I’m writing this on the flight home from a wonderful four days at ThrillerFest, the annual conference in Manhattan for the International Thriller Writers. Although the flight to LaGuardia on Thursday was delayed due to thunderstorms along the eastern seaboard, my trip home was delightful. A quick 20-minute ride to the airport Sunday morning, breezing through security without having to half undress and unpack most of my carry-on thanks to TSA pre-screen, and 1 ½ hour flight (flying time) direct into Savannah/Hilton Head Airport on a 2+2 seating configuration plan (which means I can’t get stuck as the monkey in the middle).
As with most conferences, I’m returning home inspired, full of new ideas, and somewhat star-struck. How could I not be, when I introduced myself to Lee Child at a cocktail party and struck up a nice conversation after telling him I was a retired Army MP and CID Officer? He asked me about my books and writing and seemed genuinely interested in my work.
I had heard Lee Child during a panel and an interview earlier and loved his response to a question concerning his opinion on Tom Cruise playing Jack Reacher in the movies. He was fine with it and went on to discuss his reaction to being asked for years if his books would ever be made into movies. Readers of my books have asked the same of me (as I’m sure has happened to most authors). Lee said that too many people think that film is the pinnacle of success for an author, as if every book wants to grow up to become a movie or a TV show. That’s wrong. A movie or TV show based on a book is totally different from the book and defiantly not a higher art form. Sure, we’d all love the money and increased exposure from a film deal, but an author does not to have a book made into a movie to be a success.
I was invited to dinner my first night in New York by Brendan Dubois, who I had had the opportunity to help with some background (from my Army CID experience) for a new series he’s writing with James Patterson. Brendan has published more than 20 novels and is one of the rare authors who’s so successful that he makes a living writing. Brendan had just returned from having a drink with Mr. Patterson (Jim, to those who cocktail with him such as Brendan). Although Brendan’s author credentials are way beyond mine, and I felt truly honored having him buy me dinner, I couldn’t help thinking of him as the guy who’s co-authoring books with James Patterson.
Friday morning I joined six other writers on a panel about Military Thrillers. Although that’s not my genre, I guess the conference organizers needed to fill an empty slot on the panel and saw my bio included military service. Led by a retired Army Green Beret as our panel master, I held my own discussing military thrillers (which I love to read) with other authors (many of whom have impressive military backgrounds) who write in that genre. When I sat at a table in the book signing room afterward (it was cool seeing a stack of my books there), chatting with other authors and watching the line leading to C.J. Box snake out the door, I reminded myself how fortunate I was to be placed on any panel at ThrillerFest, where authors gracing the New York Times bestseller list are everywhere you look.
I had drinks, lunch, and dinner with my fabulous agent, a long meeting with my publisher (who’s more than pleased with the sales of the Det. Matt Sinclair series), and got to meet scores of other authors. I loved chatting with the new authors (I’m a real veteran since my first novel came out two years ago, right?). I sat next to an FBI Agent at breakfast Saturday who’s working on his first novel and planning to retire next year, a retired police captain who’s first book just came out, and an active detective from Pennsylvania whose first book comes out next year. It was exciting to see fellow cops and soldiers make the transition to published author.
Some of the other takeaways from the trip include:
- There are a hellova lot of people in Manhattan, and pushing, jostling, and gentle shoving are acceptable social norms to navigate the busy sidewalks.
- The top authors are incredibly hard workers. They all treat writing as a job and set aside places and times for writing.
- Everything costs twice as much in Manhattan as back home; however, having to drop two twenties for a salad and ice tea with tax and tip seemed a little over the top.
- The A-list authors are incredibly nice and super generous to us lesser authors.
- The Manhattan concrete holds in the heat, so the city is still hot at 9 PM.
- My agent, Paula Munier, knows everyone and is fun to hang out with when she’s in between meeting with her other clients, publishers, editors, and fellow agents.
- New Yorkers always dress in black.