Tag Archives: Phantom Instinct

Goodreads discussion of Phantom Instinct


On Goodreads, the Crime Detective Mystery Thriller Group is going to discuss Phantom Instinct from July 20-Aug 20. I’ll be part of the discussion. If you’re on Goodreads, you can join the group and join the talk.

Readers can hit me with any questions about the book, or writing, or how I learned about handbrake turns for the scene where Harper Flynn teaches evasive driving in a Mini Cooper.

I’m looking forward to it. Hope to see you there.

Phantom Instinct: out in paperback in the USA


Hey, hey, USA… I almost forgot to tell you: my latest thriller, Phantom Instinct, is now out in paperback.

I think you’ll like it. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Don Winslow says: “It’s fast-paced, sharp, and unforgettable.”

So there you go.

Today: Dripping Springs Community Library


This afternoon I’ll be at the Dripping Springs Community Library, talking about writing and my novel Phantom Instinct. The event is free and everybody is welcome, so come on down.

Copies of my books will be available for sale, and all proceeds go to benefit the library.

Author Visit: Meg Gardiner 
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
4:30 PM – 5:30 PM
Dripping Springs Community Library
501 Sportsplex Dr.
Dripping Springs, TX 78620
(512) 858-7825

Sneak peek: Phantom Instinct paperback cover


My editor just sent me this to double check and approve. It’s the cover of the U.S. paperback edition of Phantom Instinct, coming in June.

Yes, I still get giddy seeing the covers of my books, even in PDF form.

Book giveaway: the winners


Here are the ten lucky winners of Grand Central Publishing’s triple giveaway of Little Black Lies, Little Mercies, and Phantom Instinct.

Debbie K.
Laura R.
Heather S.
Kristen H.
Catherine H.
Claudia S.
Karen S.
Aimee d.
Kathy J.

Congratulations to the winners!

Book giveaway featuring Phantom Instinct and novels by Heather Gudenkauf and Sandra Block


You like giveaways. You like the chance to win free books. I know you do. Here’s your chance.

Grand Central Publishing is giving away 10 signed copies of Sandra Block’s debut thriller Little Black Lies — AND Heather Gudenkauf’s Little Mercies AND my novel Phantom Instinct.

Little Black Lies is a darned good thriller. Heather Gudenkauf blurbed it, and so did I. Check out the quote on the book’s cover in the image above: “‘A darkly intriguing mystery that pulls you in deep and doesn’t let go.’ –Meg Gardiner, Edgar Award winning author.”

You can enter a random drawing to win autographed copies of all three books. You only have until this Friday, February 20th, at 11:59pm Eastern. Enter here.

Where I get my ideas, part infinity: the Mini

Meg & MINI

If anybody who’s read Phantom Instinct (or, as it’s called in the UK, The Burning Mind) wonders where heroine Harper Flynn got her love for the Mini Cooper she drives, here’s a clue.

To answer your questions:

  • It drives like a go kart. Yes, it’s economical, and can be parked in a space the size of a sofa. It’s fun.
  • I don’t have Harper’s advanced driving skills. Most of what she does in the book — evasive maneuvers, handbrake turns, donuts in an airplane hangar — I learned from online research, while sitting at my desk. So if you’re looking for a getaway driver, I’m not your woman.
  • Like Harper, I have taught a teenager to drive in a Mini. Granted, we didn’t do J turns while shouting profanities in Russian. But whipping along English country roads with a seventeen-year-old who made car chase sound effects every time we rounded a curve — that was fun, even at 30 mph.

This has been today’s look at the story behind the story.

And the real life seventeen-year-old passed his driving test in that Mini. Manual shift, first time.

The Burning Mind: UK audiobook edition

The Burning Mind_M. G. Gardiner - UK audio

I love seeing how various publishers design the covers for my novels. This is the UK audiobook edition of The Burning Mind (aka Phantom Instinct). It makes me wonder what Harper Flynn is pondering as she stares out over downtown Los Angeles. And how she gets her hair so straight and glossy.

This edition of the audiobook is narrated by the wonderful Laurence Bouvard. And it’s available now as either an audio download or an audio CD.

The Burning Mind: ideas and inspiration

If you want to know where I got some of the inspiration for The Burning Mind (aka Phantom Instinct), check out these interviews.BURNING MIND PIC


“The Burning Mind is about perception. A catastrophic shootout leaves two damaged survivors who must work together to stop a killer. Hunting him down, and coming out alive, depends on accurate perception—by the survivors, the cops, and the people the killer has in his sights. Because almost nobody believes he exists.

And things may literally not be what they seem.”

And over on Crimesquad.com, I talk about When Our Eyes Deceive Us.

Years ago, I stepped into a lift and came face to face with an old boyfriend. The door closed and an awkward moment worsened—he ignored me.

The rest of the interview is at the link.

The Burning Mind: out today in Britain


Hey there, Britain. My new novel The Burning Mind (aka Phantom Instinct) is published today in the UK. You know you want it. Go on. Go on, go on, go on.

The Burning Mind: reviews in Closer magazine and Crimetime

BURNING MIND PICThe Burning Mind (aka Phantom Instinct) will be published in the UK on Thursday. The first reviews from British publications have arrived, and I’m happy that they have nice things to say about the novel.

Closer magazine has chosen the book as one of its Hot Picks. It calls the book a “gripping psychological thriller” and says, “This suspense-filled book is a must-read.”

Crimetime says:

“In a previous incarnation (as Meg Gardiner), M.G. Gardiner was an author who had the absolute measure of the contemporary crime novel, in which plotting of tensile strength was matched to characterisation rich in nuance… if anything is new, it is, surprisingly, an even more assured sense of authority (recognised in a jacket encomium by Stephen King, who compares Gardiner to Lee Child and Michael Connelly)… As in the earlier The Shadow Tracer, there is a storytelling ethos at work here which fully justifies the oldest cliché in the reviewer’s lexicon: this one is unputdownable.”

Yeah. Happy, relieved, and thoroughly delighted.

The Burning Mind: Phantom Instinct UK edition


Here’s something shiny and new: the cover for the upcoming British edition of Phantom Instinct. And yes, the novel has a different title for the UK. Just as translations usually have different titles (in Germany The Dirty Secrets Club is called Die Biechte — “The Confession”), different countries sometimes give a book a new title that the publisher thinks will connect the best with local readers.

As for M.G. Gardiner — British readers also love authors with initials. It’s me.

And the novel is exactly the same. From the opening shootout where Harper Flynn and Aiden Garrison fight flames and gunmen, down to the American spelling.

It will be published in the UK on 20 November.

You know, just in time for the holidays. Because what’s a better way to spend a chilly dark December in Britain, than reading a rip-roaring thriller?

Interview: Where to start your book? How to twist your plot?

This summer I was interviewed about Phantom Instinct and thriller writing by Keys to the Page. Here’s the interview in full.

1. I loved all the plot twists and turns in “Phantom Instinct.” Many of your thrillers have a breathtaking storyline. Do you outline your books prior to writing them or do you just write the story first?

I outline, because otherwise I find myself miles up the creek without a paddle, a canoe, or a path out. Before I start writing, I need to know the beginning and end of a story, and several big turning points along the way. That way I can work in twists, set-ups, payoffs, foreshadowing, character development, and make sure the story holds together as a whole. The seeds of a story’s ending need to be sown at its beginning.

2. The first few pages in Phantom Instinct instantly drew me in. Obviously, you start in the middle of the action. What further advice would you give to a future writer for when they start a book?

Figure out what the chase is, and cut to it. Start your story as close to the ending as possible.

3. I love how Phantom Instinct is broken up in separate scenes. It makes for a quick read. It’s almost cinematic. Did you choose to do this for pacing purposes? Why or why not?

A thriller has to thrill. That means the story has to move forward at all times. Tightly paced scenes help propel the narrative ahead. More than that, though, scenes bring the story most vividly to life—they show instead of tell. They make readers feel they’re in the midst of immediate action. That’s why scenes can seem cinematic—because readers can see and hear them happening as they read.

4. You do an amazing job in blurring the line between a plot driven story verses a character driven story. How do you make a person care about a character when you’re writing a plot driven book?

Plot is what the characters do. In a thriller, plot is about the choices the characters make when facing deadly threats, under increasing pressure, often with time running out. To get readers to care, I follow the advice given to me years ago by mystery writer Leonard Tourney: Create sympathetic characters and put them in jeopardy.

5. When you come up with a character do they come to you or do you draw images from people you know or have known?

I draw on human nature, people I see on the street or at the airport, and my deepest imagination. It takes a while for characters to come to life—I have to write about them, let them speak and run around and get in trouble, before I know who they really are.

6. The relationships between Harper, Aiden and Piper are so vivid. How did you create such believable relationships with the characters?

I’m a woman married to a man, so I have a head start on the girl/guy thing. As for Piper, I was once a seventeen-year-old myself.

Also, I rewrite until I get things right.

7. It’s interesting you give each character a flaw to hinder their ability. You give Aiden Fregoli Syndrome and you give Harper a criminal background. Do you do this so the characters have to struggle or do you do this because it makes for an interesting story?

Both. Unless the characters face a challenge, the story will be dull. In Phantom Instinct, the characters’ struggles complicate their desperate quest to catch a killer. Harper’s juvenile record leads the cops to mistrust her. Aiden’s Fregoli Syndrome, caused by a traumatic brain injury he suffers in the opening shootout, leaves him with a kind of face blindness that means he sees enemies everywhere. For a cop, that’s a nightmare. Unless Harper and Aiden can find a way to trust each other and work together, they’re doomed.

8. The concrete details you provide really create a strong visual image. The word choices you use are fantastic. How do you choose those specific words? Is it because of your legal background?

My background as a lawyer taught me to choose the right word. The rest is practice. Endless practice, trial and error, failure, and rewriting.

9. My favorite metaphor is: “the Pacific sparkled with firework brilliance.” How do you take something that could be cliché (like the sparkling Pacific) and give it a fresh twist?

If you’ve heard a phrase before—if it’s the first description that pops into your head—it’s almost certainly a cliché. Rewrite it.

10. What is the best advice you can give to a writer?

Sit your butt down at your desk, set your fingers on the keyboard, and write. Write until you finish what you started.

Suspense Magazine asks me questions

Suspense Mag

The September 2014 issue of Suspense Magazine has interviews with some very cool authors, including Dennis Lehane, Joseph Finder, and Gregg Hurwitz. They also talked to me.

S. MAG.: Which character in “Phantom Instinct” surprised you with having a larger voice than you thought they would?

M.G.: Oscar Sierra, the black-hat hacker. When I outlined the novel, he appeared in one scene—and died in it. But when I wrote the first draft, he came to life as a goofy, brilliant, strangely innocent cyber-thief. He’s corrupt but lovable. And he’s Harper’s
lifelong friend. When it came time for him to die, he walked into his kitchen, just like in the outline. But instead of getting shot, he opened the door, bolted down the steps, and sprinted for his life.

Plenty more at the link: Meg Gardiner — Be Ready To Stay Up All Night.