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My New Thriller

Updated: May 19, 2023

And the Inner Workings of the Publishing World...

This past summer I wrote a blog post about completing the manuscript for my 2023 thriller. The story was finished, the manuscript was accepted by my editor, my agent was buzzing about how much she loved it, and life was good!

I even shared the title and cover. The Survivor was looking good and I was excited. But then the inner workings of the publishing industry took over. The sales team saw the cover, read the synopsis, and promptly decided that my story needed a new title. "The Survivor" was too bland, too vague, and could be interpreted too many ways, they said.

So, at about 2:00 p.m. one afternoon, I got a call from my editor. The sales team was nixing our title, and we had twenty-four hours to come up with a new one. We brainstormed for a few minutes and then hatched a plan: My editor would put together a list of his top titles, and I would do the same. We'd reconvene in the morning and swap ideas.

From a list of about twenty titles, Those Empty Eyes rose to the top...

In October, I attended the Heartland Fall Forum in St. Louis––a conference for independent bookstores throughout the Midwest––and shared both titles with many of the bookstore owners. Their opinion was unanimous––they all said they would have glazed right over The Survivor, but Those Empty Eyes caught their attention. I guess the sales guys and gals know what they're talking about.


Those Empty Eyes

I had a ton of fun creating Alex Armstrong, the protagonist of Those Empty Eyes, and I hope you like her as much as I do.

Alex Armstrong has changed everything about herself—her name, her appearance, her backstory. She’s no longer the terrified teenager a rapt audience saw on television, emerging in handcuffs from the quiet suburban home the night her family was massacred. That image of Alex, wide-eyed and terrified, circulated around the country until the tabloid-created girl named Empty Eyes replaced the teenaged girl Alex had once been. Accused of the killings, Alex fought to clear her name and eventually took the stand during her highly publicized trial that captured the attention of the nation.

Now, ten years later and fully exonerated, true crime fanatics still believe Alex was the one who pulled the trigger the night her parents and brother were killed, and they’ll stop at nothing to track her down. While the freaks and geeks wait for a damning piece of evidence to materialize that will once and for all prove that Empty Eyes killed her family, Alex is the only one looking for the truth. And she finds it in the unlikeliest of places—smack dab in the middle of the brand new life she has created for herself.

As with my other thrillers, THOSE EMPTY EYES has a shocking twist at the end. But fret not, there are enough clues dropped along the way for astute readers to spot the killer long before Alex does.

I dare you to try . . .


Let's Connect

Charlie Donlea is the #1 internationally bestselling author of Summit Lake, The Girl Who Was Taken, Don't Believe It, Some Choose Darkness, The Suicide House and Twenty Years Later. Praised for his "soaring pace, teasing plot twists" (BookPage) and talent for writing an ending that "makes your jaw drop" (The New York Times Book Review), Donlea has been called a "bold new writer...on his way to becoming a major figure in the world of suspense" (Publishers Weekly). A late bloomer, he was twenty years old when he read his first novel––THE FIRM by John Grisham––and knew he would someday write thrillers. His books have now been translated into more than a dozen languages across nearly forty countries.

He was born and raised in Chicago, where he continues to live with his wife and two children.

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Fantastic writer..... first time I'm reading his books and I can't put them down.


I finish Those Empty Eyes today. I'm just left wanting more and see potential for a sequel. Would you be interested in taking up the quill to continue Alex's story?


I would so love to see a sequel to "Don't Believe It"! Great book!

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