The Write Stuff – Monday, September 14 – Interview With Anne Hillerman

This week, I am pleased to feature a talented creator of both non-fiction and fiction works alike. In theory, I could have met Anne on several occasions while I lived in Santa Fe, but fate conspired against it. Whether I marked the date of a book signing incorrectly or weather made the roads impassable, we never connected and I’ve been the poorer for it. I have met a few of her friends, even interviewed one—Lisa Lenard-Cook—this past January. And while each one attests to Anne’s open personality, I’ve only had the pleasure of her acquaintance through social media. In addition to her non-fiction works, she has chosen to continue in her revered father’s footsteps.

anne_fogelbergAnne Hillerman is the author of the New York Times best-selling Spider Woman’s Daughter and Rock with Wings. Her stories continue the popular Joe Leaphorn/Jim Chee mysteries series created by her father, Tony Hillerman. She is currently at work on the third book, again featuring officer Bernadette Maneulito as a crime solver. Anne’s novels have been honored with the Spur from Western Writers of America and the New Mexico-Arizona book award for best mystery and best book of the year. Before writing fiction, Anne wrote several non-fiction books including Tony Hillerman’s Landscape: On the Road with Chee and Leaphorn.

Anne is a founding director of the Tony Hillerman Writers Conference held annually in Santa Fe. She began her writing career as a newspaper reporter, and continues in journalism as restaurant critic for the Albuquerque Journal. A New Mexican since the age of three, she lives and works in Santa Fe with her husband, photographer Don Strel.

This is how she describes Rock With Wings:

Navajo Tribal cops Jim Chee and Bernadette Manuelito, and their mentor, the legendary Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn, investigate two perplexing cases in this exciting Southwestern mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of Spider Woman’s Daughter.

Doing a good deed for a relative offers the perfect opportunity for Sergeant Jim Chee and his wife, Officer Bernie Manuelito, to get away from the daily grind of police work. But two cases will call them back from their short vacation and separate them—one near Shiprock, and the other at iconic Monument Valley.

Chee follows a series of seemingly random and cryptic clues that lead to a missing woman, a coldblooded thug, and a mysterious mound of dirt and rocks that could be a gravesite. Bernie has her hands full managing the fallout from a drug bust gone wrong, uncovering the origins of a fire in the middle of nowhere, and looking into an ambitious solar energy development with long-ranging consequences for Navajo land.

Under the guidance of their mentor, retired Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn, Bernie and Chee will navigate unexpected obstacles and confront the greatest challenge yet to their skills, commitment, and courage.

Please tell us more about it.

This new mystery featuring Bernadette Manuelito, Jim Chee, and their mentor, Lt. Joe Leaphorn, is set in Monument Valley and the country near the little Navajo town of Ship Rock, N.M. The book is structured as two parallel stories with separate crimes taking Chee and Bernie in different directions. Among the elements included are movie making, a mysterious car fire, a tight-lipped suspect with a trunk full of dirt and a questionable grave that might or might not be just a movie prop.

This newest release, as well as Spider Woman’s Daughter, which preceded it, continue a thread begun by your father. What was the biggest challenge you faced following in his footsteps and how did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge was and still is living up to the expectations of the fans Tony Hillerman’s work garnered during his 30 years of writing the Navajo mystery series. He created and brought to life  Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee. Many have enjoyed Dad’s books through several re-readings and I knew they had high standards for anyone who would presume to continue these stories.

I overcame my hesitation by writing the best books I possibly could. Because Dad had never used Bernadette Manuelito as a crime solver, and because he had gradually been developing her into a more major character, I decided that telling the stories from her point of view would give me a way to continue the mysteries while giving the series a new voice.

Please list your other works for our visitors.

Spider Woman’s Daughter (novel) and Tony Hillerman’s Landscape (non-fiction), both published by HarperCollins.  Ride the Wind  USA to Africa  (Rio Grande Publishing) about a ballooning adventure.  I also two wrote two non-fiction books Gardens of Santa Fe and Santa Fe Flavors, both published by GibbsSmith Publishers and unfortunately out of print. I also wrote several travel guides, now outdated, and a book of solar energy projects for children.

Have there been any awards, productions, videos or anything else of interest associated with either of your recent novels?

Yes, Spider Woman’s Daughter was honored with the Spur Award and the New Mexico Book Award.  Tony Hillerman’s Landscape was honored with the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Association Award. The Library of Congress created a video of me speaking there last summer for the National Book Festival.  Here’s a video interview in connection with the release of Rock with Wings: http://reportfromsantafe.com/episodes/view/304/anne-hillerman-author-rock-with-wings/

What are you working on now and do you have an ETA for its release?

I am at work on the third novel in the new series, not yet named. My deadline for manuscript submission is January, 2016. Wish me luck!

I do! I’m pushing back an identical deadline to March, so I understand the pressure you face. That aside, do you find there are occupational hazards to being a novelist as opposed being to a non-fiction writer?

No, but I have been surprised at the popularity of my new series, and am very thankful to my Dad’s fans. As a nonfiction writer, I was happy but basically unknown. With fiction,  I’m getting the opportunity to balance my need for quiet time to write with my need to be a promoter and respond to generous invitations to come and talk about my Dad and my books. It’s different!

Tell us about your new series’s path to publication.

My non-fiction book about Tony Hillerman and the places he loved came out almost a year to the day after my father died. During the book tour for that book, so many people told me they missed the characters and asked if Dad had another unpublished manuscript to continue the saga. He didn’t, but I realized that I missed the characters my father created as much or even more than his fans. So, I figured I would try writing one and see what happened. After I got my mother’s blessing, I contacted Dad’s long-time editor at Harpercollins to see if there might be any legal problems, copyright issues, etc. with my writing a novel using Dad’s characters. She said no, and added that she’d be glad to take a look at whatever I came up with. I wrote the book, she looked at it, liked it, gave me a bunch of good ideas on how to make it better, and offered me a contract for two books. Then, because of the wonderful fan response, Harpercollins offered me a three book contract following the publication of Spider Woman’s Daughter. I’m now at work on the first book of that package.

In the publishing world, it’s nice to have some security. Do you have another job outside of writing?

Yes, I am the co-founder of the Tony Hillerman Writers’ Conference, held each November in Santa Fe http://wordharvest.com/hillerman-writers-conference/  I serve on the boards of Western Writers of America and New Mexico Press Women. I’m also a wife, mom, sister and niece.

What motivates or inspires you?

A road trip, especially to somewhere in our expansive southwest, always inspires me. I love live music from opera to bluegrass.  I enjoy working in the garden where you can see things change and grow.

How do you pick yourself up in the face of adversity?

Sleep usually helps along with prayer and a conversation with a friend. A brisk walk or a sweaty trip to the gym are good, too.

Who has been your greatest inspiration?

My Dad and my Mom inspired me with their passion for good books and good writing and their enormous kindness and generosity. I miss them every day, but I am grateful for the lessons they taught me.

Thank you for spending time with us. Before we read a sample from Rock With Wings, with your permission I’d like to try a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please complete the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m a… complicated person.

The one thing I cannot do without is: space.

The one thing I would change about my life: A few more years with my parents.

My biggest peeve is: People who criticize a book without reading it.

Boy! Do I know that one, but I’ll save it for another time. Instead, let’s enjoy the following excerpt from Rock with Wings (P 274).

harpercollins-rockOfficer Bernadette Manuelito has been assigned to give a talk to the Farmington Rotary.

Bernie parked in the restaurant lot, noticing that it was nearly full. She picked up her backpack, double-checking to make sure her notes were there. She put on a bit of lipstick, squared her shoulders, and walked in to the room where the meeting would be. She felt as almost as unsettled as when she’d met Chee’s relatives for the first time.

The sixty-something woman at the door in the gray business suit introduced herself as the program director and the person Bernie had talked to on the phone. “We’re so glad you could join us. You’re younger than I expected. Have you met our president?”

“No, ma’am.” Younger than expected? That didn’t sound like a good thing….

(The excerpt picks up with Bernie’s talk.)

“Ladies and gentlemen,  yá’át’ééh. Good afternoon. Thank you for inviting me here today. And for the free lunch.” A few of the attendees chuckled. Good.

“This is the first time I’ve been asked to speak on behalf of our department.” She looked up from her notes. “I thought I would start by explaining that if you want to be on patrol with the Navajo Nation police, you have to enjoy driving. Each officer who works on our force is responsible for about seventy square miles of reservation land. That’s about twice the area of Grand Rapid, Michigan. Or think of it this way: the whole country of Liechtenstein is only sixty- two square miles.”

People in the audience smiled. She relaxed a little, looked at her notes for the next point she wanted to make, and kept talking. “In the rest of rural America, there are about three officers for a thousand civilians. Out here, when our department is fully staffed, there might be two of us for that same population. But I’m not complaining. I love my job, and I like to stay busy.”

For those who would like to read more of her work, you can find Anne’s books at:

http://www.collectedworksbookstore.com/anne-hillerman

To keep up with Anne online:

Website:          http://www.annehillerman.com

Facebook:        https://www.facebook.com/anne.hillerman

The Write Stuff – Monday, August 31 – Interview With Jake Needham

While many of my interviewees are known to me, I stumbled upon this week’s guest on the Internet—on Twitter, to be precise. I suppose it was his his tag line that grabbed me. “Author of eight best-selling crime fiction novels set in Asia. ‘He’s Michael Connelly with steamed rice,’ says The Bangkok Post.” Curiously, I found, he is virtually unknown on his home turf, so I decided to look him up. Wikipedia describes him as “an American novelist and screen writer. He is known as one of the best-selling English-language authors in Asia.” http://bit.ly/1Faq2mv I hope what follows will pique your curiosity enough to investigate his work. He describes himself as follows:

Author in BangkokJake Needham is the author of eight popular international crime novels. He is a lawyer by education and has held a number of significant positions in both the public and private sectors where he took part in a lengthy list of international operations he has absolutely no intention of telling you about. He became a screenwriter following a series of accidents and coincidences too ridiculous to be believed and started writing crime novels when he realized how little he really liked movies and television.

Mr. Needham has lived and worked in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Bangkok for the last twenty-five years. He, his wife, and their two sons now divide their time between homes in Thailand and the United States. You can read excerpts from all Jake Needham’s novels as well as his “Letters from Asia” at his web site: www.JakeNeedham.com.

His published works are as follows:

The Big Mango, Marshall Cavendish Ltd, 400 pages. ISBN 978-9814276603 (2011)

The Ambassador’s Wife (Inspector Tay novel #1), Marshall Cavendish Trade, 364 pages. ISBN 978-9814328173 (2011)

Laundry Man (Jack Shepherd novel # 1), Marshall Cavendish, 352 pages. ISBN 978-9814361279 (2012)

Killing Plato (Jack Shepherd novel # 2), Marshall Cavendish, 352 pages. ISBN 978-9814361262 (2012)

A World of Trouble (Jack Shepherd novel # 3), Marshall Cavendish International (Asia) Pte Ltd, 356 pages. ISBN 978-9814361514 (2012)

The Umbrella Man (Inspector Tay novel #2), Half Penny, 382 pages. ISBN 978-6167611198 (2013)

Needham, Jake. The King of Macau (Jack Shepherd novel # 4), Half Penny Ltd, 342 pages. ISBN 978-6163359087 (2014)

Needham, Jake. “The Dead American” (Inspector Tay novel #3), Half Penny Ltd, 305 pages, ISBN 978-6167611228 (2014)

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I asked him to provide a summary of his most recent release and he described it this way:

They steer a tight ship in squeaky-clean Singapore. No dissent, no opposition, no criticism. It’s like an entire country run by Walt Disney. Disneyland with the death penalty, somebody once called it.

A young American software engineer hangs himself in his Singapore apartment. At least that’s what the police say happened. Emma Lazar, a writer for the Wall Street Journal, thinks otherwise. She thinks Tyler Bartlett was murdered to keep him quiet, and the Singapore police are covering it up.

Emma Lazar asks Inspector Samuel Tay to help her investigate the young man’s death. Tay is a senior inspector in the elite Special Investigation Section of Singapore CID. He’s pretty much the best investigator the Singapore police have, but Tay’s father was an American and from him Tay inherited a strong streak of American individualism that has made him an outsider in relentlessly regulated and tightly wound little Singapore. That’s mostly why Tay has been placed on leave. Tay shot a man and everyone knows it was self-defense, but Tay’s enemies have seized on the incident and are trying to get rid of him once and for all.

Tay really doesn’t want to get involved in helping Emma Lazar with her story. It certainly won’t help him get his job back to challenge the government’s official narrative about the death of Tyler Bartlett. But the writer’s determination tickles his curiosity, and…well, the truth is he’s bored and she’s beautiful. So he does it anyway.

Learning that Tyler Bartlett’s death was no suicide is easy enough for Tay. What is far more difficult is finding out what the young man knew that made him worth killing. When Tay realizes both his superiors on the police force and the faceless men of the Internal Security Department are working behind the scenes to keep him from finding out, he becomes more determined than ever to discover what, and who, is behind Tyler Bartlett’s murder.

Of course, there’s a problem there. If Tay does find out, doesn’t that make him worth killing, too?

Will you please tell us about it?

The third book in my Inspector Samuel Tay series, The Dead American, was released at the beginning of this year. Sam is a cop in the elite Special Investigations Section of Singapore CID, but he’s also something of a reluctant policeman. He’s a little overweight, a little lonely, a little cranky, and he smokes far too much. The whole truth is he can’t even remember why he became a police detective in the first place, but he hasn’t quit. Because he’s very, very good at what he does.

What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book and how did you overcome it?

None, really. If you’re going to write a novel, you just sit down and write the damn thing. Why make it any harder than it already is by agonizing over it?

What other novels have you written?

The Inspector Tay series is up to three books now: The Dead American, The Umbrella Man, and The Ambassador’s Wife. My other series character is Jack Shepherd, an American lawyer who took a job in Bangkok on something of a whim and has lived in Asia ever since. So far there are four books in that series: The King Of Macau, A World Of Trouble, Killing Plato, and Laundry Man.

My stand-alone novel is called The Big Mango, and it’s the only one of my books for which the film rights have sold. Maybe there’s a message for me in that…

What else are you working on?

Right now I’m in the final stages of editing the fourth book in the Inspector Tay series. It will be out this fall and is called The Girl In The Window.

After that will come the fifth book in the Jack Shepherd series. It’s scheduled for the middle of 2016 and is called Don’t Get Caught.

Tell us about your path to publication.

Very, very weird.

I had practiced law for a couple of decades, doing mostly international corporate work, and I found myself involved in a complicated corporate merger. To get the deal closed, I had to buy a piece out of the transaction myself because no one else wanted it. That was a very modest little Hollywood production company that was making cable TV movies.

Since I was stuck with the company, I did my best to make it profitable, and I tried to focus it more tightly on what I thought it could do well. To accomplish that, I dashed off an outline of the kind of movies I wanted the company to try to make and a copy of that outline accidentally got sent to one of the cable TV networks the company worked with. Several weeks later, that network called up and asked me to make it for them.

Make what? I asked them. The movie you wrote that treatment for, they said. And that, girls and boys, is how I became a screenwriter.

I wrote screenplays for quite a few years for American television after that, but eventually I came to realize how little I actually liked American television. That was what goaded me into trying to figure out how to write novels instead. My first book was The Big Mango and, without thinking very much about it, I gave it to a regional publisher in Asia because they liked it and wanted to publish it. Although The Big Mango was only distributed in half a dozen countries where almost no one spoke English, and it was only available in English, it still sold well over 100,000 copies and eventually became something of a cult book among foreigners living in and visiting Asia. That was when I figured I’d better start taking this novel writing thing seriously, and I guess it’s worked out pretty well for me.

What is the single most powerful challenge when it comes to writing a novel?

I really hate to hear writers moaning about how painful and wrenching it is to write a novel. Look, we all chose this profession. If somebody finds the demands of it are too much for them, I recommend they go out and sell real estate or something. But for God’s sake stop telling everybody how difficult it is to write.

You show up every day and you do the job. That’s all there is to it. You write 2000 words a day for sixty straight days and you end up with a respectable first draft. It’s hard work. John Gregory Dunne called writing a novel “manual labor of the mind, like laying pipe.” My experience is that a lot of people who talk a lot about writing and whine about its challenges simply don’t have the stomach for actually doing it.

I agree. The old saw is that most people who say they would like to write a novel really mean they would like to have written one. Is there anything you want to make sure potential readers know?

Both as a reader and a writer my test of a novel is its credibility. Does it feel real, at least real enough to pull me in and hold me for 300 pages or so? I work very, very hard to get the details in my books right, and nothing pleases me more than hearing a reader say that they used one of my novels as a guidebook to Bangkok, or Singapore, or Hong Kong.

If a character in one of my books leaves the Mandarin Hotel in Hong Kong to walk to the Star Ferry and I tell you that he turns left when he walks out the front door of the hotel, you can bet that’s exactly how you get from the Mandarin Hotel to the Star Ferry. Make book on it.

Describe a typical day.

Maybe it’s my background as a lawyer, but I live a discouragingly regular life. When I’m writing, I go into my study around nine, work for three or four hours, break for a half hour or so and eat a sandwich at my desk, then work another three or four hours and knock off about five so I can go for a long walk with my wife.

I show up every day and I put in my eight hours at the factory. That’s how I get the job done.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

Aey and I have been married for almost 25 years. She’s a graduate of Oxford University, a prematurely retired concert pianist, and a former magazine editor. We have two sons, one of whom is a fashion photographer and the other is in his last year of studying economics at university. We have a penthouse apartment in Bangkok and a 230-year-old house in Virginia built during the Revolutionary War and we’re back and forth between them two or three times a year.

Mr. Needham chose to take a pass on my customary “Lightning Round” of questions, and for that I forgive him after bringing such refreshing candor to this page. After diving into Chapter One of The Dead American, I will provide you with links to help you follow this intriguing author.

 THE DEAD AMERICAN

 CHAPTER ONE

 SAMUEL TAY STOOD in his tiny garden and squinted at the sky. The sun was a flickering smudge and the caramel-colored air smelled of earth and rot. Singapore, the diminutive island state known for its blue skies, dazzling sunlight, and green environment, was drowning in crap.

According to Channel News Asia, the Singapore Pollutants Index stood at a record high. Schools were closed, the armed forces had stopped training, and McDonald’s was suspending delivery service. When Tay heard that last part, he knew this was really serious.

Before now, Tay had no idea Singapore even had a pollutants index, but for weeks now it had been the only thing anyone talked about. Every television channel was broadcasting warnings that breathing the air was hazardous to health. Were they telling him not to breathe at all, Tay wondered, or merely urging him not to breathe any more than absolutely necessary? Unless it was one or the other, he didn’t see what good the information did him.

Heavy smoke from slash and burn agriculture in Indonesia had plagued Singapore for decades, but this was the dirtiest air Tay had ever seen. Blinking stung his eyes and breathing burned his throat. Yesterday he walked up to a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf on Orchard Road for breakfast and at least half of the people he saw on the streets were wearing white surgical masks over their mouth and nose. The city looked like it had been taken over by an antisocial cult. Maybe the surgical masks helped you breathe, maybe they didn’t, but Tay thought he would rather choke than join the crowd he saw wearing them.

The bell outside his front gate rang and Tay stopped contemplating the foul air. He also stayed right where he was. A year ago, he wouldn’t have hesitated to go out and open the gate. He was an inspector in the Special Investigations Section of the Criminal Investigation Department of the Singapore police. When his doorbell rang, it was always important. A year ago, he would have answered without a second thought.

But a year ago the world was a very different place. Mad men had not yet blown up half of Singapore. Tay hadn’t yet caught a homicide case that appeared to have nothing to do with the bombings, until it did. And he hadn’t yet shot a man and been put on administrative leave. He had been quickly exonerated and returned to duty, of course, but then eight months later he had been suspended again. CID’s new commanding officer decided the first investigation of Tay’s actions had been incomplete. He ordered a new investigation and a new suspension for Tay until the second investigation was concluded.

Tay had not been all that surprised. There were senior officers in the Singapore police force that had been trying for years to get rid of him. Presented with the best opportunity to force him out they might ever get, they weren’t going to give up without making a fight of it. The incident should have been a simple case of a police officer defending himself and another officer. That’s probably what it would have been if he had fired once. Or even twice. Ten shots made for a somewhat more difficult conversation, even if the first review panel had done their best to ease past that problem.

The bell outside the gate rang again. Tay considered the possibility it was a personal visitor who had nothing to do with his job, but he thought that was unlikely. Off hand, Tay could think of only one person not involved with police work who had rung his doorbell in the last few years, and that was Cindy Shaw. Cindy was either a widow or divorced. Tay didn’t know which, and he didn’t want to know. She had made her interest in him so plain and pursued it so embarrassingly it had become a major preoccupation of his life to avoid her at all costs. Cindy lived two doors north of him on Emerald Hill Road and Tay had made a habit of taking a quick glance at the road outside his gate before going out just to make certain he didn’t run into her by accident. Some neighborhoods had angry, snarling dogs people had to avoid whenever they left their houses. His neighborhood had Cindy Shaw. He would have preferred angry, snarling dogs.

Tay pondered the two rings of his doorbell and asked himself again whether he was going to answer it. He cocked his head and studied the dirty brown sky. Somewhere up there he found the answer written on the smog.

I sincerely thank Mr. Needham for taking time from his busy writing and touring schedule to introduce us to his growing number of works. I hope the American public will soon come to recognize him as the Asian people have done. If you’d care to learn more about this no-nonsense writer, here are a few links to The Dead American:

 Amazon          http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NREOKMA

iBooks             https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-dead-american/id974767595?ls=1&mt=11

Nook               http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1121380321?ean=2940046618662

Smashwords    https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/525446

 Other links are:

Website           http://jakeneedham.com

Facebook         https://www.facebook.com/Jake.Needham

Twitter             https://twitter.com/JakeNeedham

The Write Stuff – Monday, October 13 – Interview With Hank Phillippi Ryan

photo-68-primary headshotToday, I am inserting an interview between my regularly scheduled spots to feature a very special author. Hank Phillippi Ryan is an award-winning crime fiction author and the on-air investigative reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliate. She’s won 32 EMMYs, 12 Edward R. Murrows and dozens of other honors for her ground-breaking journalism. A bestselling author of six mystery novels, Ryan has won multiple prestigious awards for her crime fictions: the Agatha, Anthony, Macavity, and the coveted Mary Higgins Clark Award. National reviews have called her a “master at crafting suspenseful mysteries” and “a superb and gifted storyteller.” Her previous work, The Wrong Girl, has the extraordinary honor of winning the 2013 Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel. A six-week Boston Globe bestseller, it is also an Anthony and Daphne Award nominee, a Patriot Ledger bestseller, and was dubbed “Another winner” in a Booklist starred review and “Stellar” by Library Journal. She’s a founding teacher at Mystery Writers of America University and 2013 president of national Sisters in Crime. She is a rare breed, as she managed to maintain two equally successful careers as a bestselling crime fiction author and award-winning investigative reporter.

Truth Be Told GALLEYHer latest thriller, Truth Be Told, was released on October 7. I’m happy to help her launch it.

Ms. Ryan, given your background, I suspect there is a story behind Truth Be Told. Would you care to fill us in?

That’s a question that some authors loathe…but I love! TRUTH BE TOLD is a puzzle in four parts.

Part one. My husband is a criminal defense attorney. When we first met, I asked: “Have you ever had a murder case where the defendant was convicted, but you still thought they were innocent?” His eyes softened a bit, and then he said: “Yes.” The man was charged with murder in the death of a young woman—the prosecution said he had lured her to a forest, and tied her to a tree.

Jonathan told me he still, to this day, thinks the man is innocent.

Hmmm. Idea.

Another puzzle piece? Another of Jonathan’s cases. A man in prison, incarcerated with a life sentence for shaking a baby to death, recently confessed to a cold-case murder. It’s very unlikely that he actually did it—so why would he confess?

Hmmm. Idea.

Another puzzle piece. We recently did a big story on abandoned homes in Boston. They are all places the banks have foreclosed on, where the owners have been evicted, and the houses are now empty. All are for sale. Many of them are neglected, with broken windows and overgrown lawns. But some are in good shape. While I was interviewing the head of Boston’s Inspectional Services Department about this, I began to wonder. What could be going on inside those forgotten empty houses?

Hmmmm. Idea.

I also thought about the people who had been evicted from those homes. People who’d gotten mortgages from banks with lots of money, but who through some failure of their lives, some catastrophe or disaster, some wrong decision or bad luck had not been able to keep up the payments. Wouldn’t there be something that could have ben done to prevent that? If a banker-type really cared about their customers, wouldn’t there be something that could be done to keep people out of foreclosure?

Hmmmm. Idea.

And finally, I was sitting at the computer in my TV station office, writing a story, and thinking about why I do what I do as a reporter. It’s making history, I decided. It’s creating the record of what happened in our lives, the comings and goings, that issues and the solutions, the documentation of how we live. And people believe it, right? What’s on TV and in the newspapers becomes a resource by which all is remembered and relied on.


And then I thought—what if some reporter decided not to tell the truth? Not big discoverable lie, but simply—little things. A sound bite, a reaction, a quote. Who would know? What difference might that make? And what would happen when the truth was finally told?

Hmmm. Idea.

And in the way we all do as authors, by spinning and polishing and twisting and turning, and shooting it full of a lot of adrenaline and a little romance, I got the key elements of Truth Be Told:

A mortgage banker turned Robin Hood decides to manipulate bank records to keep people out of foreclosure, a murder victim is found in a foreclosed home, a man confesses to the unsolved Lilac Sunday murder, and a reporter makes stuff up.

And when it all comes together in the end: TRUTH BE TOLD.

And now you know exactly where it came from.

That’s more than a little intriguing. Now, I have to say no one wins as many awards as you have by following the herd. Why is your writing different from other authors in this genre?


I have wired myself with hidden cameras, gone undercover and in disguise, confronted corrupt politicians and chased down criminals. My TV investigations have changed laws and changed lives—and I have 32 Emmys to show for it!

And it’s so fascinating to me that all those 40 years of reporting were not the end in themselves—but turns out, they were just the research to prepare me for my second career as a crime fiction author! So when my main character reporter, Jane Ryland, worries about stalkers, deadlines, breaking news, keeping her job, tracking down clues, following leads, doing research and making sure the bad guys get what’s coming to them—it’s all from my own experience! (Tweaked and polished and expanded, of course!) And that, I hope, is what brings authenticity–authentic suspense and authentic stakes—to the books.

What happens to Jane has—or could!—happened to me, or any hardworking reporter. Now, as one fellow reporter put it “She lives it, now she writes it!”

Do you ever experience writer’s block and, if so, how do you overcome it?

Oh, gosh, I get over it by denying its existence. After all these years as a reporter—can you imagine what would happen if I went to my news director and said—You know, can I be on the air at ten after six instead of six? I’m just not feelin’ it right now… ”

I’d be laughed out of the business. So I know that some days, the writing isn’t going to be fabulous, but I also know it has to get done. So I persevere, and allow myself to be bad. I can always make it fabulous later!

I also think that when people feel they have writers block, it’s actually a signal from their writer brain that something is wrong—and a message to you to find it and fix it. Sometimes when I’m stuck—and that’s inevitable!—I scroll back fifty pages and just start reading. Often the mistake or the omission or the error in continuity or the plot glitch will appear, and ping! I can fix it and go on.

That’s marvelous advice. If I may pry a little, can you tell us a little about Hank the person? For example, if you could do anything differently, what would it be?

Not a thing. Not one little thing. The “mistakes” I have learned from .The joys—I count my blessings. It’s all good. (I might have learned how to play the piano, but still, no. That took time from something else that matters.)

What is your greatest life lesson?

Oh, gosh! I think I have learned not to worry. To try not to worry, at least. If I had to go back to my geeky unpopular bookish 10 year old self and tell her something—I would say—get ready, sweetheart, everything going to be great.

What are a few of your favorite authors?

Edith Wharton. Shakespeare. Tom Wolfe. Thomas Wolfe. Stephen King. Kent Krueger. Oh, so many! If I start listing contemporaries, the page will soon be full.

A few Lightning Round questions. Please fill in the blanks.

The one thing I cannot do without is:

Coffee. Paper and pencil. My husband. (fine, fine, in the opposite order.)

Hard copy or ebook?

Hard.

Vice? Virtue?

Yes, wine. (Is that a vice?) Virtue? I love to solve problems. And I am a good cook.

Favorite book:

Too hard. The Stand? Custom of the Country? Bonfire of the Vanities? Winters Tale?

Favorite movie:

Too hard. Lawrence of Arabia. To Kill A Mockingbird. Desk Set. The Godfather. Working Girl.

I can only imagine how hectic your schedule must be as your launch date approaches, so I want to thank you for taking the time to stop by and visit with us. Before I draw this interview to a close, do you have any closing thoughts you’d like to leave us with?

Two things. On a practical level— If you love a book? Please tell someone. Word of mouth is the most valuable commodity in publishing. (If you don’t like it… um, just don’t say anything.

And philosophically? I am so grateful to readers. I didn’t start writing until was 55, in the midst of a terrifically wonderful career as a journalist. I’m the poster child for following your dreams at midlife! So what is it YOU’D like to do? And what are you waiting for?

Ms. Ryan, thank you so much for taking the time to share with us.

For those of you who would like to learn more about the author, these are her social links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HankPhillippiRyanAuthorPage

Twitter: https://twitter.com/HankPRyan

Website: http://www.hankphillippiryan.com/

You can find numerous links through which to purchase her books on her website. As a quick assist, here is her Amazon link:

http://www.amazon.com/Truth-Be-Told-Jane-Ryland/dp/0765374935/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1405641425&sr=1-1&keywords=0765374935&dpPl=1

TRUTH BE TOLD

Hank Phillippi Ryan

A Forge Hardcover

ISBN: 978-0-7653-7493-6

400 pages / $24.99

On-sale: October 7, 2014

Also available in E-book, ISBN: 978-0-7653-7497-4

Audio CD: 978-1-4272-4387-4

Digital Audio: 978-1-4272-4388-1