Some thrillers-- 11/16/12

So, last night Nancy and I went to Brown University to catch a panel discussion featuring six leading authors of thrillers.

Jon Land -- Steve Berry -- R.L.Stine -- Nelson DeMille -- Lisa Gardner -- David Baldacci

Jon Land (who graduated from Brown University -- and who wrote a novel as his senior thesis -- no, it was never published, but he says it taught him how to write a novel) is pushing to establish an archive of manuscripts, etc. from thriller authors, to be stored at Brown's John Hay Library. As part of this drive, he organized last night's panel discussion starring himself plus five more top-selling authors of novels that fall into the thriller genre. Land, now in his mid-fifties, has written more than thirty published books, most of which fall into the thriller genre, and a number of which have hit the best seller lists.

It was an amusing and informative couple of hours featuring off-the-wall comments, reflections, and amusing anecdotes from a panel with a cumulative sales total edging somewhere near a billion books (Okay, hyperbole, but some such outrageous sum total...). Yes, you may think of R.L.Stine as being a children's author, what with his dozens of Goosebumps and Hall of Horror and Haunting Hour and Fear and many other series of spooky and scary children's books, but he has also just come out with Red Rain -- an adult horror story -- after all, millions of his readers are now more than old enough to vote.

This was a very intelligent and interesting and witty panel -- and the two hours (plus a few minutes more) passed quickly -- and was witty and amusing and also informative.

I won't attempt to pass on the many interesting tidbits and amusing anecdotes recounted, but among the things I found most interesting was how different they were in their approaches and views. Steve Berry, for example, talked about characters -- the good guy and the bad guy -- and the struggle to make them different from their counterparts in the previous novel -- and yet also the same. He said that he found characterization to be the most difficult part of writing a thriller novel. On the other hand, Lisa Gardner said that she found characterization to be the easy and intuitive party; it was presenting accurate (or at least believable) pictures of police procedures and practices, etc. She even had some practical advice: call the police and ask them. After all, she noted, you are a taxpayer... She suggested cold calling your first resource and asking them to recommend someone who might be able and willing to help you. Now you have somebody you can go to with a referral, say that officer so-and-so recommended that I call you because of your expertise... etc. She claims to have had great success with that.

Jon Land hopes to be able to host more thriller authors at Brown. I know that Nancy and I would be delighted to catch any such future presentations.

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