Where Thrillers Are Born: Authors on How They Got Their Story Ideas

On Friday, author Sandra Brannan (Liv Bergen Mystery series) moderated a ThrillerFest panel including authors Linwood Barclay (A Tap on the Window), Laura Benedict (Bliss House), Linda Fairstein (Alex Cooper crime series) and Reavis Wortham (Red River Mystery series). Here are the stories of how their book ideas began.


Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 1.04.02 PMThis column by Adrienne Crezo, managing editor of Writer’s Digest
magazine. You can find her on Twitter as @a_crezo.

Laura Benedict

On Bliss House: “Haunted houses aren’t born, they’re made. Rainey Bliss Adams [my main character] talks about how people imprint themselves on houses. And families live in houses, and give a place so much energy. And there’s just nothing more twisted than families. I don’t know where this came from; I had a perfectly normal childhood, but I understand other people’s families are twisted.”

On Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts: “I really hated being a teenager, and I didn’t really have a lot of close girlfriends, but I had a friend named Roxanne. She had a sister who was a witch before there was Wicca, and witches just did … spells and things. Roxanne worshiped her sister and she would go out and steal cemetery stones and hide them under her bed. And I was raised Roman Catholic, so with Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts … these girls build this man they call a lover but he’s really a priest, and then a demon gets involved.”

Linda Fairstein

On Death Angel: “When Central Park was built in the 1860s, they realized that if they didn’t make a park there that it would be just concrete. There were 60 houses, an African-American community, that were razed to the ground. I was trying to find a way to use the fact that there are houses and cemeteries and schools under the park. So I used the character to unlayer parts of the city in a historical way. … When I found out about Seneca Village, it just staggered me that you could dig a hole in the ground and come up with a teacup that was used by a person who used to live where the park is. “

Reavis Wortham

On his Red River Mystery Series: “I dream them. I got to sleep and I dream things that are so real to me, it’s like living. There are houses in my dreams that I can literally draw the blueprints, and it would go on for miles. There are doors I’ve never opened. I wake up and take notes. … The first chapter on Burrows started out as a short story based on a challenge from Stephen King many years ago, to take a short story and turn it on its head. It just kept bubbling in my head and I couldn’t put it down.”

Linwood Barclay

In general: “Because I write about regular people, the weapons of choice are often very mundane. And because I myself am a person of caution, I look at everyday things as dangerous weapons. Those steak knives in the dishwasher are a real hazard.”


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