Tag Archives: Meg Gardiner

Texas finds Phantom Instinct: KUT Radio, Austin Chronicle

Here are a couple of links to media-type stuff about Phantom Instinct.


KUT Radio, the Austin NPR affiliate, interviewed me about my new novel. The interview will be broadcast next week, but you can listen to it online right now, and read a summary at KUT.org:

Austin Author Meg Gardiner Thrills with ‘Phantom Instinct’:

“Gardiner’s protagonists are usually women.  And these women generally don’t have special training. They don’t have secret weapons. They’re just determined.  ‘I’m an ordinary person. I try to think what would happen if I were faced with the collapse of my world and chaos breaking and bad guys coming after the people I love. I think readers like to see  how ordinary people find the resources to rise to the challenge and that’s what a lot of the heroines in my novels do.'”

And as part of its “July is Crime Month” series, the Austin Chronicle reviews Phantom Instinct:

Austin resident Meg Gardiner is climbing the literary ranks of some pretty impressive company, and die-hard thriller fans aren’t the only readers likely to enjoy her latest crime fiction starring the razor-sharp wit of main character Harper Flynn. Peppered with gruesome henchmen, brutal betrayals, friendships forged in scar tissue, and, naturally, a love triangle, Phantom Instinct leaves the reader questioning her own gut and glancing sideways at strangers…

Gardiner reignites our love for suspense novels with plenty of plot twists and pacing that propels. But it’s Flynn’s tightrope walk between a hard-knock life and her healing heart (plus a notably intricate backstory) that drives through extended scenes of tension and some staccato lines of drama reminiscent of Law and Order: SVU. Fast-paced and fun, we’ll catch our breath and hope Harper Flynn makes a return.

I’m definitely starting to like this town.

The Gardiner Library Big Book Giveaway: The Winner

Thank you to everybody who entered my big book giveaway. I was delighted by your enthusiasm and by the wide array of places you said you’ll be reading Phantom Instinct this summer. If I could, I would give books to all of you.

Alas, that’s not possible. But I have four Advance Reading Copies of Phantom Instinct, and as a consolation prize I want to offer them to these commenters: Mia, Eddie, Victor, and Donna Gilbert.

Now, the winner of the Gardiner Library Big Book Giveaway, who will receive a Penguin USA edition of all twelve of my novels: Siobhan.


Today: Book People! Tomorrow: KAZI FM Radio!

This weekend I have a couple of events in Austin to launch Phantom Instinct:

Mystery People Presents: Meg Gardiner — Phantom Instinct
Book People
6th and Lamar
Austin, TX
4 p.m. Saturday June 28th

KAZI FM 88.7 Book Review
12:30 p.m. CDT Sunday June 29th
I’ll be live in the studio with host Hopeton Hay. You can hear the show on 88.7 FM in Austin or online via Kazifm.org.

Say hi if you can.

The Gardiner Library Big Book Giveaway

Phantom_InstinctThis week — Thursday June 26th — my new stand alone thriller Phantom Instinct goes on sale in the USA and Canada. It’s my twelfth novel. To celebrate publishing an even dozen books, I’m joining with Penguin to give away my entire library.

You heard me. I’m holding a contest. The winner will receive a copy of every one of my novels.

All of them. From China Lake to Phantom Instinct.

Shadow Ransom River Nightmare Thief US TLL_US TMC_US_pb dirty-_secrets_us kill_chain crosscut jp_us mission_us chinalakeus

To enter, leave a comment on this post. Answer this question:

Where will you be reading Phantom Instinct this summer?

The giveaway is open to residents of the USA and Canada. The winner will receive a Penguin USA edition of each of my novels.

As always with contests I run on this blog, my choice of the giveaway winner will be megalomaniacal, capricious, and final.

Last chance to enter: Friday June 27th, 11:59 EDT.

Good luck!

UPDATE, JUNE 28TH: The giveaway is now closed. I will announce the winner Monday morning, June 30th. Thanks to everybody who entered.

The Nightmare Thief British paperback

The Nightmare Thief paperback edition will be available in the UK next week. Here’s the cover. Yes, when a new edition arrives I hug the book and pet it and say, “Pretty.” Still. Every time.

The Page 69 Test: The Nightmare Thief

The Page 69 Test is so called because Marshall McLuhan suggested that you should choose your reading by turning to page 69 of a book and, if you like it, read it. And now The Nightmare Thief is subjected to the Page 69 Test:

“In The Nightmare Thief, an ‘urban reality game’ goes wrong and traps a group of college students in the Sierra Nevada wilderness, fighting for survival along with series heroine Jo Beckett. The novel’s a thriller: it features action, life-and-death danger, and relentless killers hunting down injured innocents.

“And that’s what you’ll find on Page 69.”

You can find out what else I said here.

Joy and Insomnia, or How to Bring a Novel to Life, Kicking and Screaming

A few weeks ago, I wrote a guest post for The Kill Zone, the excellent mystery and thriller writers’ blog. I’m reposting the entire piece here, for folks who are interested in writing, rewriting, or how an author clings to her sanity when deadlines loom. But I encourage everyone to click the link, read the comments on the post at The Kill Zone, and stick around there to discover what the blog’s talented group of authors are writing about.

Joy and Insomnia, or How to Bring a Novel to Life, Kicking and Screaming

Some writers love first drafts. To them, starting a novel feels like hitting the highway for a summer road trip. They toss the map out the window, crank up the tunes, let their characters take the wheel, and sit back to see where the story goes. To them a first draft means freedom: blue skies, unlimited potential.

I’m not one of those writers.

I love the part before the first draft. Brainstorming is terrific. Brainstorming means flinging ideas at the wall like spaghetti, to see what sticks. And when an idea gets under my skin—stings like a hornet, itches, keeps me up nights—I know I’m on track. I have the fuel that will drive a thriller.

That’s how I felt with The Nightmare Thief. An “urban reality game” goes wrong and traps a group of college kids in the Sierra Nevada wilderness, fighting for survival along with series heroine Jo Beckett. That idea did it. Yep, brainstorming, and then sketching a synopsis—Jo and the kids are trapped, bad people are closing in on them, and my other series heroine, Evan Delaney, has only hours to find them—that’s fun.

But then I have to actually write the thing. And for me, writing a first draft is like pulling my own teeth with pliers: slow, painful, and messy.

The plot takes form, and it’s fat. The characters sit around a lot, thinking. When they do speak, the dialogue needs spice. Worse, everybody on the page sounds exactly the same and, worst of all, exactly like me. And all those plot twists that were so exciting to sketch (“Evan discovers a deadly betrayal”) stare back at me from the synopsis, going: Well, how?

I cringe. I couldn’t show this stinking mess to my dog, much less my editor, and oh, sweet Lord, I still have three hundred pages to write.

And I need to write them at a rate of 2,000 words a day, because I have a deadline.

That’s when I remind myself:

  1. My critique group has a rule for reading out loud: We all think our rough drafts are crap. It’s stipulated. So don’t waste time quailing that your piece sucks. Just read. Well, the same goes for actually drafting the crap. Just write.
  2. My job does not involve cleaning a deep fryer. I should stop being an ungrateful moaner. Just write.
  3. If I spew all these wondrously awful first-draft words onto the page, they will at least exist. And words that exist can be fixed. Words in my head cannot. Just write.

So I keep going, for months, until I reach the end. Then I run through the house with my fists overhead like Rocky, while the stereo blasts the Foo Fighters’ “DOA.” “I’m finished, I’m getting you off my chest…”

In the five-stage writing cycle (excitement, delusions of grandeur, panic, compulsive eating, delivery) this is known as the False Ending. Because now it’s time to rewrite.


I can hear some of you shouting, Rewrite? Don’t make me. Stab me with a fondue fork instead. Repeatedly. Please. But I mean it: Joy. As I recently heard Ken Follett explain, revising means making a book better—and who wouldn’t want the chance to make something better?

And, to be serious, I have a method. Tackle the big issues first.

This is a technique I picked up from Sol Stein’s Stein on Writing, and it has turned my editing inside out. It’s saved me months of wasted work. Stein calls it triage: Fix the life-and-death issues in a manuscript first. Is the conflict stark enough? Is the protagonist strong enough? Does he or she face a worthy antagonist? In other words, when rewriting, don’t simply start at page one and go through the manuscript fixing every problem as you spot it. It’s counterproductive to spend a morning fussing over sentence structure if the entire scene needs to be cut.

So I identify all the triage issues and outline a plan to address them. Then I return to my miserable first draft. I attack those fat, introspective scenes. I build in unexpected twists. I obstruct the protagonist’s path. Throw down impediments that are by turns physical and psychological, accidental and deliberate. Breakdowns. A monkeywrench. A landslide—literal or emotional. I cut endless swaths of verbiage, like so much kudzu. It’s gratifying.

Admittedly, revision isn’t all fun. I’ll wake up worrying that I’ve done insufficient research. Maybe some howlers have slipped through. (Anybody seen Lord of War? An Interpol agent strafes Nicolas Cage from a fighter jet. That kind of howler.) So I hit the reference books, and contact some experts, and revise again. And I have a fail-safe plan: write a rip-roaring story, so that if all else fails readers will miss any mistakes. Put the pedal down and nobody can see the errors as they blast through the novel.

Meanwhile the deadline continues to loom. Eventually I reach the stage known as Revise! Or! Die! It comes down to a cage fight between me and my story. With major revisions on The Nightmare Thief, I’m happy to say I won—which is to say, the story won. The lumpen first draft was flick-knifed into a sharp revision. Or sledgehammered, where necessary.

When I finished, I sent it to my editor and pitched face down on my desk. Then I sprang back up like a jack-in-the-box, thinking of all the changes I still wanted to make. Then I pitched forward on my desk again.

Eventually I sat up, picked off all the paperclips that had stuck to my face, and staggered to bed, where visions of Jo Beckett and Evan Delaney danced in my head. Well, they didn’t dance—they opened a couple of beers, clinked bottles, and put their feet up, waiting to see what I would do to them next.

I love this job.

People Magazine reviews The Nightmare Thief

Yes, People magazine has reviewed The Nightmare Thief — my novel is living large. It makes me happy that People was swept away by “Thief’s tidal wave of adrenaline.”

Book Tour Debrief III: Adventures in Audience Q & A

(Photo: me with Scott Montgomery of Book People in Austin.)

On a book tour, if things go well, readers show up. If things go really well, not all of them are your cousins, or process servers, or a guy clutching the unpublished novel he wants you to deliver to JK Rowling/Anne Rice/James Cameron/The President.

But I digress. At a truly good book tour event, a big part of the fun is answering questions from the audience. It’s great to hear what readers actually want to know — about writing, research, storytelling, character; the whole gamut. And I enjoy conversation more than I enjoy lecturing.

But over the years, across many events, I’ve heard some unusual questions.

Q: Does your editor give you a sheet of paper with a list of words and phrases you’re required use in a thriller?
A: Never. I can’t conceive of such a thing.

Q: To get the love scenes right, did you sleep with a ____ a) fighter pilot? b) paraplegic? c) pararescueman?
A: No, no, and no. It’s called imagination.

Q: Are you sleeping with Stephen King?
A: No. And by the way, my husband is sitting directly behind you.

Woman frowning at The Liar’s Lullaby: “Does it contain dialogue?”
Me: Yes.
Woman (putting the book down): “Ugh. I hate hearing voices in my head.”

Q: “You write novels? Too bad. I can’t read fiction.”
A: I’m so sorry. Is there anything they can do?

And some questions, I simply have no answer to.

Man: “I want to write, but I hear writers have to be unbalanced geniuses. I’m a genius but perfectly balanced. How unbalanced are you?”
Me: blank stare.
Man (turning to my husband): “Is she unbalanced?”
Husband: blank stare, followed by sprint out the door and across the parking lot.

Woman skimming the jacket copy on China Lake: “Wyoming? No thanks. I have no interest in traveling there.”

Woman at a group signing, confronting me and a fellow author: “I’m not going to fork out for two books. Each of you, convince me why I should buy yours and not the other’s.”

Woman looking slightly baffled: “I heard the FAA was shut down. How’d you fly here? Is there rioting at the airport?”

The Nightmare Thief: Bookreporter.com review

Bookreporter.com reviews The Nightmare Thief:

“Edgar Award-winning mystery writer Meg Gardiner has not one but two stellar series: one featuring forensic psychiatrist Jo Beckett, and another with investigative reporter Evan Delaney. Both women are supremely capable yet emotionally vulnerable; both have suffered great losses, and both have a tendency to get in over their heads. Good thing, too, because the over-the-top scenarios Gardiner constructs for her characters are part of what makes her novels so wildly entertaining….

“With its taut plotting and bleak desert setting, THE NIGHTMARE THIEF is a great summer read, the kind of book you might pull out of your beach bag in the morning and devour by dinner….

“Gardiner is probably best known for her Evan Delaney series, but her more recent psychological suspense novels featuring Jo Beckett have also gained her plenty of fans. THE NIGHTMARE THIEF introduces readers to both compelling characters, each of whom brings her own talents and strengths to bear on the problem at hand. They make great teammates; here’s hoping that this first collaboration is not their last.”

Thanks for that.

Book Tour 2011: Debrief Part II

(Photo: Threadgill’s in Austin, Texas.)

A book tour means travel, talk, fun, fatigue, and more. On my tour for The Nightmare Thief, I was lucky to have the Husband with me for the Texas leg. He was my entourage. He did the driving. And whenever I needed something he would jump up and say, “Let your people do that.” Then he’d hand me my shoes, or grab the phone, going, “I’ll call the spa to book your treatments, Madame. Stop throwing the blue M&Ms at me.” He also shlepped the luggage, and threatened friends and relatives into driving hundreds of miles to attend my events. It’s useful having a blackbelt/spy for a husband. It really is.

Texas turned into an excellent road trip. And if you were wondering, it’s true: state law mandates that all radio stations play country music, including the classical and talk stations. It’s also true that in certain counties, restaurant dishes are not labeled “fried” because the frying is assumed. It’s considered the natural state of food. And I’m talking about the salads.

It’s also true that Austin takes pride in its music and eccentricities. You can’t go five feet without tripping over a live band setting up to play. Threadgill’s, shown in the photo above, is where Janis Joplin famously got her start. (And, according to PatTheHat, it’s home to the best chicken fried steak in the southwest.) As for eccentricities, this is where the T-shirts proclaim: “Keep Austin Weird.” I tried to do my part. Hook ’em Horns.

(Photo: downtown Pittsburgh.)

Phoenix, where I spoke at The Poisoned Pen, was hot. Too hot for me to remember to take photos. But I had a blast staying at the retro Hotel Valley Ho. It’s been restored to its original 1950s chic, and I’m convinced I saw Natalie Wood and a young Robert Wagner checking in. And a Mercury astronaut. And Don Draper. Picture me poolside in a polka-dot bikini and bathing cap covered with plastic daisies. Wearing stilettos, and holding a martini. (Once again, note that jet lag may be distorting my memories.)

In New York I spoke at The BookMark Shoppe, a bookstore run by two best friends in Brooklyn. Now, Brooklyn is big. As in millions of people big. Its neighborhoods range from gritty to megacool and include Italian, African American, Hasidic, Dominican, Russian Orthodox, and hipster white boy — and that’s just what my son Mark can see from the back window of his apartment.

The bookstore is in Bay Ridge, at the very end of the subway line, and Mark said getting there would be like Inception: we’d have to go several levels deep. It was a dream within a dream within a dream… within Brooklyn. It took an hour on the subway, but he’s an Eagle Scout, and brought his compass. Or at least his iPhone compass app. And we didn’t know what to expect when we surfaced from the R Train. According to people from Manhattan, it might be some combination of Saturday Night Fever and The Warriors.

Reality: Bay Ridge is charming. Brownstones, tree-lined streets, parks, lively local businesses, all watched over by the towering Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. The bookstore was the size of a boxcar, but it filled up with readers for my event. They were eager and enthusiastic. I appreciated it.

And then we heard the music hammering overhead: “Je Ne Regret Rien…” So we surfaced from the dream, level by level, subway stop by subway stop, and made it home safe. I think. Maybe I haven’t actually woken up. If I see Leonardo DiCaprio or, God help me, John Travolta in disco clothes, I’ll know I’m trapped.

(Photo: me with Mary Alice Gorman.)

My final stop in Pittsburgh took me to the Mystery Lovers Bookshop. I’ve been there before. And last year at the Edgars I was lucky enough to see the store’s owners, Mary Alice Gorman and Richard Goldman, honored by the Mystery Writers of America with a Raven Award for their contribution to mystery writing. It’s always a pleasure to get to the store, and on Wednesday I loved the chance to talk to a full house of readers and book clubs. Plus Richard and Mary Alice fed us. What more could I ask?

Okay, how about for this: at the airport, side-by-side heroes of famous battles near Pittsburgh. Yes, it’s life size wax figures of George Washington and Franco Harris.

Tomorrow I’ll finish the debrief with Adventures in Audience Q&A.

Book Tour 2011: the Debrief

I’ve just arrived home from my book tour for The Nightmare Thief. I had a wonderful time. It was great to see friends (like Jeff Abbott) and to meet people in person whom I’d only known online until now. (Hi, Dru.) Thanks again to all the bookstores that hosted my events: Murder by the Book in Houston; Book People in Austin; The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale; The BookMark Shoppe in Brooklyn; and Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Pittsburgh. Thanks to my publicist at Dutton, Jamie McDonald, for putting the tour together. And special thanks to everybody who came to hear me speak, and who bought books. You’re the whole reason I write. And you’re the ones who make it possible for me to continue writing.

Now, a few photos and dirty details. Note that I just flew all night and crossed five time zones. So these may be more hallucinations than memories.

To start: Here I am, on the road in Texas. And what am I feeling? Yes. Love.

That’s because Love’s sells both Beef Jerky and Junior Mints in Texas size portions. Also because I’m related to the Loves. They buy my books. I buy their gas, and this photo is proof. So no need for another family feud. Besides, my insurance won’t pay to repair any more bullet holes in my car. And Uncle Bill is tired of sweeping his front yard for landmines every time he takes the dog out. Fair enough?

Earlier I posted a video from my event at Book People in Austin. At the top of this post is a photo of the marquee at the store. My name, in lights! I made it, Ma. Now look at the poster that sat inside the front door:

Did you ever think I’d get top billing over Larry Flynt? Yeah, I can tell you’re proud.

And here’s a shot of me signing books.

I was delighted that some friends from the University of Texas came to hear my talk. But I was severely disappointed that folks from the College of Engineering failed to bring the Texas Petawatt Laser to the bookstore for a demonstration. That would have been even better than a Jo Beckett v. Evan Delaney cage fight.

That’s enough for now. Part 2 of the debrief tomorrow.

What I talk about when I talk about The Nightmare Thief

Scott Montgomery at Book People in Austin has written about my event there on Friday night and even posted a video snippet of my talk. Even though I hate seeing myself on camera, I will post it here. Please be kind in your comments.

Tonight: Mystery Lovers Bookshop, Oakmont, Pennsylvania

This evening I’ll be at the delightful Mystery Lovers Bookshop outside Pittsburgh. If you’re in the neighborhood you can come have dinner with me, or stop by for the book signing. And I mean you can have dinner in the bookshop with me and other fans of thrillers and suspense fiction.

Wednesday, July 27th
Mystery Lovers Bookshop – 6:00 p.m.
514 Allegheny River Boulevard
Oakmont, PA
(412) 828-4877