With 750 attendees this year, the Seventh Annual ThrillerFest—the annual conference put on by the International Thriller Writers association—at the Grand Hyatt in New York July 11-14 was the largest one yet. In addition to the traditional panels featuring authors discussing subjects as varied as how to choose the best narrative voice to debating whether or not true evil exists in the world, the four-day conference kicked off with two days of Craft Fest classes taught by some of the biggest names in the genre.
Lee Child, one of the Spotlight Guests of Honor, led a class entitled "Tell, Don’t Show: Why Writing Rules are Mostly Wrong" and bestselling true crime writer Ann Rule, who received ITW’s 2012 True Thriller Award, taught a class called "How to Stalk a Serial Killer and Tell the Gruesome Tale: All You Need to Know to Write Great True Crime." The author of more than 30 bestselling nonfiction books on murders famous and not, Rule knows a thing or two about serial killers: she worked alongside Ted Bundy at a suicide hotline, which provided fodder for one of her most well-known books, The Stranger Beside Me. Aspiring authors were also given the opportunity to meet with agents on Thursday afternoon.
Keeping the constantly evolving nature of the publishing business in mind, several panels addressed some of the nuts and bolts necessary to survive in today’s burgeoning digital marketplace, including "How Do You Make the Most of Social Networking?" with industry professionals, and "Is Indie Publishing Right For You?" Others focused on what often makes thrillers so much fun to read, among them “How Do You Handle the Taboos? Politics, Sex, and Religion in Thrillers,” moderated by Hank Phillippi Ryan; "Is the Apocalypse Imminent?" moderated by Daniel Palmer; and “How Do You Knock Off Your Characters? Unique Ways to Kill,” moderated by Grant Blackwood.” In addition to Child, the other spotlight guests—Catherine Coulter and John Sandford—were interviewed individually throughout the conference, as well as Ann Rule, who told stories about her time with Ted Bundy and how the Green River Killer, a serial murderer from the Pacific Northwest, would attend her author events.
The conference culminated with the awards banquet on Saturday evening, which paid tribute to 2012 ThrillerMaster Jack Higgins, best known for his international sensation The Eagle Has Landed. Though the British Higgins, whose real name is Harry Patterson, couldn’t be present to accept his award, his American editor accepted on his behalf, noting that it’s rare to find that combination of good writer and good person, declaring his longtime client to be a mensch. Departing ThrillerMaster R.L. Stine gave Higgins a rousing introduction and audience members were treated to a brief video of Higgins thanking ITW for the honor. Richard North Patterson was honored as the recipient of the 2012 Silver Bullet Award, given to honor authors who further the literacy cause. It was presented by last year’s winner, Karin Slaughter.
The 2012 Thriller Awards were also presented at the banquet, with Tim L. Williams’s "Half-Lives" in Dell Magazine winning Best Short Story; Paul McEuen’s Spiral winning Best First Novel; and Jeff Abbott’s The Last Minute taking home the Best Paperback Original prize. Stephen King won Best Hardcover Novel for 11/23/63: A Novel, though he wasn’t in attendance to collect his prize. ITW co-presidents Kathleen Antrim and Douglas Preston proudly mentioned during the ceremony that the third annual Thriller anthology, Love is Murder, is on track to become the bestselling installment yet; the proceeds from these anthologies make it possible for ITW members to not pay dues.
Growing larger by the year, ThrillerFest VIII is already on the schedule for next year, so if you happen to be in New York City July 10-13, it promises to be a thriller. Registration is open now at www.thrillerfest.com.