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How Sara Blaedel Went from Avid Mystery Reader to Bestselling Crime Writer


 

Long before I started writing crime fiction, I was a huge fan of the mystery & thriller genres. From early childhood, I was an avid reader, who found suspenseful stories intoxicating. So invested did I become in those backdrops, plotting, and characters, that I considered myself an integral player. I fancied myself involved in the action and most especially in the evidence-gathering, fact-finding missions, and ultimate solving of the cases. It was exciting and transformative.

As an author, my most important tasks are to serve up storytelling that satisfies, engrosses, transports, and justifies the time spent navigating through the pages. Which means that I endeavor, always, to bring my A-game and push myself to reach higher, to go deeper, and to make sure that what I’m offering rings true, makes sense, and is worthy of the investment of my wonderful readers, for whom I am eternally grateful.

My Top Three Tips for Writing Mystery & Thriller

1. Write what you’d want to read; if you don’t find it compelling, entertaining, and captivating, it likely isn’t.

2. Research tirelessly and expansively; authenticity is essential.

3. Don’t skimp on development; every element must be fully cooked.

 


 

About Sara Blaedel

Sara Blaedel is the author of the #1 international bestselling series featuring Detective Louise Rick. Her books are published in thirty-seven countries. In 2014 Sara was voted Denmark’s most popular novelist for the fourth time. She is also a recipient of the Golden Laurel, Denmark’s most prestigious literary award. She lives in New York City.

 

 

 

 

The Lineup: Weekly Links, Lost Girls of Rome edition

Contrasted ConfinementHappy publication day to Donato Carrisi’s THE LOST GIRLS OF ROME! Following in the footsteps of the “brilliant” (Ken Follett) debut THE WHISPERER, but with a vibrant international setting, Carrisi’s second thriller has been receiving great press.

THE LOST GIRLS OF ROME was named a Publishers Weekly Pick of the Week and is included in a round-up of recent releases from the Denver Post.

LOST GIRLS also received a starred review from Kirkus, who wrote of the novel: “Carrisi writes beautifully [and] intimately appreciates Rome, its chapels, its narrow alleyways, its fountains and gardens [with] references to the Monster of Florence…A powerful psychological drama.”

Library Journal also proclaims: “With a lot of separate subplots, intricate details, and twists, this novel has plenty for readers to follow…those who can keep up will be rewarded.”

Looking for more to whet your appetite? Strand Magazine features an essay by Carrisi on the intriguing inspirations for his newest.

Bloggers, too have been loving LOST GIRLS as well. My Bookish Ways includes it on a list of the Top Ten Must Reads of November 2013. Tor.com ran a popular giveaway for the novel, and IE Mommy raves: “I have not read a thrilling and more captivating novel than THE LOST GIRLS OF ROME in a long time…an incredible read!”

THE LOST GIRLS OF ROME is now available in bookstores across the country and from your favorite e-tailer!

Did we missing something sweet? Share it in the comments! We’re always open to suggestions for next week’s post! Get in touch at mulhollandbooks@hbgusa.com or DM us on Twitter.

Me and Mike: Sophie Littlefield Interviews Mike Cooper

With 2013 just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to sit back and reflect on another year of great content and great books. Check back twice daily in the last days of 2012 for a selection of our favorite MulhollandBooks.com posts from the past year!

Sophie Littlefield:  So let’s get the basics out of the way first. You write, I write. You’re the much, much older east coast sibling and I’m the fun-loving west coast one. We both have kids and we both grew up with our noses in books. What else should people know about us to start off with?

Mike Cooper:  We’re bicoastal now but we started in Missouri! – and in a much different time, when children were allowed freedoms that seem extraordinary to me now.  My memory, perhaps unreliable, is that we were completely unsupervised after school and on weekends.  The woods and fields just over the backyard fence were a place of fantastical play: ponds to swim in and skate on, the cemetery and the quarry, the derelict airport with runways like the Bonneville Salt Flats.  How could we not become people who live by our imaginations?

Of course, my stories involve ruthless banksters and exploding helicopters, and some of yours have decidedly noir, even dark elements.  In some ways our lives were difficult and complicated, and that’s as essential as the sunny memories.

We both came to write seriously somewhat later in our lives.  In my case it was after my daughter was born – my wife and I decided that I’d be the stay-at-home parent, and what with two naps a day, I suddenly had time to try what had been only a hobby.  (I took one of those naps myself, true.)  I recall you publishing stories, fiction and non-fiction, for many years before you buckled down to novels.  What was the impetus?

SL: I think the better question is, “What took you so long?” And the answer, of course, is fear. I’m astonished at how much I’ve given away to fear over the years. Oh well, middle age took care of that in a hurry. My first novel was tentative, limp, diluted, and derivative. But I learned something from it and from every one that followed, until I finally ended up writing a novel with teeth.

Nowadays, I seek out opportunities to be brave. Lots of extra points if someone chokes on their coffee when I propose a new project. For instance, when I first told my agent my idea for my January ’13 book (A GARDEN OF STONES, MIRA) the pitch was “Japanese internment in WWII, plus taxidermy.” I stubbornly believe there is an audience out there that longs to be challenged.

Which reminds me. Do you remember when you wrote that short story a few years ago and I read it and told you “that story’s a best-seller for sure, drop everything and turn it into a novel”? And then you spent the next few months writing and polishing and submitting it? Continue reading “Me and Mike: Sophie Littlefield Interviews Mike Cooper”

Year End Review: Triggers Down, A Social Writing Project

Sink Hole

Mulholland Books is looking for English and writing students to contribute writing to Triggers Down, a social writing project that will be a testament to writers building off of other writers’ work to create bigger and better stories.

The goal is to create a crime story. Here’s how it works: Mulholland Books will assign interested students specific passages, each student will write a section that branches off of the one before it (except for the first paragraph, of course), and that process will continue until students have composed a cohesive narrative.

Each passage will be posted online until completion, so students can see how the story evolves. And here’s the best part. Mulholland Books will feature the final story on MulhollandBooks.com. We want this project to not only be a testament to appropriation, but also an opportunity for young writers to publish.

How to submit: Write Dominic Viti at dominicviti@gmail.com and tell him you’re interested.

First section by Evan Walker.

Edited by Dominic Viti.

John found the body after he’d had his share of sightseeing the dune. He’d scrambled over it as he had in ‘72, sixteen and obliterated, once he’d yanked himself out of the rear window of the VW Squareback and waded through the black water to the shore.

He gave a satisfied hmph and walked the same way he’d walked that night, alongside the ditch and back to the house he’d grown up in—shallower than he remembered, dried up too. He had sloshed through the front door and the two of them just stared as he spoke. Joy riding again. Imagining the way his mother had turned back to her reading after he’d returned, soaking wet, without the car, he’d meandered back toward the edge of the ditch, and found her.

She was dumped in a pile, her sundress, black shorts and pixie brown hair  damp from the humid air, one hand slung over her side and curled up with rigor mortis except for her pointer finger, outstretched in timid protest.

Second section by Amelia Spriggs.

Edited by Dominic Viti.

John jumped to the other side of the ditch to look at her face and landed heavily, slipping to one aching knee and sending a few small white crabs skittering away. He had seen a lot of dead bodies over the decades, not a few of them young and formerly pretty. But this one pinched his sense of tragedy, niggling the worn callus of his compassion.

There was something familiar about her slim frame, even in its rigid heap. The angular jaw and the set of those large, inert eyes. He crouched down and sat on his haunches for a moment before falling back onto the sand. What felt like the vague pricking of tragedy swiftly turned into the keen piercing of horror. Lena.

Third section by Joe Oslund.

Edited by Dominic Viti.

John stumbled forward in a haze of shock that rang in his skull like the reverberating toll of a church bell, hid behind a shallow hollow of sand, and threw up. He took a few deep breaths before calling Julius, who let the phone ring six times before picking up—a subtle reminder that the old man had more important things to do.

“What is it?” Julius barked.

“They got her,” John croaked. “I mean, somebody got her.”

“Who?” Julius said. “Who got who? Use your words.”

John had no words.

“Is it Lena?” Julius said. “Did something happen to Lena?”

“She’s dead, Dad. Somebody killed her.”

There was silence on the line, and with a soft click, Julius hung up.

Fourth section by Ezra Salkin.

Edited by Dominic Viti.

John lit a cigarette and waited for his bastard father. Lena didn’t deserve this. She wasn’t a drug-addicted whore, a convict, or some train-hopping drifter who thought she had had it bad and had something to prove. John felt like crying, but the many cadavers he encountered throughout his life only made his usual sense of detachment return.

Blank faces played in a slideshow in his mind before he allowed Lena’s dirty face—half shrouded in kelp—to blot out all the others. Decomposition had set in, something he had rarely witnessed. Half hidden under her sundress, something glinted. John nudged it out from under Lena’s other cold hand, the one that wasn’t pointing, her fingers curled in a confused repose, as if undecided whether they should let go or hold on. A locket.

‘You’re different,’ he thought, flicking the half smoked cigarette, flavorless like all things had become despite this “new lease on life” the parole board had promised. He began snubbing the vermeil medallion into the ground with the heel of his sneaker. Disappearing into the wet sand, the locket winked at him with dull amusement.

He guessed it was given to her by her trust fund boyfriend, Michael, whom John had never met but had heard only good things about, though he hadn’t cared to open it so he wasn’t sure. By the time he wondered why he hadn’t, it was buried altogether in a neat pile beside the braided chain that had once held the heart shaped trinket around Lena’s bruised neck.

Snapped at the toggle, it hardly looked strong enough to strangle someone, but the bluish lines that wrapped around her neck in intermingling, jagged patterns told it different. The marks left behind were deep, a cruel mimicry of its supposed function. Her throat appeared to have not been far from bursting. John had seen people murdered with less, but he wasn’t in the Florida State Pen anymore.

He reached into his pocket, pulling the wrinkled letter Lena had left for him at the halfway house. September 4, 1992—Lena’s entreaty for John to meet her at the spot they’d enjoyed so often all those years earlier. A place where they could “clear the air.” She had still wanted him in her life.

John crushed the letter into a ball before igniting it with his lighter. He watched the black writing run from the pink stationary before the whole thing blackened and smoldered into nothing.

That’s when he heard the cancerous wheezing from behind him.

“You son-of-a-bitch,” Julius said.

Fifth section by Vivien Eliasoph.

Edited by Dominic Viti.

“How did you know I was here?” John asked, his voice muffled by the unlit cigarette between lips.

“Never mind that,” Julius said. He blanketed Lena with his camouflage jacket and tossed his keys to his son. “Truck’s at the front of the pier.”

Julius crouched down and swept Lena’s hair behind her ears. Blood trailed across her forehead.

“John, move it, goddamnit!” Julius said.

John ran as fast as he could. He inhaled deeply, his cigarette sticking to the inside of his dry lips. The craving for a deep smoke drove him forward. His calves burned and his breath was heavy in the humid night air. He wiped his dripping nose with his wrist and imagined exactly where on the console of his father’s Ford the cigarette lighter was. His sneakers pressed deep into the sand, passing wasted cigarette butts and empty soda cans, abandoned and forgotten by teenagers.

The truck was caked in mud. The interior was no better. By the time John pulled up, Julius had already made it to the end of the pier, standing by the forest green trashcan with Lena draped over his shoulder. John put the car in park and scooted to the passenger’s seat. He flung the cover off of the cigarette lighter and watched the white paper crack into lava orange. Then, a long drag.

The rearview mirror foregrounded Julius placing Lena in the bed of the truck, wrapping her in blue tarp before climbing into the cab.

“Pass me one,” Julius said. He left the door open and emptied his boots of sand. John was happy to see part of the beach left behind. He reached into his front pocket and dug out a cigarette.

Julius lit and inhaled with the same tired desperation as his son.

Neither spoke. John’s stomach grumbled. He looked at the floor and saw beef jerky and peanut butter crackers. He went with the crackers.

“We’ll have to leave her with George,” Julius said.

John choked on his crackers. “Why in the hell would we go and do that?”

“He’s just as much a part of this as we are.” Continue reading “Year End Review: Triggers Down, A Social Writing Project”

Year End Review: A Few Thoughts on Jim Thompson and The Grifters

With 2013 just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to sit back and reflect on another year of great content and great books. Check back twice daily in the last days of 2012 for a selection of our favorite MulhollandBooks.com posts from the past year!

There are those moments in life so powerful and disturbing that they defy definition.  For me, Jim Thompson’s novels provide such moments.  Or maybe it’s more fair to say they knock me into them backwards—ass over applecart.

Apparently, I’m not alone in that.  Read what’s been said about Thompson, and you see that everyone is grasping: “If Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Cornell Woolrich could have joined together in some ungodly union and produced a literary offspring, Jim Thompson would be it….His work…casts a dazzling light upon the human condition.”

This is the first quote about Thompson’s work that many readers encounter, the Washington Post blurb splashed on the back of the Vintage Crime/Black Lizard editions that came out in the 1990s, after years when it was hard to find Thompson’s novels.  It’s evocative, and for fans of hard-boiled it has a dreamlike feel.  But ultimately it’s not very helpful.

Why?  Well, the problem with any definition that works by comparison is that it can only sketch around a thing: a chalk mark on a sidewalk, it misses the heart of the matter entirely—the heart that is so raw, so terribly visible, it forces you to work through analogy in the first place. “What does Hammett have to do with anything?” you might argue.  “There is none of his carefully-controlled and sleekly-styled disillusion here.  Surely the reviewer should have said Chandler, Cain, and Woolrich.  Or better, Cain, Woolrich and Chandler, in that order.”  In no time, what is Thompson’s is lost.

Yet such an approach is understandable, for to look at the heart of Thompson’s work… Well, it’s a hard place to look.  But in the end, the only way to get at it is to read, and then live with the consequences for a while. Continue reading “Year End Review: A Few Thoughts on Jim Thompson and The Grifters”

Start Reading Say You’re Sorry

Eager to get started on Michael Robotham’s newest Joe O’Loughlin novel SAY YOU’RE SORRY, which Kirkus calls “subtle, smart, compelling and blessed with both an intelligent storyline and top-notch writing,” but can’t make it  to Murder By the Book in Houston tonight to meet Michael and hear him read? We’ve got you covered–

My name is Piper Hadley and

I went missing on the last Saturday of the summer holidays three years ago. I didn’t disappear completely and I didn’t run away, which is what a lot of people thought (those who didn’t believe I was dead). And despite what you may have heard or read, I didn’t get into a stranger’s car or run off with some sleazy pedo I met online. I wasn’t sold to Egyptian slave traders or forced to become a prostitute by a gang of Albanians or trafficked to Asia on a luxury yacht.

I’ve been here all along—not in Heaven or in Hell or that place in between whose name I can never remember because I didn’t pay attention at Sunday scripture classes. (I only went for the cake and the cordial.)

I’m not exactly sure of how many days or weeks or months I’ve been here. I tried to keep count, but I’m not very good with numbers. Completely crap, to be honest. You can ask Mr. Monroe, my old math teacher, who said he lost his hair teaching me algebra. That’s bollocks by the way. He was balder than a turtle on chemo before he ever taught me.

Anyone who follows the news will know that I didn’t disappear alone. My best friend Tash was with me. I wish she were here now. I wish she’d never squeezed through the window. I wish I had gone in her place.

When you read those stories about kids who go missing, they are always greatly loved and their parents want them back, whether it’s true or not. I’m not saying that we weren’t loved or missed, but that’s not the whole story.

Kids who blitz their exams don’t run away. Winners of beauty pageants don’t run away. Girls who date hot guys don’t run away. They’ve got a reason to stay. But what about the kids who are bullied or borderline anorexic or self-conscious about their bodies or sick of their parents fighting? There are lots of factors that might push a kid to run away and none of them are about being loved or wanted. Continue reading “Start Reading Say You’re Sorry”

The Greatest Crime Writer

Books to Die For, a collection of 120 of the most influential living writers of crime and suspense discussing their favorite works, edited by John Connolly and Declan Burke, will be available this Tuesday, October 2nd.  We may not be publishing it ourselves, but we’re sure as hell excited about it–which is why we’re featuring Jo Nesbo’s essay today on Jim Thompson’s Pop. 1280, available as a Mulholland e-book for $4.99.

Dubbed the “Dimestore Dostoevsky” by novelist Geoffrey O’Brien, Jim Thompson (1906–77) published more than thirty novels during his career. Despite early critical praise, and particularly positive reviews from Anthony Boucher in the New York Times, Thompson’s talent went largely unrecognized during his lifetime. He made his debut in 1942 with Now and On Earth, and is best known for novels such as The Killer Inside Me (1952), Savage Night (1953), A Hell of a Woman (1954), The Getaway (1958), and The Grifters (1963), all of which were characteristic of an oeuvre that unflinchingly explored the darkest and nastiest recesses of the human psyche. “He let himself see everything, he let himself write it down, then he let himself publish it,” declared Stephen King. Well served by film adaptations, and particularly French filmmakers, Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me was remade in 2010, directed by Michael Winterbottom and starring Casey Affleck.

There’s a clip in the Sylvester Stallone film, Cop Land. The clip only lasts about one or two seconds, and doesn’t have much to do with the rest of the film. It’s a brief flash of a sign showing the number of inhabitants in the town. The sign says, “Pop. 1280.”

I looked around the cinema when it came on the screen, and listened. No reaction. Obviously. Because it was 1997 and this was a coded mes- sage for the initiated few, a bonus for those who had dived into the deep- est depths of pulp literature and found Jim Thompson, the genius who portrayed the American psychopath in the first person some forty years before Brett Easton Ellis did the same in American Psycho.

I personally hadn’t had to dive so deep myself. I was served Jim Thompson on a silver platter by a friend, Espen, who told me it was “old, but good stuff.” The book had the very promising title of Pop. 1280 and a not-quite-so-promising sheriff on the cover. And maybe that was the only way to discover Jim Thompson: you had to be guided to him by someone like Espen, someone who moved freely beyond the main highways and narrow paths of literary snobbery. Continue reading “The Greatest Crime Writer”

The Disapearance of Lynette Dawson

Oceans, hearts and ghosts.Twenty-eight years ago, a young mother disappeared from her home in Sydney’s northern suburbs, leaving behind two daughters and a handsome football star husband.

 Lynette Dawson, a nurse and childcare worker, has never been seen since, but the mystery of her fate continues to haunt her family, friends and neighbours. It also provided the seed for bestselling author Michael Robotham’s thriller, BLEED FOR ME, now available in paperback in bookstores everywhere. Here, he explains how …

I was a young journalist working for an afternoon newspaper in Sydney when Lynette Dawson disappeared in January 1982. It didn’t make the headlines or cause a ripple of publicity, because nobody reported her missing at first.

Her husband, Chris Dawson, was a PE teacher at Cromer High School, on Sydney’s northern beaches. He was also a champion rugby league star for the Newtown Jets, playing alongside his identical twin brother Paul, who coincidentally taught at the same high school.

Former students say they were the coolest, most popular teachers and parents remember them as being incredibly charming and handsome. Both men had done modelling work and moved on to play rugby union.

According to his police statement, Chris Dawson dropped Lynette off at Mona Vale shopping centre on the morning of January 9, 1982. She had organized to meet her mother at Northbridge Baths that day, but didn’t show up.

Chris called his mother-in-law and said that Lynette ‘needed some time on her own’ and had gone off for a few days. On that same day he also called his 16-year-old lover, Joanne Curtis, and said, ‘My wife has gone away. She’s not coming back.’ Continue reading “The Disapearance of Lynette Dawson”

Jim Thompson: An Appreciation

The e-book Jim Thompson’s THE KILLER INSIDE ME, the novel Stanley Kubrick deemed “probably the most chilling and believable first-person story of a criminally warped mind I have ever encountered,” is on sale for just $2.99 for the Nook, Kindle, and the iBookstore. Now is the perfect time to introduce yourself to one of the great classics of twentieth century crime fiction–at a bargain price, and including an intro from Stephen King.

Looking for even more of an introduction? Check out the below essay on Thompson from our very own Joe R. Lansdale.

Jim Thompson has been called a dime store Dostoevsky, but an oil field Faulkner might be more accurate. He wrote not only about the common man, he wrote like the common man, with words full of raw truth mixed with sweet and sticky lies; wicked stories written with a glass of whisky at his elbow.

I had never heard of Jim Thompson growing up. And this surprises me. I read all manner of novels by all manner of writers, and a writer like Thompson was just my meat, but it wasn’t until Stephen King commented on him, that he hit my radar.

Not long after that, I saw Thompson’s work everywhere, and I dove in. As a fellow Texan, same as a I had with the work of Robert E. Howard, another Texan, I recognized people I knew. Howard gussied them up in loin cloths and gave them swords, made them melancholy heroes, but Thompson’s characters were contemporary, and though melancholy for the most part, were considerably short on heroics. They were the dregs of society; little people with dreams too large for them to hold; dreams they drove all over the highways of their ambitions like a drunk at the wheel of a muscle car with bad tires.

There is no one quite like Thompson in low or high literature. He was his own man, and stories like THE KILLER INSIDE ME, THE GRIFTERS, and, well pretty much everything he ever wrote, are as unique as the pattern of a snow flake. They are his snow flakes, and they are soiled and stink of cheap liquor, but you will find no other like him. Many have tried to imitate him, but have only brought the literary equivalent of loud horns and dirty laundry to the game.

Thompson was his own man. Sad and dark, oozing rotten sex and rotten dreams, all of it touched with a kind cheap carnival atmosphere; the kind where the bolts on the rides shake and it‘s best to keep your hand on your wallet. A writer primarily confined to the literary back alleys of cheap paperbacks written in bursts as dynamic as the spewing of an oil gusher.

He was, for better or worse, the great and unique, Jim Thompson.

Joe R. Lansdale

Nacogdoches, Texas

Joe R. Lansdale is the author of more than a dozen novels, including THE BOTTOMS, A FINE DARK LINE, and LEATHER MAIDEN. He has received the British Fantasy Award, the American Mystery Award, the Edgar Award, the Grinzane Cavour Prize for Literature, and eight Bram Stoker Awards. He lives with his family in Nacogdoches, Texas. Mulholland Books will publish his next novel, EDGE OF DARK WATER, in March 2012.

Over the next year, Mulholland Books will be publishing Jim Thompson’s entire body of work in e-book format for the first time. THE KILLER INSIDE ME, THE GRIFTERS, AFTER DARK, MY SWEET, A SWELL-LOOKING BABE and THE NOTHING MAN are now available–look for the next batch on Christmas Day.

A Conversation with Duane Swierczynski and Ed Brubaker: Part I

Suffering from post-Comic Con withdrawal? Get your fix with the below conversation between award-winning writer Ed Brubaker, author of CRIMINAL, SLEEPER and INCOGNITO, among many others, and Duane Swierczynski, originally appearing to celebrate the publication of FUN & GAMES. Hardie endures!

Ed Brubaker: So, Duane – FUN & GAMES, am I right in saying this is your first non-Philadelphia book? (Not counting any co-writing) Did you leave your hometown behind in life and fiction?

Duane Swierczynski: You’re right — this is my first book set in a place other than Philly. I still live in Philadelphia (for the time being), and my fictional heart still lives here, too. But I do cop to a little bit literary wanderlust. The idea for FUN & GAMES, grew out of repeated visits to the Hollywood Hills over the years, and even though I tried (at one point) to set it closer to home, it refused to work anywhere but L.A.
Ed, how important is “place” in your work? You’ve created this brilliant fictional location in CRIMINAL‘s “Center City,” but was that on purpose? Why not, say, Chicago, or Seattle, or NYC?

EB: I think with CRIMINAL, it was to make it like the city in Walter Hill’s The Driver, or to use Chandler’s Bay City and Macdonald’s Santa Teresa as location names. Also, I was a Navy brat, so I don’t have that hometown thing a lot of writers have. I lived in DC (or right across the bridge in Arlington) in the summer of 1979, so I get Pelecanos’ views of it from the little I experienced at age 12, but I think one of the reasons I’m drawn to a lot of crime writers I love is the way their books inhabit a city, in a way I never could, as the always traveling outsider.

Continue reading “A Conversation with Duane Swierczynski and Ed Brubaker: Part I”

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