Category Archives: Thriller

Member Spotlight: Meet Thriller Writer Jesse Smith

Posted by January 13th, 2014

Jesse SmithSouth African Suspense Thriller writer Jesse Smith spends most of his days as a ship’s captain, sailing all over the world. Jesse has been to over 100 countries! But in his free time, Jesse’s also a writer–his book THE MEGIDDO REVENGE was published here on Book Country in September. We chatted with him about his writing while he was on his holidays before going back out to sea.

LS: You must be so excited to see your book, THE MEGIDDO REVENGE, for sale online. Tell us all about it: writing it, revising it, and publishing it. What was your process for all three?

JS: Seeing the book in eBook and paperback format was awesome. Since I was a child I had this hankering to ‘write a book’ and this was a dream come true. The writing of MEGIDDO took roughly five years from the Prologue to the Epilogue. That being said, over the last fifteen years or so before the manuscript was formally started, I had written several random pages and unnumbered chapters as I had ideas about characters and events for what I hoped would be a complete novel. These random notes eventually gelled into the final book.

In a book such as MEGIDDO which is based very much on ‘real time’ international events, revision of some aspects of the plot was almost continuous but eventually I had to freeze time and type The End. For instance, I regularly sail in the Gulf of Aden pirate area and have had several close encounters with pirates.  The modus operandi of the pirate groups evolved and changed since the book was started in 2008 so the early chapters had to be suitably revised and adjusted before I decided to finally finish. Regarding revision, during the writing process I always knew where I was coming from and where I was going to. The plot I thought was okay but I had a lot of work to do one characterization and here my #1 editor and advisor, my wife Fran, was able to help a great deal. I went to sea when I was 17 so consequently missed out on a formal literary education. Fran, on the other hand, was educated in England at several rather grand well-known girls schools where English Literature was the most important subject and without her input, the manuscript would have been gibberish. Continue reading

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Diving into YA Dystopian with SLATED Author Teri Terry

Posted by November 14th, 2013


The precedent of the HUNGER GAMES opened up the door for other talented authors to tell their YA dystopian tales. Today we’re talking to British author Teri Terry, who pushes the envelope with her SLATED books, one of the most thought-provoking and chilling sci-fi series I’ve read in the past year. In SLATED, we meet young Kyla, who’s had her memory and personality erased as punishment for a crime she can’t remember committing. Who is really Kyla without her memories and what makes her *her*? Teri  takes on these big questions head on, and she approaches Kyla’s characterization with the kind of subtlety that is a joy to read.

NG: What inspired you to write a dystopian series for young adults?

I never set out to write a dystopian series. SLATED actually started from a dream I had, about a girl running, terrified, on a beach, afraid to look back to see what chased her. That same morning I wrote the dream down before I was really awake, and the story kind of grew from there. So it is really difficult to say what inspired writing it! The story chose me: it came from an unconscious need to explore issues that were troubling me, obsessions that I had. These include the whole nature-nurture debate: does someone who commits a horrible violent crime have something inherently wrong with how they are wired up inside, or does everyone have this capacity, given the right (wrong) circumstances? Next the identity issue: what makes us who we are? If you take someone’s memories away, are they still the same person? And finally, terrorism. More specifically: are a violent group defined by their objectives, or their methods? What is the difference between terrorists and freedom fighters? Do we define groups based on whether we agree with what they are trying to achieve?

NG: Your Master’s degree coursework was on the depiction of terrorism in young adult literature, which has clearly impacted the oppressive world you’ve crafted in the SLATED series. How did you thread your findings into the books?

slatedTT: Things happened kind of the other way around. I was thinking for some time about doing a creative writing MA, and in the end focused on a research degree. The way that worked is that I had to come up with a research proposal that included both a novel I planned to write, and a contextual thesis surrounding it. In my case the novel was SLATED, and the thesis was a consideration of the depiction of terrorism in YA dystopian fiction. However, I actually wrote SLATED before I really made much of a start on the thesis. Having said that, the impact the research had was more on examining how I wanted the trilogy to end, and why.

Traditional dystopian novels tend to end very badly for the hero: the whole point is that of a warning, a call to action – to change the world to avoid this coming to pass.

Conversely, YA dystopian novels tend to have more hopeful endings, even happy ones at times. Literary critics argue this negates the message of a dystopian novel; at the same time, debate rages about the impact of dark dystopian novels on younger readers. But I can’t tell you much more about decisions I made about the end of the trilogy without major spoilers!

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“Why I Write Horror” by Hubert Dade

Posted by October 22nd, 2013

There is so much horror in the world, it spurs me to write. 

Why I write horror by Hubert DadeThere’s a scene in the excellent 1979, made-for-TV film of Salem’s Lot (Tobe Hooper and Stephen King!) where the newly vampire-ized Danny Glick floats on billows of corny rock-video fog outside the second-story bedroom window of Mark Petrie. Danny Glick’s eyes glow and he’s dressed in his funeral suit. He scratches at the window.

“Let me in,” Danny tells his friend. “It’s all right.”

Danny is smiling. Mark is crying.

Everyone knows that Mark doesn’t let Danny in because of the preternatural knowledge of monster lore and ritual that King regularly ascribes to children.

I saw this TV movie when I was nine.

I did not sleep for three nights.

All the lights in my room were on.

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Choosing Your Genre on Book Country

Posted by October 4th, 2013

One of the first things you have to do when you join the community is pick a genre. We’ve structured the Book Country site to guide you in that decision: The Genre Map, the Genre Pages, and the Landmark Titles are there to aid you in making your genre selection and connecting you to writers with similar interests.

“What is this whole genre thing about, anyway?”

A lot of writers ask us that. They feel constrained by the conventions and tropes of a single category. “My book is both funny and romantic,” they say. “It’s a mystery and it has time travel.” Continue reading

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Mystery Versus Thriller: How to Tell the Difference

Posted by September 27th, 2013

Quite often, I walk over to Nevena‘s desk at the Book Country offices to ask her what genre a certain book is, such as NIGHT WATCH by Linda Fairstein, which I’ve been reading this week. NIGHT WATCH is one of Fairstein’s Alex Cooper novels: murder mysteries starring a Manhattan District Attorney who specializes in sexual assaults. Seems like it would be pretty easy to figure that one out: Alex is investigating a case, the main characters work in law enforcement . . . it’s a police procedural, right?

Not so fast. Nevena, having fastidiously read her “genre bible” (THE READERS’ ADVISORY GUIDE TO GENRE FICTION by Joyce G. Saricks), needs to know much more information about a book before she can make her final judgment on what genre it is. Once we chat about the book for a while, Nevena deems NIGHT WATCH a legal thriller. Here are some of the major deciding factors when you are trying to decide whether a book is Mystery versus Thriller:


mystery Thrillers, even literary thrillers, tend to have short, simple titles: NIGHT FILM, GONE GIRL, THE HARD WAY, THE FINAL CUT. The titles tell us the story is fast-paced and to the point. Mysteries, on the other hand, often have more complicated or lyrical titles: THE AMERSHAM RUBIES, WHOM THE GODS LOVE, and THE NO. 1 LADIES’ DETECTIVE AGENCY (Alexander McCall Smith has the BEST titles, IMHO!). Cozy mysteries in particular are given to very whimsical titles like DO OR DINER (of the Comfort Food series by Catherine Wenger) and MURDER AT THE PTA by Laura Alden. NIGHT WATCH–two punchy, easily articulated syllables–is a perfect title, then, for a thriller.

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