ITW Roundtable Discussion June 15-21, 2015

Beginning June 15 and continuing all week, I will be one of the International Thriller Writers Featured Authors discussing craft on the ITW Roundtable. The topic this week is: Readers of thrillers appreciate realism. How much can writers play fast and loose on politics, foreign relations, technology, careers or personality traits?

Here is my opening statement:

My novel Abandoned (part of my Winds-series of supernatural thrillers) is about as real as it gets. I set the novel in real cities, and most of the action takes place in Rockford, Illinois, my own home town. I name names, places, and events. The technology is real, the animosity between Palestinians and Israelis is real, the workings of military bureaucracies in the United States and the Peoples Republic of China is real, and the political thinking of radicalized militias is real. The story itself, of course, is fiction. The characters are inventions of my imagination. The hacking of the electrical grid and defense systems, however, is a very real possibility. I worried about putting ideas into terrorists’ heads, and I worried about alienating readers with religious and political ideals decidedly different than those my characters fought for. So far, I was wrong to worry. I have received no death threats, no one has sued me for libel, and religious fanatics chose to debate my premises–which led to lively discussions online and at book signings–rather than to picket my works. The second, third, and fourth novels in the series are also set in real places that are readily recognizable by readers. The military situations and step-by-step procedures are artifacts of my twenty-some years as an Army Warrant Officer. The internal conflicts of the characters came from my graduate studies in developmental and abnormal psychology.

The novels in my Instruments of Death series from Crossroad Press are based on my years working for the American Society of Clinical Pathologists and discussions with my Uncle Eric Ekebom, a former detective sergeant and Criminal Identification Specialist. It is a fact that people kill other people with a variety of instruments: claw hammers, meat cleavers, axes, icepicks, and whatever else is handy. Although the cases are based on actual events that made newspaper headlines, the characters, places, and events in these novels are figments of my overactive imagination.

To view the roundtable discussion and make comments, go to


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