ThrillerFest Day Two: Debut Authors and Awards

The award for Best Hardcover Novel goes to The Fever by Megan

The International Thriller Writers organization is well known for their debut authors program, which has nurtured many a thriller writer from volunteer to award-winning novelist. One of these authors is Jenny Milchman, former Debut Author Chair for the ITW and the author of the Martha Higgins Clark Award-winning Cover of Snow, and her latest thriller, As Night Falls.

I spoke with Jenny in the lobby near the bar, which is often everyone’s favorite gathering spot at writing conventions. As expected, she had great things to say about the debut author program, which includes a special forum on the ITW website, where new authors are mentored by writers more experienced with the promotion and publicity for a new novel, and can give advice on what’s worked in the past. They also help out when you’re on a book tour, giving you a countrywide support system of fellow writers who can get the word out and join you at your readings, to help with the jitters. Jenny went on a five-month tour for her debut novel and hit most of the mystery bookstores across the USA; she’d like to say that the reports of their demise have been greatly exaggerated. I agree; when the digerati tell me that e-books and e-tailers are the “future” I’m very skeptical, despite being an Internet dinosaur who’s been online since long before the web was invented; word of mouth is always king, and handselling books at bookstores is still incredibly important, as it gets you noticed by hardcore fans who are more likely to spread the word about your work. I’ll take that over a retweet any day.

Debut Author Rob Brunet, whose novel Stinking Rich came out this year, was at the debut author’s breakfast on Saturday. In disclosure, Rob’s a friend, but he looked to be walking on air. There’s a sense of elation at ThrillerFest, partly because it is business-centered, and writers talk freely about it (see my coverage of Greg Iles and Charlaine Harris’s interviews for a taste; you can buy mp3s or DVDs from the ThrillerFest website).

Saturday was also the night of the awards banquet, and here are the winners of the 2015 Thriller Awards:

Best Novel: Megan Abbott, for The Fever

Best First Novel: Laura McHugh, for The Weight of Blood

Best Paperback Original: Vincent Zandri, for Moonlight Weeps

Best Short Story: Tim L. Williams, for “The Last Wrestling Bear in West Kentucky”

Best Young Adult Novel: Elle Cosimano, for Nearly Gone

Best E-Book Original: C.J. Lyons, for Hard Fall

Congratulations to all the finalists, and thanks to everyone who let me corner them for chit-chat at ThrillerFest, including Executive Director Kimberely Howe and all the ITW workers and volunteers, for putting on a great convention.

Photo courtesy of the International Thriller Writers Organization Facebook Page.

Thomas Pluck writes unflinching fiction with heart. He hosts Noir at the Bar in Manhattan. You can find him online at and on Twitter as @thomaspluck.

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