We’ve Got Your Back: Lisa Gardner and Daniel Palmer on ITW’s Author Services Committee

The notion of “We’ve got your back” has its origins in warfare, where soldiers watch out for their buddies to make sure they won’t be attacked from behind. WWI fighter pilots referred to a pilot’s rear as the six o’clock position, and now “We’ve got your six” is ubiquitous in the military, highlighting the loyalty and cooperation found in military culture.

If you’re a thriller author at any stage of your career, you’ll be pleased to know that International Thriller Writers “has got your back.”

Stepping out into the modern world of commercial fiction with your new novel can be daunting, intimidating, and confusing. Enter ITW’s Author Services Committee. One part of Author Services is the Debut Author Program, which focuses specifically on helping first-time novelists begin their publication journey. But the committee is also expanding to provide ongoing career and craft support for authors at all stages of the publishing lifecycle.

#1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Gardner is vice president of the Author Services Committee.  She says, ” I remember the joy of that first book being published, but I didn’t know anyone in the industry. Having spent years writing alone, I’m excited to help out with Author Services, and especially to get involved with debut authors.  I love that ITW does so much for them.”

The Debut Author program includes mentoring, career track programming, a Facebook Group, online networking, a guest lecture series, the annual debut author breakfast at ThrillerFest (hopefully to be held again soon), and career and craft tips for members.

Every year about forty debut authors, who have been published by an ITW-recognized publisher, receive support in the year-long Debut Author program to elevate their book release. Twenty to thirty of these attend the ThrillerFest conference and are celebrated at theDebut Author Breakfast. In addition, debut authors can take advantage of networking opportunities, promotions, and events.  They also benefit from the camaraderie of other newbies starting their commercial fiction careers. More information about the Debut Author program will be coming to this space in January 2021.

Serving as co-chairs on the committee are USA Today bestselling author Daniel Palmer and multiple award-winning author Jenny Milchman. Tori Eldridge, another award-winning author, works as the Debut Author Coordinator, while author, editor, and writing coach Elena Hartwell manages the Facebook Group.

According to Gardner, “We don’t know when we’ll be able to meet face-to-face again due to this pandemic, so we have created this knowledge portal, Write2Thrill, edited by Alison McMahan, which focuses on craft and career. We want to show writers there are different paths to success. We’ve also launched a new column, Comma Sense, where ITW members can anonymously ask sensitive questions about publishing and get answers from a variety of publishing experts.”

Lisa Gardner won ITW’s Best Thriller of the Year Award for her book, The Neighbor. Her novels have been translated into thirty languages, and four have been adapted for television movies. Her latest, Before She Disappeared (Dutton), debuts January 19, 2021. The novel’s protagonist is a new character described as “an average, everyday woman, who’s a recovering alcoholic. She finds people by asking the right questions.”

Palmer, who’s been writing full time for eleven years, says he readily joined the committee after talking with Gardner. “Lisa is one of my all-time favorite people! I consider her family. I’m a huge fan of her books and always read them for pure enjoyment and also to understand her level of craft.”

He shares that there’s a need for quality information about the craft and business of writing. “Lots of people can write, but making money is difficult. It takes different skills to be successful as an author. You must be strategic and thoughtful.”

Palmer’s father was bestselling author Michael Palmer, and he offers his father’s advice to all debut authors: ” Go for it. Don’t hold back. Don’t overthink it. Know your audience. Be fearless about failure, rejection, being judged, this job. Have single-minded determination. And remember, this is hard work. It’s not easy.”

When Michael Palmer died in 2013, Daniel was tasked with finishing his father’s page-turning medical thriller, Trauma (St. Martin’s Press, 2015). “It was an honor and an opportunity to carry on his legacy. But I was fraught with concern for whether or not I could do it?”

Unlike his father, Daniel is not a doctor, but he had to write authentic medicine. “I had to close my eyes and say to myself, ‘I can do this”—and I did. I had enough to work with from my father’s idea and was able to run with it to its conclusion.”


Daniel Palmer writes thrillers as D.J. Palmer.  His current thriller is The New Husband, while his next book, The Perfect Daughter (St. Martin’s Press), launches April 2021. He says, “This one was hard to write. It has a wild conclusion you won’t see coming.”


Gardner says, “I adore Daniel. He is amazing, talented, and kind. The opportunity to work with him roped me into this madness.”

What writers can expect in the near future for commercial fiction? Gardner and Palmer weigh in with their thoughts:

Gardner believes “people will continue to read and love thrillers—a good escapist read. I don’t see them going away.”

Palmer says, “It really doesn’t matter. It’s about the book. If you can write the right book at the right time, it will resonate with readers and sell. Keep getting better at your craft and tap into the psychology of your readers. Commercial fiction is about selling. Understand your reader and give them that book.”

ZJ Czupor is an award-winning writer. His current novel, Cut Right Through Me, is seeking representation. He is vice president of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. He writes a monthly column, “The Mystery Minute,” and “Mystery Minute Goes Rogue” which appears monthly in Rogue Women. He also co-chairs Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer’s annual literary competition. In 1990, he and his wife co-founded The InterPro Group,one of Denver’s leading marketing and public relations firms. They are proud to be owned by two beautiful, and way too smart, rescue collies.

Website: Zoltan James https://zoltanjames.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/zczupor/








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