Thursday, August 23, 2012

Thrillerfest 2012: View from a Debut


by Carter Wilson

Holy hell, what a cool conference!

This was my third trip to Thrillerfest and my first as a debut author. On my two prior jaunts, I clung to every word at each panel, then clung to the wall and my drink at each reception. I couldn’t simply go up and talk to these well known authors, could I? The publishing industry is a foreign world to me, having been rooted in the hotel and consulting business for twenty years. In prior years I met few people but learned much from the panels. I quietly collected information, garnered insights, but was intimated by a camaraderie of the erudite.

This year, however, I came to ITW as a debut author, having published my novel FINAL CROSSING (Vantage Point Books) in JuneBook Cover. I will say that it’s been a long road for me (as it is for most authors). FINAL CROSSING was my fifth novel but the first to sell. This made the experience at Thrillerfest this year all the more sweet for me—the hard work had finally paid off (at least in terms of satisfaction if not gobs of cash). This year at Thrillerfest, I met two dozen other debuts like me, and was able to compare and contrast experiences.  Most importantly, I now had people to drink with.

I also shared with my fellow debuts the experience of the Debut Author Breakfast, which is somewhat surreal. A few hundred people came to an amazing morning feast as the debuts were honored for our foray into the world of publishing.  Douglas Preston (Douglas Preston!) introduced each one of us personally to the crowd, which, I will add, is the last time I use the truth in my bio. My fellow debuts had such fascinating backgrounds. Mine seemed lacking, to be put it mildly. Hospitality consultant? From here on out, I am a former CIA agent/astronaut/biohazard weapon scientist-gone-rogue. So there.

After this year's conference, I am also committed to becoming involved with Thrillerfest for next year and beyond.  One thing I would love to see more focus on are those authors not-yet published. Twice I attended Thrillerfest as a "hopeful", and I was impressed by how many unpublished writers continue to attend the conference to connect with agents, publishers, and to learn more about the industry. Agentfest is an amazing event, but I would love to see more panels focused on those who are trying to understand more about what it takes to break into the industry.  Even a session or two would be enough.

Overall, however, Thrillerfest is worth every dollar. The networking, collective knowledge of attendees, and sheer coolness of the event make it the premier conference for aspiring and published thriller writers. Plan on seeing me there next year!
Thriller-writer Carter Wilson was born in New Mexico and grew up in Los Angeles before attending school at Cornell University. He has journeyed the globe both for work and pleasure, and his travels to Jerusalem were the inspiration behind FINAL CROSSING, which was released in June 2012 by Vantage Point Books. Carter is represented by Pamela Ahearn of the Ahearn Agency and is a member of the International Thriller Writer's organization. He currently lives in a spooky Victorian house in Colorado with his two children. Carter is currently at work on his second novel. Visit him at
FINAL CROSSING (June 2012, Vantage Point) is the story of a senatorial chief of staff who teams up with a beautiful psychic criminologist to hunt down a serial killer who thinks God has commissioned him to start the Final Judgment


CathyP said...

Thrillfest sounds like such a fabulous conference!

Unfortunately, it's in July - my busiest time at the day job (which will also now be known as a former CIA agent/astronaut/biohazard weapon scientist-gone-rogue gig).

So your first assignment when you take over the world... oops, I mean Thrillfest management, is how about change the date?

Unknown said...

Carter, thanks for sharing.

I heard that you introduced your book as a poem. Is it true? if so, how did this come about?

Carter Wilson said...

Hi, Miranda. Yes, I wanted to leave a lasting impression, so I summarized my book in a sixty-second poem. My poetry was not good, but I got a laugh or two!

Unknown said...

ROFL. well you definitey did that. I'm all the way down here in Atlanta and I heard about it. So you definitely made an impression.

jennymilchman said...

Carter, it was a thrill to meet you at TFest as a Debut, and I look forward to many more years talking (and raising a glass) with you there!

One idea your post gives me is to have a panel of Debuts talking about what it took to get there. Let's talk if this seems of interest...

Liese said...

I was totally humbled by the other debut authors--especially since I lack the CIA agent/astronaut/biohazard weapon scientist-gone-rogue background.

It was so great to meet you all the other debut authors!


Carter Wilson said...

Jenny - great idea! I'm trying to become more involved in Thrillerfest next year and your panel idea is a great one.