ThrillerFest VIII: two days in the world of thriller writers

connellyThe Grand Hyatt in Manhattan was buzzing over the weekend – with ThrillerFest VIII ensconced on Friday and Saturday, and then the players, management and fans of the All-Star Game rolling in on Saturday.

Before I arrived Thursday night, the International Thriller Writers had already held two days of CraftFest where aspiring writers could learn the secrets of the trade from bestselling authors such as Michael Connelly, Steve Berry, and John Sandford.

On Thursday, the ITW also held AgentFest in which as of yet unpublished authors could pitch their ideas to agents.

The fun for the general thriller-reading public began Friday morning with the start of two days of multi-track panels on a wide array of topics from “Is the Cold War Hot Again” (with two of my favorite writers, Joseph Finder and Alex Berenson) and “Boxers or Briefs?” on the current state of the legal thriller.

The ITW asked me to run a panel on “What are the New Rules for Working with the Media?” that included Avon Books and Harper Voyager publicist Pamela Spengler-Jaffee (who was responsible for my introduction to the world of romance novels several years ago) and the terrific independent Westport publicist Meryl Moss.

It was clear the panelists helped the new writers in the house with using Twitter and Facebook in a sensible (i.e. non-annoying) way to connect with readers, and there was a lively discussion of how Amazon’s acquisition of GoodReads will change that valuable book lover’s site (the consensus was that it is too early to tell).

On my own two-days of panel-watching I ran into the New York City crime novelist Linda Fairstein who told me she was putting together a response to the “Central Park Five” documentary that was aired on PBS earlier this year. Fairstein worked on the case as a prosecutor for the sex crimes division back in the 1980s before she became a full-time novelist.

Fairstein’s latest Alex Cooper novel “Death Angel” will be published on July 30.

annericeMichael Connelly and Anne Rice were two of the guests of honor and they did public interviews that were very enlightening and entertaining.

Connelly (above) said that while he was pleased with the movie version of “The Lincoln Lawyer” with Matthew McConaughey the novelist is finalizing plans for a TV adaptation of his Harry Bosch books. “I’ve written so much about him now that I don’t think a movie could do him justice,” the writer said of the best-selling series he began in 1992.

Interviewer Jon Land got Connelly to refute the rumors that he has ghost-written major studio movies over the years. Connelly chuckled as he also denied being “Richard Castle,” the writer behind the novels that have been spun off the ABC hit “Castle.”

On the legal fiction panel (below) that included Fairstein, prosecutor, defense lawyer and judge John Sheldon talked about the fast and loose treatment of the law in several popular films, citing the Paul Newman/Sidney Lumet hit “The Verdict” as one of the worst offenders (“Horrible”).

ThrillerMaster 2013 Anne Rice was interviewed by her novelist son Christopher Rice (right) who did a fantastic job of getting his mother to talk frankly on a wide variety of issues.

Rice said her first book “Interview with the Vampire” was widely derided and rejected by several poublishers in the 1970s for dealing with what was then considered potboiler subject matter.

She attributed the eventual success of the book to a shift in the culture toward books that told the backstory of pop culture fixtures like gangsters (“The Godfather”) and her then-unique view of vampire lore and history.

Rice said she had no choice about which genre to write in. “Fantasy was the only way I could express my view of the world. Middle-class realism didn’t work for me.”

At another panel on “The New Rules for Being a Hybrid Author” Douglas Preston talked about his first foray into the world of the Kindle Single with “Trial By Fury,” his 8,000 word account of the severe Internet backlash he received after he defended Amanda Knox (I wrote about Preston’s Kindle Single elsewhere on this site).

Preston said the Kindle Single gave him the freedom to write something longer than a short story or magazine article and to find a viable market for it.

Greenwich novelist M.J. Rose told the audience how she used Kindle Direct Publishing — an e-Book variation on self-publishing — to bring her backlist into print again (she sold 30,000 copies), earning her the money she needed to advertise her latest hardcover novel.

The number and range of topics covered at ThrillerFest was quite amazing and the way it serves writers, readers and industry people is very impressive. Next year’s conference has already been set for July 9-12 at the Grand Hyatt — check for information.


Joe Meyers