Please welcome Hank Phillippi Ryan, award-winning author of the Charlotte McNally series and the Jane Ryland mysteries–and she’s the president of Sisters in Crime!
What’s your idea of a perfect day?
That so depends! Paris is one. Another perfect day: No alarm clock. Coffee. The newspaper (on paper.) Four hours with my manuscript at a point where I’m loving it…and it’s almost done and I can see the finale.. More coffee. A call from my producer at Channel 7 saying my story is coming through-I’ll be at work in the morning to do a big interview. Lunch, something lovely. More writing, some emails, some fabulous reviews. (Why not, right? You said perfect.) My dear husband comes home with salmon and roses. And rose’.
I just realized my “perfect” day is all about work. And you know, that’s true. Is that a good thing?
Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
Yes. All of the above. Accessory? I’m very fond of purses and shoes. Color? NO question—black. People are always shocked when I wear anything else. Fragrance? 24 Faubourg, always. Phrase. Oh—I love that question. Ah, maybe…Thank you? It’s a thrill just to be nominated! (!) And my constant: You never know.
Meal: that’s a toughie. Fresh tomatoes and mozzarella and basil. Proseco. Rack of lamb on the grill. Terrific red wine. Raspberries.
Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
Oh! Sue Grafton. Steven Sondheim. Shakespeare. (There are many more…)
Do you listen to music when you write?
Nope. Never. Can’t do it. In the newsroom, with TVs blaring and people yelling and utter chaos—no problem, I can write an script with no problem. I can bang out a news story at a fire, at a murder, in a raging hurricane. But my books? Got to be quiet. Funny, huh?
If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
The Other Woman…well, that would be something that’s different on the outside than on the inside, right? Something that’s not what it seems. So maybe…peanut M & Ms? Can’t hurt, right?
What made you interested in writing this particular story?
Oh, so interesting. I was in the dentist’s office, waiting to have a root canal. Really! And I read a magazine article about Mark Sanford, the ex-governor of South Carolina, who told the world he was off hiking the Appalachian Trail—when he was actually off with his mistress. I wondered—through my pain—why would someone do that? Why would a person be the other woman? Love? Lust? Revenge? Power? Selfishness?
And then I began to wonder—could there be a reason no one ever thought of? A reason that would lead to murder? A reason I could use as the lynchpin for a thriller?
And then a person in the article was quoted as saying: “You can choose your sin, but you cannot choose your consequences.”
I remember clearly, I got goose bumps. And I thought—my BOOK! My Book!
It made the root canal worth it.
What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
Perception. Vulnerablilty. The skepticism we have when someone says I didn’t do it. Why don’t we believe them? Desire and deception. The need to be loved, and the constant quest for approval.
Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
Jane Ryland is a reporter, a journalist, who in The Other Woman has just lost her job because she refused to break her word and reveal a source. SO she’s incredibly honorable, incredibly trustworthy, and incredibly driven–and as a result, fired. How would that change you–to do the right thing, but be punished for it? She takes a low paying job on a local newspaper—because she needs to get her reputation back—what do we have, you know, as reporters, if not our reputations?
Her father is always critical—when she was fired, he said—you must have done something. And her mother recently died—and Jane learned from her—when one door closes, another door opens.
She’s 33, in love with an off-limits cop, driven to success, and worried about winding up an old maid with two cats—so much so that she refuses to tell people she has a cat. “But that may be my own problem,” she says.
Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
I’ve never thought about that this way, and it’s much more difficult that I would have predicted. Katharine Hepburn. Audrey Hepburn. And …ah, Rosalind Russell. You know? Not physically. But emotionally and psychologically.
If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
Sue Grafton. Stephen King. Shakespeare. Edith Wharton. Tom Wolfe. Nora Ephron.
What’s next for you?
Yeah, would that we knew that, right?
I’m still a full-time investigative reporter, still loving that. (I just won two more Emmys, so that make, amazingly, thirty. But then, I’ve been around a long time.) I’m in the midst of writing Jane’s next adventure (they’re all standalones, so this is the “next” in the series, not the “third.”)
The new Jane Ryland, The Wrong Girl, comes out in hardcover September 10—Jane is on the trail of an adoption agency she suspects may be reuniting birth parents with the wrong children. Creepy, huh? But it could happen. So I’m being sent on a big tour for that—and hope to meet all of you on the road! (Check my website for the whole crazy schedule!)
And click here for a couple of wonderful contests!
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 five mystery novels, Ryan has won the Agatha, Anthony and Macavity awards for her crime fiction. She’s on the national board of directors of Mystery Writers of America and is president of national Sisters in Crime. Her newest suspense 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 periodicals nationwide including Suspense Magazine and the Boston Globe, is the winner of the prestigious Mary Higgins Clark Award, and the only novel nominated for all five top crime fiction awards: the Anthony, Agatha, Macavity, Daphne and Shamus. Her newest suspense thriller, The Wrong Girl, will be published in September 2013.