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Hank Phillippi Ryan Interview

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Hank Phillippi Ryan to speak at MWW 40th

hank-phillippi-ryan-crop-pressHank Pillippi Ryan is an investigative reporter for Channel 7 News on WHDH-TV, the NBC-affiliate station for Boston, Massachusetts. A native of Indianapolis, she attended Western College for Women in Oxford, Ohio, and also studied abroad at the International School in Hamburg, Germany. Ryan joined WHDH-TV in 1983 as a general assignment reporter. In 1989, she was named principal reporter for the station’s investigative unit. Ryan has won 28 Emmy Awards and 12 Edward R. Murrow Awards for her investigative and consumer reporting.
Her first published novel, Prime Time, won the Agatha Award for best new mystery of 2007, featuring Boston investigative reporter Charlotte “Charlie” McNally. Her follow-up mystery, Face Time, was published in 2008 (and re-issued in 2009) and was a Book Sense Notable Book.
Her newest thriller, The Other Woman, is the big news! Published by Forge in September 2012, it is nominated for the MWA/MARY HIGGINS CLARK award, selected as one of Suspense Magazine’s Best Books of 2012, and named a TOP BOOK OF 2012 by the Kansas City Star.
“Fabulous! Fabulous! Want to know why everyone is talking about Hank Phillippi Ryan’s sizzling new thriller? Because with its frenetic pace, twisty plot, and superbly realized characters, The Other Woman is the book you need to read next! Don’t miss it!”  ~ Julie Hyzy

For MWW13, Hank will talk about planning your crime novel and ways to jumpstart your writing. MWW committee member Cathy Shouse interviewed Hank about her dual careers and coming to MWW this summer.

Q. Since meeting you at the writing conference in Washington D.C. in 2009, it seems your writing career has exploded with good news. Plus, you have that amazing Day Job. Please give us a thumbnail sketch of how you’ve become an “overnight success.”

HANK: Overnight success! Thank you. Pausing to laugh now, of course. I stated writing in 20..05? When I was 55. I’ve always wanted to write mysteries, but it wasn’t ’til then that I had a good idea! But when I did, I was just obsessed with writing the story. I was such a newbie, I had no idea what to do or how to connect or anything about the system. And that was probably such a good thing–it’s so daunting, isn’t it? And if you understand reality, it all seems impossible. Happily, I was clueless, and persevered. And that has served me well.

I simply–work. I’m organized, I’m driven, I’m curious, I’m happy when others succeed. I’m truly interested in paying it forward. I am open to new things, and to being disappointed and challenged and lucky.

Q. What is the best tip–or three, you would give writers in the early stage of the journey?

HANK: *Anything is possible, right?  If you persist?

*You never know what wonderful thing is around the next corner, so don’t quit five minutes before the miracle.

* Thinking of writing a whole book is incredibly difficult –but thinking about writing a page a day isn’t so tough. So set reasonable goals, ones you can meet–like writing a page a day. Do that and you’ll be finished with your book in just a year!

*Celebrate a good chapter, or a good idea, or the solution to a problem.

*Have fun! It’s fun, it’s rewarding, it’s creative.

*Don’t worry–because worrying will not make a spot of difference.

Okay, that’s more than three. How about: Embrace editing.

Q. Midwest Writers Workshop 2013 is mere months away. What do you aim for as a writing workshop instructor?

HANK: If people in my sessions can go home with just one terrific life-changing idea or inspiration, I’m happy. Everything I teach won’t be valuable to everyone every day–but I live for the moments when I imagine someone at their desk, writing, and saying,”OH! That’s what Hank meant!” That’s a terrific vision.

I love to hear the dilemmas individual writers face and work with them to untangle their thoughts and come up with solutions. Sometimes writers know SO much about their stories, it’s difficult to see the narrative path. I am eager to help them find their way. Sometimes writers don’t know enough about their stories–and I use my TV interview techniques to encourage them to imagine and think and suppose…and then send them on their way.

My goal is to inspire! And then watch other writers be happy. 

Q. At Indiana Romance Writers of America a few years ago, you spoke on how working in TV news helped your writing.  What is one tip from that presentation? 

HANK: Just do it. You know? Just write. Don’t fuss, don’t procrastinate, don’t make excuses. As a TV reporter, I have to have my stories done by deadline. Sometimes, I don’t feel like doing it. Doesn’t matter. Sometimes, I know my writing isn’t the best it can be–but the news isn’t going to wait. When I have a deadline, I have no choice. So I translate that to my fiction writing. I have a word goal for the day, and I do it. Sometimes it stinks. That’s fine. Unlike TV reporters, as fiction authors, we have the true luxury of being able to tweak and edit and fix and change…but as Nora Roberts always says, you can’t fix a blank page.  So pretend you have a deadline. You do.

Q. Everyone’s goal seems to be to write full-time. What advantages are there to keeping the Day Job, if any? 

HANK: Well, first of all, I love it. I’ve been a TV reporter for 37 years! And every day is a joy. (Well, almost every day.) I’m curious about the world, and this job lets me explore that with a kind of access most people don’t have. I get to talk to–and interview and confront-all kinds of people and go all kinds of places.  So when people ask–did you do a lot of research for your new book?–I say well, I’ve been doing research for the last 37 years! Now, I get to spend my day as a journalist, and (informally) do book research at the same time!

It does make writing time more precious and difficult to schedule…and as a result, I have to be incredibly organized and focused. Luckily, knock on wood, I am.

Q. Tell us about your Indiana roots and anything else, quirky or serious, that we should know before meeting you in Muncie in July.

HANK: We moved to Indianapolis from Chicago when I was five…I went to–School 53? Is there such a thing? And then we moved far out into the suburbs, to Zionsville, when I was 10 or so. It was so rural back then, we could not see another house from our house. We used to ride our ponies into town. I went to Pike High School, when I was the geeky nerdy Twilight-Zone watching outcast. As a senior, to my enduring shame, I was voted “Most Individual.”  It was years later when I realized that was a good thing. I worked at the Dairy Queen in Zionsville–that was my first summer job! I also worked for two summers at the Lyric Record store. (Records. Remember?) I still have family in Indiana-in Carmel.

And my first grown-up up job was in Indiana too, as a staffer on several political campaigns. Anyone old as I am and remember Matt Welsh? Terry Straub?  My first job in broadcasting was at WIBC Radio–remind me to tell you about that some day! And then in television at WTHR. (With Paul Udell and Renee Ferguson-anyone? Anyone?)

Q. Is there anything you would like to add, and please include your next release or whatever you are working on?

HANK: SO delighted to say–THE OTHER WOMAN is now in third printing, hurray, and made several “Best of 2012″ lists in including the Boston Globe, Kansas City Star, Oline Cogdill, and Suspense Magazine.

The Other Woman by Hank Phillippi Ryan
The Other Woman by Hank Phillippi Ryan

My next book, THE WRONG GIRL will be out in hardcover from Forge this fall. What’s it about?  I’ll have to practice this-but “What if you didn’t know the truth about your own family? Jane Ryland suspects a top-notch adoption agency is reuniting birth parents with the wrong children.” It’s scary, let me tell you! I love to write stories about everyday things that are not what they seem.

Very excited about that! And now I am on the hunt for the plot of the next book. Where do ideas come from?  That’s the most difficult one of all! But that’s a question for another day. Can’t wait to see you all!

 

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