HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN is the on-air investigative reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliate. She’s won 30 Emmys, 12 Edward R. Murrow awards, 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 fiction: the Agatha, Anthony, Macavity, and most recently, for THE OTHER WOMAN, the coveted Mary Higgins Clark Award. National reviews call her a “master at crafting suspenseful mysteries” and “a superb and gifted storyteller.” Her newest thriller, THE WRONG GIRL, is a Boston Globe bestseller and was dubbed “Another winner” in a Booklist starred review. She’s on the national board of Mystery Writers of America and 2013 president of national Sisters in Crime.
In THE WRONG GIRL, Boston newspaper reporter Jane Ryland begins to suspect that an adoption agency is engaging in the ultimate betrayal—reuniting birth parents with the wrong children. Meanwhile Jake Brogan and his partner, investigating a young woman’s brutal murder seems a sadly predictable case of domestic violence, one that results in two toddlers being shuttled into the foster care system. Then Jake finds an empty cradle at the murder scene. Where is the baby who should have been sleeping there? Jane and Jake are soon on a trail full of twists and turns that takes them deep into the heart of a foster care system in crisis and threatens to blow the lid off an adoption agency scandal. THE WRONG GIRL is a riveting novel of familial relationships—both known and unknown—vile greed, senseless murder, and the ultimate in deception. What if you didn’t know the truth about your own family?
Hank has offered to send a copy of The Wrong Girl to one lucky commenter; details are at the end of this post.
What do you wish you’d done differently for your debut novel?
This is fun to think about, because I had the opportunity to debut twice. My first book PRIME TIME came out in a Harlequin imprint in 2007. It did really well, so in 2009, MIRA reissued it and FACE TIME as single titles, followed by AIR TIME and DRIVE TIME.
So, essentially, PRIME TIME came out twice.
The first time, I was so clueless, I cannot even begin to tell you how clueless. If I had to do that over, I would spend less money on cute promotional pencils and one-sheets. I guess. I wonder, now, if any of that made any difference. I was so eager to sell books, I was spending a lot of money on promotion, without the benefit of any real guidance about what was reasonable.
You feel so tempted to do ANYTHING to sell that book—and it’s easy to spend a lot of money. I wish I had some sort of equation of guidance now to tell you what “worked.” When the reissue of PRIME TIME came out in 2009, I did not make pencils.
However, I am a big bookmark person, and insist good bookmarks with real info about the story are must haves. I can tell you—I personally hand them out to everyone at every event.
What do I wish? I wish I would have realized that being worried and frantic is worthless, destructive, energy-sucking, and silly. Drove myself crazy with Amazon rankings and numbers. Whoa. That way lies crazy city. I wish I would have remembered to have more fun. It’s a dream come true moment, and that is too easy to forget.
And hey—DRINK the champagne people give you! What’re you saving it for?
If you have any specific questions, debut-ers, happy to try to answer!
What did you do exactly right with your debut?
I really worked hard on PRIME TIME. I loved that book, still do, every page. So I’m happy that I gave it a million percent. (And I do that with every book, you know? I do the very best I can. I love every bit of my new thriller, THE WRONG GIRL, and am proud to imagine people reading it.)
I’m lucky that I realized that every single event, huge or tiny, can be important. Every single person who talks to you or looks at your book can change your life. If you see it that way, every day is a treasure and every event is wonderful. I promised myself I would never complain, would take a moment every day to realize I was lucky, and would do my best to be generous to others.
(I do complain, I admit, from time to time. But then I stop myself. It doesn’t help.)
You said once that you didn’t start writing until you were 55. For all of the aspiring writers out that who think they’re already so far behind, can you tell us any reasons why “waiting” to write paid off for you?
There’s no “behind.” I promise you that. There’s right now. What you are doing right now, and that’s all. Katherine Hall Page once said to me—“I wish you had started writing twenty years ago, when I did. Then we could have come up through the ranks together.” Not that it wouldn’t have been wonderful—she’s amazing—but I said nope, it wouldn’t have happened that way. I am who I am now, and I’m the right person to write these books right now.
I didn’t “wait.” I worked and participated and had/have a great career. Then one day at Channel 7, I had what I KNEW was a great idea for a novel. I knew it, indisputably, and from that moment I was obsessed with writing crime fiction. And that became PRIME TIME. (Which won the Agatha!)
How do you balance your busy full-time job as a TV news investigative reporter with writing fiction? Or is balance the wrong word?
Ha. There is no balance. Cannot be done. There are choices, yes, choices every moment when we decide what’s important, and what’s necessary, and what “would be nice” and what is imperative. You do the best you can with what you can.
Cooking was the first to go. Then sleep. Goodbye to exercise, vacation, dinner parties, movies. Is that “balance”? It’s a choice. Now I’m more careful to get exercise, and it has crossed my mind that it would be okay to take a vacation. That’s as far as I’ve evolved recently.
What’s your best advice for our group of debut authors, just about to publish their first novels?
Don’t worry. Work hard. Have fun. Be grateful. Be generous. And BUY each others’ books! (If we don’t support the industry…)
What’s your best advice for writers who are still writing that first draft?
Stop reading this and go write. Okay well, listen. You can come up with lots of reasons why you have other things you really NEED to be doing, and you’ll write later. But aren’t you unhappy when you decide that? Don’t you feel guilty and disappointed? And then—when you write—aren’t you SO proud of yourself? Why not do that? Why not make yourself happy and proud? Don’t fret about being a “bad writer.” You can fix it all later. Just write.
You’re a reporter. What question do you wish we’d asked you—and then what’s the answer to it?
How about—If we have questions, can we contact you? And the answer is: Sure!
And oh! I just this second found out THE WRONG GIRL got a Reviewers Choice nomination for BEST THRILLER of 2013 from RT Bookreviews. So ask me if I’m thrilled! And you know the answer.
Visit Hank online at HankPhillippiRyan.com
GIVEAWAY! Comment on this post by noon EST on Friday, November 29nd, and you’ll be entered to win a copy of The Wrong Girl. Follow The Debutante Ball on Facebook and Twitter for extra entries—just mention that you did so in your comments. We’ll choose and contact the winner on Friday. Good luck!