VJ Books Blog

(thrillerwriters.org, Jeff Ayers)

Far north in the Arctic Circle, a team of scientists uncovers the frozen remains of a large animal.  Soon after their discovery, a documentary film crew arrives to record their find for a large audience.  Then the movie director decides that they will thaw the animal out on live television.  While the “ancient animal buried in the ice” has been done before, chronicling the find from a documentary perspective felt original and brought back memories of Geraldo.

Lincoln Child has the ability to manipulate the reader in surprising ways.  In his previous novel, Deep Storm, he lead the reader to believe the characters were heading to Atlantis (spoiler alert: they weren’t).  Child commented, “I think it must spring from the novelist’s always-on desire to surprise and confuse. If you can do something completely out of left field, completely unexpected, you’ll keep the reader on edge, going forward.”

How does Child write such an organized read?  He responded, “I generally write the first third basically off the top of my head. I’ll have thought that far ahead while putting together the proposal for my publisher. But beyond that point I carefully outline what will happen–not extensively, but comprehensively. It helps me know precisely where I have to get to, with as much economy as possible.”

Another element of Child’s novels is the feeling of isolation for the characters.  They have to struggle with harsh landscapes and be far away from rescue.  Child said, “I think that an isolated environment, where the protagonists are cut off from assistance or the comforts of civilization, is an unsettling and effective stage on which a thriller to play out.”

Fans of Child know that in addition to his suspenseful solo novels, he writes compelling thrillers with Douglas Preston.  How does he balance the two in terms of both writing and time?  Child answered, “The writing process is very different, because for the solo projects I don’t have a writing partner to fall back on or to do half the work! In earlier days I compartmentalized my solo books from my joint: I wouldn’t do any work on one while the other was still incomplete. Given my current schedule, that’s no longer a luxury I can afford. I’ve gotten very good at keeping the solo projects separate from the joint in my head. They are different enough from each other in content that this isn’t as hard as it sounds.”

When asked about ITW, Child remarked, “ITW has done a great job of bringing me closer to other thriller writers. Writing can be a lonely business, and it’s easy to forget there are others like me out there!”

Up next from Child is another novel with Preston in May called Cemetery Dance.  Yes, it includes their unique character, agent Pendergast.  Then, according to Child, “Jeremy Logan, a self-styled “enigmalogist” who investigates mysterious or unexplained quasi-scientific phenomenon and had a minor role in Deep Storm and a larger one in Terminal Freeze, will be back.”

“Lincoln is really a force to be reckoned with. He amazes me with each book, for two reasons. First, there’s his process. He is incredibly serious about his craft, about the process of writing. Lincoln comes at the construction of a thriller like an engineer sizing up plans for a one-of-a-kind skyscraper…he looks at it from every conceivable angle until he finds the perfect way to put it together. Second, the man’s creativity is contagious – it’s such fun to work with him in the early stages of story development. I think the progression of his solo novels is quite remarkable…and I think his fans are going to find that Terminal Freeze is his tightest, most creative and entertaining book yet.” ~ Jason Kaufman, editor, Doubleday

Contributing editor Jeff Ayers is the author of VOYAGES OF IMAGINATION: THE STAR TREK FICTION COMPANION Pocket Books-November 2006. He frequently reviews thrillers for Library Journal and regularly interviews authors for LJ, the Seattle Post-Intellgencer, and Writer Magazine.