Category Archives: Writing

Your 2019 President of the Mystery Writers of America

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I’m tremendously honored to have been elected the 2019 President of the Mystery Writers of America. This organization supports and promotes thousands of working writers across the country. It presents the Edgar Awards. Being asked to serve in this position is a high point of my career.

Here’s what I said when my name was put forward for the presidency:

From the moment I became eligible to join Mystery Writers of America, I’ve been grateful to be a member. Being awarded an Edgar is one of the greatest honors of my life. That’s because MWA is one of the most significant organizations in the world dedicated to crime and mystery writing. It would be my privilege to serve as its president and support its mission: to promote recognition and respect for crime writing and those who write it, to encourage literacy, and to support aspiring writers, booksellers, librarians, publishers, editors, agents, and the wonderful community devoted to the genre.

And before I get too full of myself, I should clarify that the presidency of MWA is highly ceremonial — I’ll have the privilege of emceeing the Edgars this year, and writing some articles for the MWA magazine, and perfecting my royal wave. The day-to-day work of the organization is done by a committed group of volunteers, led by Executive Vice President Donna Andrews. They’re the ones who deserve a tip of the hat.

Though my son did ask if I’ve been given the nuclear codes. Nope; just this shiny presidential badge. Which I’m going to treasure.

Question Time 2019: Ask Me Anything

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As we dive into 2019, it’s time for a fresh round of Ask Me Anything. Leave your questions in the comments — about writing, publishing, books, TV, movies, the squirrel apocalypse foretold in Revelation — whatever you’re interested in. I will endeavor to answer.

Photo: Kermit the Frog, the dashing greeter at Herman Brown Free Library in Burnet, Texas. Yesterday I had a great time speaking at the library’s Coffee Talks author series. Thanks to everyone who turned out!

Thanks, Deadly Ink!

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I spent the weekend as the Guest of Honor at the Deadly Ink mystery conference in New Jersey. I had a blast, felt very honored, and got to enjoy a huge weather show on the flight back to Austin.

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Now I’m diving deep into finishing the first draft of my next novel. Even while I was at 36,000 feet, I was digging through the manuscript word by word.

Yep, UNSUB 3 is coming. Catch you again when I come up for air.

Deadly Ink: August 10-12

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The weekend of August 10-12 I’ll be at the Deadly Ink mystery conference in New Jersey. I’m delighted, and excited, to be this year’s Guest of Honor.

I’ll be speaking on several panels, talking about thriller writing, and generally hanging out with folks who adore crime novels as much as I do. And I’ll be crossing my fingers for UNSUB, which is nominated for Deadly Ink’s David Award along with a host of wonderful novels.

I hope I’ll see some of you there.

Thriller Time: New York Times Book Review & Book Podcast

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I’m pretty excited — okay, very excited — to be included in the New York Times Book Review and Book Podcast this week. When I was in NYC for Thrillerfest, I was interviewed by Tina Jordan about writing thrillers. It’s a joy to be included in the podcast with Lee Child, Megan Abbott, Lisa Gardner, and Lisa Scottoline. Check it out:

Making a Killing: Top Thriller Writers Talk about Their Craft

And this weekend’s NYT Book Review includes Into the Black Nowhere in “It’s Thriller Time / Lights Out!”

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The Times says: “We’re hereby calling the next title trend: thrillers that stoke our fear of the dark with titles that play on words like ‘black’ or ‘night.'”

Yeah, pretty excited.

ThrillerFest 2018

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Hello from New York City, where I’m enjoying ThrillerFest. Getting to spend the weekend talking about books and writing, with readers and writers who love thrillers as passionately as I do? It doesn’t get much better.

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Saturday afternoon I’m on a couple of panels. At 1 p.m. I’ll be a panelist for “Deceived, Tricked or Surprised? Writing a Killer Plot Twist.” And at 4:20 p.m. I’m the Panel Master for “Los Angeles, London or Tokyo? Writing in Urban Settings.” I’ll be asking questions of a fantastic group of writers. I’d love to see some of you there.

And yes, this year’s ThrillerFest Guest of Honor is George R.R. Martin. No, I won’t ask him when The Winds of Winter will be finished. I won’t need to. Somebody will. If he gives us an answer, I’ll let you know.

Photo: The New York Public Library at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. It’s part of any booklover’s New York pilgrimage.

Reminder: Writing requires more than inspiration

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Once, at a book event, a man asked me how long a novel takes to write.

I told him that for most of my career I’ve written one novel a year.

He stepped back like I’d hit him in the forehead with a spitball. “No way. A book every year? That’s impossible.”

I assured him it was extremely possible. “Deadlines are fantastically motivating.”

He frowned and shook his head. “You can’t write to a schedule.”

“Professional writers do it all the time.”

His expression shifted toward disdain. “But you can’t schedule inspiration.”

As I started to reply, he went on. Writing regularly? Ridiculous. “That’s not how inspiration works,” he said. The idea that I would deliberately sit down to write, when inspiration hadn’t driven me to the keyboard… His lips pursed.

I realized: He thinks I’m a hack.

He thought that to have imaginative value, every word an author writes must originate in an ineffable bolt of creative lightning. Unplanned. Uncontrollable. That crafting a piece of writing renders it crass and somehow inauthentic. He was a businessman, not a novelist; he admitted that the writing process was entirely foreign to him. But no matter how I explained it, he couldn’t abandon the idea that I was doing writing wrong.

I’d been invited to this event to give a speech. I’d been flown across half a continent, actually, to tell an audience of 500 people how I came to be an author with more than a dozen published novels to my credit. By pure coincidence my talk, which I gave shortly after this conversation, discussed the interplay between inspiration and craft. Inspiration is wonderful, I said. But when you’re in the trenches writing a novel, constant inspiration is neither necessary nor sufficient. Grab it when it strikes. But when it doesn’t? That’s when experience, and discipline, and a knowledge of dramatic structure, along with an understanding of plot and character and suspense — in other words, craft — will carry you across the finish line. Then you can recharge. And revise.

Inspiration, I said, looks a lot like work.

I don’t know if the man who challenged me heard the speech. Our conversation had wrapped up when he commented that he guessed publishing is a business, so he supposed that writers need to supply it with material. Then he shrugged.

“What do I know about it? I don’t read.”