe isn’t just an R.E.M. song title but helps introduce one of the most compelling facets of the novel – the false promise of control, and the beauty and wonder of watching Alex measure out just enough courage each day to fight her demons one more time.

Listen to an excerpt from the book here:

Read more about Try Not To Breathe below.

Interview with C.J. Box, author of the Joe Pickett novels

Off the Grid, the sixteenth Joe Pickett novel by New York Times bestselling author C.J. Box, is being published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons on March 8.  Strong advance buzz has been building for this book, which revolves around how terror is found – and fought – in the wild expanses of Wyoming.  Game warden Joe Pickett, his best friend Nate Romanowksi, and Joe’s daughter Sheridan are embroiled in multiple plot lines that unfurl with urgency, harrowing suspense and surprising twists.  The Joe Pickett character entered the literary world in 2001 and a reviewer for The New York Times once wrote, “ … Box introduced us to his unlikely hero … a decent man who lives paycheck to paycheck and who is deeply fond of his wife and his three daughters. Pickett isn’t especially remarkable except for his honesty and for a quality that Howard Bloom attributes to Shakespeare – the ability to think everything through for himself.”  Fellow Penguin Random House author Lee Child has called Box “one of today’s solid-gold, A-list, must-read writers.” Read on for a Q&A with C.J. Box.  C.J.  Box agreed to respond to the following questions for Igloo:  Sixteen novels in, what do you think accounts for the wealth of themes, storylines and characters that have kept your Joe Pickett series fresh and filled with surprises? OpenSeasonAlthough the first Joe Pickett novel (Open Season) was written as a one-off at the time, the characters, themes, location, and style introduced in that book provided a great framework for the series to grow.  I’ve never had to regret the foundation laid in that book.  Also, because the books take place in real time the characters mature and change from book to book.  For example, Joe Pickett’s daughter Sheridan is seven years old in Open Season and now 22 in Off the Grid.  Because the characters get older and benefit (or not) from previous situations in the books I think that helps keep the series fresh.  Plus, since each book includes a theme or controversy unique to the story (endangered species, alternative energy, the ethics of hunting, or in the case of Off the Grid — domestic terrorism) they are all stand-alones in their own way. A lot of your longtime fans will be happy that your character Nate Romanowski features prominently in Off the Grid.  From a writer’s standpoint, what is involved in making Nate so interesting and unpredictable?  Unlike just about every other character in the series, Nate Romanowski is based on a friend of mine although I’ve exaggerated (Thank God) his personality. The buddy I grew up with was a big blonde middle linebacker who later went on to join the military and special forces.  He took me falconry hunting and through him I was introduced to the very strange and fascinating world of falconers and the mindset that goes with it.  And, of course, Nate carries one of the largest handguns in the world and he’s good with it. For a reader coming to your Joe Pickett novels for the first time, which  of your backlist titles, from Open Season onward, would you recommend they check out first and why? CJBox3booksTnailTough question, since in their way each book stands alone.  No reader would be hopelessly lost starting with any book in the series.  Of course, those who’ve read them all say it’s important to start with OPEN SEASON so the reader can experience Joe’s family growing and changing, and I probably lean that direction.  But there are certain books —Winterkill,  Free Fire,  Breaking Point, andOff the Grid   – that I think could be good entry points into the series. Find out more about C.J. Box’s books below.  

Listen: Andy Weir Talks About His Life Long Struggle with Anxiety

The Martian author, Andy Weir came on Beaks & Geeks to talk about the book and the much-anticipated film adaptation directed by Ridley Scott. He tells us about conquering his anxiety and fear of flying to attend the movie premiere, the real science behind The Martian, and his visit to a NASA Space Center. You’ll also learn about his hacked Twitter account, which is back up and running, and more.

Listen: Linda Fairstein on Her Thorough, Investigative Research

Linda Fairstein returns to discuss Devil’s Bridge, her newest novel in the Alex Cooper series. We chat about her rich historical settings, Cooper’s agelessness, and of course, her love for our Penguin Book Truck. Is it safe to assume that it’s currently parked at Linda’s Martha’s Vineyard home?
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Writing Tips from Dianne Emley, author of Killing Secrets

We know readers tend to be writers too, so we feature writing tips from our authors. Who better to offer advice, insight, and inspiration than the authors you admire? They’ll answer several questions about their work, share their go-to techniques and more. Now, get writing!  Is there something you do to get into a writing mood? Somewhere you go or something you do to get thinking? In the early morning, I consume coffee, turn on my computer, plant my butt in my desk chair in my home office, and let my cats get settled into their usual spots. I quickly check email and look at the headlines on a news site to see if the world has blown up outside my bubble. If I don’t need to duck for cover, I start working. I stay off social media until noon (that’s my plan, anyway). Each of my books has its own digital journal: it’s for stream of consciousness stuff, whatever’s on my mind. I open the journal for my current book and type like mad for a few minutes. It helps me discharge anything that’s weighing on me so I can move on. Then I open my manuscript and revise the last few pages I wrote the prior day, which leads into the new day’s work. For those days when the work just isn’t happening, I make deals with myself. Write for 45 minutes and get up and do something else for 15. Write until lunchtime and then do something else. Oddly, times of personal crisis are excellent writing periods for me because what better escape is there than to immerse yourself in a good book? How would you recommend creating and getting to know your characters? I start by naming them. By going through that process, I think through their history, circumstances, and personalities. When was she born? What’s her ethnicity? What’s her birth order in the family? Was she raised in a traditional two-parent family or something else? Would her parents have selected a popular name of the era or something unique? Does she come from a modest background or is she well heeled? Does she later change her name or go by a nickname? Is her name evocative of who she is? The protagonist of my current series of suspense novels is Nan Vining. She’s rooted in tradition and family, so I named after her grandmother, Nanette. But she’s tough, so her nickname, “Nan,” is clipped and direct. I liked the surname Vining because it’s uncommon and has a lot of consonants, which for me makes a tougher sounding name than one with many vowels. Also, it evokes a vine, which is appropriate for Nan who’s tenacious and steady. Her name is a great fit for her, but I’ve changed names when a character has evolved and the name no longer works. Thank goodness for “Find and Replace.” Did you always want to write? How did you start your career as an author? I fell in love with writing and reading before I really learned how to do either one. When I was about four years old, I could write my name, with the Ns backward, and three words: yes, no, zoo. My mom was a reader and I was fascinated with her books. I’d look through the pages and pick out the few words I could read. When I got to the white area after a chapter break, I thought that space was there for me to finish the story. I’d take a crayon and have at it, writing, “yes, no, zoo,” and signing my name with backward Ns. It didn’t make my mom too happy to find me scribbling in her books. After I truly learned how to read and write, I wrote compulsively—letters, diaries, stories—but didn’t attempt to publish anything. I didn’t feel I was good enough. Many years later, I took a creative writing class at UCLA, where I started my first novel. After three years, while working fulltime at a day job, I finished that book and got it published. I’ve been writing and publishing fiction ever since. What’s the best piece of advice you have received? Finish that first draft, even if it’s a big, flawed mess. And then the next best piece of advice I’ve received comes into play: Writing is about rewriting. What are the perks and challenges of writing a come-back character? Five years passed between my last Detective Nan Vining thriller and my latest one, Killing Secrets. During that time, I wrote a standalone, The Night Visitor, and several short stories. The challenge in returning to the Nan Vining series came from reconnecting with the four earlier books and wondering whether I could still channel the writer who had created that vibrant world. I was afraid I’d somehow lost my feel for Nan, her daughter Emily, her work partner and lover Jim Kissick, and the other characters as well as the dark thread that runs through the series. My doubts disappeared when I started Killing Secrets and it felt entirely natural, as if I’d come home. It felt great to return to this familiar tableau, but also to break new ground. I’ve just signed a contract with Alibi to write the sixth and seventh in the Nan Vining series and I’m excited to see where the journey takes the characters and me. Read More about Killing Secrets here.