ThrillerFest 2016—What Is It?

ThrillerFest was a five-day affair this year. It also included evening social events many of which were attended by the top bestselling thriller writers on the globe. For example, I had interesting conversations with Lee Child (Jack Reacher), Steve Berry (Cotton Malone), Brad Taylor (Pike Logan), Walter Mosley (Easy Rawlins), and many others. That’s Lee Child on the left reading my first novel in the Sleeping Dogs series of political-military-espionage thrillers at one of the cocktail sessions that followed full days of presentations and panel discussions.

ITW may not follow the same format next year, but it probably will be similar. The first day required you to decide between attending a day-long visit at the FBI’s New York HQ or joining a MasterCraft session with 6 or 7 other folks and led by a bestselling thriller writer. This year I opted for a tour of the Bureau. Next year I’ll look into the MasterCraft sessions. 

The second and third days were a series of concurrent presentations by the cream of the bestseller lists. The subject matter varied widely but all addressed how to craft a better thriller. These included Thriller Writing From A to Z, Setting the Hook, and Developing Character Through POV and Dialogue. Day 3 concluded with PitchFest—3.5 hours of “speed dating” with over 60 agents and publishers, where you try to interest them in representing you or publishing your book(s).

One thing that struck me was the interest the agents and publishers showed in my books despite the fact that I’m self-published. A couple of years ago that would have killed the conversation before it got started. I’m sure some of it had to do with the fact that I’ve sold over 35,000 books with little marketing and have over 120 reviews on Amazon, most of which are 5 and 4 stars. The fact that I have my novels edited by established professionals also grabbed their attention. We’ll see what comes of that.

Days 4 and 5 consisted of a series of concurrent panel sessions with provocative titles such as Kitting Out Your Character, Secret Service, FBI, or International Spy?, and Standalone, Trilogy, or Series? All through the days of the event there are sessions where famous authors interview other famous authors. For instance, Lee Child interviewed Heather Graham, Karin Slaughter interviewed Gillian Flynn, and David Morrell interviewed Walter Mosley. Day 5 ends with a big cocktail party, then the Thriller Awards Banquet, followed by a post-banquet cocktail party.

The next posting to this blog will included tips I gathered from the assembled bestselling thriller writers.

© John Wayne Falbey 2016 All Rights Reserved