How to write a thriller

Wearing a bullet proof vest and learning how to hold a gun are not necessarily activities you expect on a writing workshop – but then The Thriller School isn’t just any writing course.

Its run by Sarah Williams, who under her pen name has written over 80 books, has worked in book publishing for more years than she cares to admit, and now runs The Wordsmith Press – a small independent publishing company.

The Thriller School takes place twice a year; once in Oxford, UK and once in Ventura, California. It attracts both new writers and those looking to hone their thriller writing skills. As Sarah says you’ll “Get it right, get it written and get it read.”

Not only will you learn techniques for writing and crafting a good story, you’ll get insider knowledge from policemen, criminal lawyers, other published authors and even book marketing experts, from The Book Booster. You’ll learn the facts about crime and criminals, crime detection and the legal process, the realities and possibilities of book publishing and what it’s like to be a published writer, and how to plan and write your own crime fiction book.

There’s also plenty of time to actually put what you are learning into practice and get your words onto paper, with Sarah available to look through your creation and help you overcome any blocks or dead ends you may have created.

Two of the authors at this summer’s Thriller School in Ventura have been working with Sarah over the past year and, as a result, have already had their first books published and are now working on the second.

‘Killing in Time’ by Elizabeth Carroll is a forensic thriller. Although the central charcter is Julianne, the book cleverly weaves together different viewpoints to craft the story. It starts when Julianne arrives home with her young son Teddie, as she steps out of her car she finds herself standing in a pool of blood. It’s not long before she is drawn into the brutal double slaying of a young couple within a stone’s throw of her lovely California mansion. Julianne is driven to fighting for her life and her sanity, caught in a whirlpool of abuse, duplicity and violence.

‘One Last Great Wickedness’ by David Stansfield is a tense thriller spanning decades and keeps you guessing until the very end. The story focuses on a middle-aged Englishman, whose father committed suicide when the man was thirteen years old. When he comes across some letters his father had sent from the trenches of World War One, certain words and phrases reveal a side of his father he had never suspected. This sends him on a quest to find out more about his father’s life. But as he digs deeper into his family’s past, he uncovers a world he could never even have imagined. Just beneath the surface of the apparently quiet, civilized, well-bred world of the family he had known as a child, there was a completely different reality, a parallel universe of suppressed loves and hates, sexual deviations and appallingly violent actions, involving not only his parents and grandparents and the rest of his family, but also himself.

I read both in just a few days as they were well written and kept my attention, encouraging me to keep turning the pages and find out “who did it?” Both books kept me guessing to the end and I’d certainly look out for more from these authors.

Sarah loves crime fiction because , “It provides a window into the behavior and thinking, the moral, ethical and personal dilemmas of people in an extreme situation, a way of exploring what it is to be human, and perhaps more importantly, how to behave well when faced with violence, cruelty and abuse.”

They say everyone has a book in them – so if you think yours is a thriller then The Thriller School is a great place to get started.

For more information:
The Thriller School –

Elizabeth Carroll – Killing in Time –

David Stansfield – One Last Great Wickedness –

The Book Booster –

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