Interview with Author & Filmmaker Vivian Schilling







Vivian Schilling



*What traits or characteristics define you as a storyteller?

I am an existential thinker with a robust curiosity about life. Because of this, the material I create often varies greatly.

I can almost always see life from another person’s perspective, no matter how upsetting or different it may be from my own. If I open my mind to truly acknowledge that person’s circumstances, I can usually see their justification for their views, even when they are in direct conflict with my own. I think this ability has helped me tremendously when it comes to bringing my characters to life, especially my antagonists.

I am a strong believer in research and strive to build my writing, no matter how fantastical, on a solid foundation of accuracy. In Quietus, I create an entire mythology surrounding death, but it is drawn and pieced together by linking numerous sources, including ancient scriptures and apocrypha, Egyptian mythology and art from the Reformation. I feel the more support I can provide for as many of the story elements as possible, the more credibility it adds to the purely fictional ones.




Storytelling image typewriter




*Which medium resonates with you more, film or books?

As a creator and connoisseur of film and books with a deep love of both, it would be painful to lose either from my life. But if I had to make a choice, books would win the battle on both

Filmmaking can be a tremendous amount of fun. But writing is introspective, going deeper and further and leaving a more profound impact on my creative spirit.

As a filmgoer, I enjoy movies immensely. I love that I can sit in a theatre and completely escape for a couple of hours. I love the community experience of a film, especially in L.A., where the
film business is such a part of the culture. I love the dialogue that takes place with my friends immediately following a film, usually about the production, but also about the underlying themes and philosophical and cultural aspects of it. Film has often been the centerpiece of some of the most interesting and enlightening conversations I’ve ever had.

Reading books, on the other hand, is a very personal experience, a deeply gratifying one. I enjoy attending book clubs as a guest author, but I make a terrible book club member. Unlike film, I usually don’t feel the need to discuss the book in great detail. I would rather think about and savor it on my own.

I can completely forget a film after a week, but I rarely forget books. Another telling factor is that I don’t collect movies, but my place is packed with books.








*According to your experience as a writer define what the imagination is. 

What a beautiful question. Imagination goes to the very core and health of my spirit. With this said, I feel imagination and spirit are one in the same. If I open up my mind and allow my spirit to roam freely, I create. Sometimes these creations are dark and sometimes light. Most often, they embody both. When I am feeling caged in by the mundane demands of life, my imagination retreats and it is far more difficult for me to create.




Imagination Quietus




*How has writing affected your creativity as opposed to working in the film industry?

Writing has always been there for me. From the time I was a young girl, scratching out plays to perform or writing in a journal, writing has been my door to the world. I can write about anything I want. I can explore any thought I have and take it as far as I choose. Through writing, I am constantly discovering who I am and where I am headed. Its lack of limitations is very empowering to my creative spirit.

Film has its own positive attributes to offer, in an almost opposite way. It teaches restraint and discipline, as well as versatility. It is a collaborative process so you have to be able to adapt and to be open to the ideas of others and to give them space to create alongside you. It also can be very limiting if the project is restricted by budget, time or resources.



Creativity painting Quietus




*How long did it take to write Quietus?

The concept of Quietus was with me for many years before I wrote the novel. I had explored it in two other works, including a screenplay entitled Dark Angel that circulated Hollywood for some time. At one point, the film was set to start shooting in Canada, but the money fell through. That’s when I decided to turn it into a novel where I could embark on a more serious exploration into the concept. Once I finally began the novel it took me seven years. During that time I often found myself split off to do film or other writing projects. If it weren’t for my cabin escape in Big Bear, it would have taken a lot longer to complete.




Pen writing Quietus




*From Los Angeles to the Ozark mountains. Do you need complete solitude to write?

Most often times, yes, especially if I am deep into a novel. My most productive time as a writer is in seclusion, surrounded by nature. Even if I work long days and nights for weeks without a
break, I always leave feeling rested and light.




Ozark Mountains





*Did the cabin there have anything to do with the cabin in Quietus? 

I had already written Quietus before I had a cabin in the Ozarks. But I did stay thirteen months alone in a different cabin in Big Bear, California while writing the novel. It had a large loft that I turned into a writing den. That one completely inspired the layout of the one in the novel, along with some other moments and scenes later in the book.




Cabin Quietus


*Quietus has a very elegant writing style. What’s your editing process like?

What a nice thing to say. Thank you. I find my most inspiring times to write are first thing in the morning or late at night when I simply let my mind roam and fingers dictate. I return to these pages the next day and start tightening the scene structure. I usually go back to the same scene several times until I can read it aloud and like what I hear. I always edit as I go, which I know is not how most writers prefer to write. But my mind works linearly when it comes to prose. I have to hear the flow from the beginning.




Beauty writing





*Does your book employ a certain theme?

Quietus is a psychological thriller that follows a woman’s survival after a terrifying plane crash. It explores a myriad of cultural, philosophical and spiritual beliefs that question the very meaning of death and asks whether modern medicine is tampering with its balance.

*What are you working on next? Can you give us a bit of a teaser?

At this point in my journey as a writer, I am heavily drawn to Celtic culture and mythology. My story is set in the past and is close to the earth. I’m having an incredible time with my location research—opening my spirit and letting my imagination go where it takes me. It’s been a lot of fun!





Schilling headshot



VIVIAN SCHILLING is the award-winning author of the novels QUIETUS and SACRED PREY, as well as a screenwriter, producer and director of independent films. She recently completed work as co-writer and producer of the documentary “Bonobos: Back to the Wild” and is currently at work on her third novel.



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In the News: The Red Sparrow Trilogy by Jason Matthews



In the news image 2 Red sparrow




The Red Sparrow Trilogy by Jason Matthews



Red Sparrow Trilogy bk 1 Jason Matthews




Now a major motion picture starring Jennifer Lawrence and Joel Edgerton!


In the grand spy-tale tradition of John le Carré comes this shocking thriller written with insider detail known only to a veteran CIA officer.

In present-day Russia, ruled by blue-eyed, unblinking President Vladimir Putin, Russian intelligence officer Dominika Egorova struggles to survive in the post-Soviet intelligence jungle. Ordered against her will to become a “Sparrow,” a trained seductress, Dominika is assigned to operate against Nathaniel Nash, a young CIA officer who handles the Agency’s most important Russian mole.

Spies have long relied on the “honey trap,” whereby vulnerable men and women are intimately compromised. Dominika learns these techniques of “sexpionage” in Russia’s secret “Sparrow School,” hidden outside of Moscow. As the action careens between Russia, Finland, Greece, Italy, and the United States, Dominika and Nate soon collide in a duel of wills, tradecraft, and—inevitably—forbidden passion that threatens not just their lives but those of others as well. As secret allegiances are made and broken, Dominika and Nate’s game reaches a deadly crossroads. Soon one of them begins a dangerous double existence in a life-and-death operation that consumes intelligence agencies from Moscow to Washington, DC.

Page by page, veteran CIA officer Jason Matthews’s Red Sparrowdelights and terrifies and fascinates, all while delivering an unforgettable cast, from a sadistic Spetsnaz “mechanic” who carries out Putin’s murderous schemes to the weary CIA Station Chief who resists Washington “cake-eaters” to MARBLE, the priceless Russian mole. Packed with insider detail and written with brio, this tour-de-force novel brims with Matthews’s life experience, including his knowledge of espionage, counterintelligence, surveillance tradecraft, spy recruitment, cyber-warfare, the Russian use of “spy dust,” and covert communications. Brilliantly composed and elegantly constructed, Red Sparrow is a masterful spy tale lifted from the dossiers of intelligence agencies on both sides of the Atlantic. Authentic, tense, and entertaining, this novel introduces Jason Matthews as a major new American talent.


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First Chapter Synopsis



Thought bubble Red sparrow



It’s no secret that Jason Matthew’s Red Sparrow trilogy is becoming a blockbuster movie starring Jennifer Lawrence. That’s how I heard about Matthews’ work actually. It movie debuts this Friday, March 2nd, but I’m going to read the book first.  Read the first chapter last night and loved it. It delivers everything you’d hope for in a first chapter of a spy thriller. The “good” guys, bad guys, handling of of classified material, and a good chase.


Nathaniel Nash, a young CIA operative secretly meets with a russian mole codenamed “MARBLE” at an undisclosed location. They have their set 7 minute conversation and exchange classified material. However, Nathaniel notices something different in his confided mole this time.  Someone’s on his tail and they can’t risk getting caught together. They seem to escape, or do they? Definitely whets your appetite for the remainder of the book, so I can’t wait to devour this one.




Jason Matthews Author



Jason Matthews is a retired officer of the CIA’s Operations Directorate. Over a thirty-three-year career he served in multiple overseas locations and engaged in clandestine collection of national security intelligence, specializing in denied-area operations. Matthews conducted recruitment operations against Soviet–East European, East Asian, Middle Eastern, and Caribbean targets. As Chief in various CIA Stations, he collaborated with foreign partners in counterproliferation and counterterrorism operations. He lives in Southern California.


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Red Sparrow Trilogy

Red Sparrow #1

Palace of Treason #2

The Kremlin’s Candidate #3






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Guest post: lesson 1 by David Kummer

Welcome to this lesson of David Kummer’s writing course. That’s me, by the way. If you have any questions, comments, concerns, success stories, or just something fun to say, email me at I’d love to talk about anything and everything, especially if that everything has to do with books, basketball, or Chinese food. I am a teenager, after all. So that’s that! Head on down and read what might be the best writing course of your life, but also might be the worst 😉 You won’t know until you try!

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Historical Division: 1876-Not Just a Year by Khristina Atkinson

When starting to write my historical romance, Hopelessly, Completely, MADLY in Love, I choose the year 1876 for a simple enough reason.  It’s the hundred-year anniversary of the independence of America.  I ended up not mentioning this significant fact, because my character, Lexi Donovan, was dealing with some trying issues when the celebration would have rolled around.

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Writer’s Craft: Cruel Claws: Describing the Killer’s Hands by Rayne Hall


To increase suspense in a scene where a dangerous person is about to do something nasty, slow down the pace and describe their hands. This is perfect for when the evil overlord signs the order to exterminate the children, or when the torturer readies his instruments.


This technique works especially well in thrillers. Show the killer’s (or the suspect’s) hands, especially when the point-of-view character is helpless to do anything. This will send creepy shivers across the reader’s skin.

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Writer’s Craft: Managing Tension With Peaks and Troughs by Rayne Hall

Tension is good. It makes the reader turn the pages. However,  constant high tension soon gets dull. The readers can’t sustain continuous scared excitement, and after a while, instead of roused, they become bored.

It’s like the waves on a stormy sea: the peaks are only high because of the troughs between them. If there were only continuous peaks without any troughs, the sea would be flat.

Your job as writer is to create not just the peaks, but the troughs which make the peaks look high.

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DUP IS HERE! by Gavin Mills



‘Here’s my MTW review of Gavin Mills‘ adrenaline-rush of a thriller: Dup Departs…’


‘If you like thrillers involving gangsters, guns, drugs, corruption and action

this book is for you…’


These are comments on Dup Departs by two great writers for Mystery Thriller Week and I am blown away.


I am so glad people like Dup – because a lot of Dup is me, or was me …or something like that. But that’s not the point. Dup is like most anybody, just doing his best to lead an uncomplicated life and provide for his family. And things are not easy… There comes that time when one starts thinking whether he keeps pressing on or finds other cheese (sorry – had to borrow). Haven’t we all gone through that at some time? Is our life worth anything, are we doing what we love, …or are we missing out on life?

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CONTEST IS CLOSED / MTW Write Hook – Contest Rules


In fiction, three is a magic number: Three-Act Structure, Beginning-Middle-End, Three Plot Points, and Goal-Conflict-Resolution. Three is everywhere and must be grappled with by authors at every turn.

Mystery Thriller Week celebrates this intriguing phenomenon of three and invites you to submit a 300-word hook that will showcase your flexed writing muscle. A hook is what grabs the reader and snares him into reading the rest of a book. While there are many hooks throughout a book, this contest will focus on what should be the first page of a novel.


We want to read your best Write Hook! Enter Below!


  • 1st place winner receives written professional feedback of their 300-word submission and their choice of a Writer’s Craft series e-book from Rayne Hall, and an eBook Cover Design and Kindle Formatting from Eeva Lancaster, owner of The Book Khaleesi, and publication of their Write Hook submission on the Mystery Thriller Week website;
  • 2nd place winner receives their choice of a Rayne Hall Writer’s Craft Series e-book and a Mystery Thriller Week 2017 limited edition T-shirt, and publication of their Write Hook submission on the Mystery Thriller Week website;
  • 3rd place winner receives their choice of a Rayne Hall Writer’s Craft Series e-book and a Mystery Thriller Week 2017 limited edition book bag, and publication of their Write Hook submission on the Mystery Thriller Week website.

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#NANOWRIMO2016 Writers Sought

Mystery Thriller Week 2017 has a surprise for you when all the hard work of NaNoWriMo screeches to a halt and is a distant memory. A completely free online MTW scheduled for February 12th – 22nd next year will help keep you motivated to crank out that final Work In Progress you started in November. This is your personal ticket for a unique opportunity to connect with both new and award-winning published authors, writing specialists, story coaches, editors, publishers, bloggers focused on reviewing books, vloggers, podcasters promoting the craft of writing, filmmakers, and numerous fans itching to learn more about the Mystery Thriller genre.

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Thriller Writers Come Represent in Mystery Thriller Week





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