WriteNOW! 2023 Saturday Faculty

Three quarter view of author Tori eldridge
Tori Eldridge

Tori Eldridge

TORI ELDRIDGE is the national bestselling author of the Lily Wong mystery thriller series—The Ninja Daughter, The Ninja’s Blade, and The Ninja Betrayed—nominated for the Anthony, Lefty, and Macavity Awards and winner of Suspense Magazine’s Crimson Scribe Award for Best Book of 2021. Her shorter works appear in the inaugural reboot of Weird Tales magazine and other horror, dystopian, and literary anthologies. Her short story, “Missing on Kaua‘i,” appears in the 2022 Mystery Writers of America anthology, Crime Hits Home. Her horror screenplay The Gift, which inspired Dance Among the Flames, earned a semi-finalist spot for the Academy Nicholl Fellowship. Tori’s fourth Lily Wong book, THE NINJA’S OATH, comes out on September 12th, right before the conference.

Before writing, Tori performed as an actress, singer, dancer on Broadway, television, and film, and earned a 5th degree black belt in To-Shin Do ninja martial arts. She is of Hawaiian, Chinese, Norwegian descent and was born and raised in Honolulu where she graduated from Punahou School with classmate Barack Obama. Tori’s deep interest in world culture and religions has prompted her to visit nine countries, including Brazil.

Picture of a woman with short salt and pepper hair, red glasses and a wonderful smile
Hallie Ephron

Hallie Ephron

HALLIE EPHRON is a NY Times bestselling author of suspense novels reviewers have called “deliciously creepy.” Careful What You Wish For is a mash-up of Antiques Roadshow and Strangers on a TrainNever Tell a Lie was adapted for film. A five-time finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark Award, her Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel was an Edgar finalist. Lee Child called it “the best how-to guide I have ever seen.” Hallie blogs on Jungle Red Writers. The crime fiction book reviewer for the Boston Globe for years, she won the Ellen Nehr Award for mystery reviewing.

Hallie Ephron’s workshop: 

Back story and how not to shoot yourself in the foot with it

Backstory, what it is, and why it matters. For instance, though characters are what they do, we pride ourselves as crime fiction writers on surprising our readers. Every surprising action has to make sense in light of the character’s backstory. The challenge for the novelist is finding “Page One” and then revealing backstory without bogging down the front story.

Topics include:

    • What is backstory, and why backstory matters to the front story
    • Identifying the various possible sources of backstory (character, setting, situation, context …)
    • How to formulate backstory and determine how much the reader needs to know
    • How to find your Page One
    • Strategies for layering in backstory so that it enhances the front story
    • Methods for avoiding the ‘backstory dump.

Woman standing against a tree near a river.
Christina Estes

Christina Estes

Emmy award-winning reporter CHRISTINA ESTE’S first novel, Off the Air, received the Tony Hillerman Prize for Best First Mystery Set in the Southwest. Inspired by Christina’s reporting career, Off the Air features a TV reporter investigating the murder of a controversial talk show host. Off the Air is set in Phoenix where Christina has spent more than twenty years covering crime, public policy, education, and business. Currently a journalist for the local NPR member station, Christina’s reporting has also been heard on National Public Radio and appeared in the Arizona Republic, Phoenix Business Journal and Arizona Business Gazette. www.christinaestes.com



smiling woman in front of book shelves
Charlaine Harris

Charlaine Harris

CHARLAINE HARRIS is a true daughter of the South. She was born in Mississippi and has lived in Tennessee, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Texas. After years of writing poetry and plays and essays, her career as a novelist began when her husband told her to stay home and write. Her first book, Sweet and Deadly, appeared in 1981. When Charlaine’s career as a mystery writer began to falter, she decided to write a cross-genre book that would appeal to fans of mystery, science fiction, romance, and suspense. She could not have anticipated the huge surge of reader interest in the adventures of a barmaid in Louisiana, or the fact that Alan Ball would come knocking at her door. Charlaine is a voracious reader. She has one husband, three children, two grandchildren, and rescue dogs. She leads a busy life.



Smiling man with hands in pockets
Joe Ide – photo by Kaori Suzuki

Joe Ide

JOE IDE (ee – day) grew up in South Central Los Angeles and currently lives in Santa Monica, California. His IQ series has won the Anthony, Shamus and Macavity Awards, and been nominated for the Edgar, Barry, CWA New Blood Dagger and Strand Book Critics Awards. The IQ books are currently in development as an original TV series.

Picture of a young Filipino woman in a cobalt blue dress sitting on a chair. She has shoulder length hair and beautiful fuchsia colored lipstick that shows off her mysterious smile.
Mia P. Manansala Photo credit: Jamilla Yipp Photography

Mia P. Manansala

MIA P. MANANSALA (MAH-nahn-sah-lah) (she/her) is the author of the Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery series. The first book, Arsenic and Adobo, garnered starred reviews from Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Shelf Awareness, and has won multiple awards. The New York Times stated, “Manansala peppers the narrative with enough red herrings to keep readers from guessing the killer, but the strength of the novel is how family, food and love intertwine in meaningful and complex ways,” which are common themes in her writing. She is the winner of the 2022 Anthony Award for Best First Novel, 2022 Macavity Award for Best First Mystery, 2022 RUSA Reading List for Mystery, 2021 Agatha Award for Best First Novel, 2021 Chicago Reader’s Best New Novel by a Chicagoan, 2018 Hugh Holton Award, the 2018 Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award, the 2017 William F. Deeck – Malice Domestic Grant for Unpublished Writers, and the 2016 Mystery Writers of America/Helen McCloy Scholarship. A lover of all things geeky, Mia spends her days procrasti-baking, playing JRPGs and dating sims, reading cozy mysteries and diverse romance, and cuddling her dogs Gumiho and Max Power.

Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: @MPMtheWriter Or check out her website: www.miapmanansala.com



Woman with chin resting in hand, looking thoughtful
Hank Phillippi Ryan

Hank Phillippi Ryan

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN is the USA Today bestselling author of 14 psychological thrillers, winning the most prestigious awards in the genre: five Agathas, five Anthonys, and the coveted Mary Higgins Clark Award. She is also on-air investigative reporter for Boston’s WHDH-TV, with 37 EMMYs and dozens more journalism honors. National book critics call her “a superb and gifted storyteller;” she’s the only author to win the Agatha in four categories: Best First, Best Novel, Best Short Story and Best Non-Fiction. Her newest is the page-turning standalone thriller The House Guest–a story of psychological manipulation that explores the dark heart of marriage and friendship—it’s Gaslight meets Thelma & Louise. Bestselling author Lisa Scottoline says, “Ryan is one of my favorite authors and The House Guest shows why,” EMMY-winning host Tamron Hall says, “The House Guest kept me on the edge of my seat…” and the Publishers Weekly rave review says, “Ryan is a master of suspense!” and the Library Journal starred review calls it “Binge-worthy.”Hank is a founder of MWA University, host of CRIME TIME on A Mighty Blaze, and co-host of First Chapter Fun and The Back Room. Visit Hank online at HankPhillippiRyan.com, on Twitter @HankPRyan, on Instagram @hankpryan and Facebook at HankPhillippiRyanAuthor.

Hank Phillippi Ryan’s topic:

What Happens Next? Keep Your Readers Turning Those Pages!

Think about the words you see in a rave book review. Pacey. Propulsive. Riveting. Compelling. Page-turner. And those are all shorthand for “fun to read,” and for “something happens.”  And also for “I cannot wait to find out what happens next.”  Problem is, it’s textbook-easy to begin a novel and have something happen: that’s why there’s a story. But to keep your story going, to keep it pacey and propulsive, things must keep happening. And at every moment, the reader must be compelled to turn the page.
Every writer knows it can be daunting to keep the engine of your book running. But suspense is the fuel that makes it accelerate.  How can you create suspense in every sentence? And how can you pack your pages with so much suspense that it becomes a coveted one-sitting read?
USA Today best-selling author and Emmy-winning investigative reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan will show you how each element of your story can be tightened, twisted, and focused to intrigue, surprise, and delight your readers–and have them turning the pages as fast as they can. With practical advice and specific tips, Hank will guide you through the secrets of suspense.


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