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The Sirens of Suspense




Jamie Freveletti is a trial attorney, martial artist, and runner. She has crewed for an elite ultra-marathon runner at 50 mile, 100 mile, and twenty-four hour races across the country, and holds a black belt in aikido, a Japanese martial art. After law school she lived in Geneva, Switzerland while obtaining a diploma in International Studies. Back in Chicago, she represented clients in areas ranging from class actions for mass salmonella poisoning to securities fraud. Her debut thriller is Running from the Devil.

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item1 Jamie Freveletti: Secrets to Six-Figure item1

Six-figure advance for a debut novel? That’s what Jamie Freveletti received for her thriller, RUNNING WITH THE DEVIL, published last year. Since the advance for a writer’s first book averages around $5,000—some receive no advance—this is almost as rare as Halley’s Comet.

RUNNING WITH THE DEVIL is actually Jamie’s second novel. She decided to put aside her first, about a Ponzi scheme in the financial securities market, after countless unsuccessful queries and pitches. Looking back, she realizes that the book was too confusing, and had too many subplots. Now, however, she has a system for success.

I first met Jamie last month at the 2010 Left Coast Crime Conference in LA, where she and a panel of other first-time authors discussed the long, slippery road to publication. They shared their struggles, offering advice to aspiring authors in the audience. Only Jamie, however, had snared the big bucks. Being a trial lawyer in Chicago no doubt helped her in negotiations. Still, not all writer/lawyers receive hefty advances on their first book. This was a mystery begging to be solved.

Two weeks later, Jamie came to Phoenix and the Sirens took her out, plying her with margaritas and questions, determined to uncover her game plan. This is what I remember her sharing with us. (Note: next time conduct interview before ordering margaritas.)

  • Make sure you have an interesting premise and a strong character. Jamie’s protagonist, Emma, is a chemist whose plane crashes on a research trip to Columbia. Emma is also an athlete who runs ultra-marathons . . . skills that help her survive in the jungle and escape from the drug cartel. Strong, resourceful women like Emma are fascinating and memorable. Who can forget Lara Croft? Or Scarlett O’Hara? Perhaps it takes one to write one. A runner, Jamie also has a black belt in Akido, a Japanese martial art, and teaches it every Monday night.
  • Always go with your passion. If you don’t find your subject fascinating, your readers won’t either.
  • Keep the tension going. Ian Fleming defined a thriller as a book that made you turn the pages. Write a page-turner and you’ll have a best-seller.
  • Write as often as you can. RUNNING WITH THE DEVIL took Jamie a year to write and eight months to edit. She wrote her first manuscript while still working, often writing in the middle of the night when her husband and children were sleeping.
  • Don’t give up. Out of the 25 agent queries Jamie sent, three responded. That may sound like a lot but it isn’t. Another novelist on the LCC panel sent out 200 queries before landing an agent for her eighth book; the other seven remain unpublished. The agent who eventually signed Jamie asked her to send in the first few chapters, then several more and finally the rest of the book. Then rejected it. Jamie couldn’t believe the agent could be so interested and still turn it down. Undaunted, she tracked down the agent at a thriller conference and they worked it out. Law school, she said, teaches you to be persuasive.
  • Know your genre and your business. Jamie thoroughly researched the thriller field, including the business end; she taped two wish lists above her desk, one for agents and one for editors. And, yes, she ended up working with one from each list.

So there you have it, a Master Plan for writing your thriller, getting it published and maybe getting that six-figure advance.


UPDATE: RUNNING WITH THE DEVIL has been nominated for Best First Novel by International Thriller Writers. Her second novel, RUNNING DARK will be released June 29th, 2010 and she will be signing at The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, AZ in July. Jamie is currently working on her third case, er novel.


QUESTION FOR JAMIE? COMMENT ON THE INTERVIEW? Ask her here, or tell us your thoughts further down on this page, or commenting on this blog entry on our Facebook page.



Jamie’s writing ambience: I write in the corner of my bedroom in an alcove. I have a window directly at my left shoulder that looks out onto a lovely view of a Chicago alley.

What Jamie is reading now: I’m writing number three (her third novel), so I’m not reading thrillers. I’m starting THE BIG SHORT by Michael Lewis.

Jamie’s favorite protagonist (other than her own): Jack Reacher and for a laugh, Stephanie Plum.

Who Jamie would like to see play Emma onscreen: Emma needs to be played by an actress that can do ‘smart’. I like Anna Paquin, but most readers like Angelina Jolie.

Jamie’s ideal vacation spot: I love Anguilla for vacation. It’s wonderful.

Jamie’s favorite online resource: The Government Accountability office, or GAO. They create reports on everything and anything. Cameron Sumner’s job came out of a report I read there, and I also learned quite a bit about the state of money laundering. I would love to moonlight at the GAO!

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