One of the joys of the writing life is reading in the genre you write in—and today I have the rare privilege to feature some of my favorite crime, mystery, and thriller authors as they tell us if they’d get along with the characters in their latest bestselling books.
To each of them, I asked this question:
“If you ever had to attend a party hosted by your protagonist what would your reaction be? Could you describe the party for us?
Here are their wonderfully honest, very personal responses.
These provide a tantalizing glimpse into the minds of powerhouse crime novelists and thriller authors as they think about their protagonists. I have read and enjoyed all these amazing authors, and absolutely recommend them!
My first reaction would be full-on astonishment. A party? At Cass’s place? Whaaaaat?! Oh, I gotta see this. Where’s my coat. My protagonist, Cass Raines, PI, is not exactly a social butterfly. She prefers the company of her tight-knit group of friends/family. A party for her would be a gathering of her intimates … and somebody brings along a couple of pizzas. If Cass were to throw an actual honest to God party, she’d enter into the enterprise begrudgingly, but then be very meticulous about every selection – plates, drinks, food, guest list. But she’d worry. Where’s everybody going to sit? Will they paw over my stuff? Will I have to talk to people? Which one of these mopes standing around my punch bowl has a criminal record? Everyone would get the cop stare. Cass does not mingle. She doesn’t do small talk. Matter of fact, I would fully expect to walk into her party to find that she had blown it off in favor of a midnight creep through an abandoned factory.
Tracy Clark, a native Chicagoan, is the author of the Cass Raines Chicago Mystery series, featuring ex-cop turned PI Cassandra Raines. A multi-nominated Anthony, Lefty, Edgar and Shamus Award finalist, Tracy is also the 2020 winner of the G.P. Putnam’s Sons Sue Grafton Memorial Award and was shortlisted for the Grafton Award again in 2022. She is a proud member of Crime Writers of Color, Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime and serves on the boards of Bouchercon National and the Midwest Mystery Conference. Her latest book, RUNNER, was released in June 2021. Her debut novel, BROKEN PLACES, has recently been optioned by Sony Pictures Television. Her next book, HIDE, featuring Det. Harriet Foster, releases in December of 2022.
WATCH OUT FOR HER: Samantha Bailey
If I had to attend a party hosted by Sarah Goldman, I’d be happy to be in her beautiful home and also a little wary. Sarah is a photographer and a voyeur–not for sexual pleasure but to try to find out who she is as a person separate from being a mother–and I’d be aware I was being watched very closely. But she is also an attentive, kind, giving, loving mother who lost her father when she was thirteen and a baby in her second trimester, so she is terrified to lose anyone else she loves. She’s made her home into a comforting, warm, elegantly safe space with soothing colors of cream and dove gray for the decor with pops of bright color in accent pieces. Though neat and tidy, it’s definitely a kid-friendly zone with art supplies, toys, board games, and electronics present in every room. She’s a host who wants to make sure every guest is content; taking care of people is what drives her, but she also doesn’t trust easily so keeps a keen eye on everyone. She’s always got her almost-seven-year-old son, Jacob, in her sights. He’s her whole world. The guest list is small, and while Daniel, her husband, chats up their neighbors, Sarah’s the one behind the scenes, making sure he and everyone else have everything they need.
Samantha M. Bailey is the USA TODAY and #1 nationally bestselling author of WOMAN ON THE EDGE, which has sold in eleven countries to date. She is also a journalist and freelance editor; her work has appeared in NOW Magazine, The Village Post, The Thrill Begins, and The Crime Hub, among other publications. WATCH OUT FOR HER is her second novel. Samantha lives in Toronto, where she can usually be found tapping away at her computer or curled up on her couch with a book.
First, let’s be clear. Ellice Littlejohn, the protagonist in All Her Little Secrets, is definitely not the partying type! Although she’s attended quite a few, mostly work events, I’d be shocked to receive a party invitation from her. Don’t get me wrong. Ellice is everything you’d want in a friend and coworker – smart, hardworking, loyal. But I suspect that all those wonderful qualities mask a different person underneath. Someone who hides a deep secret and a fear that peeling back her veneer of success might be her undoing. I think an invitation to dinner or drinks with one or two close friends might be the best we can expect from Ellice. She is really down to earth, and smart with a wicked sense of humor. If dinner or drinks is all I could get to spend some time with her, I’d take it. Ellice is what my mother would describe as someone “who has her head on straight.” She’s definitely someone I’d love to spend time with.
Wanda M. Morris is an alumna of the Yale Writers’ Workshop and Robert McKee’s Story Seminar. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. As a corporate attorney, she has worked in the legal departments of several Fortune 100 companies.
Other than trying to save the world and getting in a load of trouble for it, Toks Ade loves food.
Like me she enjoys and savours food from different parts of the world. Left to her, she could eat English for breakfast, Chinese or Indian for lunch and Nigerian for dinner.
Yes, she knows that looking alone adds inches to our waistline!
So for dinner I would ask her to choose and we would eat to our heart’s content! I would tell her that, like every other woman, we struggle with weight and that she should have fun and go on dates because many men fancy her!
Toks loves long phone calls and hanging out with her friend Coretta. I’d join them and let my hair down with belly laughs and lots of wine. I would tell Toks to not sweat it too much with her son, Bode. He is a balanced young man who worries that his mother is always out chasing killers!
British Nigerian Stella Oni is the author of Deadly Sacrifice, a police procedural set in the UK and Nigeria and was shortlisted for the SI Leeds Literary Prize in 2016. It was an Audible Crime & Thriller pick.
Stella is a cake enthusiast and an avid foodie who writes about Books, Food and Travel on her platform blog stellaonithewriter and her YouTube channel.
Her dream is to travel worldwide to taste and experience food from different cultures. Stella believes that her experience of growing within two worlds has given her a unique perspective.
Stella is writing the first of a traditional mystery series and book 2 of her police procedural.
I would love to attend Sage Quintano’s party. As a fellow crime writer, she and I would never run out of things to talk about. In addition to homemade pasta, meatballs, and sauce, the dessert table overflows with baked goods. Sage has a weakness for cannoli and Italian cookies. An older Sicilian neighbor, who the Quintanos adopted as Nonna to their four-year-old son, did most, if not all, the cooking and baking. With her deep Italian roots, she flavors her food with love, each mouth-watering bite melting away trouble or concern.
Sage and Niko’s country contemporary home nestles among tall pines, maple, and birch trees. Inside, tiny white lights emit a soft glow, waltzing across knotty pine walls. The grandfather clock in the corner ticks…ticks…ticks. Yankee Candles adorn rod-iron sconces dotted throughout the first floor. Wood wicks crackle, warm blueberry, patchouli, and vanilla tease the air.
Colt and Ruger lap up all spills. Since I’m on to Colt’s antics, he’s unable to accidentally on purpose nose my elbow to steal a meatball off my plate. Ruger, on the other hand, remains a perfect gentleman. I may even slip him a bacon slice under the table. It’s unwise to feed Colt. At mealtime, he’s laser-focused on food. Thus, he’s engulfed more than one fingertip.
Two things to keep in mind. If the phone rings—don’t answer. If a balloon appears, run. Other than that, I’ll have a blast.
Sue Colletta is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers, and is an award-winning, bestselling, multi- published author in numerous anthologies and her forensics articles have appeared in InSinC Quarterly. She is the 2017 Award-winner of Feedspot’s Top 50 Crime Blogs (Murder Blog sits at #6), and is also the communications manager for the Serial Killer Project and Forensic Science and founder of #ACrimeChat on Twitter.
My protagonist, an adoptee named Ivy Hon, would not throw a party, simply put. She would steer clear of having to host in general, as she’s an introvert and has been battling an undiagnosed illness for months, ever since her adoptive mother died. Worse, when Ivy submitted her spit sample to a DNA testing company, searching for the clarity that her doctors couldn’t provide, the FBI came calling with her horrifying results: Ivy may be related to the Full Moon Killer, a serial killer who terrorized the Pacific Northwest during the eighties.
Despite avoiding most get-togethers, Ivy would attend a party thrown by her biological cousin Lottie, and I would too for that matter. Lottie would ensure only the best party platters were served, including homemade cakes, pastries, cookies, and lemon tarts – Lottie’s specialty. While Ivy would linger behind the banquet table of food, she would engage with anyone that Lottie spoke to; Ivy trusts her cousin implicitly, despite only recently meeting her through the genetics testing website. Me, on the other hand? I’d grab a lemon tart, then see myself out the door before the sun sets.
As readers, do you enjoy the parties thrown by the characters? Do you enjoy crime thrillers? If you’re a writer, would you like to tell us about a party thrown by one of your protagonists? Which of the above books or thriller writers have you read?