Fresh FIction Box Not To Miss

Michelle Gagnon | Thrillerfest 2008

July 18, 2008

Sadly, I missed the inaugural Thrillerfest, which was held in Phoenix. I had recently given birth to my first child, and the thought of Arizona in July with a newborn was not terribly appealing. Which is a shame, because from what I understand it was one for the ages.

I made up for it by attending the past few Thrillerfests in New York, and I’m happy to report that despite the fact that everyone always says, “You shoulda been at the first one,” I’ve had an amazing experience each time.

My week kicked off with a joint reading at the Park Avenue Borders. Tim Maleeny, Laura Caldwell, J.T. Ellison, Mario Acevedo, Laura Benedict, Shane Gericke, Alexandra Sokoloff, and I participated in “Quick Thrills from Out-of-Towners.” Lee Child graciously served as our MC, and in completely disregarding our prepared bios introduced us with anecdotes a hundred times wittier than anything we could have come up with. Everyone read for five minutes to an incredibly receptive crowd. The store was quick to add rows of seats as the place filled, we auctioned off Borders gift certificates and stuffed snakes (which were more of a hit than the $100 certificates, go figure). A good time was had by all.

I don’t know of many other conferences where you can rub elbows with Jeffery Deaver, Carla Neggers, Barry Eisler, and Heather Graham in the hotel bar, or where nearly forty top agents show up to hear pitches from aspiring authors. The organizers also made a serious effort to host panels outside the norm, and it showed. The “Lethal Weapons, Bombs, and Terrorism Hands-on Weapons Demonstration” by the ATF was definitely something I haven’t seen before, and perfect for thriller writers looking to expand their knowledge base. Other high points for me included the reviewers’ panel with David Montgomery, Bob Gussin, and Bookreporter representatives Joe Hartlaub and Carol Fitzgerald dishing on how and why books really get reviewed.

I am of course biased, but I loved the two panels I was on. I felt a little out of place on “Don’t Look Now: Paranormal Thrillers,” (my first novel, THE TUNNELS, has some paranormal elements but my latest is a straight serial killer thriller). However it was so amazing listening to Vicki Pettersson, Heather, Mario Acevedo, and Cathy Clamp discuss their work. The downside is that it added another stack of books to my already towering TBR pile, and nearly forced me to check my carry-on bag thanks to the added weight (you should see my biceps after hauling that thing into the overhead compartment!) Then on Saturday bestselling author Michael Palmer led our discussion of “The Art of the Thriller,” complete with berets and a lively discussion of Macguffins.

Thrillerfest is slated to take place in New York for the next two years, a decision which has inspired some debate in terms of the cost of attending and the fact that in a city with so many other attractions, people tend to disperse. I straddle the fence on this one. Part of me hoped that next year it would be moved somewhere less expensive (you should have seen my hotel bill!), preferably a place like New Orleans that I haven’t yet had the opportunity to visit. On the other hand, if it was moved it’s less likely that so many amazing authors would attend, or that I’d have the chance to meet with my editor and agent in the same fell swoop. I’m also not certain they would be able to attract as many participants in Agentfest were it held outside the city. But at least for 2009 and 2010, the deal is sealed and we’ll see what happens. I for one will be there, $16 glass of house chardonnay in hand. After hearing all the stories from the first one, I don’t want to risk missing out.

I’m running a series of contests this month to promote the release of BONEYARD. Go to, click on “win,” and I’ll toss your name in the hat for an Amazon Kindle, iPod Shuffle, digital picture frame, Starbucks gift certificates, and other fabulous prizes.

Michelle Gagnon is a former modern dancer, bartender, dog walker, model, personal trainer, and Russian supper club performer. Her debut thriller The Tunnels was an IMBA bestseller. Her next book, Boneyard, depicts a cat and mouse game between dueling serial killers. In her spare time she runs errands and puts money in her piggybank to cover the cost of conventions .

Michelle Gagnon

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