My Q&A with Mystery People about thriller writing and Phantom Instinct

Recently I did a Q & A with the Mystery People blog. (Mystery People is the bookstore within a bookstore at Book People in Austin. Don’t try to figure it out. It’s like Inception. Just trust me that it’s awesome.) The interview talks both about Phantom Instinct and about writing thrillers. Here’s a teaser.

Mystery People Q & A with Meg Gardiner

Molly O.: Your two main characters, Harper and Aiden, are hobbled in their pursuit of justice by Harper’s past as a juvenile delinquent and Aiden’s traumatic brain injury, which leads him to see enemies everywhere. Their flaws drew me in to their characters much more so than any of their more heroic attributes, especially in the case of Aiden. What was your inspiration for creating such flawed characters?

Meg Gardiner: I want to write about characters who have their backs up against the wall. For a novel to be suspenseful, the characters must be vulnerable to real danger. If they have no flaws, no limitations, then they face no real challenge. That story’s boring.

Even Superman has Kryptonite.

The only real way to find out what characters are made of is to crack their world in half. Then you learn whether they can fight their way clear of the debris, rescue people who need help, and rebuild from the wreckage.

Plenty more at the link.

Also: Phantom Instinct is on the Mystery People interviewer’s Best Of list. Molly’s Top 10 of the Year So Far.

Which is mighty nice.

August event: Austin Sisters in Crime talk

In August I’ll be speaking to Sisters in Crime about writing. It’s the Heart of Texas chapter’s monthly meeting, but the talk is open to the public. If you’re in Austin and want to stop by, I’d love to see you.

Story Building: Getting from Idea to Final Draft
Sisters in Crime: Heart of Texas chapter meeting
Sunday, August 10, 2 p.m.
Recycled Reads
5335 Burnet Road
Austin, Texas

Here’s a preview of some of the things I’m likely to say, from the SinC Heart of Texas blog: Meg Gardiner cuts to the chase.

How to turn terror into a story outline

In today’s episode of “Where do you get your ideas?” I wait for friends to describe terrifying (if minor) incidents, and escalate from there. Voila: a story outline.

Note that this conversation is more evidence that Twitter is not just for lighthearted conversation.

Also… Lauren: before you drove away from the gas station, I hope you checked the back seat of the car for webs.

Phantom Instinct: my son’s review


My son has reviewed my new novel:

“I’m enjoying Phantom Instinct. So far, way better than Phantom Menace.”

This is from a young man who was born on Star Wars Day (“May the Fourth be with you”). So I have to take his remarks as the appraisal of an expert. Thank you, Mark.

Thriller pacing, Irish novels, British villainy: writing links

After spending a weekend at a writers’ conference — ThrillerFest in New York City — I have come home hyped up to work, and eager to keep talking about the craft of writing. But because I’m sitting alone at my desk and there are no other people within shouting distance, I’ll talk about writing here.

The panel I moderated this year was “Turning the Page: Tricks To Get Your Readers Invested.” We talked about action, character, beginnings, middles, and endings. But of course there was only enough time to scratch the surface. Here are a few articles about writing, for anybody who’s interested:

First, Chuck Wendig’s latest post on writing is especially timely:

25 Ways to Write a Real “Page-Turner” of a Book.


Even if your book isn’t a thriller, you’re trying to achieve what would be considered thriller pacing. A thriller isn’t ponderous — it moves like a starving shark. It doesn’t dally. It careens forth with a sense of barely-controlled energy, like a car barreling down a ruined mountain road with its brake line cut. It doesn’t matter if the book isn’t a thriller — you can still lend some of that energy to the fiction just the same. A sense of breathlessness, of anticipation, of sheer gotta-know-more. Thriller pacing — to me, at least — means the story moves.

Second, in The American Scholar, Paul Elie offers Advice You’ll Never Outgrow: “Go deeper.”

Third, on a lighter note, The Toast brings us Every Irish Novel Ever.

1. Fleeing The Impoverished, Drunken Countryside For Dublin

2. The Estate Decays

3. A Man Laughs Unhappily

4. We Do Not Speak That Name In These Parts, Stranger

5. The Landlord Pays A Visit But Does Not Sit Down

6. The Boy Sickens


There’s plenty more at the link.

Finally, as seen in the video above, Tom Hiddleston explains The Art Of Villainy. Watch it here, because if you’re in the UK, that ad has been banned “for encouraging irresponsible driving.”

Yes, really. As if a video that includes Shakespeare, Mr. Hiddleston, and a Jaguar doesn’t express the essence of Great Britain.

Bye, New York

photo 4

Another ThrillerFest has wrapped up. The festing and book talk and the midnight cage fighting are done for 2014. It was fun. Thanks, ITW. Thanks, New York City!

My ThrillerFest schedule today

Today at ThrillerFest I’m taking part in a couple of panels:

Saturday July 12 1-1:50PM
I’ll be talking about young adult fiction along with Janice Gable Bashman, Heather Graham, Allen Zadoff, Lissa Price, and R.L. Stine.

TURNING THE PAGE: Tricks To Get Your Readers Invested
Saturday July 12 4-4:50PM
I’m the panel master for this one. I’ll be grilling Diane Capri, Steph Cha, Mell Corcoran, Allison Leotta, Larry D. Thompson, and Walter Walker.

If you’re around, come join the festing.