Interview with top Thriller writer Robert Bidinotto

Author of the best-seller,
HUNTER: A Thriller

A Thriller


Robert Bidinotto—author of HUNTER: A Thriller—earned a national reputation as an authority on criminal justice while writing investigative crime articles as a former Staff Writer for Reader's Digest.

His famous 1988 article "Getting Away with Murder" stirred a national controversy about crime and prison furlough programs during that year's presidential campaign. It was a finalist for the National Magazine Award of the American Society of Magazine Editors.

Bidinotto is author of the acclaimed book Criminal Justice? The Legal System vs. Individual Responsibility, with a foreword by John Walsh of the "America's Most Wanted" television show, and of Freed to Kill—a compendium of horror stories exposing the failings of the justice system.

He was awarded the Free Press Association's Mencken Award in 1985 for "Best Feature Story," and he has been honored by the National Victim Center and other victim-rights organizations for his outspoken public advocacy on behalf of crime victims. In 2007, as a magazine editor, he won the magazine industry's top honor for editorial excellence—the Folio Gold "Eddie" Award.


Avenger Books
P.O. Box 555, Chester, MD 21619

So, tell me about your best-selling thriller, HUNTER.

Thanks for the opportunity, Mel.
I describe HUNTER as a suspenseful parable of justice. It’s a genre-bender—part spy mystery, part vigilante action thriller, part smoking-hot romance.
Set in Washington, D.C. during a wave of vigilante killings, it’s the story of two strong, idealistic loners. Dylan Hunter is a crusading journalist with a mysterious past, working to expose outrageous leniency in the criminal justice system. Annie Woods is a tough-but-beautiful security officer at the CIA, sworn to track down the unknown assassin of a traitor within the Agency. They meet after a horrifying act of criminal violence against mutual friends.
Dylan and Annie fall passionately in love. Meanwhile, the parallel investigations by the CIA and the police begin to intersect in surprising ways. And the lovers don’t realize that the secrets they’re hiding from each other are propelling them toward shattering personal conflicts—or that a terrifying predator is targeting them both.

When and why did you decide to become an Indie writer?

While I’ve been a professional nonfiction writer and editor for most of my adult life, Mel, for decades I harbored the desire to write fiction. But circumstances—aided and abetted by a lack of confidence in my storytelling abilities—always stopped me from giving it a serious try. I had contract-writing commitments, and there were lots of distractions that any procrastinator would cite as excuses. In addition, I was deterred by the growing difficulties that new authors were having in finding agents and publishers, and the shrinking advances offered by publishing houses.

In 2004, I got an idea for a new thriller-series hero. In fits and starts, I began making notes and doing preliminary research for a political-conspiracy novel. But in October 2009, I reconceived the character and storyline, this time drawing upon my background in true-crime writing. With my dear wife’s blessing, in early 2010 I began working in earnest to pull together the diverse story threads into a plot that was growing in devious complexity.

That fall, I became aware of the emerging opportunities in self-publishing ebooks. I began following the blogs of indie-publishing gurus Joe Konrath and Robin Sullivan, and they helped me to realize that this could be a low-cost, zero-risk option for me to publish my novel, without getting stuck on what Robin calls “the Query-Go-Round.”

I vowed to finish writing HUNTER before my upcoming 62nd birthday—June 5, 2011. And I printed out the final manuscript pages on June 4 at 11 p.m. I had enlisted about a dozen beta readers to give me speedy feedback, and I spent the following days editing, proofreading, then having the ebook and paperback designed and formatted. I uploaded HUNTER to Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords, and it was available for purchase on June 21—just 16 days after I completed writing it. The trade paperback was finished and on sale in early July. Now, six months later, it’s a bestseller.

No traditional publisher could possibly have done that for me, Mel. I’m a very happy indie author.

What genre do you write in and what genre do you prefer to read?

My broad genre is “thrillers,” but HUNTER is an ambitious tale that mixes and blends several thriller subgenres. When it reached its apex in sales in early December 2011, it was simultaneously the #1 Kindle bestseller in “Mysteries and Thrillers,” in “Spy Stories and Tales of Intrigue,” and in “Romantic Suspense.” A few readers who expect books to fit tidily within only one of those narrow categories have fussed; but the overwhelming majority, both men and women, tell me that they like how the book welds those diverse elements into a single story. So, Mel, I aim to continue the Dylan Hunter series in the same genre-busting vein. Or perhaps I’ve invented a new thriller subcategory: “Vigilante Romance.”

As for what I love to read: I’m a huge fan of well-written action/suspense thrillers—and I’m not particular about which subgenre. My favorite authors include Lee Child, Stephen Hunter, Brad Thor, Vince Flynn, and Daniel Silva. I also love the detective mysteries by the late Robert B. Parker and Mickey Spillane, and those by contemporary masters Robert Crais and Sean Chercover; the early romantic suspense novels of Ken Follett; and the classic military thrillers of Jack Higgins and Alistair MacLean. I read occasionally outside the thriller genre, but thrillers are my first love.

Where do you sell most books, USA or UK, Amazon or Barnes and Noble?

My sales are overwhelmingly on Amazon Kindle and in the United States. My print sales are modest, as are foreign sales. I did very little ebook business on Barnes and Noble’s Nook or on other ereaders via Smashwords; so, when Amazon recently asked me to sell on Kindle exclusively, in exchange for special program participation for 90 days, I agreed.

During your childhood who was your biggest influence?

I blogged about this a few months ago. I would have to say the fictional cowboy heroes I watched on TV during the 1950s, as well as comic-book superheroes in my later youth. Readers of HUNTER say that they can see the Lone Ranger and Batman in the character of Dylan Hunter, and I think they’re right.

Are you fortunate enough to write full-time?

Yes. I was selling modestly from July through October—about 900 to 1000 copies per month, which, when combined with my wife’s income, provided us barely enough money to squeak by. But since late November, when a special Kindle promotion launched HUNTER to bestseller status, we have no financial concerns about the coming year. From now on, I’ll be able to write more Hunter adventures full-time.

If Hollywood came knocking who would you want to play your main character?

I have a few actors in mind who could do a great job with the Dylan Hunter character. However, readers conjure their own images of characters in books, and I don’t want to spoil their enjoyment by superimposing my own visions on theirs. So I’ll keep my opinions private.

Name 6 people, dead or alive, you’d love to have as guests seated around your dinner-table.

I wish I had seating for twelve, but here goes:

Victor Hugo. Queen Elizabeth I. Thomas Jefferson. Ayn Rand. Sir Francis Drake. Katherine Hepburn. I’m sure the conversation wouldn’t flag for a second. In fact, their food might get cold as they argued.

What one piece of advice have you found the most important in your writing career?

From Lee Child: “Ignore all advice.” It’s too easy to get caught up in other people’s formulas and rules. As Lee put it to me, a novel should grow organically, building upon the values and premises of its author. Otherwise, it becomes a committee product that loses all of its individual integrity, honesty, and vitality. You must write the story that you would want to read.

What are your plans for the coming year?

To write and publish the first sequel to HUNTER. Readers are already screaming for it, so how could a nice guy like me deny them?

Seriously, though, while I would love to finish the next book quickly, I’ll take whatever time I need to make sure that it meets the readers’ expectations. I’d rather that it be late than lousy.

And finally, if you were stranded on a desert island what 3 books would you choose to have with you?

Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, for spiritual inspiration and personal encouragement.

The U.S. Army Survival Handbook, for self-evident reasons.

Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki, for advice on raft-building and navigation.


HUNTER: A Thriller is available as an ebook exclusively from, and as a trade paperback:

Kindle U.S.:

The trade paperback edition of HUNTER is available:

-- from

-- inscribed by the author, via his blog:

Follow Robert Bidinotto --

-- on his blog, “The Vigilante Author”:

-- on Twitter: @RobertBidinotto

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