Now the following may be construed as an ad, but if you’re a writer of any kind, Thrillerfest is quite simply a fantastic, invigorating place for professional writers, writers that are just starting, writers that are going through a creative drought and need an inspiriting boost of good energy. Having attended this well-organized event now for three consecutive years, there are reasons why 2013- the first year I went to nearly every panel I could feasibly attend- was my favorite. The flow of this report will be essentially in a stream of conscience style, which is the best method of helping you to both start getting something on the page, and to refresh my own memory of Friday’s very eventful day at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, in New York City. This lavish hotel is located within close proximity to the iconic sight of Grand Central Station in New York City.
My first panel for the day began with a Legal Thriller Panel, where various writers in the legal thriller genre, spoke at length about their opinions about what elements they felt were mandatory for a legal thriller, and whether or not the parameters of the legal thriller need to be widened, in order to potentially attain more reader’s interest. As a paralegal in training with nearly a year or so of school under my belt, I felt this panel was more interesting than it would have been other years, only because I have started to take a great interest in legal thrillers because they provide laypeople an entertaining way of entering into the bewildering context of a courtroom of law office. I think these thrillers make otherwise dry, perhaps nebulous concepts, like that of legal theory/jargon, more palatable, and easier to comprehend for readers. Also, the thriller genre as a whole is mostly focused on preserving a certain degree of suspense and alacrity , throughout the course of the story, so everything written has to be even more purposeful to the specialized driving mechanism of any thriller. That mechanism is an enigmatic plot of some sort that slowly emerges throughout the story-sometimes a conspiracy, or some enigmatic threat that places the reader and the main characters within a state of restive anxiety, and you read as though to allay that anxiety.
Poetically, that last thought reminds me of one of my favorite parts of the day. Yes, I am writing this in a nonlinear fashion, but the last point brought thriller writer Greg Isle’s impassioned words from his interview with his agent to mind. He spoke about the importance of writers being fearlessly brazen, to a certain point, when it comes to embracing your work, your poetic verve, the writing spirit that animates you, something that really sets your writing mind ablaze with that elusive spark. The anxiety may just be illusory, in that it is always coupled with our own fears of writing authentically, because that authenticity to our voice scares us in an existential way, but also freaks us out perhaps more, because we may not necessarily want to expose that self we have hidden away deeply in our subconscious. But Greg Isles referred to Stephen King’s one quote, where he speaks about how the subconscious is always developing the story, even when we’re not writing, and that the impressionable, richly emotional experience we have in life, are the small mental vignettes, which form a deeper, more cohesive story that lies in wait within your subconscious. You just need to fearlessly exhume this story into the light of the frightening world without.
Besides being candid about the writing process and what work is involved with being successful, Greg Isles was very witty, which seemed to be a trait among many of the writers from the writers from the southern parts of the United States, who refreshingly spoke in such a frank, non-pretentious way about their writing. This was of course the interview between thriller writer Karen Slaughter and bestselling writer Charlaine Harris, writer of the Sookie Stackhouse series. Their conversation was essentially a very funny, down-to-earth sort of conversation, revolving around the foibles of the writer’s life, particularly the paradox being the necessity for time to be reserved in order to write, then to be a public figure if you are a well-recognized writer that has to do book tours, in order to promote your book to your growing legion of readers. Like Greg Isles, both writers carried themselves with no air of pomposity, there was only individuals,like ourselves, with a certain need to write, as if this need was purely instinctive (and reflexive) like breathing. And that was something I got from all the other equally fascinating panels I attended for the remainder of the day.
Given the very relaxed, intellectual, non-intimidating atmosphere of this fantastic writing event as a whole, I think writers of any genre, even if you don’t have an intention to write a thriller novel, should really look into this convention. It gives them a chance to really interact with more seasoned writers, who have a litany of works under their belt. They’ll learn that there are a fathomless ocean of new things for writers to learn about the craft, and that the difficult challenge of putting words onto the page never truly goes away at any point within the process. Interacting with writers at your own stage of the process, and experienced writers alike, gives you the chance to get yourself out of the cloistered space of your writing room, and to really see that there are many others, like yourself, who sometimes need a few days of gathering all under one roof, to actively discuss the nuances of writing books in a versatile, interesting, and perhaps even difficult-to-tackle genre like that of thriller fiction.
I attended many panels during the day, came away with many very interesting thriller books, but really, it was the stimulating conversations with writers, and the new ideas gleaned from those conversations, that was really the pivotal element of the whole day, the thing that clinched the whole convention as something that I think makes it such a fantastic convention, every single year I’ve attended. I greatly look forward to many more Thrillerfests in the future, and I invite my fellow author friends to join me in future years to what I believe is a convention that will undoubtedly fill your head with savory morsels of inspiration.
Last year’s Thrillerfest was also unforgettable because it involved the awesome opportunity to interview Anne Rice. Sadly, the camera quality is not the best. But enjoy this interview with one of my favorite writers, which took place sometime during the course of last year’s convention.