What a year for debut thrillers!
While guys like Nick Irving and Sean Parnell (both New York Times bestselling nonfiction authors) bring name-recognition as they prepare to roll out their debut fiction thrillers. . . and other new writers such as Jack Carr and David Ricciardi have netted comparisons to Vince Flynn and Tom Clancy respectively, there’s one new writer ready to break onto the scene who brings the best writing chops of them all. . . and her name’s August Thomas.
In a year with an unprecedented amount of quality new authors entering the thriller scene, August Thomas’ name belongs at the top of the list of names to watch moving forward. Her debut, Liar’s Candle, is expertly written and supremely paced from start to finish. Picture Gayle Lynds’ ability to plot out a story with Daniel Silva’s writing style, and you’ve got everything you need to know about August Thomas and her wonderful first novel.
A huge thank you to August Thomas for going on the record and agreeing to partake in our Five Questions. See the short Q&A below, then keep scrolling to read more about Liar’s Candle, in stores tomorrow, April 17th.
LIAR’S CANDLE: Five Questions with August Thomas
TRBS: First and foremost, congratulations on publishing your first novel. Liar’s Candle is terrific! When did you know you wanted to be an author, and how long did it take you to write this book?
Thomas: “Thank you! I’m thrilled.
“Believe it or not, I started Liar’s Candle in the fall of 2014 as a one-page homework assignment. The manuscript sold to Scribner almost exactly two years later, while I was traveling in eastern Bulgaria. Then the editing process took about a year.
“My mother is a writer, so I grew up around stories the way a baker’s kid grows up around cake.”
TRBS: The book is set in Turkey, and you obviously really know your stuff. You nail all the details and bring the setting right to life for readers. How much research did you have to do before actually sitting down to write this book?
Thomas: “I started learning Turkish when I was 16. I ended up studying in Ankara, and then in Istanbul as a Fulbright Scholar at Bogazici University, where I got my Master’s. After that, I spent a couple of summers traveling Turkey’s western coast as a travel writer for the Fodor’s guide. I’ve been inside the ruling party of Turkey’s political HQ, ridden in Turkish ambulances, traveled so close to the border I could see the lights twinkling in Syria, and was an extra on a cheesy Turkish soap opera. So by the time I sat down to write Liar’s Candle, I knew Turkey pretty well. The spy stuff, however, took a ton of research!”
TRBS: Penny Kessler is a truly phenomenal character. I loved following her around, and know readers will too. How much of Penny is actually you? How are you two the same, and how are you different?
Thomas: “I’m glad you hit it off with Penny. I really wanted to create a young female character who was resourceful, compassionate and true-to-life.
“Penny is definitely not me. We have extremely different life stories. But we do have one important thing in common: I gave her my limitations. If I can’t speak a dozen languages, or take out six bad guys with Kung-Fu, or always make good decisions under pressure, neither can she. I think it’s much more exciting to watch an ordinary person grapple with extraordinary challenges.”
TRBS: Now that Liar’s Candle is hitting bookstores, what’s next for you. . . will you take some time off or start working on the next book?
Thomas: “I was in Russia and Budapest a few months ago for some Book 2 research. Keep an eye out for another Penny Kessler adventure in a year or so!”
TRBS: Lastly, who are some of your favorite authors, and what books on are your nightstand right now?
Thomas: “Right now on my nightstand I have a structurally unsound tower of nonfiction research for my new book: Odd Arne Westad’s The Cold War: A World History, Misha Glenny’s McMafia, Rebecca West’s Black Lamb, Grey Falcon (about her travels through Yugoslavia), and reference books about Hungarian politics and Russian intelligence. Also Ruth Reichl’s anthologies of food writing for Gourmet magazine, which my mother gave me for my birthday. Sometimes I need a break from geopolitics and just want to read about Parisian pastry!
“My favorite books are usually funny (P.G. Wodehouse, Patrick Dennis, Terry Pratchett etc.) suspenseful (think classic Agatha Christies), and/or travel-related. I’m also fascinated by books that give insight into how the world works, and why people make the choices they do.”
In this brilliant debut thriller, reminiscent of the works of John le Carre and Olen Steinhauer and infused with the authenticity of the author’s travels, a young American State Department intern based in Turkey becomes “the woman who knows too much” and is marked for death.
Penny Kessler, an intern at the US Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, wakes up in a hospital on the morning of July 5th to find herself at the center of an international crisis. The day before, the Embassy was the target of a devastating terrorist attack that killed hundreds of Penny’s friends and colleagues. Not only has a photograph of Penny as she emerged from the rubble become the event’s defining image, but for reasons she doesn’t understand, her bosses believe she’s a crucial witness.
Suddenly, everyone is intensely interested in what Penny knows. But what does she know? And whom can she trust? As she struggles to piece together her memories, she discovers that Zach Robson, the young diplomat she’d been falling for all summer, went missing during the attack. And one of the CIA’s most powerful officials, Christina Ekdahl, wants people to believe Zach was a traitor.
What actually happened?
Penny barely has time to ask before she discovers that her own government wants her dead. Soon, with only a single ally—a rookie intelligence officer fresh out of the Navy—she is running a perilous gauntlet, ruthlessly pursued by Turkey’s most powerful forces and by the CIA.
To survive, Penny must furiously improvise. Tradecraft takes a lifetime to master. She has less than thirty-six hours. And she’s only twenty-one years old. This is her first real test—one she can’t fail.
Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.