Conference Season

on July 5, 2012

July is a busy month for romance and thriller writers, and those of us who write romantic thrillers, we often have to chose between Thrillerfest and Romance Writers of America. Two conferences in one month is expensive, but since these are usually the only two conferences I attend, I save up. I find both valuable for not only my career, but my sanity–I get to hang with my fellow writers and see friends I usually only talk to online.

I met Toni at the first Thrillerfest in Arizona–still the single best conference I’ve ever been to. We’ve been best buddies ever since. I drove to my first conference (RWA in Reno, 2005) with Karin–we’d known each other (we were in the same critique group) but spending the week with her and the others in our crit group was a fantastic bonding experience. Writing is such a solitary profession that sometimes we forget there are others just like us.

At Thrillerfest, I’m presenting “The Villain’s Journey” which focuses on creating a compelling and three-dimensional antagonist. I’m also on a panel about creating strong female protagonists. A few years ago, Toni and I were on a panel called “Smart Women, Short Skirts” (with a nod to Jimmy Buffett) about what made a female protagonist a strong character worthy of a story, and what were some of the pitfalls writers could fall into when writing a strong female character. I’m all for the stubborn, jaded, emotionally and physically damaged female cop, but with all the tough women out there, how can you make her stand out? How do you prevent her from being a caricature?

At RWA, I’m presenting “Thrills & Chrills: Writing the Romantic Suspense and Thriller” which I originally presented for the first time at the Desert Rose Conference in Arizona. The workshop could have gone on for three hours, I had so much material, so I decided I needed to really hone it down to the key difference between thrillers and other books in character, pacing and stakes. I’m using television and movies as a teaching tool because they provide examples that most people can understand–and I can use different examples. Books are harder because few people will have read the same book, but I do use popular commercial fiction as well. Gives me an excuse to read and watch tv! 🙂

I leave Monday night for Thrillerfest, and am working now to finish up the copyedits for my 10/30 book STALKED. I’ve also agreed to write a digital only novella that will come out a few weeks before STALKED, plus I’m in the middle of writing STOLEN due 10/1. Yes, when it rains it pours! But I’m grateful I have a contract and very excited about these projects. STOLEN in particular because his is my first book that will be predominately in my hero’s POV–Sean Rogan takes center stage, and Lucy takes the backseat.

QUESTION: As I prepare for my workshops, I love having examples from readers about what they like and dislike. I’d love your comments about villains or strong female protagonists, what do you love to see your characters and what has become tired and overdone? What makes a female character “strong?” What makes a villain compelling?