Why Yawatta Hosby Loves Writing Thrillers

WHY I LOVE WRITING THRILLERS
Guest Post by Yawatta Hosby

the_texas_chainsaw_massacre_image
Image: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Here’s a secret: I love horror movies. I’m talking Saw, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th, Wrong Turn, basically anything that’s gory and disturbing. I also love suspense movies that have betrayal and mind games, like Mindhunters, Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and Straw Dogs. I’m not going to lie—I have to watch during the daytime. Even so, I end up getting nightmares for two weeks straight.

Being interested in those types of movies naturally led me to wanting to write those types of books. At first, I was too terrified of reading horror or thriller books until a few years ago. In movies, you’re warned that something morbid is popping up by the creepy music in the background. In books, not so much.

That’s what I admire about the thriller genre. There are no warnings when a scene or image will make readers jump out of their seats. It’s fun creating scenarios that will give readers goosebumps. In thrillers, you’re allowed to make characters unlikeable. For me, the villains are very fascinating to write. It’s a good feeling when readers send you messages of how much they despised a person in your story and was looking forward to their karma. Or to receive messages that they fell in love with a person in your story and wept about the outcome. That means readers felt passion for your book, and you can never go wrong with that.

I write books in different genres, without using a pen name, but I’m confident that I’ll always find my way back to creating thrillers. In fact, I have a couple of books I’m hoping to publish by the end of this year:

  • Plenty of Fish is a short story. A stranger approaches a local celebrity. It’s definitely not a love story. Is he crazy? Lonely? Dangerous?
  • My novella is about an obsessive man willing to do anything to get the family he deserves.

I’m hoping these two stories will be published next year:

  • The sequel to One By One, revolving around Detective Brown’s daughter. (Some people have hinted that they’d like to see the story continue, so I’m up for the challenge). :)
  • A story about a crazed ballerina who terrorizes her younger sister because she feels that her sister is responsible for their brother’s death.

For all the writers out there, why do you create thrillers? For all the readers out there, why do you love scaring yourself?

Keep smiling,
Yawatta Hosby

* * *

With a desire to escape every day life, YAWATTA HOSBY creates stories. She’s always had a fascination with psychology, so she likes to focus on the inner-struggles within her characters. Her short story “Room For Two” is published in the online literary magazine The Write Place At the Write Time (Spring/Summer 2013 edition).

Yawatta Hosby Online: Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon | Goodreads | Interview

Interview: Brian McGilloway

I am pleased to present Author Interview #4 with Brian McGilloway! Part of the Partners in Crime blog tour.

Describe yourself in 5 words:

BM: Husband, father, former teacher, writer.

Share a short excerpt and blurb of your latest book:

someone_you_know_brian_mcgilloway_

Synopsis: Just before Christmas, the body of a sixteen-year-old girl is found along the train tracks on the outskirts of a small town. As Detective Lucy Black investigates the teenager’s tragic last hours in search of clues to her death, she realizes that some of the victim’s friends may have been her most dangerous enemies—and that whoever killed her is ready to kill again. Haunted by the memory of a case gone wrong, and taunted by a killer on the loose, Lucy finds herself pitted against a lethal opponent hiding in plain sight.
Someone You Know, Brian McGilloway

Share an excerpt of your favorite author’s work (10-100 words):

“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…And one fine morning —
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
— The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

What do you enjoy about the genre in which you write?:

BM: I was a crime reader before a crime writer so I love the genre. There’s something immensely satisfying in a good thriller and, for me, the thrill lies not in the violence, but in the solving of the crime and the assertion of some form of order at the end. Mind you, from Greek Tragedy onwards, we’ve been concerned with stories that move from order to disorder to new order – especially where that disorder is caused by the killing of an individual. Thriller writing is the modern iteration of that concept.

What is your definition of “good writing”?

BM: That’s an interesting question. It all comes down to ‘value’, which is, of course, completely subjective. Everyone values different things. Good writing for me is writing which somehow expresses an emotion or feeling which I recognize but would never have been able to put into words so succinctly. I think we all have those moments of recognition when reading – those moments that connect us through our shared thoughts, feelings and experiences.

Please share your #1 tip for writers in the mystery/suspense/thriller genre:

BM: I’m in no position to be giving advice to others! My number one rule for me is to write everyday when I am working on a book. Stopping for a while makes me begin to doubt what I’ve written. If I just keep the momentum going, I’ll always come back at the end and redraft anyway.

Your websites/blogs/etc:

BM: I’m online at www.brianmcgilloway.com, on Twitter @BrianMcGilloway and on Facebook. And I’m always delighted to hear from fellow crime fiction readers.

* * *

BRIAN McGILLOWAY is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of DS Lucy Black thrillers and Inspector Devlin mysteries. He won the BBC Tony Doyle Award 2014 and is a father of four.

Brian McGilloway Online: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Write About What You Know

WRITE ABOUT WHAT YOU KNOW
Guest Post by Benjamin King

noir_female

Image by Frank Miller

I wrote about angels. I wrote about the Roman Empire. I wrote about hoboes riding trains. No one understood what I was trying to say. Then I remembered a Mark Twain essay I had read long ago and dug it out and studied it again. It’s a convincing argument that William Shakespeare never wrote the masterful dramas attributed to his name. He couldn’t have written them, and Mark Twain explained why.

A short paraphrase of what he said is, “A butcher can’t talk lawyer talk and make it sound convincing.” Whoever wrote the plays was intimately familiar with the inner workings of the royal courts of Europe, and that didn’t mean butchering calves by the Thames River or holding horses outside a London theatre that catered to rabble, which were William Shakespeare’s only qualifications.

Twain was right you know. And I realized he was right and started writing about what I knew – really knew – and it paid off. I was fortunate in that respect, because the things I knew best were exciting things and things that a lot of authors write about anyway. And yet, many of them get it wrong.

You see I was raised on a small mountain farm that might better be described as a mini-ranch. Horses, ponies, mules, cows, pigs, rabbits, chickens, squirrels – every animal, tame or wild – was either a playmate or a possible target. I had two other lucky circumstances that influenced me from the age of three. My parents were musicians and readers. My father read strictly westerns because he also loved guns.

Everyone has absorbing interests – things we are deeply involved in – and those are the things we learn the most about. For me it was horses, guns, and guitars, in that exact order. As an adult I’ve loaded, shot, and cleaned hundreds of firearms.

It’s hard for me to accept an author of Larry McMurtry’s caliber allowing one of his principle protagonists to carry a Colt’s Dragoon revolver for 800 pages without ever having him load it with the necessary black powder, lead balls, and percussion caps. I don’t think Larry knew the difference between that particular weapon and one that shoots pre-packaged metallic cartridges, or maybe he thought no one else did.

In the first book of my series about a young country singer and guitar player, When a Lady Lies, I use a symbol that enhances the mystery – a collection of old pistols. Those guns are in my mother-in-law’s gun cabinet. I’ve cleaned them and shot them and can describe one so accurately you feel it in your hand. In the sequel, I switch to percussion pistols and have both the victim and the falsely accused protagonist portrayed as Civil War era gun enthusiasts. I own one of those, too.

I was lucky. I absorbed volumes of exciting material without really trying. It was part of my environment. If you want to write murder mysteries or psychological thrillers about guns and the way they operate and feel and have no real experience to draw on, there is a ton of online material you could read. But I suggest you take the time to go to a gun store, explain your situation to the owner, and have him let you hold a real one in your hand. It’s a powerful feeling. Who knows? You may end up on the firing range, which would enhance your writing to the Nth power.

* * *

BENJAMIN KING is a writer, world traveler, sculptor, and professional musician. He had his first country song published in 1971 and followed that with numerous magazine articles, a volume of short stories, and a future-fantasy novel. His colorful characters are drawn from the eventful life he has pursued.

Benjamin King Online: Website | SW | FacebookAmazon | Goodreads | Interview

Interview: Benjamin King

benjamin_king

I am pleased to present Author Interview #3 with Benjamin King: a writer, world traveler, sculptor, and professional musician!

Describe yourself in 5 words:

BK: A thousand lives in one.

Share a short excerpt and blurb of your latest book:

lady_lies

Excerpt: With the window sash scraping the skin off my back I finally wiggled my upper body through the small window and lay half­in and half­out of the house and sucked oxygen into my burning lungs.  And then, in the ghostly, musky quiet of the attic, I heard the heavy crunch of tires on gravel from the driveway in front of the house.  That’s when the stupidity that had brought me here to die like a criminal loomed like a billboard in my mind.  If they caught me, I had no doubt they would kill me.  How I wished I could go back to that night when I should have quit my job and left town.
When a Lady Lies, by Benjamin King

Share an excerpt of your favorite author’s work (10-100 words):

“Every man has a religion or totems of some kind.  Even the atheist displays an enormous act of faith in his belief that the universe created itself, and the subsequent creation of intelligent life was merely a biological accident.”
— James Lee Burke

What do you enjoy about the genre in which you write?:

BK: Mystery/murder thrillers give an author the best chance to utilize the only two real plots for the genre: chase and capture and delayed revelation.  A good one is about a hundred chases and captures capped off with a surprise, delayed revelation.  It’s also a very inventive genre – you can get away with unusual characters – in fact they make for a better story.  My hero in my series is a young country singer who overcomes defeat and depression in each volume by losing himself in the soulful process of writing a new hit song.  I record the song in my studio and put a link at the end of the book to the MP3 file on a website.  When the mystery is solved and the heroine is rescued, the reader gets to hear the hit song inspired by the adventure.  I think I’m onto something unique.

What is your definition of “good writing”?

BK: The highest quality of any art form is its believability.  The best writers make the reader forget he is looking at a page filled with words and convince him he is part of the action.

Please share your #1 tip for writers in the mystery/suspense/thriller genre:

BK: Don’t give away your secrets too easily.  Don’t make your characters blabbermouths.  Make the reader follow your hero through hell to find the real answer to the puzzle.

* * *

BENJAMIN KING is a writer, world traveler, sculptor, and professional musician. He had his first country song published in 1971 and followed that with numerous magazine articles, a volume of short stories, and a future-fantasy novel. His colorful characters are drawn from the eventful life he has pursued.

Benjamin King Online: Website | SW | FacebookAmazon | Goodreads | Guest Post

My Take on Horror

* Note from Jess: The Horror Writers Association has a great page that seeks to define horror fiction. In this post, author Michael Robertson Jr. — who writes horror and suspense novels — shares his thoughts on what the genre means to him.

MY TAKE ON HORROR
Guest Post by Michael Robertson Jr.

horror

Image from eBooks @ Adelaide

Let’s examine some things I’ve written about. Ready? Here goes: Grief-driven Serial Killer alter egos, snow monsters, lost identity, dueling spirits deep in the mountains, alien-possessed children, phones that ring to the past and expose gruesome murders, playing poker for your life, carnival games that’ll make you lose your lunch—these are just a few.

Now, think hard. What do all these things have in common? Anybody?

Hint: Nothing at all.

That’s just it: I don’t have regular central themes, I don’t have a formulaic approach to my new projects.

My catalog is a mosaic of ideas, a splattering of genre-crossing plots that all have been derived from one simple thought: What if?

That’s where nearly every story I’ve started (and not always finished) begins. I see something, hear something, read something, and then think to myself “What if X happened instead?” or “What’s the most unexpected thing that could happen now?”—and if the resulting idea would be a worst-case scenario for most anybody, something that might make somebody’s skin crawl or make them pray it never happens to them, I start to build on it, see If I can get a full story out of it.

This can be as simple as an argument between spouses resulting in death, or as random as bringing your kid home from day care and an hour later he eats the cat.

What if you went to the dentist and when the hygienist accidentally nicks you with the sharp thing she bends over and sucks the blood out of your mouth with her own two lips?

I just thought of that. Hmm, might have something there…

Face it. What-If’s are the root of all of YOUR fears. Think about it. What if you lose your job? What if your burglar alarm goes off in the middle of the night? What if there’s a strange person hanging out by your car in the parking lot when you get off work late? What if you fail that big test? What if the plane crashes? What if the doctor calls to discuss your test results? What if your credit card gets declined?

See? All what-if’s.

Now, I write fiction, so yes, my what-if’s are a little far-fetched, a little (okay, often times a lot) exaggerated and ridiculous. I thrive off the uncertain and unpredictable, but the opening question is still there, the basis for the horrific events I write down.

What If?

What if I never get another story idea? That scares the hell out of me.

* * *

MICHAEL ROBERTSON JR.’s books have been downloaded over 80,000 times on Amazon.com. Rough Draft, a horror novel and newest release, has been in the Top 100 horror rankings. He lives in Virginia where he’s currently working on a new novel and trying to keep himself from thinking his next idea is a better one.

Michael Robertson Jr. Online: Website | Blog | Amazon | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Interview: Tatiana Boncompagni

tatiana_boncompagni

I am pleased to present Author Interview #2 with Tatiana Boncompagni: a New York-based journalist and author of the Clyde Shaw mystery series!

Describe yourself in 5 words:

TB: Curious, Athletic, Impatient, Outgoing, Resilient.

Share a short excerpt and blurb of your latest book:

social_death

Excerpt: People cheat and people lie. It’s a fact of life I never found particularly newsworthy, except when someone ended up dead. That’s usually where I came in, turning betrayal and blood splatter into TV ratings gold. No Emmys yet, but that just kept me hungry—hungry enough to pick up my phone on a Sunday morning in early November when I ought to have been in deep REM.
Social Death, by Tatiana Boncompagni

Social Death is a breathless thriller that takes the reader deep inside the worlds of television news and glitterati New York.”
— Stuart Woods, New York Times bestselling author of Unintended Consequences

Share an excerpt of your favorite author’s work (10-100 words):

“The old saying that some people are ‘born in the wrong cradle’ applies to me. Early on I knew I wasn’t destined to spend the rest of my life in Oklahoma City, where I was born and raised. Still, my steady progression from student to restaurant hostess to salesgirl to collector and philanthropist and, finally, to one of the grande dames of New York is a pretty remarkable story, even if I do say so myself.”
Social Crimes by Jane Stanton Hitchcock

What do you enjoy about the genre in which you write?:

TB: My latest book, Social Death, is a mystery but my past novels, Hedge Fund Wives and Gilding Lily, were women’s fiction. What I like about writing mysteries is that there isn’t so much pressure to make the female protagonist likeable. You hear that word all the time from agents and editors, “Is she likeable?” And while it is true that there are good reasons for a main character to be appealing, I’m more inspired to create characters who aren’t straight-up nice. I like writing characters who are troubled and make flawed decisions, but whose reasons and behavior are still believable and, more importantly, relatable. I think there is more freedom to do that in the mystery genre than in traditional women’s fiction.

It can be very nice to be free from genre tropes and conventions. What is your definition of “good writing”?

TB: Good writing has two components. First are your sentences and second is how you arrange them. Some writers create sentences that convey emotions or atmosphere in a way that is beguilingly beautiful, poetic really. And other writers craft very good stories, often with an interesting or inventive plot structure. Really good writing has both of those components—sentence and structure—down. I think mysteries tend to be better plotted than they are written, but that’s just a generalization. I can name several authors that bowl me over just with their words. Megan Abbott and Lisa Unger are but two examples.

Please share your #1 tip for writers in the mystery/suspense/thriller genre:

TB: Everyone has a different process, so I think it is often hard to give advice. For me what seems to work is allowing myself to write freely just to get into the story and then take a step back to rework the beginning and hammer or plot out the middle and ending. But first, before chaining myself to any given ending or plot twists, I like to give myself the freedom to see where the story and characters take me.

* * *

TATIANA BONCOMPAGNI is an award-winning journalist and the author of Social Death, Hedge Fund Wives and Gilding Lily. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and three children. Her writing has appeared in dozens of publications, including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Town & Country, InStyle and Vogue.

* Social Death is free on Amazon till May 2nd!

Tatiana Boncompagni Online: Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon | Goodreads | The Book Designer