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.

Hello from New York City


Live from New York: I’m in town for ThrillerFest, which starts later this week. I’m taking part in a couple of panels:

Saturday July 12 1-1:50PM

TURNING THE PAGE: Tricks To Get Your Readers Invested
Saturday July 12 4-4:50PM

I’ll be the participating moderator for the second panel. It should be fun.

(Obligatory view from my coffeeshop window: North 11th Street and Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn.)

KAZI FM Interview now online


If you’re so inclined, you can now listen to the interview I did on the KAZI Book Review. Host Hopeton Hay talked with me, and with Gale Albright of Sisters in Crime’s Heart of Texas Chapter, and with KAZI Book Reviewer Tim Chamberlain — about Phantom Instinct, thriller writing, and whether this is a good time to be a female novelist. Also about barbecue.

PODCAST: Interview with Meg Gardiner, Author of Phantom Instinct

Where do you get your ideas?

Because my new novel is out, and I’ve been speaking to readers, journalists, radio interviewers, and friends, I’ve heard the question all week long: Where do you get your ideas?

Perplexed relatives ask the question with a tinge of alarm. I sense what’s behind their unease: She seemed like a normal child. What cracked and let all these tense, dark stories pour out?  I simply smile and shrug, and caress the blade of the steak knife in my hand.

(Note: not really.)

In truth, ideas are everywhere. They permeate the air. All I have to do is look around. Or read the news. Or wait for people to offer them to me, free.


1) Last month my daughter took a course on paleography, at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC. During orientation, students were given a safety lecture. Right away, the daughter sent me a text: I know how you could kill somebody in a murder mystery.

Paleography is the study of ancient writing. As part of the course, students worked in a subterranean vault with old documents. They were told: If fire breaks out, halon gas floods the vault. They would have 30 seconds to get out before the doors were sealed. Fail, and they’d be suffocated.

As a writer, I was fascinated. As a mom, I was torn between pride at my daughter’s life turning into National Treasure and concern that her first impulse was to text me, instead of planning her escape route.

2) This: Death Metal Band to Play in Soundproof Iron Box Until They Suffocate.

3) And this: Woman charged with arson for setting small fire to kill spider.

I think I could write at least 20 decent pages by combining these three tidbits into the opening of a thriller.