Episode 211: Adventures in Time & Space — ThrillerFest Debut Authors 2018

by Gabriela Pereira
published in Podcast

Hey there word nerds!

In today’s episode I bring you live to ThrillerFest 2018, where I have once again assembled a panel of five debut authors from this year’s class.

I am so excited to be speaking with L.A. Chandlar, Paddy Hirsch, Cheryl Reed, John Copenhaver, and Joanna Schaffhausen, and sharing our panel discussion on the show!

Last year’s ThrillerFest debuts’ episode focused on the debut author life and what it’s like to write and publish your debut novel. This year posed a bit of a challenge, however, since it would be repetitive to do something on that same theme.

Instead, my team and I selected five debut authors where we saw a common thread running throughout their books. As you’ll hear in the conversation that follows, each of these authors and each of these books are extremely unique, but they all handle questions of time and space in fresh and surprising ways.

So listen in as we chat about various ways to play with time and setting in a novel to not only create a stronger story but also to really engage readers.

In this episode Laurie, Paddy, Cheryl, John, Joanna and I discuss:

  • Different ways to play with time in your novel, and how to do it right.
  • Techniques to write a story within a compressed time frame.
  • Why you need to choose the right space for the story you’re telling.
  • How to bring your setting to life when you need to keep your pace fast.
  • Using the interplay between character and place to engage your readers.

Plus, each of these amazing author’s #1 tip for writers.

About the ThrillerFest Debut Authors

L.A. Chandlar is the National Best-selling author of the Art Deco Mystery Series with Kensington Publishing. Her debut novel, The Silver Gun released August 29, 2017, the sequel, The Gold Pawn, releases September 2018. Laurie speaks for a variety of audiences including a women’s group with the United Nations. Laurie has also worked in PR for General Motors, writes and fund-raises for a global nonprofit, is the mother of two boys, and has toured the nation managing a rock band. To connect with L.A. check out her website at www.lachandlar.com.


Paddy Hirsch is a journalist, broadcaster, online host and now a fiction writer. He was schooled in Ireland and the UK, and spent ten years in the British Royal Marines before moving to Hong Kong to start a career in news. He has worked in every journalistic medium in a variety of countries, in Asia, Europe and the Americas. He is a specialist in business, financial and economic news, and his work appears regularly on National Public Radio in the U.S. He attended Stanford University as a Knight Fellow in 2011 and has won several awards for his video work explaining financial terminology. In 2012, Harper Business published his book Man vs Markets, a tongue-in-cheek guide to the financial system. The Devil’s Half Mile published by Tor/Forge is his first novel. To connect with Paddy check out his website at paddyhirsch.com.


Cheryl L. Reed has shadowed dark and mysterious characters—from cops to murder suspects, cloistered nuns to girls doing drugs. Her debut novel, Poison Girls, is a thriller about girls from Chicago’s political families playing a deadly game involving opioids. Her book of nonfiction, Unveiled: The Hidden Lives of Nuns, chronicles her bizarre journey of living with women in convents off and on for four years. Cheryl has reported on prison riots and taught prisoners how to write. She is a former editor and reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times. When she’s not hanging out with dissident journalists in Eastern Europe, she’s an assistant professor at Syracuse University. To connect with Cheryl check out her website at www.cherylreed.net.


John Copenhaver is the author of the historical crime novel Dodging and Burning released by Pegasus in March, 2018. He writes a crime fiction review column for Lambda Literary called “Blacklight,” and he is the four-time recipient of Artist Fellowships from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities. He is also a Lambda Literary Fellow and Larry Neal awardee. His work has appeared in Lit Hub, Electric Lit, Glitterwolf Magazine, and others. He grew up in the mountains of southwestern Virginia and currently lives in DC where he chairs the 7-12 grade English department at Flint Hill School. To connect with John check out his website at www.jcopenhaver.com.


Joanna Schaffhausen wields a mean scalpel, skills developed in her years studying neuroscience. She has a doctorate in psychology, which reflects her long-standing interest in the brain―how it develops and the many ways it can go wrong. Previously, she worked as a scientific editor in the field of drug development. Prior to that, she was an editorial producer for ABC News, writing for programs such as World News Tonight, Good Morning America, and 20/20. She lives in the Boston area with her husband and daughter.  Her first novel, The Vanishing Season, won the Mystery Writers of America/St. Martin’s Minotaur Best First Crime Novel Award in 2016. To connect with Joanna check out her website at www.joannaschaffhausen.com.

About the Books

These are all such wonderful books and we hope you’ll help support these fabulous debut authors. If you decide to check out one (or all!) of these, we hope you’ll do so via the Amazon affiliate links below. This means that with every purchase DIY MFA gets a referral fee at no cost to you. It’s a great way to support these debut authors and DIY MFA at the same time. Thank you for being awesome!

The Silver Gun by L.A. Chandlar

New York City, 1936. In the midst of the Great Depression, the Big Apple is defiantly striving toward an era infused with art, architecture, and economic progress under the dynamic Mayor La Guardia. But those in City Hall know that tumultuous times can inspire both optimism and deadly danger . . .

It’s been six months since Lane Sanders was appointed Mayor Fiorello “Fio” La Guardia’s new personal aide, and the twenty-three-year-old is sprinting in her Mary Janes to match her boss’s pace. Despite dealing with vitriol from the Tammany Hall political machine and managing endless revitalization efforts, Fio hasn’t slowed down a bit during his years in office. And luckily for Lane, his unpredictable antics are a welcome distraction from the childhood memories that haunt her dreams—and the silver gun she’ll never forget.

When Lane gets attacked and threatened by an assailant tied to one of most notorious gangsters in the city, even the mayor can’t promise her safety. The corrupt city officials seem to be using Lane as a pawn against Fio for disgracing their party in the prior election. But why was the assailant wielding the exact same gun from her nightmares?

Balancing a clandestine love affair and a mounting list of suspects, Lane must figure out how the secrets of her past are connected to the city’s underground crime network—before someone pulls the trigger on the most explosive revenge plot in New York history.

The Devil’s Half Mile by Paddy Hirsch

Seven years after a financial crisis nearly toppled America, traders chafe at government regulations, racial tensions are rising, gangs roam the streets and corrupt financiers make back-door deals with politicians… 1799 was a hell of a year.

Thanks to Alexander Hamilton, America has recovered from the panic on the Devil’s Half Mile (aka Wall Street), but the young country is still finding its way. When young lawyer Justy Flanagan returns to solve his father’s murder, he exposes a massive fraud that has already claimed lives, and one the perpetrators are determined to keep secret at any cost. The body count is rising, and the looming crisis could topple the nation.

Poisoned Girls by Cheryl Reed

It’s the summer of 2008. Chicago’s Hyde Park Senator is running for the White House, the city is vying to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, and “Poison,” a lethal form of heroin, has killed more than 250 people, including dozens of suburban girls from prominent families.

Natalie Delaney, a crime reporter from the Chicago Times, discovers that daughters of Democratic powerhouses are the real targets. Obsessed with finding who is behind the killings, Natalie becomes entangled in an underworld where drugs, cops, gangs, politics, and privilege collide. Risking everything, this reporter becomes the story.

Dodging and Burning by John Copenhaver

A lurid crime scene photo of a beautiful woman arrives on mystery writer Bunny Prescott’s doorstep with no return address―and it’s not the first time she’s seen it. The reemergence of the photo, taken fifty-five years earlier, sets her on a journey to reconstruct the vicious summer that changed her life.

In the summer of 1945, Ceola Bliss is a lonely twelve-year-old tomboy, mourning the loss of her brother, Robbie, who was declared missing in the Pacific. She tries to piece together his life by rereading his favorite pulp detective story “A Date with Death” and spending time with his best friend, Jay Greenwood, in Royal Oak, VA. One unforgettable August day, Jay leads Ceola and Bunny to a stretch of woods where he found a dead woman, but when they arrive, the body is gone. They soon discover a local woman named Lily Vellum is missing and begin to piece together the threads of her murder, starting with the photograph Jay took of her abandoned body.

As Ceola gets swept up playing girl detective, Bunny becomes increasingly skeptical of Jay’s story about the photograph and begins her own investigation into Lily’s murder. A series of clues lead her to Washington, DC, where she must confront the truth about her dear friend—a revelation that triggers a brutal confrontation that will change all of them forever.

The Vanishing Season by Joanna Schaffhausen

Ellery Hathaway is a junior police officer in sleepy Woodbury, MA, where a bicycle theft still makes the newspapers. No one there knows she was once victim number seventeen in the grisly story of serial killer Francis Michael Coben. The only one who lived. When three people disappear from her town in three years, Ellery fears someone knows her secret. Her superiors dismiss her concerns, but Ellery knows the vanishing season is coming and anyone could be next. She contacts the one man she knows will believe her: the FBI agent who saved her from a killer’s closet all those years ago.

Agent Reed Markham made his name and fame on the back of the Coben case, but his fortunes have since turned. His marriage is in shambles, his bosses think he’s washed up, and worst of all, he blew a major investigation. When Ellery calls him, he can’t help but wonder: sure, he rescued her, but was she ever truly saved? His greatest triumph is Ellery’s waking nightmare, and now both of them are about to be sucked into the past, back to the case that made them…with a killer who can’t let go.


Other Resources

If you want to learn more about International Thriller Writers and ThrillerFest check out thrillerwriters.org.

And if you want to hear the panel of ThrillerFest 2017 debuts discuss the debut author’s life check out their episode at DIYMFA.com/157.


Link to Episode 211

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