The Big Thrill

It’s been a surreal couple of weeks.

As many of you have heard by now, THE COLD ROOM was named 2010’s Best Paperback Original by the International Thriller Writers two Saturday nights ago. I was overwhelmed at the nomination – and up against two very good friends, Shane Gericke and Rob Browne, both incredibly fine writers. (And let’s all wish our dear Murderati alum Rob well – his new book, THE PARADISE PROPHECY – also in production as a film, went on sale yesterday, Congrats, Rob!) I have to shout out about their books that were nominated too – TORN APART and DOWN AMONG THE DEAD MEN – both of which are amazing!

I was a bag o’ nerves going into the conference: I’ve never been nominated for anything, and I put a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself because I was really nervous about the whole thing. Plus I was teaching at Craftfest and moderating a panel, and you all know how much I adore being the center of attention… not.

Well, someone divine knew I needed to stop fretting, because Tuesday morning before the con I woke with a whoppingly (soppingly?) bad cold. I was shocked they let me on the plane Wednesday, actually. I had to cancel all my Wednesday plans, and suck it up when I woke Thursday for my Craftfest class with Erica Spindler and felt exactly like hell. I left all my sparkle in the hotel room. (Sorry, Erica, for being so scattered and blech!)

I made it through the day, but at the big cocktail party Thursday night, my voice started to go. By Friday, I had none. By Saturday, it was even worse – I was feeling okay, but for all intents and purposes, mute. So our divine Murderati alum Toni McGee Causey moderated my panel for me.

My illness was strangely prophetic on several levels. First, because of my nervous state, I told Randy I’d been praying for laryngitis so if I did win, I couldn’t get up in front of all those people and speak, thus making a fool out of myself. Second, because in the new book, WHERE ALL THE DEAD LIE, Taylor is suffering from hysterical aphonia. She has no voice. I joked to my publisher that I was simply starting the marketing early with a personalized story.

And third, when I got choked up and started to cry on stage, I was able to mask it.

Yes, I cried. I am such a girl. I get overly emotional all the time, and this was no exception. To be honored by my peers was utterly overwhelming. I had no speech prepared because I honestly didn’t think I’d win. Our Allison can attest – I was genuinely shocked.

But that’s wasn’t the only magic happening in New York that Saturday night. Many of you know that John Sandford was my direct inspiration to start my writing career. I was reading the PREY series and three books in had this epiphany: I wanted to write a female Lucas Davenport. And so I did. Of course, Taylor is very different from Davenport on many levels, but I absolutely took the idea of a cop who was half rock star, half hero from those books. John’s novel was up for best novel, and lo and behold, he won. Which meant things like this were happening Sunday and Monday following the conference:

Publishers Marketplace:

Sandford and Ellison Top ITW Thriller Awards

I really can’t put into words what reading that headline did to me. Affirmation of my chosen career, a reward for the many hours of labor spent toiling away, especially on a book that had three titles, three covers, twelve drafts, eight revisions, and a threesome with a dead body…. All that combined with winning the award with my heroes in the room…. it was priceless.

And yes, I say heroes, because it wasn’t just John there. Diana Gabaldon, my favorite author, was there too! When she congratulated me, I about melted into the floor.

But it was even more than that. ITW has been a part of my writing life from day one. I will never forget how excited I was when I got my deal just in time to add AUTHOR to my name badge at that first, mythical Thrillerfest in Phoenix. To be honored by the very organization that has been nurturing my career from day one… well, you get the idea. 

My acceptance speech managed to thank my darling husband Randy (though I shouldn’t have started with him, I got choked up immediately), my amazing agent Scott Miller, my incredible publishers Mira Books, my former editor Linda McFall, and the whole of ITW.

But let me take this moment to thank you. All of you. Because you read the books, buy the books, blurb the books. Because you share the books with your mom and dad, your sister and brother and friends. Because you request the books be housed in your library, and tell your favorite bookseller that they need to carry the titles. Because each and every day, you reach out to me: here on Murderati, on my blog, on Twitter and Facebook, through email. Because of you, I am inspired. I have a writing career. And that’s the most beautiful thing of all.

With love,


Wine of the Week: Let’s have a glass of bubbly, yeah? Some Veuve Clicquot, my favorite, would be nice. Here’s to all of you! (ching ching)

20 thoughts on “The Big Thrill

  1. Zoë Sharp

    HUGE congrats, JT – enormously well deserved. I knew from the moment I read THE COLD ROOM, it was a winner ;-]

    And as a coincidence, I'm just reading John Sandford's WINTER PREY at the moment!

  2. PK the Bookeemonster

    JT, I'm tearing up reading about your wonderful adventures. Congratulations! I know authors work hard — long hours spilling blood and guts into a story and all the promotion you have to do. JT, you are one of the hardest working, most earnest authors I've encountered and you deserve every kudo you receive.

  3. Judy Wirzberger

    I claim fame by association. Congratulations, who'd have thunk it that rainy, rainy night at M is for Mystery. Truly well deserved.

  4. Rob Browne

    JT, I said from the beginning that you were going to take it, but I will admit there was a part of me hoping to pull an upset. 🙂 But when Toni texted me (or was it Allison?) and told me you were crying, I couldn't help feeling thrilled for you. Fate had played the right chord. If I had to lose to anyone, I'm happy it was you.

    Thanks for the shout-out and the book plug. I appreciate it!

  5. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    It's so good to hear your voice loud and strong, now. You can consider this your acceptance speech. Beautifully written, as are your novels, as is your career. You deserve all the wonderful things you are receiving, JT!

  6. Allison Brennan

    I was there! LOL, JT, I am so thrilled for you, then and now. (Of course, TOTALLY jealous, but not in a "I want to kill you" way.) (That's a joke.) Seriously, you rock, as a friend and a writer, and I consider myself LUCKY to have read your first book as an ARC and knowing that you had IT.

  7. JT Ellison

    Thank you guys, so, so much! I am still laid low by the same virus that hit me during Thrillerfest – can't seem to shake it. Your sweet notes have made my day! And made me tear up – wow, I am well on my way to becoming a marshmallow.

    I'm heading back to bed, but wanted to give you my deepest thanks. I couldn't do any of this without you!


  8. Pauline

    Congratulations J.T.!
    I am so happy for you.
    After thoroughly enjoying SO CLOSE, I am now starting at the beginning. Just picked up ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS, can't wait to read all of them!

  9. JT Ellison

    Xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox you guys, I so appreciate the love! Me And Harry Potter, who's kept me company whilst I plague. : )

  10. Fran

    Oh but you SO deserve this award, JT! Congratulations indeed! THE COLD ROOM creeped me right out, brilliantly done!

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