Writing Thrillers And Action Adventure With David Wood

I love thrillers and spend a lot of time reading widely within the genre so it’s great to connect with other authors who write in the same vein. In today’s podcast, David Wood and I talk about the aspects of the action adventure and thriller books, whether there is a place for female thriller writers, violence and the challenges of writing a series.

David Wood is the author of several action-adventure novels including his latest, Quest, a Dane Maddock adventure. He also writes fantasy under a pseudonym and is the co-presenter of ThrillerCast, the podcast for thriller lovers with Alan Baxter.

You can also listen to an interview with me on Thrillercast here.

In the interview, you will learn:

  • How David started seriously writing in 2003 when a friend sent an email that said – if you could do anything in the world you wanted to, what would it be? So what’s stopping you? It came at the right time and so Dave did NaNoWriMo and that produced his first book, Dourado. He self-published and it started selling. He learned how to make the book better and later started Gryphonwood Press, a small press. He then published Cibola and continues to write thrillers, as well as speculative fiction and other projects. Dave was a teacher but is now a fulltime writer.
  • On men’s action-adventure genre which Dave’s books rank well for. They usually include military aspects, and definitely have shoot-em-up scenes. There might be Indiana Jones style adventure, Clive Cussler, also hard core military like Brad Thor. This is Lad-Lit in the UK. Action with mystery thrown in. My book, Pentecost ranks in Action-Adventure and we discuss the difference, is it purely for men?
  • On writing a series. Dave is on #3 for Dane Maddock. You need to keep consistency e.g. their favourite hand-gun. There are aspects that need to go across multi-books. You do need to keep track of what you’ve done. Fantasy is a lot more difficult as you can’t google to check your own facts, whereas thrillers are often in the modern world. On keeping a check-sheet for your characters so you can refer to a central place when writing another book. Sometimes you might end up with consistency mistakes otherwise.
  • On thriller locations. They are wish-fulfillment novels in a way, taking people places they might have dreamed about, having adventures. Big locations are therefore important. We always have to have great places, and some places are used a lot, have a lot of depth e.g. Rome, Jerusalem. Others might resonate with readers of the genre.
  • On Dane & Bones characterization, the protagonist and his sidekick. There are aspects of Dave in both characters, but Bones could not carry a whole novel as he has smart lines but the deep thinking is done by Dane. It’s good to have a balance, as well as a protagonist who is flawed in some ways.
  • The protagonists of thrillers are usually single. Availability is important for the wish fulfillment aspect and also the ability to up and go on an adventure is not for the family based person. There is often a relationship in the background, but in thrillers the partner/spouse has sometimes died/moved on. There needs to be a recognition that the person is normal in some way i.e. they can have a relationship and this also gives an opportunity for flaws to be shown in their character.
  • On violence in thrillers. There needs to be high stakes in thrillers. The protagonist will likely always survive but they need to face life threatening challenges and maybe the other characters might not make it through. In Quest, Dave cranks up the body count with more action and also increases the role of the antagonist. In the US, violence is pretty acceptable but sex isn’t so much. Thrillers are not gore-fests though, it’s action/adventure violence, not shown in gory detail. There is also a reason for the violence usually. We are not Quentin Tarantino but there is an expectation of body count in thrillers. Violence is a part of our culture and we can compartmentalize – writing violence doesn’t make us violence. For me, it’s kind of living on the edge vicariously without leaving the safety of the home.
  • On women writing thrillers. There seems to be a kind of latent sexism i.e. a woman’s name on the cover might imply more romance or feminine storyline even though that might not be true. Some people just have that bias. If people don’t know the gender of the author, they don’t judge, so many women do adopt initials for publishing. I am 95% certain I will be moving to initials with the next book. It won’t affect people who already know me through social media but it might affect casual sales.
  • What are the keys to developing a fulltime writing career? Make your book cover look like other books in the genre. Blend in so when readers are clicking through Amazon, they don’t stand out in a bad way. Model your layout on other covers. Be ready for the slow build and long haul. There are very few instant successes, so patience is key. Most of us don’t have the option of quitting the day job tomorrow. Also, conduct yourself professionally in the same way as the big name authors. What would James Rollins do? It’s important to build up the backlist – Joe Konrath & John Locke et al make great money but they have a huge number of books selling. Dean Wesley Smith also writes a lot on the math of writing which helps when you get frustrated. Click here for the interview with Dean Wesley Smith.
  • On Thrillercast – the podcast for thriller lovers with Dave and Alan Baxter. It’s not Michael Jackson! It’s important to be writers who also podcast, more as a sideline. It’s great to meet new people in the genre and also good to talk about the common threads across multiple genres.

You can find Dave at his website DavidWoodWeb.com and also at Thrillercast and on twitter @davidwoodauthor

You can find Quest at Amazon.com and other online bookstores.

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  1. says

    Thanks for the interview. I had a great time! I want to correct one thing I said- the stories in the anthology I mentioned at the end of the interview are based on Richard Connell’s story “The Most Dangerous Game.” I incorrectly said “Surviving the Game” which is a movie based on that same story.

  2. says

    Joanna – thank you! I’ve been scouring the iTunes for a thriller genre podcast to no avail. Now, I’m so excited to find the Thrillercast. I’m downloading all the back episodes. :)

  3. says

    An interesting note on the issue of gender and thrillers: I once read in the New Yorker that the reason Hollywood produces so many thrillers is because they attract teen-age boys, who buy more at the concession stand than anyone else. Movie theaters make their money from concessions, so there you go. I don’t see anything wrong with any of this; it’s just interesting.


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