Episode 263: When Big Suspense Happens in Small Towns — Interview with Thrillerfest Debut Authors 2019

by Gabriela Pereira
published in Podcast

Hey there word nerds! Today is one of my absolute favorite episodes of the year because it’s our annual ThrillerFest Debut Authors panel and I am so delighted to have August Norman, D.A. Bartley, Paula Munier, and John McMahon on the show.

Every year, I have the pleasure of attending ThrillerFest, which is a fabulous conference put on by the International Thriller Writers (ITW). I’ve attended every year since 2012 (except 2014 because Lady Bug had just been born) and this is one of my favorite conferences of the season. It’s a very collegial event, with seasoned writers and debuts supporting each other.

This particular debut authors panel has been a tradition at DIY MFA Radio for a few years and I always have a blast chatting with the debut authors about the craft and business of writing. Each year, we choose a theme and this year it’s “when big suspense happens in small town settings.” As you’ll hear in this interview, each of these authors has a unique take on this topic.

In this episode August, D.A., Paula, John and I discuss:

  • Building a compelling setting for suspense.
  • The fine art of choosing what to leave in and leave out.
  • Pacing techniques to ratchet up suspense.
  • Challenges of small town settings.
  • The debut author experience.

Plus, each of their #1 tips for writers.

About the Authors

August Norman is originally from central Indiana but he has called Los Angeles home for two decades. He has written for and/or appeared in movies, television, stage productions, web series, and even commercial advertising. A lover and champion of crime fiction, August is an active member of the Mystery Writers of America, the International Thriller Writers, and Sisters In Crime (National and LA), and regularly attends the Santa Barbara Writers Conference. https://augustnorman.com

D. A. Bartley (Alison) is a member of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers. She traces her family history back to the earliest days of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She spent much of her childhood in Utah, but her parents were incurable travelers. She was born in Scotland and lived in Germany, France and Russia. She received a J.D. and Ph.D. in political science before working both as an attorney and an academic in Manhattan. In the end, though, she could not escape her life-long love of books. She and her family split their time between the Upper East Side of Manhattan and Upstate New York.  www.dabartley.com

Paula Munier is the Mary Higgins Clark Award-nominated author of the Mercy Carr mysteries. The first in the series, A Borrowing of Bones, debuted from Minotaur in September 2018. The second, Blind Search, pubs this fall. An agent for Talcott Notch Literary by day, Paula represents many great crime writers. 

She’s also the author of three popular books on writing, Plot Perfect, The Writer’s Guide to Beginnings, and Writing with Quiet Hands, as well as Happier Every Day: Simple ways to bring more peace, contentment and joy into your life and the acclaimed memoir Fixing Freddie: The true story of a boy, a mom, and a very, very bad beagle. www.paulamunier.com

John McMahon is the author of the debut novel, The Good Detective, which debuted in March and is the first in a series featuring Georgia Detective P.T. Marsh which has received many accolades. John currently lives in Southern California with his family and two rescue animals. www.JohnMcMahonBooks.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!

Come and Get Me by August Norman

At Indiana University, someone’s been studying the female student body: their dating customs, nocturnal activities―and how long they can survive in captivity.

When award-winning journalist Caitlin Bergman is invited back to campus to receive an honorary degree, she finds an opportunity for a well-earned victory lap―and a chance to face the trauma that almost destroyed her as an undergrad. But her lap becomes an all-out race when a student begs her to probe an unsolved campus disappearance: Angela Chapman went out one Friday night and never came back.

To find the missing woman, Caitlin must join forces with a local police detective and the department that botched her own case so long ago. But while Caitlin follows the clues behind Angela’s disappearance, someone else is following her…

Unearthing secrets hidden beneath an idyllic Midwestern college town, Caitlin must expose what really happened to Angela―before she herself becomes the newest addition to a twisted collection.

Blessed Be the Wicked by D.A. Bartley

Detective Abish Taylor left Utah for a reason. But with her husband’s passing, it’s time to come home. Reconnecting with her family means dealing with her past: the father she abandoned and the community she left behind. Her one escape is serving as the sole police detective in the small town of Pleasant View. But when the quiet Mormon suburb in the Wasatch Mountains is shaken by a macabre death―with the hallmarks of a sacred ritual dating back to the days of Brigham Young―Abbie is called into action. 

As she uncovers the dark side of the picturesque neighborhood―infidelity, corruption, and the greed of a global religion―Abbie discovers just how far some powerful leaders of the Church will go to bury their secrets. Especially as the brutal murder unearths a sinister tradition lurking in the religion’s not-so-distant past: the ultimate sacrifice for unforgivable sins. With the chief pressuring her to close the case and the community that once sheltered her watching her every move, Abbie must find justice for the dead―before she’s silenced for good.

Death in the Covenant by D.A. Bartley

Detective Abish “Abbie” Taylor returned to the mountain town of Pleasant View, Utah, hoping for a quiet life. But that hope dissipates when she wakes to an unsettling phone call. Arriving at the scene of a fatal car accident, she discovers that the victim was one of the most beloved leaders of the Church—and an old family friend.

Abbie is skeptical when her father insists the death was not an accident, but in an attempt to patch up their relationship, she takes a few days off from her job as the sole detective in the police department, and heads to Colonia Juárez, a former LDS colony in Mexico. There, she uncovers a plan hearkening back to the Church’s history of polygamy. But Abbie knows too well that bringing secrets to light can be deadly. 

Abbie realizes with a jolt that her investigation could cost her father his job and possibly get him excommunicated. Time is running out for Abbie to save her father’s position—and her own life—as dark forces close in, and the outlook for Pleasant View turns decidedly unpleasant.

A Borrowing of Bones by Paula Munier

When Army MP Mercy Carr is wounded in the same battle that takes her fiancé, she’s left with nothing but her grief and her guilt and his bomb-sniffing dog Elvis. Back home, she and the Malinois mourn their lost man and mission as they march off their sorrow in the Vermont wilderness—until Elvis alerts to explosives and they discover a squalling baby abandoned near a shallow grave. 

Now they must team up with game warden Troy Warner and his search-and-rescue Newfoundland Susie Bear to find the baby’s missing mother, solve a cold-case murder, and keep everyone safe on a potentially explosive Independence Day.

The Good Detective by John McMahon

Detective P.T. Marsh is up against the toughest case of his career. And he’s pretty sure he killed the chief suspect.

P.T. was a rising star on the police force of Mason Falls, Georgia–until his wife and young son were killed in an accident. Since that night, caught in a spiral of grief and booze, he’s lost the ability to see the line between smart moves and disastrous decisions. Such as when he decides to ‘help out’ an exotic dancer by confronting her abusive boyfriend. When the next morning he gets called to the scene of his newest murder case, he is stunned to arrive at the house of a dead man, the very man he beat up the night before. He could swear the guy was alive when he left, but can he be sure? What he does know is that his fingerprints are all over the crime scene.

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 2018 debuts discuss the debut author’s life check out their episode at DIYMFA.com/211

Link to Episode #263

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