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Over the weekend I had the privilege of sharing the stageÂ of the Schubert Theater with three amazing authors, in a forum sponsored by the Boston Globe.Â Joining meÂ were Michael Palmer, Joe Finder, Matthew Pearl, and moderator Brian McGrory, for a 90-minute free-wheelingÂ discussion about the art of writing mysteries and thrillers.Â This was an event I was really looking forward to, and it turned out to be a lot of fun.
I got into Boston the night before and met Michael Palmer for dinner.Â Michael and I go back a long way.Â We share the same literary agency, we’re both doctors, and together we teach an annual course for doctors who want to be writers.Â Michael is one of the most generous people in the business.Â Despite his success, he is disarmingly humble and funny and sweet.Â In short, he’s a guy I’d hang out with even if we weren’t both in the same business.Â (His new thriller,Â THE FIFTH VIAL, goes on saleÂ February 20th.Â Check it out!)Â Â He brought his friend Robin, and with my husband Jacob,Â the four of usÂ headedÂ to Boston’sÂ Chinatown for dinner.
As usual, IÂ wasted no time chowing down.Â Can you tell I’m the daughter of a professional chef?Â (as an aside — my husband and I were going through our family photos and it occurred to me that a great number of these picsÂ show me either about to eat, in the act of eating, or just having finished a meal.Â It’s starting to get a little embarrassing.)
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(You’ll notice that I’m the only one at the table who’s got a fork in her hand.)
The next day, it was off to the Schubert Theater, where I met up with the rest of the panel.Â I already knew Joe Finder, whose superb thriller High Crimes has so many jaw-dropping twists, you get a shock every time you turnÂ a page.Â Â I’ll be honest — Joe scares me a little.Â Â Whenever I’m around him, I think: “This guyÂ feelsÂ … well, dangerous.”Â (Please tell me it’s all an act, Joe.Â And don’t kill me.)
I was really anxious to meet Matthew Pearl,Â author of theÂ historical thrillers The Dante Club and The Poe Shadow.Â Â Knowing some of his background (Harvard Law graduate!Â Brilliant historian!) I was also aÂ little intimidated.Â And yes, he is brilliant –Â but alsoÂ funny and down-to-earth and charming.Â You’ll never guess what we ended up talking about.
Matthew is an activist for animal rescue.Â I mentioned that we’d bought farmland in Maine,Â and he asked me whether we’d have space to take in some rescue pigs.Â I’m actually kind of excited about the idea.Â And no, I don’t plan to eat them.Â
During the panel discussion, we talked about how we got into writing.Â Matthew told us that The Dante Club actually started off as a university thesis, which he then turned intoÂ his best-selling novel.Â Michael said he was goaded to write his first thriller because his sister told him he was “too dull” to be a novelist.Â So he decided to prove her wrong — and boy, did he.Â Joe was trained to be a spy (honestly!) but when he was pointed to a cubicle and told to translate Russian documents, decided he’d rather do something else.Â Like write bestselling novels and make a ton of money.Â And I told the audience that I’ve been a writer since I was seven years old.
Where it really got lively was when Brian McGrory asked us how we react to bad reviews.Â Suddenly all four of us started to get agitated.Â Matthew in particular gave such a passionate speech about how unfair the review process was, I wanted to hug him right there.Â I ended up just giving him a pat on the shoulder.
At the end of it all, we vowed to see each other again — hopefully at Thrillerfest this July.Â
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Â Michael Palmer, me, Matthew Pearl, and Joe Finder