The Thriller Zone

On today’s 189th episode of The Thriller Zone, host David Temple interviews authors Melinda Lee and Kendra Elliott about their collaborative novel, Echo Road. 

The two guest authors discuss how they came together to write the book, and their process of alternating chapters and maintaining consistent character voices. 

Elliot and Leigh also talk about their experiences with author Lee Goldberg and the importance of social media in the publishing industry. The episode ends with a brief elevator pitch for Echo Road.

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Award-winning Green Beret, Steve Stratton, is the author of the Shadow Tier Series and the novella, A Warrior's Path: the Lance Bear Wolf Story. Learn more at

What is The Thriller Zone?

Podcast host and thriller author David Temple 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 (00:00.27)
Hello and welcome to the Thriller Zone. I'm your host David Temple. And on today's Thriller Zone, we have two, two, two talents in one, Melinda Lee and Kendra Elliott. I like to refer to them as Elliott and Lee. They've got a book called Echo Road. Now they have a prolific stack of novels to their credit on their own. However, this is their very first novel together. So please, let's get into the Thriller Zone and welcome Elliott and Lee.

Well, welcome to the Thriller Zone, ladies. So nice to have you. Thank you. Happy to be here. Thank you for having us. You can jump in. We're all... This is family time. This is a cool, casual show. I'm sure you've seen the show, yes? Of course. Thank you. Don't you hate it when the host begs? But yeah, as you know, we just kind of roll with it. We have lots of fun and nobody gets hurt. That's the nice thing. We will be talking about this gorgeous book, Echo Road.

And you know what, it's so funny, Megan Beatty was reaching out to me and said, hey, I've got this book. She was talking about this book.

three, four, five months ago, I want you to keep me in mind, keep us in the queue, and I was really stacking up on the show. She goes, you're gonna love these gals, the book is great, and so forth. I'm like, okay, okay, okay. And it came and I'm like, bam. Was that a reaction to the cover or the story? Both. Bam to the cover, bam to the story. good. Yeah, bam bam for both of you. So, I wanna start off with something that has,

caught my eye and I thought to myself, somewhere I read something about, this is your first collaboration? In a full length novel. Right, okay. Perfect, so I don't look like an idiot. Because I know that you both have had huge success separately and we can run down some of the numbers on books here shortly, but someone or something gave you an idea to co -author. Now I've got a two part question, so bear with me because I tend to do this a lot.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (02:09.422)
One, did my buddy Lee Goldberg have anything to do with this? And two, can you share how it all came together? Talk amongst yourselves. yes. We've also a good buddy of ours. We've known Lee a long time. We have, Melinda and I have written a novella series in the past where we alternated writing novellas. And we've done 20 of those. So we have worked together before.

But we haven't written a novel together. So yes, this was different. Melinda, I'll let you say how it came about. So we had been planning. Well, one of us had been planning for us to write a joint novel. That would be me trying to convince Kendra that this was a really good idea. And we had been kicking around this idea for a couple of years.

And we both have a lot of other contractual commitments. So putting aside a significant chunk of time for a second project isn't easy. But we were sitting in a conference with Lee Goldberg, and a case popped up. And just the whole structure of the case just seemed perfect for our characters. And so we quickly called dibs. Although we gave dibs to Lee on a different case, so we felt like we were even.

And that's kind of how this particular book came about. That was the inspiration for this book. Side note about Lee. Have you ever met a guy who is funnier and more and kinder ever, right? No, he is such a great person. He is very genuine. He's so nice. Yes, he's funny. Genuinely cares about people. That's who he is. A lot of people think he's...

that that's something he puts on. No, that's him. That's Lee. I met Lee right after my first book came out. I had hardly sold any copies. And he looked at me and he was like, you're with my publisher. come on. And he dragged me into a group of other writers and introduced me to everybody. And he was just my best friend. And he was just the nicest person. I didn't know anyone at the conference. So he just is that way. That was my experience with him, too. Yeah. I remember the first time I met him. And.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (04:30.958)
It was at a conference and he had come down from LA. I have been in LA, spent many years in LA. I know some of the mindset of LA. And so when I met him and he was so nice and so gregarious, I thought, this guy's got to be on the con somehow. And only come to find out he's the nice, that's just who he is. He was, exactly. All right, well we love you Lee Goldberg. All right, moving on.

So I'm glad you guys did it. Now I'm not going to ask, I'm not going to put you on the spot, yes I am, that how many books each of you have, but I started looking at the compilation of books and I'm not going to run them all off because I mean it's pages, Kendra pages, Melinda pages. I'm like... I suggested they condense that a little bit because they're really spread out, aren't they? You could have.

I could just put the series names in. Yeah, we could save some trees. But my point is, you gals have been at this a long time. I'm so impressed. Your work speaks for itself. And so I, first of all, kudos, golf clap. Thank you. Thanks. Here's what I really want to do for those folks in my audience, because I'm introducing people on this audience, in the show to new authors.

For those of you who don't know, I'm just going to read, just share a couple of accolades because these are from prolific writers as well. Robert DiGoni, Bobby, says, grizzly, gripping, and riveting. Tess Gerritsen, one of my favorite authors of all time, says, Echo Road maps the darkness of a human heart and the light of female friendship. Boom.

Lee Goldberg, we're just talking about him. Hey, what do you get when you pair up two genre masters, a double barrel blast of crime fiction awesomeness?

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (06:28.366)
That should be a hashtag on a t -shirt. Jess Laurie, suspense readers have won the lottery with this one. And my favorite in the bunch from Rachel Housel Hall, former guest here on the show, wonderful gal. My favorite, listen to this, intense, propulsive, exhausting, but that good kind of can't stop reading kind of exhausting. You know, the rooting for justice kind of exhaustion, the kick -ass woman kicking ass kind of exhaustion.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (06:57.678)
Thank you for letting me. I was very impressed when I first read that too. that's a good blurb. Those are hard to write. They are really hard to write and sound original. Yes. Well, now I want to go back to co -authoring. Now, it's probably a classic question because this is, even amongst all the novellas, this is the first time we've met Mercy and Brie, right? Together.

But in one book, yeah. In one book, yeah. I have a series about Mercy and she has a series about Bree. Got it. So first time they've together. Now, everyone's wondering and I wondered as soon as I got to the last page, I'm like, well, they're going to come back together again, right? Maybe. We don't have definitive plans. OK.

we would like to, but probably the biggest thing is finding time where we both have the same.

hole in our schedule to get together and do it. The first one went really fast, but we had been thinking about that book a long time, so I don't know if a second would go quite as quickly. I broke down once sitting with Andrews Wilson, as you guys probably know, Brian and Jeff. They've been doing duo writing for a while, so this is my very first time of having a dynamic duo of gals. They were my first dynamic duo of guys.

and they were telling me the process of how they did that personally fully comprehended but i may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer because you know brian will start this way jeff will start this way they'll have kind of an outline and the come together can you share me just real quick kind of how your process works because it's just fascinating to me with two brains one at one story i'd be like having two brains that actually saves you from getting stuck

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (08:50.318)
You just messaged the other person like, what do you think should happen? But neither one of us are plotters. So we would just plot a couple chapters at a time. And then we would write those. And then we would think about, OK, what next? And then we would plot a few more chapters and write those. We kind of had a general idea where we were going, but this was kind of on the fly, organic. We wrote it in seven. shit.

What did you drop? I just kicked the cord out of my computer. You were about to say we wrote this in? Seven weeks. Which is yeah really really really fast and we were delighted at how fast it went because when you're writing on your own...

that word count, it accrues so slowly. It was so exciting to sit down and write and it's going twice as fast.

But as far as process, I would write from my character's point of view, keep it condensed in one chapter. She would write from her character's point of view. We always knew a general idea of what the other person was writing. We'd read each other's stuff for continuity, essentially, and say, my character would never say that.

or this is how my character would act in that situation. That was our main question, I think, asking each other, what would your character do here? Kendra, that reminds me of when we would be on set of, I acted in some movies and TV shows, and I always found this very funny when the director would call action and then they would cut and a certain actor would go, I don't know if my character would say it that way.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (10:39.918)
And the director somehow invariably would always say, it's on the page that way. Let's just go that way. I think with us having, I mean, Melinda's written 10 books with her character. I've written six, well, actually eight. We know these women inside and out.

And so I just wasn't sure what hers would do, but she knows. Yeah. If you don't, if you don't have a good, and here's an interesting thing, pants, your plotter. And so you pants it, you have just enough, outline structure to know kind of where you're going. Well, you probably know how it ends. I mean, you got to think to yourself, it's like taking a trip, you know, where you want to end up. Maybe you don't pull out the map and follow it to the direct route. You go, let's stop here and let's stop there. Right. So, but you at least have.

kind of where you're going. Kind of. We know the killer will get his due. That is essentially our end that we know. And we knew who did it, but we didn't know how the end was going to come about. Okay, fair enough. All right folks, let's take a very short break to say hi to our sponsors. When we come back, we're going to find it, we're going to deep dive on this and we're going to find out.

Kind of the, I always like to call it elevator pitch. So if you're sitting there thinking, do I need to, do I want to grab Echo Road? We're gonna find out right after this.

And we are back with Elliot and Lee and the book is Echo Road and of course it is the gals Kendra and Melinda. It is so nice to have you here and this book is one of those books as you heard us in the beginning of the show. It's full of all those things that we really like in a page turner and with two characters that as we said at the end of it you're like what happens to them next because you really you have built a sense of relationship.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (12:33.038)
that you want to find out what happens in their life next. That is just a statement. So can you do me a favor and give me an elevator pitch so I don't sit here because I have been accused before of saying something they go, Dave, that's a, you know, that's kind of a, you blew it there. So I had to cut it out. So I won't do that one. It's easier for us to write a whole book. Look into a few words. That is actually really hard.

But I guess you would say it's a collision of a missing person case on one coast with a the investigation of a double homicide on the opposite coast. OK, it's more exciting than that sounds. OK, OK. For my writing students in the audience, I'd like you to allow me to read the opening sentence. And this is what grabbed me. And I think there's an art in that opening sentence. And if you can craft the opening sentence that stretches into a paragraph.

Then it's like double gold. And if you can get me to do this action, then we're off to the races. But the first line, and I want to know who came up with this and how long did it live with you. The first time I saw her, I knew I would kill her. That was me. That was me. Tell me where you were when that happened, because I know authors have those moments. It's probably locked in your head.

Nope, nope, just popped into my head and came pretty easily actually, which is kind of scary. Do you recall writing it? That's a big... I do, no, I was like, ooh, I know where we start. We'll start here. You had actually added that after we'd been going for a little while? Yeah, we added that first chapter afterward. We had already been writing, we probably had six or seven chapters in and then I was like, wait, I think we need to something just a little bit more...

dark. I like dark. Yeah, it's obvious because the darkness just continues from there. I mean, it starts with one sentence, but actually that whole prologue is one dandy little piece of darkness. Melinda wrote all the killer's point of view. We find it's easier to stick with one character, one writer writing one character, just to keep that voice authentic throughout the book. Now that makes sense.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (14:53.422)
I could see how if you tried to bounce back and forth that would be disaster or could be disaster. Yeah, so keeping those voices consistent throughout the book. That's probably that's how we did it. I can't wait for this book to come out. It's going to come out like July 2nd, right? Yes. Well, folks, if you'd like to learn more, I have two websites. Usually we have one website for you to go to. And I keep wondering. Let me get to that. So it's KendraElia .com and MelindaLee .com.

Will there be a ElliottLee .com? No. No, that'd be too confusing. No, probably. One website's enough to me.

Yeah, and speaking of which, how are you gals with social media? We've been talking a lot about this on the show about the importance of it, not the importance of it. Should we let AI do it? We shouldn't let AI do it. Will AI destroy our lives or not? What are your thoughts on specifically social media? And do you feel like having a good platform and presence does help alert your listeners and watchers and readers to your stories?

and also sell books. I think it's kind of a necessary evil in the business at this point. A lot of people are connected on social media. That's where people go to to look for books, to look for book reviews. So I am on there, but it also is distracting. It's time away from writing. Yeah, it is. I have actually cut back last few years. I am not on TikTok. I left Twitter many years ago. Yes, it's.

A presence is required, but I don't put out a lot of content. I guess another question would be, do you have a favorite among them? I like Instagram the best. I find it the least distracting. I can curate that feed exactly the way, just what I want to see. It's not bombarded with a lot of additional things. I like Instagram a lot too.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (16:57.23)
I like Facebook for keeping in contact with friends and family and other authors. Instagram, most of my feed is kittens. Dogs, horses, recipes, that's about it. Yeah. Sure. The Twitter sphere has shifted dramatically since Musk came on board. I'm not going to bad mouth it. It is what it is. And some people like it and some don't. I find it to be a little more annoying these days than it used to be.

I'm with you though Instagram the thing about Instagram and this is between us girls I can't I can't keep myself from doing this I mean I'll sit down I'll start my coffee at about five o 'clock in the morning I'm like I'm just gonna check a few things and I look up the clock and I'm 35 minutes in and all I've been doing is this so but when writing folks put your phone in silent or airplane mode in the other room in a drawer lock it give your key to someone.

I will set a timer, turn off notifications, and write for an hour. And then I will pick up my phone. Yeah. Gotcha. Well, folks, once again, bestselling author of the Brie Taggart series, bestselling author of the Mercy Kilpatrick series, Kendra Elliott, Melinda Lee, Echo wrote us the book. And gals, thank you so much for joining us. thank you for having us. Yes.

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