Summer is here. School is out. If you are looking for a way to keep your heart rate up while relaxing poolside or on the beach we suggest some heart-pounding young adult thrillers. To give use a little sneak peek into the life of thriller author, Sourcebooks Fire YA thriller authors Kara Terzis and Hannah Jayne are here to share the best part about writing thrillers!
Hannah Jayne (Twisted)
I know it’s a little cheesy to say, but I really love everything about writing thrillers! I never actually meant to even write mysteries but a quarter of the way through my first book, UNDER WRAPS, a dead body turned up and what could I do? I’ve always loved scary movies so maybe that’s where the seed was ultimately planted. But research is probably my favorite part.
When it came to writing my first mysteries, I dutifully went to Writer’s Police Academy every year. There I’d spend four days learning from the best in the business—real life crime scene investigators, medical examiners, police and military personnel, firemen, paramedics, even FBI and CIA bigwigs. It’s still one of my favorite yearly experiences. There I worked an arson case and learned about going undercover (paramount for my UNDERWORLD DETECTION AGENCY books), learned how to shoot, kick down doors, and what it felt like to be arrested and tossed in the back of a squad car (FYI: NOT GOOD, that’s how it feels!). A lot of that translated into my thrillers as well but with each new thriller, the tension got ratcheted up and…so did my research.
In THE ESCAPE, Fletcher is lost in the woods for nearly two days. I needed to know what that felt like so…I spent 8 hours lost in the woods in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Luckily, I had the Santa Cruz Search and Rescue team behind me—my research coincided with a training they were doing for their new fleet of rescue dogs. Still, I got more and more lost with nothing but a piddly day pack—bottle of water, couple of bags of trail mix, and my trusty notebook to record how it actually felt like the forest was getting darker and the trees were closing in on me. It was scary but I think that translated well onto the page and it wasn’t really something I could have imagined. I’ve always been a nature girl and though I have wild respect for the great outdoors I never really feared it until I realized I was really and truly lost and there wasn’t a single sound that I recognized—no one giving their dogs calls, no training whistles. The only thing I could hear was the occasionally snapping of twigs, then the rustling of the bushes. I knew I wasn’t being trailed by a psycho killer like Avery and Fletcher were but…still. That deep in the dark woods? Your imagination plays tricks on you!
In my new book TWISTED, Bex literally has to become a different person. Her hair is cut and dyed, she has a new name and a new life in a new town. That was easy enough to imagine but what if you had to do that with a possible serial killer—your own father—on your tail? For that, I did a three day Escape and Evasion training in Los Angeles that culminated with me being kidnapped, then escaping, then being tailed all over LA while I ditched my “hunters” with different disguises, maneuvers, etc. Did I mention I was Tazed during this ordeal? It was pretty awful but amazing and I learned just how much strength women draw on—and that there is such a thing as “the smell of fear.” (By the way? It smells BAD!)
Bex has always been her daddy’s little girl. After her mother left, it was just the two of them. Sure he spoiled her with clothes and jewelry, but what father doesn’t dote on his daughter?
Except Bex’s dad is alleged to be a notorious serial killer. Dubbed “The Wife Collector” by the press, her father disappeared before he could stand trial. And Bex was left to deal with the taunts and rumors. Foster care is her one chance at starting over, starting fresh.
But Bex’s old life isn’t ready to let her go. When bodies start turning up in her new hometown, the police want to use her as bait to bring her father in for questioning. Is this Bex’s one chance to reunite with her father and prove his innocence—or is she setting herself up to be a serial killer’s next victim?
Hannah Schwartz lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and writes cozy mysteries, young adult fiction, chick lit, and grocery lists that she never seems to remember to bring to the grocery store. Hannah shares a house with two neurotic, feet-attacking cats and has Kryptonite-like weakness for donuts. Visit www.hannahjschwartz.com.
Kara Terzis (Frayed)
The fact that you never know where it’ll take you. I think that’s true for most genres, but thrillers in particular for me. It can start off as something and then end as something completely different. One of the things I loved writing—and revising—about FRAYED was watching it develop and grow over the years. From conception to final draft. I first drafted FRAYED in NaNoWriMo ’12, and it was vastly, vastly different from the book it is now. The bare roots of the story are still what it is today, but it took so many turns that I, even as the writer, didn’t see coming. And watching the story take these turns is definitely one of the best parts of writing a thriller. Not only did I grow as a storyteller, but I learned to love the many aspects of FRAYED that made it what it is today.
Another reason I love writing—and drafting, in particular—a thriller was discovering who the characters were. Their flaws, their most vulnerable aspects, their secrets and how it would all unravel and effect the people around them. My favorite characters are the complex ones, the ones that hover in those gray areas, and as contemporary thrillers are largely character-driven stories, there’s such an amazing opportunity to write about some of those characters. That was one of the things I aimed to do when I wrote FRAYED—did the characters do the right thing? The wrong thing? Can you even apply rights and wrongs to their situation? Do they deserve to be punished for what they’ve done? And that then opens up the avenue for figuring out my character’s motivations. Asking yourself Why and What if and How when writing stories can create whole new areas of storytelling—and twists—that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. I think that, too, then makes an opportunity to leave an emotional impact on the reader, which, especially in a thriller, is both important and fun to write.
When I think about some of the best thrillers I’ve read, I discovered they’ve all shocked me in some way. Whether that was because of the characters or the direction the story took, maybe even both, or had a plot twist that’s completely flipped the story around. In that respect, I had so much fun emulating that in FRAYED.
My therapist tells me I should write you a letter. Like flushing all my thoughts and feelings out of my system and onto paper. I tell her it’s a stupid idea.
But here I am, writing a letter to a dead girl. Where do I start? Where did our story begin? From the moment you were born…or died?
I’ll start with the moment I found out the truth about you. Your lies and my pain. Because it always begins and ends with you.
And that end began when Rafe Lawrence came back to town…
Ava Hale will do anything to find her sister’s killer…although she’ll wish she hadn’t. Because the harder Ava looks, the more secrets she uncovers about Kesley, and the more she begins to think that the girl she called sister was a liar. A sneak. A stranger.
And Kesley’s murderer could be much closer than she thought …
Kara Terzis was twelve when she wrote her first novel, and has not stopped writing since. Later she started publishing her work on Wattpad where in 2013 she won Sourcebooks Story Development Prize. She lives with her family in Sydney, Australia. You can visit her online at www.diaryofateenwriter.wordpress.com
Connect with Kara Terzis!