How To Write and Launch a Thriller Novel: Interview with Joanna Penn

by Joe Bunting | 7 comments

I don't write thrillers. But after The Write Practice team and I talked with Joanna Penn, author and popular blogger of The Creative Penn, I wanted to start.

When Joanna agreed to chat with the team and I, she didn't know we were going to post this here, but the conversation was so fascinating that I wanted you to see it. Fortunately, Joanna was generous enough to let me share it with you.

In the interview, we talk about the research, writing, and publishing process of Joanna's latest novel, Desecration, a thriller based in London that opens with a murder and dissection in the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons. If you enjoy thrillers, you should definitely grab a copy of Desecration here.

Here's the interview (and special thanks to Write Practice regular contributors Katie Axelson, Monica Clark, Sophie Novak, and Birgitte Rasine who were part of the conversation):

We live a very safe life. We're very lucky to live in a society where crime gets less every year, where more people die of obesity than they do of murder and war…. But as humans we crave dealing with difficult stuff because that's what we always have done in life. By reading books that tackle these difficult subjects we can vicariously go through this experience. The writers job is to take the reader through an emotional journey…. That's why I read thrillers, to have this adventure in my head.
—Joanna Penn

Here are a few things we talked about:

  • Why research is such a rewarding part of the writing process
  • Our favorite legal thriller TV shows (i.e. “guilty pleasures”)
  • What makes stories about crime so interesting and popular
  • How to market your books without doing big launches
  • How to balance promotion, platform building, and writing
  • Why Joanna decided to use the name J.F. Penn for her fiction
  • How to manage writing in multiple different genres and forms

Thank you, Joanna, for giving us such an interesting perspective. You can find Joanna's fiction at and read her award winning blog about writing and publishing at

Why do you think stories about crime are so interesting?


A woman is killed in a museum, and a detective is assigned to discover the killer. Write a scene from a crime thriller.

Write for fifteen minutes. When you're finished, post your practice in the comments section. And if you post, be sure to give feedback on a few practices by other writers.

(Some of the links in this post are affiliate links)


Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris, a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).

Want best-seller coaching? Book Joe here.


  1. Vicki Boyd

    Blood spatter framed the archway between modern and impressionist art. Bright dropplets still dripped from the arch and splatteted on the white marble floor. The mess could have been a canvas, all stark white and red. This corpse was newly butchered.

    Preparing to enter the kill zone was a ritual for Zoe. She pulled her long uncombed brown hair back and stuffed it under a paper cap. Next, she pulled paper booties over her tennis shoes and tucked the bottoms of her baggy jeans into the paper.Over her rumpled old sweat shirt, she donned a paper hospital robe. The last step was always the streaching of tight latex gloves over her hands. The garb prevented her from contaminating the scene before the forensic techies could collect samples.

    Other rescue and police milled about with thier easy conversations and coffee, well away from Zoe’s bubble of insulated personal space. Her unkempt appearance served as notice to the others that she would be testy and quick tempered until she was more rested. Her sharp tounge and cold bitch attitude were legendary, and her peers knew that a tired Zoe was a dangerous Zoe.

    Just beyond the spatteted arch, the reason everyone was gathered in an art Museum at four AM, lay in macabre repose. The body was nude and its femininity shone in stark contrast to its horrific condition. As she performed the protective garb ritual, Zoe tried to ignore the scene she was preparing to enter. The ritual was also about mental preperation. The garb might armour her body, but Zoe only had attitude to armour her mind.

    Turning toward the body, she took a deep breath. This was the fifth such body in as many nights. Each slaying was more violent than the last. This monster was escalating. He had to be caught quickly. Zoe was tired deep in her bones, but prepared to drive herself and others into collapse if that would prevent another woman from being murdered.

    • Claire

      Nice beginning, Vicki. It definitely drew me in. I like the whole scenario and the quick-tempered, rough-around-the-edges Zoe. Sounds a little like me… It seems you have a flair for this type of writing. Curious to know if you’ll expand on this.

    • Vicki Boyd

      Never thought this would be the genre for me. My main interest is in Sci Fi/Horror/Fantasy. I might take this and expand it into a short novel. Thanks so much for your comments, very helpful.

  2. Claire

    Joe, thanks so much for sharing this informative video of Joanna Penn. It was also great to hear and see you along with the other contributors to this blog interact with Ms. Penn. All good information and pertinent questions. Thanks again.

    • Joe Bunting

      You’re very welcome, Claire. It was so much fun talking to her with the team. I hope we can do this again soon!

  3. Monica

    Joanna was great!

  4. Jeff Goins

    She’s a smart cookie. 😉



  1. Monday Must-Reads [12/9/13] - […] How To Write and Publish a Thriller Novel: Interview with Joanna Penn […]
  2. Have you Made Art Today? - […] you catch the interview with Joanna Penn that your Write Practice team did last […]
  3. Top Picks Thursday 12-12-2013 | The Author Chronicles - […] The great thing about writers is that they share the lessons they have learned, so those of us following…
  4. Why I’m Considering Writing Under a Pen Name - […] Joanna talked about her decision to write under two names last year when she chatted with The Write Practice…

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Say Yes to Practice

Join over 450,000 readers who are saying YES to practice. You’ll also get a free copy of our eBook 14 Prompts:

Popular Resources

Books By Our Writers

- J. D. Edwin
Vestige Rise of the Pureblood
- Antonio Roberts
A Shadow Stained in Blood
- Ichabod Ebenezer
Share to...