Thriller School – Killer Reads Exclusive Offer

In this month’s newsletter there was a special offer for all those on the Killer Reads mailing list to book their place on crime writing course Thriller School for a discounted rate.

We managed to catch up with founder Sarah Williams before she launches the inaugural event in January to see what she hopes to achieve with the course and why specialise in crime fiction…

Thriller School: Away from what I know

Why am I opening a Thriller School? About two years ago, I was lying in bed with Håkan Nesser. Suddenly, Dean Koontz, Patricia Cornwell, Henning Mankell, Ian Rankin and a number of others fell on my head. It was then that I realised what I loved: crime fiction. The three tall towers of paperback thrillers that had just landed on me had grown because my bookshelves were already overstuffed with Stig Larssen, Donna Leon, Michael Connelly, Jeff Lindsay, Tess Gerritsen, Eliot Pattison, Meg Gardiner, Robert Crais, Michael Dibden…

I’d been a writer, head of an English department, a publisher, a businesswoman, a university tutor – I’d been, and still am, a mother. I’d studied and taught all kinds of literature and literary criticism, from Chaucer to Chinua Achebe, from Structuralism to Post-feminism, but now I realised that it was crime fiction I rested in and relished.

As I picked up the books, and over the next few days, I wondered: why crime fiction? Through the host of answers that occurred – the clarity of writing, the problem-solving, the range of forms and tones of voice, I realised that there was a central theme: the crime fiction books I so enjoy take me away from what I know.

Håkan Nesser’s imaginary land, Michael Connelly’s California hills, new places, new people, new dilemmas.

I decided to start Thriller School.

When I began to talk about Thriller School with people it was as if I had discovered magic words – people’s eyes lit up, and they engaged with me in unexpected openness and enthusiasm. Clearly, I was not alone in my love for the dark corners and seamy side streets of literature.

I live just outside Oxford, and was fortunate enough to study at Balliol College, Oxford University. More recently I have developed a close relationship with St Hilda’s College, a serene and beautiful place, with one of the best cooks in Oxford. How could Thriller School be set anywhere else?

Having written a number of books myself, I know how hard it is to write, and especially to finish, a crime fiction novel. Each writer is different, and finds their stumbling blocks in different places. But there are strategies, ways of finding what works best, and there are people who can help. My idea for Thriller School is to bring together writers, agents, publishers, detectives, police officers and forensic scientists: every expert in the fiction and the fact of crime.

For the opening Taster Weekend, running over 9th and 10th January, the keynote speaker is HarperCollins author S.J.Parris, whose forthcoming crime novel, Heresy, is actually set in an Oxford College (not Hilda’s, but a college close by – and there will be an opportunity to take a literary tour of the Oxford colleges). Other speakers include Emily O’Shea (forensic scientist), Catherine Clarke (literary agent) and Rachel Rayner (HarperCollins crime fiction editor). Further details are on the website:

This January weekend will be followed by four further weekend courses throughout 2010, taking delegates deeper into many aspects of crime writing, from the craft itself right through to how to wow an agent.

Thriller School is working in close association with HarperCollins and is offering a special discount price to the first 5 Killer Reads members who book on to the course. Just go to, click through to the Book Now page and enter your special Killer Reads code: TS-KR010.

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