The Thriller Zone

On today's 160th episode of The Thriller Zone, I'm happy to spend some time with debut author Steve Urszenyi as we discuss his thriller novel, Perfect Shot.

Sure, we cover his experience as a writer, but be sure to listen as he shares the story behind the breathtaking opening scene, plus his reasoning behind and the process of choosing a female protagonist Alexandre Martel. As you may guess, we learn how Perfect Shot is the first book in a series featuring Alex.

One of my favorite parts of this conversation is when Steve talks about his background as a paramedic and tactical medic which, as you'll quickly see, heavily influenced his writing and this story.

Our conversation concludes with a discussion about Steve's agent, John Talbot, and John's role in the publishing process. Plus, you'll hear how Steve Urszenyi used his experience with PitchFest to land that "dream agent," and continues by offering some advice for aspiring writers. Yes, you may have heard this one particular advice before, but listen as to how Steve makes it seem a wee bit different.

If you'd like to learn more about this debut author, visit: SteveUrszenyi.com and follow him on all social channels.

Of course, you're happily invited to join us as we discuss all things thriller, mystery, and suspense at TheThrillerZone.com, as well as following us on ALL social channels @thethrillerzone. Be sure to SUBSCRIBE to us at YouTube.com/thethrillerzone.

Thanks for listening. Thanks for watching. And as always, be sure to tell a friend you've found "The front-row seat to the best thriller writers in the world...with TheThrillerZone.com!"

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Summary

In this episode of The Thriller Zone, host David Temple interviews debut author Steve Yerzani about his thriller novel, Perfect Shot. They discuss the process of writing the opening scene, the choice of a female protagonist, and the research involved in the book. Steve shares his background as a paramedic and tactical medic, which influenced his writing. He also talks about working with his literary agent, John Talbot, and reveals that Perfect Shot is the first book in a series featuring the protagonist Alex Martel.

Takeaways

  • Choosing a strong opening scene can set the tone for the entire book.
  • The choice of a female protagonist can challenge genre norms and provide a fresh perspective.
  • Research is crucial for creating an authentic and engaging story.
  • Drawing from personal experiences can add depth and realism to the writing.
  • Having confidence in your own writing style and process is essential.

Chapters

00:00 Introduction and Background
03:00 The Opening Scene and Writing Process
06:00 Choosing a Female Protagonist
09:01 Elevator Pitch and Plot
17:33 The Importance of Research
21:42 Becoming a Tactical Medic
25:34 Surprising Experiences as a Paramedic
28:49 Working with Literary Agent John Talbot
32:08 The Alex Martel Series
39:18 What's Next for Alex Martel
43:00 Best Writing Advice
44:39 Closing Remarks


The Thriller Zone with David Temple is sponsored in part by Blackstone Publishing.

What is The Thriller Zone?

Join podcast host and thriller author David Temple as he gives you a front-row seat to the best thriller writers in the world. If you like thriller fiction in Books, Movies, and TV Shows, you’ll love The Thriller Zone Podcast.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple

Hello and welcome to The Thriller Zone. I'm your host David Temple. On today's 160th episode of The Thriller Zone, I'm happy to speak with Steve Urszanyi to discuss his debut thriller novel, Perfect Shot. Of course, we'll talk about his experiences as a brand new writer. He will share the story behind the opening scene of the book and the process of choosing a female protagonist.

He's also going to talk with me about his background as both a paramedic and a tactical medic, which influenced his writing. He reveals that Perfect Shot is the first book in a series featuring the protagonist Alex Martel. So as we continue to celebrate Rising Stars Month, please join me in welcoming debut author Steve Urszanyi right here on The Thriller Zone.

Steve, welcome to The Thriller Zone. It's so good to see you.

Thank you, David. Thank you for having me on. Man, I have, I've seen you appear on other podcasts and I knew I'm like, this guy is money. He shows up with a microphone. He's got lights. He's got ambient light. He is prepared. This is a guy who knows how to do a podcast. So congratulations and thank you for that. My pleasure. Some might just say I'm overly vain, I suppose. I call it prepared. And by the way, this is the book we're talking about today, Perfect Shot. What?

a delicious read. Thank you. I'm going to let that sink in. Because I got more things to say about it, as you could have very well imagined. I got note. I got, I got stickies. I got, I got a little homework here in the back. But, oh boy. This, I'm going to save all the accolades. I'm going to, I'm going to stack it up. But I will say that Perfect Shot was exactly that. Especially for a debut author. Thank you. High five. It was a lot. High five.

Yeah, godly day. You know, this is why I decided to create Rising Stars Month, because you, like Jack Stewart, like Steve Stratton, you guys are starting out of the gate with new books. And wow, you're throwing some competition in the road.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (02:12.814)
So it's good to hear. From that opening scene, which are some, this is some of the best starting pages I have read. Right up to that climactic closing scene, not the epilogue, but that closing scene that goes dun dun. Holy crap, it was a fun ride, so. Thank you. Kudos. Well, it was a lot of fun to write, that's for sure.

And while I'm still staring at this gorgeous, which, by the way, I love the font, American Captain, I think it is, Captain America kind of thing. American Captain, yeah, they called it. Your blurb-meister, Mr. Mark Graney, put it best. Starts fast, finishes faster.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (03:00.786)
Yeah, it's kind of a short quote. And when you read it, you think, because I've got my cover here as well. And I'm looking at it thinking, starts fast and finishes faster. And for a second, I wasn't sure how to take that. But then I sat back and I let it sink in. And I thought, yeah, that's a good way to write a thriller. I think it's the best way to write a thriller. As you know, Jack Stewart was on the show last week.

His book did the same. This is your show, so I'm not going to spend time on him, but I know we're all three friends. But you guys have mastered, in the first book, the way to shoot out of the gate. And I'm gonna come back to chapter one here in a second because I got some very specific questions. Matter of fact, you know, let's do it now. I want you to indulge me in something because I wanna shoot out of the gate with this book. I'm learning through a lot of people who watch on social media.

Uh, dude, I'm only going to give you like seven or eight minutes and then I've got to go watch some tick tock videos. So I'm going to put all the juice up front.

And here's one. By the way, jump in here at any time. This is a two-way street. Yeah. I want to know some of the mechanics of that opening scene, first of which, and I got to know, and if you don't mind telling me, how many drafts did you spin crafting that into pure gold? I mean, does that secret sauce pour out of you like fine bourbon? Or did you go, oh, it was good. No, let's go tighter. Let me talk to me about that.

Yeah, so, you know, the notion of that first scene, the beauty of that first scene for me as the writer is that's the way I write, meaning I don't know. Well, I don't mean first of all, I don't mean I write great. That's not what I mean. If it's a good scene, great. But that's the way I write is in I come to the scene visually. So.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (05:01.41)
I don't think story, I don't think where this book is going to go. I don't think what's my plot, what are my themes. I think Alex Martel is in a ghillie suit lying on a forest floor, wet leaves, dropping water around her. She's looking through the scope. There's an old abandoned airfield there. There's going to be bad guys, but what is she seeing? What is she doing? Why is she there? That's how I start my story all the time. When I write a story, it's all based on...

What's my character doing in the moment? And then letting that scene dictate where it goes. So, but as far as, I mean, I loved writing that scene. I really did. And I knew that I wanted to set a scene where the reader got to see Alex in her native environment right off the bat. She's an uber accomplished woman. She's a great sniper. You know, I'm already challenging some of the norms in the thriller genre.

So let's get her any action right off the bat. So I had fun writing it. I wrote it different, I didn't write it different ways, but I worked and reworked and reworked that scene over and over. So I can't give you a number, but I constantly, even as I was further up into the story, I would come back and I would massage that opening scene and just keep working at it until it was good. I'm just gonna read the first sentence because you had me at the first sentence.

The figure lying on the ground wasn't shivering, but she wasn't far off. And then you go on to say it exactly like you did. But I mean, dude, in four pages, like just shy of four pages, you paint the picture. You shoot us down the barrel at supersonic speed. And it just doesn't let up. It lets up a little to the middle, third. Of course you want to. You get some breathing space. You got to let the reader go.

Oh, okay. Because the contrasts is what makes everything so interesting, right? Mm-hmm. Yeah. Yeah, and you know, again, I've been, I've never been a sniper, but I was a tactical medic with a SWAT team. I've been out in the bushes, cold, wet, you know, wondering what's gonna happen next. So I do that a lot when I write, is I don't have Alex's...

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (07:21.718)
background as a sniper or the intelligence community or in the military. But I've done stuff, you know, and I draw on my experiences in that world to, to cue in what does Alex think feel at this moment? What's your frustrations or Caleb? When I go into the mind of Caleb, you know, what's he thinking? Um, Caleb represents the cynic in me because I'm, I'm an old crusty guy. I can be, I can be really cynical and dark.

if I let myself go there. So when Alex is at her worst and where Caleb is at his best, they're both a little cynical. And I like to slide into those kind of dark places occasionally. Yeah, and for the folks who are watching the show, then you'll notice Mr. Dark Cynical has some nice ivy growing behind him in a beautiful pastel painting of a Doran Tuscany or something. So yeah. That's my wife's desk behind me. So I can, she gets the credit for that.

Okay, isn't it funny? You and I share the same thing, but let me move this over here. So, yeah, you can see who the brainiac in the group is because Miss Order, I'm not going to show you my desk because it's just cluttered, but... I'm the same. Yeah, we won't go there. Anyway, so thank you for that tea up. And let's do this. I really want to drill down on the protagonist, but first I want to hear...

The elevator pitch I call it a lot of people understand what that is because what that does is that lets my listener know What the books about in like one nice little pitch without me ruining anything

All right. Alex Martel is a former Army combat medic and sniper who's been seconded, well, who's an FBI agent now seconded to Interpol. And through her activities with Interpol, she's put on a case where she's chasing down a, I always never know whether I should say this, my wife says, don't give it, don't, you know, go ahead and give it away. But she's chasing down a stolen nuclear weapon in Europe. And ultimately that's the story. I think it's

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (09:31.292)
Yeah.

Yeah, exactly. I think it's totally fine to share, though, because first of all, I want to read about that, because you're not reading about that much these days. Secondly, it tells me that you're, I mean, a lot of this feels very ripped from the headlines to borrow a cliche, which certainly works for me. I'm in for the ride, Steve. I want to see the goods you got. And I know it's your debut, so I want

Does this guy have the chops to get in there and keep doing it? And by this book, of course you do. Of course, we'll talk about sequel in a second. But now that you've set us up with Alex or Alexandra, I share a similarity with you. And again, not about me, but about you. I was crafting a lead character in a series that I did when I came up with this. It's my Pat Norelli series, Homicide Detective out of Los Angeles, which was originally Pete Norelli.

I'd already started the series on the way, and I'm like, Pete and Irelia. And then when suddenly she appeared to me as a woman, for some reason, as I'm writing, I'm like, oh, wait a minute. Because suddenly I saw her and I heard her, and I just rolled with it. And two books later, she's alive and kicking and still whispering in my ear to write the third, which I'm going to do. My point of bringing that up is I had read, I think it was in your acknowledgments, about how

You hadn't originally set out to write about a female protagonist. So tell me how that happened. Not too different than you. I had started, you know, over the years when I decided I wanted to get serious about writing and, you know, actually craft a novel. I had started writing various stories. And as I mentioned earlier, I kind of put a character into a scene and then write from there and see where the character takes me. And I had started.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (11:26.902)
you know, umpteen, eight, 10, 12, 20 stories featuring male protagonists. And they all felt like the gumshoe detective, the Mickey Spillane, you know, I could picture Bogey doing a scene, that type of thing. So they were great, but they were not my voice. I couldn't quite get my voice going in those characters. And then in a, I started another one, which featured this female character.

An Interpol agent, the scene was set in Amsterdam. Her name was Rachel Danaher. I know that because I looked that up not too long ago. So Rachel Danaher was my character in the story. And she kind of came alive. And that story ended up going nowhere. But then subsequently when I wrote, I started to write a screenplay. And when I needed my hero, my investigator in the screenplay, in comes this female protagonist who was Rachel Danaher.

with a different name. And so Alex took off from there. And as I wrote Alex, just like your experience was, it just, it kind of wrote itself. I knew where it was going. I found the voice in her character and it just took off. So that's what I mean by saying, you know, I didn't think about, well, I'm going to write a female protagonist. It just, I tried lots of different characters. And for one day I started writing a female character one day and that's the one that became

the one that succeeded in my head. Well, is it safe to assume that your wife, Lynn, said, oh yeah, go girl power? Yeah, and well, so in the beginning, Lynn didn't see anything that I wrote. I never shared any of my writing because they were just ramblings, you know, five, six, 10 pages before I put it down and try something else. And it wasn't until I probably was halfway through what was the predecessor to this, to Perfect Shot, which by the way, there was a book, one that

started to go out during the pandemic on submission, but we pulled it back because it was the first week of the pandemic we decided to go on submission. So it wasn't until I was halfway first, my truly finished first manuscript that Lynn picked it up and started reading. And yeah, I think she was pretty stoked that there was a pretty cool female character. And Lynn helped me refine, you know, if I was starting to fall into any of the female tropes or she was brushing her hair or twisting the curls too much or something, Lynn would let me know that

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (13:50.554)
No, no, don't be an idiot and do that. So she would rein me in on any of my illusions of the female stereotypes. Don't you love it when your wife goes, Steve-o, let me keep you grounded here. Women don't do that or don't talk about that. Every aspect of my life, Lynn keeps me grounded. I did that once. I made a comment. I had Pat doing something. And my wife, who's very cool and very loving, she says,

You do realize that you're setting that scene up as a guy, what a guy would say. Girls don't talk like that. I'm like, well, cool girls, no. No, no cool girls. No smart girls talk like that. And she took me to school and I learned, so there you go. Well, I also, I mean, you saw in the acknowledgments as well.

One of the advantages to working 30 years, 30, well, 40 years in total, but 30 years in emergency services as a paramedic and a tactical medic. I work with a lot of women as partners, whether they were police officers, whether they were paramedics, they were dialed in, they knew their stuff. So you know, I had the example, nevermind Linden checking and balancing what I'm writing. I had the living example of women I work with every day leading the way.

in situations that Alex might find herself in. And am I correct? Because you just referred to acknowledgments once again. This is where you said part of the reason you had chosen this female protagonist, because of all the strong women figures that were around you. Which I thought was so spot on, so awesome. Such great kudos to you for giving that kind of acknowledgment power. Well, I almost.

It's funny because I almost didn't write that in there in the acknowledgments because I thought someone's going to read that and think I'm being patronizing. And then I thought hell with that, I'm going to write it anyway. I'm going to acknowledge people I know for my life. But then one day I try not to read too many reviews, but I did read a Goodreads review by a woman and her comment was, it was great to see a story where a woman can achieve so much in this misogynistic

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (16:09.606)
On and on she went. And I thought, well, that's an interesting and cynical view. And then she said, but I'm glad to see that when I read the acknowledgments, Steve bases his character and her actions on women and people he's known. So I'm glad there are women in this world who can do those things. And I thought, I'm glad I put that in there. If nothing else, then to reinforce for this particular reader that people like that exist out there. Yeah.

I think we all, the smart ones in the group, kind of stay away from most of the reviews. One thing I have appreciated about Jack Card, I'm going to steal this idea, by the way, is pull out the worst reviews and read them on the air. But yeah, I don't think that sometimes, and I think social media can be this. It's just a platform for people to babble about something and to gain attention.

And they're cynical, bitter people. And I just say, shut the hell up. So anyway, speaking of all of this and research, it's very clear with this book, Steve, very clear that you love research. You can't write this thick of a book. And thick, I mean dense, not thick, because it's still shy of 360. But that is so chock full of research. I mean, it's clear that you.

You love that. And it's clear that you love to travel. And I was all proud of myself going, well, if I was assuming anything, I'd know that Steve probably loves to travel. Then of course I start following you on social media after I write this note to self and yeah, I'm traveling dude when I'm not doing anything else. So I don't feel like smart anymore. But you like the research, don't you? Oh yeah, very much so. Um, I mean, ever since I was a kid, I was, I was, I was so hungry.

for knowledge as a kid, I was lucky. I grew in a house with literally four sets of encyclopedias in the den. So, you know, obviously pre-computers back in the seventies and eighties. So if I wanted to know something, I went down and I picked up the encyclopedia and I read it and I was always hungry for information. So even now when I write, probably the hardest thing is that the research can become the rabbit hole. You go down, you know, and what are you doing? I'm working. Well, no, you.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (18:29.642)
research that thing that in five minutes told you what you needed to know. The last four and a half hours has been your entertainment. So go back to work. I, uh, yeah, I partly agree with that. And then the other part of that, I read somewhere recently that, or some time ago, we're an artist and you're an artist, uh, authors or artists need to spend time just being and not, not to be woo woo, but I mean, sometimes you gotta just, I find myself,

Luckily we just moved and I've got this spectacular view of this Olympic sized pool. And sometimes I'll just sit there and stare at the pool and the way the light reflects. And my wife will sometimes, what are you doing? Homework, babe. It looks like you're staring to the pool. It's homework. So she's gotten it. But with you, I say, you gotta take that time. Go down the rabbit hole, learn what you gotta learn. But I bet you.

dollars to donuts that is going to trigger something in your head because you're going to retain something. And later when you're writing another scene, you're going to go, oh, remember that day that I was goofing off? Absolutely. And I was a teacher. I'm still intermittently a teacher. I do the guest lectures in the paramedic programs at a local college. I taught full time for a year between gigs. I kind of left the road for a year, went to teach for a while. And.

And intermittently, I've been a mentor and, you know, precepted other paramedics. So had other paramedics ride along while they were upgrading their skills or whatever. And there honestly is no better way to become solid and conversant at your own skills and knowledge than to have to help explain and teach that to somebody else. Right. And writing in a lot of ways is like teaching. And I don't mean that our writing should be so pedantic that you're making people learn.

But if we're going to write concisely, you've got to be able to relate the information concisely. And in a small amount of space, the reader should have the understanding or illusion or whatever that you know what you're talking about or the characters do. And that comes from it might be many hours of research or watching videos, but it's got to come out in only a sentence or two when you can. Make it as concise as you can.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (20:50.41)
You know, and I got to tell you something, for a reader like myself, which is probably why I read almost 50% nonfiction and 50% fiction, because I want to be learning something all the time. I think of all the things that I don't know anything about. So when you break down the world, you've done this now, mentioned paramedics. So I want to make sure I hit on that, but I don't know anything about that world. So if all of a sudden.

And you're not going to beat me over the head with it because that would be ridiculous. But you're going to trigger my curiosity. And it did. This is a note I made. How does a paramedic become a tactical medic who eventually becomes an integral part of a SWAT team? So let me just use that as a big question for you. Yeah, that is a good question. So I was always drawn to as it.

As a young man, I was interested in, first of all, I was interested in law enforcement. My first love was policing and law enforcement, but I didn't have the eyesight to go there. So it was never really a pathway, a path I could follow. But I still kept that, whatever it is about law enforcement that people like, that still beat inside me, whether that's the protector in me, the sheepdog in me, whatever you wanna call it. I always had that sense of

doing right and being a good person. And secondly, I guess my next path was, I found I was in university and found I was wanting to not be in university. And a buddy of mine, I was a lifeguard at the time, and a buddy of mine was in the paramedic program. And I asked him what that was like, and he said, well, come on up to the college for a day of classes with us. So with permission from the professors at the time, I followed along for a day and developed this love of,

being a paramedic back in the days before it was really fashionable or cool to do it. So I got to, I fell in love with paramedic and being a paramedic and ambulance driver attendance when I started. And that just grew and continued to evolve as a way that I enjoyed serving. That was my service. And then through the years, I've done a lot of calls with the SWAT teams, trauma SWAT teams, emergency tech.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (23:08.874)
Here it's called the Emergency Task Force. And always enjoy doing the calls with them, but always having to stand back because as a paramedic, they didn't wanna bring you upfront to the hot zone, the danger zone on a call. Well, over the years that evolved where paramedics were becoming more and more integrated into tactical operations as a way to ensure that there was someone there who could operate safely with the police to take care of the police.

or to take care of anyone else that might go down during an operation. So eventually there was an opportunity with a local police force. I didn't go for the Toronto one, partly because the station was located too far from my house that I would have had to commute to every day across the city. But an opportunity came up with the Ontario Provincial Police. They were calling for tactical medics. And I was already in my forties at the time. So I thought, yeah, I'll give it a shot. What have I got to lose? Right. And luckily I...

I managed to squeak through the fitness test and the other tests and the interviews and the psych testing and got to be on this team and to be a member of the tactical team, which was a variety of different levels, including SWAT and a few other specialties as well. So it was just a lot of fun and just helped me fulfill an interest that I had nursed or nurtured all my life. Well let me take this second to honestly say thank you for your service as a first responder. Thank you. Yeah.

I can only think of, I've only known two other paramedics before you. One was a, uh, we hired this kid was a paramedic part-timer. He ended up doing a, becoming my morning show radio producer in the Carolinas. And, uh, boy, he had stories to tell. And then the second one was about a year and a half ago, Ted Flanagan, who got on the show, you probably know Ted, right? Uh, super good dude and a hell of a writer. I might add.

But I just think it's cool that you have, that you were drawn to a service like that, that is so profoundly important. So, hats off to you. Thank you. I do wanna jump to this, cause I don't wanna spend all day talking about paramedic stuff, although it's incredibly fascinating. And I do want to, you know, matter of fact, let me do this one thing, cause I wanna go off the beaten path. It's something about many of us, it's something that would be surprised to learn about you. Because,

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (25:34.358)
Having been a paramedic, I mean, you're thrown into the front row seat of danger in a lot of what is something that my listeners probably wouldn't know about you? Or what would be something that you have seen or done that you're like, man, I didn't know that I was going to sign up for this? I mean, there would be dozens of examples. The one that I can bring out that people can

relate to, I was actually, one of my claims to fame in my career was I was on page seven of the National Enquirer, photograph and all, because one Sunday morning at 6.30 in the morning while I'm at a hospital in the downtown core of Toronto, we got a call to back up another ambulance that was responding to a construction site. I won't name the building. It can be looked up later. But

I don't want to get into any legal issues, but there was a construction accident where an elevator, there was an elevator accident at a construction site. I thought, okay, so we pulled up to the scene expecting to find the elevator at ground floor. Well, when I said to the police officer on the scene, like, what are we waiting for? Why aren't we going into the scene? I said, isn't the elevator right there? And they pointed up 44 floors and went, no, the elevator is up there.

And what happened was two construction elevators side by side and the one construction elevators, seven workmen came to work in the morning to go up. And as they were going up the 10,000 pound counterweight that helps lift equipment and people, the brakes broke. Oh fail. So the 10,000 pound weight dropped 44 stories shooting the elevator up. And it put it through an I beam at the top.

Two people were tragically killed in that accident. And then I arrived to help extricate the other patients from the elevator and then basically to triage them on the top open floor of this skyscraper and then bring them down. But that was something you don't expect your day is gonna, well, in this case, it was the end of our night shift. You don't expect your day is gonna start or end with responding to that kind of call. And of course the challenge then is we have to get back down with the patients

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (27:58.89)
And by then we fully understood what the nature of the accident had been. And now you're getting into the sister elevator of the one that had this accident, not knowing what to expect. So it's a, you know, it's a, it's a profession where you don't, you, you honestly have no idea what to expect from minute to minute, let alone day to day. Yeah. Therein lies some of that excitement, the adrenaline. Yeah. Oh yeah. All right. Now.

I want to know, Alex, such a great character, by the way, is this going to be, is this, and I have a feeling I know the answer, but I got to ask because I want to know, is this a standalone or are you building this into a series? Totally a series. OK, got you. Yeah, Alex is a series. She's got so much to offer and so many places to go. And the cast of characters around her, it's serious material. Well, and to use a.

to just go ahead and put it out there. It's a perfect shot for being a series. See what I did there. OK. I do. Thank you. I want to say this too, because I got wrapped up in this conversation with Jack. Yes, I'm referring back to Jack. It is Rising Stars Month, so I can do whatever the hell I want to do. So I find out that he and you both share the same agent, John Talbot. That's correct. Talbot Fortune Agency. So first, I got to get him on the show.

He would be a remarkable asset for the show. I think my listeners would love to hear what he has to say about the business, don't you think? Oh, yeah, totally. John is one of the, I don't know a lot of agents personally to have conversations with them, but I do know that John is one of the most knowledgeable people out there about the industry. He's been in it a long time. He's worked at different publishing houses.

He's edited some of the best people in the game. If I'm not mistaken, he's edited Clancy in his early days. You know, he's seen a lot, done a lot. And if you look at his roster, nevermind Jack and I, if you look at his roster, he's got some real solid writers on there, you know. No, yeah, he's just chock full of hitters. Yeah. Yeah, I feel like I'm still in that, you know, I look at the roster, I actually don't look at the roster because it's just too embarrassing to look at.

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where I am in my career versus these other people who've achieved so much already. So. Well, and I don't want to look like I'm blowing smoke up your skirt, but I mean, when I saw Clancy Griffin and Jack Higgins as, uh, the guys that he helped really kind of lead the way. And then I knew that he started out at Simon and Schuster. I'm like, the guy's got chops. Then I met him at thriller fest 2019, which is I bet about the time you got picked up.

July 2019. Yep. And I was there pitching a story and he, I remember, I remember him above anyone else, the way he listened, he was right there with me and yeah, yeah. Low. Yeah. That's great. Now I never asked for any pages. So, uh, that'll, that was crushing, but you know, that's the way it goes. But yeah, I'm going to get them on the show. But the other thing is how did you land? I mean, we were there at the same time. We had not met yet.

which I'm sad to say, but now we have, so that's kudos to us. What, how did you land this? What was the pitch that he went, oh, leaned forward and said, tell me more about that. Your guess is as good as mine. You know, I went into the pitch, interestingly enough, I was there in 2018. I was at Thriller Fest in 2018, attended Pitch Fest, pitched like 12 agents, queried like 20 more afterwards, didn't go anywhere, worked hard at polishing the manuscript that I had.

brought with me and went back to Thriller Fast and Pitch Fast in 2019 and only pitched John. So I was all in on one agent, right or wrong. That was my approach. And I don't recommend that, but that's that was my choice in 2019. And I honestly don't know what he saw. It was I, you know, maybe it was a fact that I'd now been working with Alex Martel in my head for a full.

one year more and I knew more about her. I knew more about the story and the stories of Alex. My background didn't hurt. I think he was attracted to the fact that I had a very operational, tactical background. At the time, I was still the commander of the province of Ontario's disaster response team. So, you know, that doesn't hurt, I suppose, when you bring that up in your introduction. So I can't ask, I think you'll have to ask.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (32:37.15)
John, you know what he saw in guys like Jack and I, but the reality is he saw the, what, maybe the jewel underneath the, no, I'm not a jewel, but whatever it was. The shiny turd below the crust, I don't know, whatever it was.

That should be a t-shirt. I'm going to say that it's the same thing. Cause Jack and I were saying this. I'm like, look, come on when you, uh, it's here it is. It's the air of authenticity. And it's the fact that you are an expert at what you're talking about. Thirdly, you have an exceptional imagination to step outside of that world and fill it in with what you don't know. I mean, I could not think of a better trifecta.

recipe for success than that. Yeah. And John was very interested in, um, and hearing my pitch. He loved my pitch. He loved the story, the story idea that you get across in two minutes. And my background. And I think certainly anybody who can walk into that kind of a situation and be confident or a pure confidence and try to quell your, your nerves. And I'm, I'm kind of trying to address the people who might be attending a pitch fast sometime, because it's hard. Oh, hell yeah.

You just got to go in confident in what you know, confident in what you do and your skills and know that the person on the other side of the table wants to hear something good that they can grab onto. Everybody is looking for, all the agents are looking for their next SA Cosby, Sean or Jack Carr or whatever. Jack didn't of course go to the literary agent route, but you know what I'm saying. They're looking for those shining examples that they can latch onto and that'll help build their own practices. So...

And then of course, when I sent the manuscript, by then it was a pretty polished manuscript because it was the one I went down with in 2018. And I had reworked it and edited it and worked with a professional editor. I worked with Ryan Steck, the real book spy, who didn't do so much editing but did a ton of coaching. And I would say that a lot of what I know about the thriller world and thrillers as books, I got through my conversations with Ryan. Wow.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (34:51.306)
So when he coached me with my, my manuscript, my first manuscript, it was really about teaching me how to write a thriller. And I think that helped obviously. And John was able to see that. Well, another good dude, uh, hats off to Ryan's tech and all that he does. But I want to say this because I'm going to come back to the words were formulating in my brain as you were saying them.

is that I would, I would say, I would echo you, Steve. When you go to the Pitch Fest and everybody's gotta do it once at least, come on. You go in there, have the confidence in your talents. Cause you spent a year plus putting it together. So the tenacity alone is gonna get you halfway through the door. Number two, know that you're stepping into, this is where you just get rid of nerves. You're stepping into a receptive audience. They want to be there.

They want to be on the wall. You need them to be on that wall. Exactly. Thank you very much. But they're rooting for you in their mind while you're sitting there. Come on, give it to me. One of the most important things I learn, sorry not to be pointing, is pick that thing that you feel like you're the expert at.

Even if you haven't lived it, like I wouldn't go out and talk about being a paramedic because you have, you know, you're, you're going to beat me to that. However, I'm either going to research the balls off of it, or I've got some kind of innate passion to do it. And, but I think if you're in there pitching something that everyone has heard a hundred times before, which is why I didn't get picked up. I can now admit it years later going, Oh, that's something that everybody's done. And that's just boring, Dave.

So there you go. I'm just applauding the fact that you said that. And the other thing, if I could just, you know, the other thing I found was that the people helped me prepare for pitch fast, especially the year before that. Um, uh, Brian, uh, Jeffrey Wilson and Brian Andrews, two fantastic guys who helped me through my pitches, basically by telling me to shut up and get out of my own way, you know, just talk, be calm, you know, again, what you're saying there that you're pitching people who want you to succeed.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (37:04.53)
Unlike in the olden, when I think of sitting in front of somebody and spewing things about myself, these are people who are looking for ways to reject me, whether it's a job interview or a team, you know, on a tactical team or whatever. They're looking for ways to eliminate me from the competition. Different world entirely when you're at PitchFest, which is sitting in front of an agent who wants you, as you say, wants you on that wall, needs you on that wall, working for them. So totally.

Uh, one more thing to just nail that theory into the wall. I worked in Hollywood at three different tours of duty and one of them was, um, you know, going acting. So I was in there doing auditions for sitcoms and TV shows and you want to know, now you want to know a room that they kind of want you on that wall. They want you to succeed. However, they've got six.

100 guys that look and sound just like me So really what they're trying to do is just find the weakest link and get it out as fast as they can So unless you show up with something truly unique that's outside the norm. You don't stand a chance However, conversely in the book world they want you to win. They want to they want to hear that story and hope hopefully it's super fresh yeah, and the freshness matters and the delivery matters and the confidence and the

I won't say swagger, but there's a certain amount of swagger, you know, that, I mean, even the person who's the most nervous can still can come across with a bit of swagger and confidence. Sure. Cause I was, I was nervous, you know, I'm sure you were nervous. We're all nervous in those situations. Yeah. Well, if we're nervous because we're in a situation that we're nowhere being judged for.

So secretly we're like, they're not gonna like me. You're not gonna like my idea Well throw that idea out the window and psych yourself up before you go in and say I'm the greatest thing ever now It's false bravado, but it's sometimes it's the old fake it until you make it. They they want this story I can't wait for them to hear it because it's so friggin fantastic Totally. All right. So as we start to wrap I do want to ask you this You're we now know that perfect shot is a series. So what is

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (39:18.61)
Alex doing now, where can you tell me as little or as much as you want, where she is, what she's doing and when we can expect number two. So number two has already been submitted. As a matter of fact, I've got my editorial notes, my editorial letter back from my editor at Minotaur, Sarah Grill. She's terrific. She cuts to the chase and cuts you to the quick and cuts you many ways, but ultimately helps you make the story better. No, Sarah's awesome. Yeah.

Totally kind in the way she does her job, but she makes her point very clear. So, you know, working through edits on book two, making that stronger and ready for publication and that'll come out next November. Okay. And I'm working on, I'm writing book through in the meantime as well. So book three is, uh, being drafted as we speak, but as far as Alex, I mean, I don't want to give too much away because there's some questions I leave at the end of the story. Yeah. Pretty good ones too.

But Alex certainly, and again, by that, I don't mean there's no cliffhangers per se. I don't like cliffhangers at the end of a thriller where you're going, hmm, I wonder if she died in that scene. So I see you glancing at the book. But what happens next is Alex is still with, she's still on the hunt for bad guys. Okay. So it's more than the, I mean, the strength of Perfect Shot, what I liked about Alex and Perfect Shot is the international setting. Yeah.

And it appeals to people. It will appeal to people who love that international set setting, the international intrigue, the different agencies and you know, bad guys, et cetera. So it's still set overseas, but she does come home. This is why we love James Bond, Jason Bourne. I mean, it's the, it's the international intrigue. Okay. You see the sticky, this is one thing I wanted to do because every once in a while.

Now, you're borrowing this phrase, so it's not thoroughly original, but it's the setup that I like. So hang on with me. 20 seconds later, Alex heard the bassy whoop, whoop of the helicopter coming up through the low valley. She turned her head to the right and caught sight of the camouflage patterned Russian helicopter, sometimes known as the Storm. Apropos of the moment, she quoted an unknown author and whispered aloud, and this I love, fate whispers to the warrior.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (41:40.002)
You cannot withstand the storm. The warrior whispers back, I am the storm. That's so good. I love that. And you have to know, I debated putting it in there because in a way it's so cliche, you know, but I thought hell with that. It's so, well, as it says in the book, apropos the moment, I thought it was the right thing for her to think.

Steve, I'm going to jump in here and give you my two cents that you did not ask for. So you can toss it aside in your piggy bank jar or do whatever you want. But sometimes, yes. Should you write a book full of cliches? No. Can you toss in an occasional one? Yes. And if it's something that powerful, especially at the end, blah, blah. The storm. I am the storm. I mean, that just works. You're like, yeah.

You want to see it in a t-shirt, hashtag I am the storm. That was a special moment in that story. And it would have been a waste not to use that fantastic quote. It was just perfect. It was absolutely perfect. All right, as we wrap the show, as you know we do, same question every time, but it always is good. And I've got people who maybe fast forward into the end of the show, if they don't want to hear the whole thing, lazy bastard. But...

What is the best piece of writing advice you have come to make your own that you'd like to share with my audience? The best piece of writing advice I ever received was just write. Meaning get out of your own way. Stop worrying about how people tell you should write. Stop worrying about the experts that might say you've got to be a plotter. You've got to do outlines. If you're not outlining, you're not writing. File that away wherever you want.

and just sit down and write. Nothing happens without the act of putting words on a page. Boom. Mic drop. All right, folks, if you want to learn more, visit steveyourzany.com. Also, follow him on all those hip social channels. I so appreciate this time, Steve. I thank you so much. Well, I appreciate being on your show, David. I love watching your show.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (43:53.514)
So many people have watched, I was trying to get through Jack Stewart's the other day, but I didn't have enough time before I came on this. Samantha Bailey, you watch that show, a bunch of others, lots of good people, lots of entertaining, insightful stuff. So thank you for doing the show. Oh yeah. I have a blast doing it. And as you saw Jack, Jack flew into town to hang with me and

Completely coincidentally, Steve Stratton is flying in next week. So we're going to do a sit down here and I'm hoping to do more and more of these face to face because there's nothing better than us step, stepping up and breathing the same air and look at each other in the eye and having a drink or whatever and just doing it. So next time I'm hoping to come to your town. Once again, thank you, Steve. Huge success to you. I wish you only the best. Thank you, David. You gotta love debut authors. Thanks again, Steve.

Alright, now how about next week? Another Steve, my good friend Steve Stratton. He's a debut novelist, but he's got his second book out there and it's called Shadow Sanction. So please join me when Steve Stratton stops by The Thriller Zone for another face-to-face interview. Until next time, I want to remind you two quick things. Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel, youtube.com slash The Thriller Zone. And of course, you can find us at

TheThrillerZone.com as well as every single place you can imagine getting your podcast. Once again, I'm David Temple. I'll see you next time for another edition of The Thriller Zone. Your front row seat to the best thrillers.