Jon Stock, who also writes as JS Monroe, gave a masterclass in the art of thriller writing on Sunday morning for a group of 14-18 year olds at the College as part of the Marlborough Litfest programme (September 30).
Jon Stock is a former journalist for the Telegraph and wrote spy novels, until he decided to switch to psychological thrillers under the pseudonym JS Monroe. His eighth book, Forget My Name, comes out officially on October 4 – although a few copies were available at the Town Hall.
As a teenager and an aspiring thriller writer myself I found the workshop inspiring and informative, and it was especially useful to get an insight into the mechanics of novel-writing, for example the advertisement side.
Social media is a “crucial” part of the book-publishing world today – hashtags, book trailers and sizzle reels are all used to promote the book to the public.
There is, though, a downside to the popularity of internet-based book marketing. It is now easier than ever for disgruntled readers to give books bad reviews.
Jon Stock has had plenty of five-star reviews, however he warned us that if we wanted to become authors we had to have thick skins. One reviewer eloquently stated: “As I write this review, your book is in flames in my fireplace.”
“That was my first book burning,” Jon told us with a laugh.
Our fears were assuaged slightly as we were told that five-star reviews, one-stars and book-burnings were all a good sign as it means that a reaction has been provoked in the reader. If you really want to damage an author’s reputation, make sure to give them three stars on Goodreads.
We were also told about the latest trends in fiction and non-fiction, including the newcomer ‘up-lit’: uplifting literature that is meant to restore one’s faith in humanity. Perhaps this is exactly what the nation needs after the influx of disheartening news we have had over the past few months.
We were then taken through a detailed guide of what makes a good thriller novel and the mechanics that one needs to take into consideration, such as an opening line that pulls the reader in, characterisation, narrative style and structure.
As part of Jon Stock’s workshop, everyone wrote their own opening line for a book and a descriptive paragraph based on a picture. I was impressed with the overall quality of these pieces. It was clear that there was a lot of talent in the room.
Eleanor, who was part of the workshop group, commented: “It was very interesting, and the part about plot twists was particularly good.”