**CONGRATS to the 5 folks who won a copy of THE OTHER WOMAN! Kathryn Craft, Cheryl, Susan C., Vicki Orians, and JK Cosmos!**
Oooh, do I have a treat today! Award-winning author and 30-time Emmy award-winning journalist Hank Phillippi Ryan stops by to share her thoughts with us on writing, balancing two full time careers, and how a news tip and root canal can drive great ideas (don’t attempt the latter at home, folks)!
Her novel, THE OTHER WOMAN, won the Mary Higgins Clark Award and is now a Macavity, Shamus, Anthony, Daphne, and Agatha Nominee for Best Novel. WOW!
PLUS Hank is giving away FIVE copies of THE OTHER WOMAN in your choice paperback (US only) or ebook. Just comment and you’re entered to win. Winners announced September 2nd AND don’t miss fun excerpts from THE OTHER WOMAN and THE WRONG GIRL (releases in September) at the end of Hank’s interview!
Meet Hank Phillippi Ryan!
You’re not only an award-winning author but an award-winning investigative reporter and TV journalist. How does your real-life news career transfer to fiction into your real-life writing career?
HANK: Here’s how I see it. Every one of my journalism awards–and I just won two more Emmys, so that makes 30–represents a secret. A secret that someone didn’t want you to know. A secret the bad guys would have preferred to keep hidden. A secret that we had to dig up and research, and evaluate and prove and present-no matter what was in the way. Will we discover the truth? That’s suspense.
Look at it another way–I’m tracking down clues, following leads, relying on a mix of knowledge and instinct and curiosity. And always with a search for justice–a hope to see the good guys win and the bad guys get what’s coming to them–and in the end, a goal of making a difference, changing the world, and bringing justice.
Is that journalism? Or is it writing suspense fiction? Turns out, to my surprise and delight, it’s exactly the same. Except in journalism, you don’t get to make things up.
So writing novels? It’s a lot like television. In doing an investigative story for TV, I have no idea what the ending will be. I’m following leads and doing the research to find out. It’s the same with writing fiction. I write my books so I can know what happens in the end and discover how the story turns out.
Lee Child and I had a big discussion about this–it’s in the interview he did with me that’s a bonus track on the Macmillan audio book of The Other Woman. I don’t use an outline in my writing , and neither does he. We have no idea what’s going to happen next, and the only way we can find out is to write it.
That’s exciting every day. And when people say, “Wow, The Wrong Girl surprised me!” I say, “Yes, I was surprised, too!” Talk about surprise endings-I surprise myself every time. And it’s fabulous.
How do you manage a full time journalist career with a full time author career?
HANK: Ha. I work all the time. Now you’re laughing, but it’s the truth. I go to work at Channel 7 around 9 am—and come home at 6:30. I write til ten, and then make dinner! My darling husband is very patient. I have learned to be very organized. Seriously, I have lists of lists. I have learned NOT to multi-task—to do one thing at a time, to really DO it, and then move on. I think if I try to juggle, say, talk on the phone and answer emails at the same time—neither one gets done very well.
I work on vacation days, and on weekends. Jonathan and I haven’t been to a real movie in a long time—nor have we been away on vacation. It’s a—well, not a sacrifice, since I’m very happy. Very happy. But it is a lifestyle choice.
THE OTHER WOMAN is the first in a new series. What spun off the idea for you? What can we expect next?
HANK: I was in having a root canal—yes, really, this is the true story–and reading an old People magazine in the waiting room. That’s what you do, right, when your face is puffy and the dentist is late?
So I found an article about Mark Sanford, the now-ex-governor of South Carolina, and his bewildering story. He’d told his wife, staff, and constituents that he was out hiking the Appalachian Trail–when he was really off on a tryst with his Argentinean mistress.
I was fascinated. Because–who would do that? It’s an absurdly terrible decision. It’s career ending, reputation-ruiningly dumb. Did he think he could get away with it? From Dwight Eisenhower to Gary Hart to Bill Clinton to John Edwards–its clear you cannot get away with it.
Just as intriguing to me–who become the other woman? What kind of person would agree to play that role–and why? Love? Lust? Power? Delusion? Clearly you’re going to ruin the live of the man you ostensibly love–that’s a bombshell conflict. You’ll make his wife and family miserable–who would be able to deal with those emotions? In this case, the guy was the governor of a state–so clearly you’d be creating a situation where his constituents–the voters—would become even more cynical and dismissive of politicians and their situational ethics.
As I got into the world of Mark Sanford’s indiscretions–.and the fallout, and the repercussions and the crashing dominoes–I began to wonder: Who would be the other woman? And would there possibly be a reason that would be–acceptable? Understandable? Even—sympathetic? And if so…what if…
And there, as any mystery aficionado lines, was the beginning of the book. At the end of the People article, one person says: “You can choose your sin, but you cannot choose your consequences.”
And I got goose bumps. Soon my tooth was fixed–and so was my future! I spent the next year finding the story that became THE OTHER WOMAN.
Oh, hilariously, that came from a news tip I got at channel 17! A woman called and wanted me to do a story about her sister, who, she said, had been looking for her birth parents and the adoption agency had finally sent her to meet her birth mother. It was all very exciting and wonderful—but when they met, they both instantly knew they were not related.
I was fascinated, of course—what an amazing story. As you can imagine, I tucked the phone between my check and my shoulder, and started typing notes like mad.
Turns out, it was a not a very good story. Not for TV at least. It was a clerical error, one that—because of a lot of circumstances and coincidences, including similar names and twins, if you can believe it!—it couldn’t have happened to anyone else. So it was interesting, you know but not an investigative story.
But crime fiction author me started to wonder—what if an adoption agency was reuniting birth parents with the wrong children—on purpose? Why would they do that? What if someone said—after all these years of searching, this is your mother. Would you believe them? What if some didn’t know the truth about their own family?
Well, wow. And at that very moment, I knew I had THE WRONG GIRL.
In an interview with bestselling author Lee Child, he says that this book is a “bigger book” and your best book yet. What is it about THE OTHER WOMAN that makes this a “bigger book” than all your others?
HANK: So fabulous of him, huh? Lee Child is such a hero to me! So talented. So funny. Incredibly generous, and incredibly kind.
Bigger—well, the Charlotte McNally books, beginning with the Agatha-winning PRME TIME, are all in first person. You know, so we only know what’s going on in Charlotte’s head.
But I knew THE OTHER WOMAN, and the others in the Jane Ryland series, had to run on dramatic irony. That one character knew something another didn’t—or that several characters were looking at the same situation in different way–letting the reader decide what was real. Perhaps incorrectly!
In order to do that, it had to be in third person, multiple points of view. So it’s bigger in that more characters are in the spotlight, we get inside more people’s brains. It was an amazing juggle to weave it all together—but a real treat when it was finished.
As I said, I don’t use an outline. So in THE WRONG GIRL—II’ll confess it—I sat at the computer and applauded myself when I cam up with the ending.
You’ve won Anthony, Agatha, Mary Higgins Clark, and Macavity Awards – and been nominated for many others. What do you think are the elements that make up award-winning fiction?
HANK: Thank you—yes, it’s pretty fabulous, and I am incredibly grateful. Ah…secrets. That’s the key. Everyone has a secret—and who’s going to find out? What will happen when the secret is revealed? And surprise—don’t you love it when the author does something you didn’t expect? And heart, I think, is important—you have to care about the characters, and want them to succeed—or fail.
And don’t hoot—but I think, just as in journalism, you have to tell a heck of a story.
You write for the Jungle Red Writers blog where eight “smart and sassy crime fiction writers dish on writing and life.” Tell us how you got involved with it.
HANK: Oh, what a lovely memory! I was at a Sisters in Crime meeting, years ago, one of my first! antibiotics (Now I’m the national president—funny how life works) and Rosemary Harris and Jan Brogan I were conscripted to be on a thrown-together panel with a speaker didn’t show. We loved talking together, and decided we should make a blog of it! We invited Hallie Ephron and Roberta Isleib—and then, later, Rhys Bowen and Julia-Spencer Fleming and Deborah Crombie. We all talk EVERY day. Come visit us at the Jungle Red Writers blog! Come visit! We all make a point to be there every day, so you’ll be chatting with all of us!
Share a quirk about yourself that most folks don’t know.
HANK: Yeesh. I cannot carry a tune. It is awful. I can hear music, perfectly well, and I know when something is wrong or someone else is out of tune. And, actually, I know when I am out of tune, too. Which is pretty much always. I can sing along with someone, just fine, and I know all the words. But if I am on my own, disaster.
How would you describe your life in only eight-ten words?
HANK: Determined, fast-paced, non-stop, grateful, loving. I’m still baffled by my mid-life addition of fiction to my resume!—and count my blessings all the time. (Too many words. Need to revise. Story of my life.)
Has someone mentored or inspired you in your writing career?
HANK: Sue Grafton. More than I can ever say. More than she even knows, probably.
What is your biggest pet peeve?
HANK: Okay, a rant. When people put their luggage in the overhead at the front of the plane so they don’t have to wit to get off. People should put their luggage over their assigned seat. (You can see I’ve been on book tour recently.) Also—loud cell phone talking. I am addicted to the quiet car in the train.
What is the hardest part of writing your books?
HANK: Oh, gosh, all of it. Thinking of the fabulous germ of the idea. The perfect first line. What’ll happen in Chapter 4, that’s always tough. What happens at 40,000 words. Who did it. Why. The last 500 words. Yikes. Finishing.
The part I adore—is revisions.
If you couldn’t write (or be a journalist), what would you do?
HANK: Forget it. That’s all I have, since rock singer is definitely out.
What was the scariest moment of your life?
HANK: When my husband went in for open heart surgery. (He’s fine now.)
What are you passionate about these days?
HANK: Sleeping. But first–finding a fabulous fabulous ending for the new book.
Is there a book you love to reread?
HANK: Winters Tale, by Mark Helprin. Day of the Jackal. (Best thriller ever.)
Where are your fans most likely to find you hanging out?
HANK: Hanging out…Starbucks. My “hanging out” time is about as long as it takes to get a latte. I am ALWAYS in a hurry, and, sadly, can’t actually remember hanging out anywhere.
Do you have a favorite quote, quip, or saying? What is it?
HANK: “You never know.” I mean–that’s it, right? You never know what’s “good” or “bad.” You just have to see. My husband and I celebrate the anniversary of the day BEFORE we met—and we call it You Never Know day. Because you never know what wonderful thing is around the next corner.
What upcoming event can we meet up with you soon?
HANK: Whoo! Brookline Booksmith, Set 10, for the launch of THE WRONG GIRL. VERY exciting. Booklist starred review says “Another winner from Ran!” and Library Journal calls it a superb thriller. Got to love that. So come party with me at my website for the schedule. I have a wild book tour planned—crossing the country!–and I hope to see you all in your home town!
Excerpt from THE OTHER WOMAN:
“See her? Right there. The tall twenty-something in the red coat.” As if dealing a hand of solitaire, Jane placed the glossy photos on her city editor’s cluttered desk. She stabbed a finger at the fuzzy crimson image. “I found that woman in at least five of the photos Archive Gus gave us. Every time she’s behind the rope line, but right in front of the crowd. Look. Down in Cohasset. Up in Lawrence. Way out in Worcester.”
Jane looked at Alex, checking for signs he was buying her pitch. Funny to be on the same team with him, instead of battling for sound bites. Wonder why he was never a TV reporter. Those shoulders. Those cobalt eyes. All that hair. She reached out a hand, trying to persuade him, almost touching his jacket.
“I’m telling you, Alex, it looks like she’s—”
“She’s another Lassiter groupie.” Alex shook his head, dismissive. “Or some political activist. Wants a job in DC. Wants Lassiter to vote for the Omnibus bill. It’s an election. Everyone wants something.”
“But what if there’s something between them? Look at the Cohasset shot. See how she’s looking at him? That’s…” Jane paused, analyzing the photo. “It’s lust. What can I tell you?”
“She is hot.” Alex yanked off his glasses, held the photo under his desk lamp. His wide gold wedding band glinted in the light. “No mistaking that.”
No mistaking? Was that some sort of crack? She didn’t make mistakes, damn it.
Jane held up a different photo. “Who would wear this slinky get-up outside? In October? She’s at least thirty years younger than Lassiter. And she sticks out like high beam headlights. You think she’s just doing her civic duty?”
“You can be a knockout and still be a political activist, Ryland.” Alex slid the photos into a pile, tamped down the edges, handed them to her. “These were to give you a sense of the campaign. Not to send you into reporter fantasy land.”
“Two little words,” Jane said, tucking the photos into her tote bag. “Monica Lewinsky.”
“Three little words,” Alex replied. “Leave it alone.”
“Jane. Listen to your editor. Don’t go near this in print. This close to the election, it’s ethical quicksand. And if he’s having an affair? It’s hardly even news. They all do it.”
“But–” But Alex was ignoring her, swiping pages on his iPhone and almost turning his back. Dismissed. Fine. She had listened to him, exactly as he asked. But if “they all do it”? That only confirmed there was a story. All she had to do was find it.
EXCERPT FROM THE WRONG GIRL:
Today was turning out to be quite the Sunday. Jane needed to get this talk back on track. Whatever that track was.
“So, Tuck. What is it you want me to do? You got a call from The Brannigan. They said they found your birth mother. You drove to Connecticut, and then what?”
“Long story short.” Tuck folded the afghan over the arm of the chair. “I go to Connecticut. We meet at Starbucks. She’s great, she’s terrific, I’m in a Hallmark card or a Lifetime movie. I’ve never been so happy. I’m crying, she’s crying. We each order a triple venti non-fat latte—exactly the same thing!–and we start crying again.”
Tuck pressed her lips together, closed her eyes briefly.
“‘Audrey Rose. You’re so beautiful,’ she says. ‘I knew you’d be a knockout.’ She said that, ‘knockout.’ ‘You have my dark eyes, she says, so skinny, and my crazy hair.’ We spend two days together. I’m thinking–I have a biological family. I have a history. I have a story.”
“Well, that sounds wonderful, Tuck. It’s sounds like–”
“No.” Tuck slugged down the last of her wine. The timer behind the couch clicked on the bulbs of the brass lamp beside her. Jane was shocked to realize it was almost dark outside. February in Boston. It wasn’t even five.
“I’m telling you, Jane. She’s not my mother. She expected her long-lost daughter. But I’m, I’m not her.”
“You’re not–why would you think that? Come on, Tuck, why would they—?”
“I don’t know. That’s why I’m here. You’re the reporter. My only–you’ve got to find out for me.”
Tuck stood, tears welling, tumbling a throw pillow to the floor. Coda opened her tiny green eyes at the sound, looked up, then dropped her head back into her paws.
“Imagine how she’ll feel? When she finds out?” One tear rolled down Tuck’s cheek, and she swiped it away. “After all the plans? The calls? She looked so happy. But I know it. I do. They sent that poor woman the wrong girl.”
ABOUT HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:
Award-winning investigative reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan is on the air at Boston’s NBC affiliate. Her work has resulted in new laws, people sent to prison, homes removed from foreclosure, and millions of dollars in restitution. Along with her 30 EMMYs, Hank’s won dozens of other journalism honors. She’s been a radio reporter, a legislative aide in the United States Senate and an editorial assistant at Rolling Stone Magazine.
A best-selling author of six mystery novels, Ryan has won the Mary Higgins Clark, Anthony, Macavity and two Agatha awards for her crime fiction. She’s on the national board of directors of Mystery Writers of America and is 2013 president of national Sisters in Crime.
Her thriller, the best-selling THE OTHER WOMAN, (now in a third printing) is the first in a new series from Forge Books. It’s now listed as a Best Book of 2012 by the Kansas City Star, the Sacramento Bee, Suspense Magazine, and the Boston Globe, won the prestigious Mary Higgins Clark Award and is the only novel nominated for the Agatha, Anthony, Macavity, Shamus and Daphne awards for Best Novel of 2012. Her newest suspense thriller, THE WRONG GIRL, will be published in September 2013.