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Written by Sara Townsend

M. G. Gardiner was born in Oklahoma and raised in Santa Barbara, California. She graduated from Stanford University and Stanford Law School. She practiced law in Los Angeles and taught writing at the University of California Santa Barbara. She's a former collegiate cross-country runner and a three time Jeopardy! champion. She lives with her family near London.She has won many awards for her writing, including the 2009 Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original, the Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award for Best Procedural Novel and the 2012 Audie Award for Thriller/Suspense audiobook of the year.


Did you always know you were destined to be a writer?

Destined, no. Determined, yes. The thought that I might go through life without ever writing a novel filled me with dread. I knew I had to find a way to do it.

How much plotting do you do before beginning writing a book?

I plot the beginning, middle, and end of a book. If I know where the characters are going to end up, I can work backward and lay traps for them along the way, and really put them through hell. It’s so much fun.

I write thrillers: THE SHADOW TRACER, the Jo Beckett series, and the Evan Delaney novels. I'm from California but you can find me in Austin, Texas or London, England.

 What’s the weirdest thing you’ve done in the name of research?

Spent a day on the London Underground, figuring out the best places to hide from assassins, where to slide down the escalators, and which stations were the easiest to sneak into. I’m lucky I wasn’t arrested.

The main antagonist in The Shadow Tracer is a charismatic religious cult leader who can inspire his followers to do very disturbing things in the name of religion.  How did you approach creating such a character?

I studied warlords, cartel bosses, and extremists. Nothing justifies greed and violence in a villain’s mind like claiming that they’re God’s will. On the page, vicious tyrants make scary bad guys. Unfortunately, in real life they make even scarier bad guys. I also read Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven. Chilling stuff.

"The next suspense superstar"  – Stephen King

The Shadow Tracer is not part of a series.  But do you think you’ll be tempted to re-visit any of the characters in it in the future?

The survivors have plenty of life left in them. I’d love to see them again. But if you think I’m going to reveal who lives and who dies, forget it. It’s my job to keep people in suspense.

You’ve lived in the UK as well as the US.  Which of those little cultural differences on either side of the Atlantic stand out for you?

When I’m in the US, I miss our local pub. When I’m in the UK, I miss our local Mexican restaurant. 

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

On a hill overlooking Santa Barbara harbor, where the sun gleams on the Pacific Ocean and I can walk to my mom’s house for coffee.

What advice would you pass on to new writers that you wish someone would have told you when you were starting out?

Jump in with both feet—write with all the passion, intelligence, humor and heart you have. But don’t jump too soon. Ruthlessly edit your work. Polish it to a high shine. Don’t send it out too soon. Be sure it’s ready for the world to read it.

What are you working on at present?

Another thriller, what else? 

'Stephen King is absolutely right. M.G. Gardiner is an astonishing writer . . . I couldn't turn the pages fast enough' Tess Gerritsen


£7.99 pbk 19th December 2013 Penguin Publishers.
Click here to read Sara's review

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