by | Jul 17, 2019 | KJ Howe, The Writer's Life, On writing | 6 comments

Our infamous gobo!

Just back from the International Thriller Writers annual family gathering at the Grand Hyatt in New York City. Over one thousand of the world’s premier authors, publishing professionals, and avid fans gather to discuss, explore, and celebrate the thriller genre over the course of an action-packed week. As Executive Director of ThrillerFest, I’m so proud that our Rogue Women played a pivotal role in this year’s success. Discussing all of the amazing events of the week would take a novel length entry, but here is a snapshot of a few highlights:

When Gayle Lynds, one of the co-founders of ITW had to cancel due to an injury, fellow Rogue Woman and my personal heroine, Chris Goff, stepped into the breech and taught Gayle’s Master Class course, sharing her insights on the art of writing a great thriller with an eager and talented group of students. Chris’ selfless willingness to dive in at the last minute exemplifies the spirit of volunteerism that makes Thrillerfest what it is.
Continuing the theme of giving, Harlan Coben received the Silver Bullet Award for his long and extensive history of charitable giving, including his amazing program of Tuckerizations, selling character names in his books and donating the funds to charity. His interview with Heather Graham was warm and informative, providing many laughs and insights. Lisa Unger, a NYT bestselling author of psychological thrillers was interviewed by her long-time friend and fellow superstar Karin Slaughter, and the two professionals provided a thoughtful discussion on the unique challenges and opportunities faced by female authors in our field.

Belgian bestseller Sarah Meuleman
The Rogue Women panel, chaired by James Rollins was jam-packed, and we all had a rollicking good time. James ferreted out secrets about of each of us, both personal and on the craft of writing. I used the divine elixir of chocolate to help teach my class on pacing, giving out white, dark, and milk chocolate Toblerone bars to the attendees as symbolic stand ins for slow pacing, fast pacing and “just right” momentum in your work.  Teaching a packed room of aspiring authors who share an enthusiasm for the craft of writing was one of my most enjoyable memories.  
Stephen Hunter with Chris Goff and K.J.
Spotlight guest Stephen Hunter, the master of the sniper thriller, was interviewed by his close friend and colleague James Grady, author of Six Days of the Condor. Stephen’s self-deprecating humour and brilliant analysis were a highlight of the conference. As a bonus, we learned from James Grady that the reason the Six Days of the Condor was shortened to Three Days of the Condor for the film is that the producers didn’t want to show Robert Redford with six days growth of facial hair. Too much! ThrillerMaster John Sandford, author of the genre shaping “Prey” series, was interviewed by his brilliant editor of 30 years, Neil Nyren and the traditional ThrillerFest banquet song by Daniel Palmer and Brad Parks was a rendition of a Bob Dylan favourite. The entire ballroom was lit up–and good thing, as there was a massive blackout in NYC that somehow didn’t hit us.
One of my personal highlights was acting as panel master for the “Gunslingers” panel, bringing together an elite group of writers to discuss the effective use of firearms in novels. The group included Stephen Hunter, James Grady, Mark Greaney, Brad Taylor and Simon Gervais, offering decades of author experience with decades of operator experience to provide attendees with complete coverage of the literary and technical aspects of gunfights, along with many laughs.  
The debut author breakfast celebrated the next generation of thriller stars. We feted a record 34 debuts, helping to launch their careers with a long standing ovation. Somewhere amongst that group are our future ThrillerMasters, bestsellers and award winners.  

Actress Judith Light at the banquet
The awards dinner on Saturday night revealed the long-awaited winners of the coveted Thriller Awards.     
The winners were:

Jennifer Hillier — JAR OF HEARTS (Minotaur Books)


C. J. Tudor — THE CHALK MAN (Crown)


Jane Harper — THE LOST MAN (Pan Macmillan Australia)   


Helen Smith — “Nana” in KILLER WOMEN: CRIME CLUB ANTHOLOGY #2 (Killer Women Ltd.)

Teri Bailey Black — GIRL AT THE GRAVE (Tor Teen)


Alan Orloff — PRAY FOR THE INNOCENT (Kindle Press)  

I keenly remember Jennifer Hillier at her debut author breakfast and have enjoyed watching her career skyrocket. Congrats, Jennifer!

A special thank you to all of the attendees and sponsors that make ThrillerFest possible. The international aspect of the organization was emphasized with attendees from around the globe and two new sponsors, The Midas Group from the U.K., and The Sharjah Book Authority from the UAE.
While I’m still recovering from the event, I’m already getting excited about next year’s conference and hope to see you all at ThrillerFest XV, July 7-11, 2020 when Dianna Gabaldon will be our ThrillerMaster. Yes, bring your bagpipes to meet the author who created the heart-stopping hero Jamie Fraser. 
Don’t Miss a Thing!



  1. Gayle Lynds

    Wow, KJ! I felt as if I was there by reading your fabulous report! What a spectacular ThrillerFest it must've been. Missed you and the Rogues terribly, and so many friends I've made over the years. It's an incredible reunion every year! x Gayle

  2. Rogue Women Writers

    Terrific recap of a wonderful conference — made successful in no small part by YOUR organizational skills, Kim. I had a wonderful time attending so many great panels – and also enjoyed our own Rogue panel, especially hearing about my colleagues "secrets" among other exploits. Thanks for a great post – which should be an inducement to other writers to sign up for next year's Thrillerfest….Karna Small Bodman

  3. Lisa Black

    Thanks so much for the summary, KJ!! For those of us who (sigh) weren't there, I appreciate it.

  4. Chris Goff

    What a nice thing to say! Thank you. You’re the one who rocks. Best ThrillerFest ever!!

  5. K. L. Romo

    Great article, Kim. I really enjoyed seeing you (and everyone) at ThrillerFest!

  6. Robin Burcell

    Agree! Wonderful roundup and makes me feel as if I was there! Hope to see everyone next year! (Any ideas on where it'll be?)