So we all know Hank Phillippi Ryan has written the award-winning Charlotte McNally and Jane Ryland series. Now she has turned her talents to a stand-alone. And it’s garnering rave reviews, including from our own Keenan Powell. Trust us (see what I did there?) you won’t want to miss this one!
Trust me—the world works in mysterious ways. (All of us here certainly know that, right?)
If someone had asked–when I started writing my first book, clueless and fancy free, 12 years ago –if someone had asked, “Is it a series?” I would’ve said “I have no idea. In fact, I was so clueless all I knew was that I had a wonderful idea for a book, the mystery I always wanted to write, and I was going to do it. Planning? No. Education? No. Knowledge of the publishing world? Super no.
But as I continued writing what turned out to be Prime Time, I began to learn about my new world and my new community, and began to get a little bit of inkling of what I was doing.
(Or trying to do at least.)
When I finished Prime Time, this thought went through my mind: “Well, if I could get on TV with this, maybe I could get some good face time for the book.” And then I thought: Face Time! Face Time! That’s book two! I’m writing a series. By that time, I knew enough to recognize that.
All these years later, in the midst of revisions of book 11, another turning point in my writing life arrived. I got the idea for Trust Me.
And in that instant, I stepped out of series mode and into standalone mode. When I found the core of Trust Me, (you can read about here– https://www.torforgeblog.com/2018/08/09/three-sides-to-every-story/), it telegraphed to me that it could not be part of a series. To me, “standalone” means the story of the single most life-changing plate-shifting monumental event that has ever happened or will ever happen to the main character. In a series you can’t do that ,right? A series is, well, a series of very interesting and exciting events that happen to a person whose life is full of them.
But a standalone like Trust Me–a high-stakes super-tense super-dangerous manipulative cat and mouse game between two strong women—that can only be a once in a lifetime event for each of them.
And only one of them can survive.
Notorious party girl Ashlyn Bryant, player number one, is accused of a horrible crime. Everyone is convinced she’s guilty. Her trial becomes known as the Baby Boston trial. Everyone is riveted. Everyone is talking about it.
Journalist Mercer Hennessey, trying to get her life back after her own terrible tragedy, gets assigned to write the narrative nonfiction book, the In Cold Blood, of the Baby Boston trial. Like everyone else on the planet, she is convinced of Ashlyn Bryant’s guilt.
When they finally meet face-to-face, Mercer decides to use all of her reporter skills to convince Ashlyn to confess. Can she do it? What if she’s truly innocent? What if everything Ashlyn says is true? What if Mercer is completely wrong? Or what if…she isn’t?
Two women fighting for survival. But which one is the cat? And which one is the mouse.
That story could not be part of a series.
Writing a standalone was a staggeringly new experience. Since I write without an outline, my entire universe was up for grabs. I typed chapter 1. Anything could happen. Anyone could prevail. Anyone could die. Anything, absolutely anything could happen. And I had no idea what it would be.
Although I love my two series, they are, by their very nature, constrained to the world of Charlotte McNally and the world of Jane Ryland. But this world of Mercer and Ashlyn was different, and new, their relationship evolving and changing and growing, and I felt – – and you writers will understand this–an immense joy in embarking on this new journey. A new way of writing. A new way of creating. There were no boundaries, not in any way.
The timing was different. The structure was different. The voice was different, the entire experience was like nothing that’s ever happened to me. In other words: a standalone.
The Booklist starred review calls this calls Trust Me: “a knockout.” Suspense magazine calls it “by far one of the best suspense novels I have ever read.”
Although another one of my series books is still under contract, and will come in the future, my next book is a standalone too. I am thrilled to be stepping over another precipice, into another unknown. It’s challenging and exciting and absolutely terrifying. But as the story unfolds, I am riveted to the page. And that is exactly how it is supposed to work.
Can you write series or standalones or both? How has that experience in different for you? And thank you so much, dear Mysteristas, for inviting me today!
Hank Phillippi Ryan is the on-air investigative reporter for Boston’s WHDH-TV, winning 34 EMMYs and dozens more journalism honors. Nationally bestselling author of 10 mysteries, Ryan’s also an award-winner in her second profession—with five Agathas, two Anthonys, two Macavitys, the Daphne, and Mary Higgins Clark Award. Critics call her “a master of suspense.” Her novels are Library Journal’s Best of 2014, 2015 and 2016. Hank’s newest book is the acclaimed standalone psychological suspense thriller Trust Me (August 28, 2018)—Lisa Gardner says: “Mesmerizing!” It’s named one of the Best Thrillers of Summer 2018 by New York Post, BOOK BUB, PopSugar and CrimeReads.