Tom Threadgill’s books have a distinct focus on clean, suspenseful action with strong character development. His new novel is Collision of Lies (Revell): San Antonio police detective Amara Alvarez discovers that a tragic accident involving a school bus full of kids may not be what it seems—and maybe everything law enforcement believes about the accident is a lie. In this interview, Tom shares a bit about his main character, explains how he keeps readers guessing, and reveals what he loves more about suspense fiction.
Tell us what sparked the idea for your new book, Collision of Lies.
My wife and I don’t do much texting. We were at lunch one day and everyone around us was on their phones. For whatever reason (because writers are like that, you know?), I wondered what would happen if a mother received a text from her deceased son.
I don’t write paranormal, so I had to take that thought and figure out how to morph it into a realistic situation. That’s how all my stories generate. A “what if” that grows into a novel.
The main character, Amara Alvarez, is a San Antonio police detective. Can you tell us a little about her backstory and why you chose a detective as your main character?
All my novels (so far) are police procedurals. I’m a sucker for a strong female protagonist, so I knew from the beginning Amara would be the headliner. She grew up in San Antonio and has a strong family connection there.
When the story opens, she’s working in Property Crimes but wants to make the move to Homicide to prove she can handle it. Her father died when she was young, and her marriage ended in divorce. Her job is her life, though we get to watch as she questions whether her decisions are the right ones for her future.
Oh, and did I mention she has a three-foot pet iguana named Larry?
A good thriller keeps readers on their toes and holding their breath with anticipation. How do you keep your readers guessing when you write your novels?
I’m what’s called a “pantser,” meaning I write by the seat of my pants. I rarely do much plotting. As a result, I’m never quite sure where the story is going to go. I have an idea of the beginning and end but getting from one to the other is a winding path.
Many times I write myself into a corner and have to figure out how to get my characters out of the situation without crossing the line into unrealistic action. It’s not unusual for me to realize that a character is doing something behind the scenes I was completely unaware of. If I’m surprised, I think the reader will be too.
What do you hope readers will gain from Collision of Lies?
I write to entertain. My goal is to keep my novels real but avoid the graphic sex and profanity that’s so prevalent in books today. I want readers to lose themselves in the story without rolling their eyes at unrealistic characters who make stupid decisions or can’t complete a sentence without cursing (or cussin’, as we say around here).
You serve on the thriller/suspense publishing board for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. What do you love most about reading suspense novels and writing them yourself?
Without question, it’s the surprises. The “I didn’t see that coming” moments that good novels offer. When an author does it correctly, everything you thought you knew about the story and the characters can be flipped on its head. When I write, my characters often surprise me. They take on their own lives, and there’s no point trying to force them to behave. If the characters aren’t real, the story isn’t either.
Visit Tom Threadgill’s Author Page