Monday, February 15, 2010

Looking in the Mirror?

STARRED REVIEW "Placing Ryan in the same league as Lisa Scottoline...her latest book catapults the reader into the fast lane and doesn’t relent until the story careens to a stop. New readers will speed to get her earlier books, and diehard fans will hope for another installment."
**Library Journal on DRIVE TIME by Hank Phillippi Ryan

CJ: Come clean now, Hank. How much of you is in Charlotte and how much of Charlotte is you? What has Charlotte done that you'd like to do in real life (and get away with )?

HANK: Well, CJ, that’s quite a question coming from you—when I read your books, I always picture you involved in all that hospital drama. And don’t even get me started on Sophie. And Kelli. And Meredith.

(But I love this Grand Master stuff! I told my husband about it, and tried to use my exalted status it to get out of loading the dishwasher. Didn't work, but maybe when my Grand Master sceptre and crown arrive, it'll help. Ah, that stuff is on the way, correct, you all? And I get to be here the whole week? And answer all your questions? Yikes. Well, okay, then.

We'll have prizes EVERY DAY! Watch this space! )

Anyway. Back to your question, CJ. Yes, it’s true, and inevitable, that since I’m a TV reporter, and Charlotte McNally is a TV reporter, there’s going to be some, shall we say, overlap.

When my husband talks about Charlotte McNally, he actually calls her “you.” As in—when “you” are held at gunpoint, when you track down the bad guys, when you solve the mystery . He’s also squeamish and unhappy when Charlie thinks about “men,” and can’t figure out why she has to have a love interest. I have to remind him, “Sweetheart, it’s fiction. It didn’t really happen.”

But a couple of things: I’ve been a TV reporter for more than 30 years. (Yes, really.) And so it would be silly, in writing mysteries about TV, not to use my own experiences. Think about it—as a TV reporter, you can never be wrong! Never be one minute late. Never choose the wrong word or miscalculate. You can never have a bad hair day, because it’ll be seen by millions of people! It’s high-stakes and high-stress—literally, people’s lives at stake—and I really wanted to convey that in the books.

And of course because I want the novels to be authentic, it’s logical that news stories I’ve researched and investigated become the perfect basis for fictional stories. Like Charlie, I’ve wired myself with hidden cameras, confronted corrupt politicians and chased down criminals. All in a day's work. But again, we’re writing fiction, right? So we take reality, and twist and polish and tweak and push and boost the stakes and ratchet up the excitement. In real life, there’s most likely not going to be someone with a gun waiting around the corner.

So in AIR TIME, for instance, when Charlie goes in disguise to Logan Airport, well, I’ve done that. Carried a hidden camera into places where it would be most unpleasant if she got caught? Done that, too.

In the newest mystery DRIVE TIME (the Library Journal starred review says it puts me “in a league with Lisa Scottoline,” I can’t resist saying) , real life overlaps fiction in an amazing and quite unexpected way. We’ve done lost of research and several big stories about cloning of automobiles, and vehicle recalls. As a result, one of the pivotal elements of DRIVE TIME is how you may have a recalled car and not know it, and why, and how dangerous that can be.

And then, just as the book is published, the massive Toyota recalls became front page news. Pretty interesting. That's--reality becoming non-fiction becoming fiction becoming reality. Or something.

Of course, DRIVE TIME pushed the story even further, and answers the question: “What really happens to your car in valet parking?” You’ll never hand over your keys again, perhaps, after you read DRIVE TIME!

But of course, that part of the story is fiction. (Even though hey, the scheme would definitely work.)

What TV people do and say in the books is also authentic and genuine. Still, fictional Charlie can certainly say things I can’t say about the nature of television, for instance, and reveal things I can’t reveal about how newsroom decisions sometimes get made. But we’re both devoted journalists, workaholics, caffeine addicts and certainly over-focused on our jobs.

But Charlotte McNally is different, too. She’s single—I’m happily married. She’s ten years younger than I am, and so is facing different choices and dilemmas. She’s braver than I am, certainly. In FACE TIME, she yells at the Attorney General. If I did that in real life? I’d be out of my real life job, pretty darn fast. And I must say, writing that scene, I was surprised Charlie had the nerve to do it. (I hadn’t expected it—but she insisted.).

And as you might realize when you see what happens to her on the Massachusetts Turnpike, she’s a much better driver than I am.

And we both like prizes! So let's give away a copy of DRIVE TIME to one commenter...and more to come as the week goes on! I love this Grand Master stuff.

Tomorrow--how this all happened because I had no idea what I was doing.

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 26 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 working with Hunter S. Thompson.

Her first mystery, the best-selling PRIME TIME, won the Agatha for Best First Novel. It was also was a double RITA nominee for Best First Book and Best Romantic Suspense Novel, and a Reviewers' Choice Award Winner. FACE TIME and the new AIR TIME are IMBA bestsellers. (Of AIR TIME, Sue Grafton says: "This is first-class entertainment.") DRIVE TIME, February 2010 from MIRA Books, just earned a starred review from Library Journal. Hank is on the national board of Mystery Writers of America.
Her website is


Anonymous said...

Thanks for a great post, Hank. I have been meaning to read your books for a while and have the first one here at home. I'm looking forward to getting to know Charlie!

CJ Lyons said...

Hi Hank! Welcome to &CM!!!

Kay, you're gonna fall in love with Charlie and Hank's books!

Enjoy your week with us, Hank!!!

Meredith Cole said...

Yay! The fabulous Hank Phillippi Ryan is in the house! Your tiara is on its way, I swear (don't tell me you don't own one already?!).

P.S. - I was lucky enough to get to hang out with Hank last weekend in Alabama, and snatch up an autographed copy of DRIVE TIME. I can't wait to read it!

PK the Bookeemonster said...

Now wouldn't that be fun, having a tiara and sceptre? I have wondered how someone like Miss America feels after her year is up because wearing the thing is a daily occurence: "I'm missing something ... keys, purse ..." You'd probably also have good posture keeping the balanced on your head (yes, I know they have pins, but still). And a sceptre -- THAT would have uses.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Thanks, Kay! I do love picturing people who have my books at home. You know? I have a tbr pile, and it's fun to think about my books being in someone's...

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

CJ--thank you so much for the good question! (CJ and I have some wonderful shared memories..and CJ, doesn't our adventure in Pittsburgh seem like a long time ago? We've all come so far since then, in so many ways..)

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Hi MEredith! ANd I'm sure the tiara will arrive by the next Fedex.

(Meredith and I shared a plane ride from Birmingham to Charlotte lasst week---and in a weekend full of highlights (Murder in the Maagic City, Murder on the Menu), I must say that flight home was a real treat. Meredith, can't wait to read the new book!)

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

PK, yeah, I bet they get used to it. Speaking of tiaras, did you watch Amazing Race last night? They had the Junior Miss from SC as a contestant, the one who said in the pageant: some kids can't read maps--because they don't HAVE maps?

Poor thing. She'll never live that down. Gosh, think of it. You have your moment in the sun, at age 17 or whatever, and blam. Toast. I hope she wins AR. (We now return you to our original programming.)

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Actaully,Meredith, when our entertainmet reporter quit, she bequeathed me a tiara that someone had given her as swag from some movie junket--Princess Diaries or something.

I used to wear it all the time in my office, and I must say, people treated me differently. (Wonder why...)

Then somenoe swiped it. Reporters. YOu can't trust 'em.

Sophie Littlefield said...

Hi Hank! So glad you're here all week. Have to say I'm secretly envious you've gotten to do so many of the exciting things you write about. And I love that you have a tiara. I have one too - my critique group gave it to me the first time I finished a 100-day writing challenge, and it's one of my most cherished sits up here on a shelf next to a yellow bear beanie baby I got at the last RWA convention in NY, and the card attached to the flowers my brother and his wife sent me when I first sold a book.

This is gonna be a fun week :)

Shane Gericke said...

My grandmother had a tiara cause she was an international Queen of Barbershop. You can have it, Hank! Can you sing three-part harmony?

Shane Gericke said...

On a serious note, how does a reporter like yourself wear a camera without getting caught by the bad guys? Is it a camera? Or only a tiny microphone? Do you get to do that kind of undercover work any more, or has it been frowned upon by the station lawyers?

Joni said...

Very fun to have two of my favorites on one page, Hank and CJ! I'll admit, I see both of you when I read your books (well, not both of you in the same books, you know what I mean). (And hi to the equally fabulous Meredith Cole. Very much looking forward to seeing you and Hank at Malice — come on back, CJ!)

Anonymous said...

Love to see two of my favorite authors together! Hi CJ and Hank!

Kathy Sweeney

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Sing, Shane?? Ah, not a chance. Harmony or not. It's a genetic thing in my family, I think. Although my father was the music critic for the old Chicago Daily News, and is a wonderful pianist, the rest of us in my family are singing-impaired.
Really, if we all sing together, you can't tell what song it is.

SO impressed with your mom!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Shane, I could have been wearing a hidden camera the last time we saw each other, and you would not have known, I promise.

The lenses are very tiny, and can look like the button on a coat. (I shouldn't be telling you this stuff. But I did a story about it recently for Mystery Scene, and you can see what the camera looks like.) The camera guts can be hidden in a pocket or pouch or purse or briefcase.

What they do not have, for me at least, is a microphone. In Maasschasertts, you can shoot video secretly and without the person's permission, that's legal.

But to record someone's audio, you have to have consent---Massachusetts is a two-party consent state. (You really have to notify them: So if you say, I'm recording this, and go on, and they don't stop you, that's okay. Or like when you hear the beeps on the phone? Or a voice says: this call may be recorded..? That's all to inform you.)

And (in Massachusetts) it's the actual recording that would be illegal. You don't even have to
play it.

So here's a dilemma: what if someone leaves a message on your voice mail. They know they're being recorded, so can you use that in a TV story? Our lawyers have decided--what do you think?

We sometimes shoot stories in Rhode Island, a one-party state, where we can secretly record audio and it's legal.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Sophie, you'd look great in a tiara! A tiara and a gun. Nice.

Joni! Lovely to see you..and thanks! Yup, looking forward to Malice. (Hey, who all is going?)

Hi,Kathy! Glad you finally have your electricity back--what an ordeal!

Marlyn said...

You are so cool, Hank!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Marlyn, I just burst out laughing. You are hilarious. (And I'll send you the check for saying that really soon. AND a tiara!!)

Shane Gericke said...

My feeling is that if someone leaves you a voicemail, it's fair game to use in a broadcast. Though lawyers might not think that. What was the verdict at your station?

Also seems odd that one can secretly record video of a person, but not audio. One of those old wiretap laws that haven't caught up to the Age of YouTube, I guess.

Is your dad Irving Soblosky? I read the Chicago Daily News until it folded in 1978, and seem to recall he was one of the music critics Back When. If so, kewl! You have writing in your blood in addition televisioning, which serves you well in those two worlds in which you so excel.

Thanks about my grandmother being impressive. Nana was a highly accomplished amateur painter, and sang baritone in a Sweet
Adelines barbershop trio called The Tune Twisters. TTT won the international championship in 1949, explaining the tiara. (All the Queens got to wear theirs the rest of their lives at Adelines conventions, which Nana took full advantage of.) I inherited a bit of her painting ability, but none of her singing, alas, though I sound halfway good if the audience is really really drunk :-)She worked in a Chicago speakeasy in the Roaring Twenties, and at Marshall Field's later on, selling cookware. She was my cool big-city gramma, and I miss her a lot.

Anonymous said...

Hank, I read what you stated about valet parking. Here is my rebuttal. I started and own It is a real valet airport parking option for Logan customers. By reservation only. We park the cars offsite and have never had a problem since we started in 2002. sincerely Bill Bell

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Hey Bill--that's terrific. And it just seemed like valet parking was a good beginning for a fictional story. I'd love you to read DRIVE TIME and see if you think the valet scheme would work! Email me through my website, and I will be delighted to send you a copy.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Shane! Whoa, small world. Yes, my dad is Irving Sablosky! He left the paper in the fifties, and joined USIA. He retired from the foreign service years ago, and now lives in Washington DC with his wonderful wife--also a retired foreign service officer.

You really remember him? He'll be SO delighted...

Shane Gericke said...

I remember your dad's name from bylines, Hank. I was issued in 1956--thanks, Mom!!--so I don't believe I could have read him in "real time." But I love reading old Chicago newspapers--the Herald-American, InterOcean, Times, Sun, Today, American, etc.--and the old Daily News was a fave. So I remember seeing his work and enjoying it, even if I didn't know the music that well. Please tell him "hey" from one Chicago newshawk to another!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Oh, Shane, I will! He'll be thrilled!

And don't forget to cmoe back tomorrow..when we'll be talking--as a result of Josh's question--about what happened when I had no idea what I was doing.

And also tomorrow--more prizes! Check here later tonight for Monday's winner.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Oh, Shane, I will! He'll be thrilled!

And don't forget to cmoe back tomorrow..when we'll be talking--as a result of Josh's question--about what happened when I had no idea what I was doing.

And also tomorrow--more prizes! Check here later tonight for Monday's winner.

Kelli Stanley said...

Hank, I am so thrilled to see you on CM as Grand Master--Mistress--Tiara-Wearing Belle of Thrills, Chills and Suspense! :)

Sorry I couldn't comment earlier--I'll be tardy for the next couple of days because I'm on a long drive back from Phoenix. And of course, am NEVER going to think of valet parking while on this road trip!!! ;)

Thanks for being here, my dear!!!!