I’m topping off Friday with the RITA blog tour with Agatha Award winner, Hank Phillippi Ryan! Not only that but Hank is being ultra cool and giving away 10 books of MIRA re-issues of PRIME TIME to 10 lucky visitors through the weekend. So if you comment here, or my myspace post, you’ll be entered in a drawing. Hot Diggity! Now for the interview…
Hello RITA Nominee, Hank! Thanks so much for chatting with me. Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you made your RITA nominated “Best First Book” sale ?
Hank: Wow. I love to be called RITA nominee! Thank you. My writing background? I’m the investigative reporter for the NBC affiliate in Boston, and I’ve been a TV reporter for the past 30 (yikes) years. But you know, being an investigative reporter is kind of like writing a mystery: you’re looking to tell a good story, with compelling characters. You’re tracking down clues, doing research, searching for answers–and you hope, in the end , to have a satisfying conclusion, where the bad guys get what they deserve, and the good guys triumph, that there’s some justice and that the world is changed for the better. And that’s exactly what I’ve tried to do in turning to fiction. It’s just–In television, you can’t make stuff up.
My sale? Well, it was fantastic. A road paved with many rejections and a fair amount of tears. One particularly dismal day, I remember I said to my husband–Is Charlie McNally (my main character) going to DIE? Is no one going to get to meet her?
My husband is very patient. No, he assured me, Charlie is not going to die.
Soon after, Ann Leslie Tuttle at Harlequin told my agent Kristin Nelson that she loved the book! And that was that. I got the good news on my voice mail…and I still have the bit of paper I wrote it down on. It’s magneted to my refrigerator.
Readers and writers often like to get a behind the scenes peek of an author’s writing routine. It would be great if you could please share your typical writing day schedule.
Hank: Ah. Sleep Is the first casualty. I get up around seven. Go to work at Channel 7. Some days I’m tracking down criminals, wiring myself with hidden cameras, confronting corrupt politicians. Other days I’m writing investigative stores. Other days, I’m in the edit booth, making the stories you see on the air. My stores are usually on the 11 pm news.
Then I come home about 7. And scurry to my study to write. I write til about 10–then we have dinner. (My husband has eaten a lot of pizza since I started the Charlotte McNally Mysteries!) Then after dinner, sometimes I sneak back to the computer and write til about 1.
Weekends, I start writing at 10, then go til about 4. I only allow myself to check my email every hour on the hour. I do about 1000 words a day, if I’m really zooming. I go back and revise, then revise again, then print out my pages and curl up and revise again. The next time at the computer, I insert my changes, and go from there. So I always get a jump start.
My study has windows looking out onto beautiful maple trees. Lots of birds and squirrels. I have a big antique horseshoe-shaped desk. I have two little rocks by my monitor, carved with the words: Patience and Imagine.
I truly love it. Even on the days it’s not so easy.
Please tell us about your RITA nominated debut novel, PRIME TIME, and what we can expect from your characters.
Hank: PRIME TIME introduces Charlotte “Charlie” McNally, a 46 year old investigative reporter for a Boston TV station. (Hmmm, okay, I hear you. But hey–she’s younger than I am. And can say things I can’t.) She’s smart, she’s savvy, she’s successful–but she’s married to her job in television. And she begins to worry–what will happen when the camera doesn’t love her any more? Will she be a media old maid?
So–she’s on the hunt for the story that will save her career–if she doesn’t find it, she’ll certainly be replaced by someone younger and more beautiful.
Then one day, she finds some weird spam on her computer–and she begins to suspect some of it may be more than cyber junk mail. In fact, she thinks it may be carrying secret messages to the big-money group of insides that knows how to decipher it. Problem is, the last outsider to crack the code wound up in the local morgue. So she could be on the trail of the biggest story of her life–or the one that will end It.
She also meets a dishy professor who reminds her of her favorite Atticus Finch–but is he just a little too handsome? And a little too helpful? Or is her life about to change a lot more? Remember it’s a series…so who knows who’s in the next episodes!
PRIME TIME won the Agatha Award for best first mystery.
Congratulations on the Agatha, Hank! Let’s talk about the RITA nomination, how did it feel to receive the RITA finalist call?
Hank: Hilarious. I was at the station, at work on some deadline story. Dangerous tanker trucks, I think. And the phone rang–I didn’t know whether it would be a source with the scoop, my producer with some new information–or a wacky viewer who wanted to tell me some story they decided I just could not miss. (Most often? They’re wrong.)
So the voice says–Hank Phillippi Ryan? Yes…I said. Very wary.
I’m calling from the RITA committee, and…
I must day, I barely heard the rest. But happily, I’m a reporter, so I was taking notes. My scrawled notes–which I also saved and put on the fridge–say exactly what the caller told me: “It’s like the Oscars, girl.” “This is so huge.” And my favorite: “You can put this on your tombstone.”
When I got another call later that day, saying I’d also been nominated for Best Romantic Suspense–well, let’s just say I wasn’t any calmer. I’m sure that person’s eardrums will never be the same.
I hear some people know what day is RITA day. I didn’t have any idea. So I still get goose bumps. And I’m endlessly grateful.
What’s up next? Do you have another project in the works? If so, please tell us about it.
Oh, yes. It’s very exciting! PRIME TIME and the second Charlie McNally mystery, FACE TIME are going to be re-issued as MIRA Books in July and August 2009. Then the brand new AIR TIME will be published by MIRA in September 2009, then DRIVE TIME in 2010.
Wonderful! Congrats on being a RITA finalist, Hank, and best of luck! I’m looking forward to meeting you in SF! Would you like to close with a writing tip?
Hank: Thank you! For writers? You know–trust yourself. There’s a lot more in that brain of yours than you realize–so relax, and let all the wonderfulness come out .And don’t give up! There’s a quote on my bulletin board: “What would you attempt to do if you know you could not fail?”
You’d just–go for it, right? So do that!
Award-winning investigative reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan is currently on the air at Boston’s NBC affiliate, where she’s broken big stories for the past 22 years. Her stories have resulted in new laws, people sent to prison, homes removed from foreclosure, and millions of dollars in refunds and restitution for consumers.
Along with her 26 EMMYs, Hank’s won also won dozens of other journalism honors. She’s been a radio reporter, a proofreader, a legislative aide in the United States Senate and an editorial assistant at Rolling Stone Magazine.
Her first mysteries, Prime Time (which just won the prestigious Agatha Award for Best First Novel of 2007, and is a double RITA nominee for Best First Book and Best Romantic Suspense Novel of 2007, a DAPHNE nominee, and a 2007 Reviewers’ Choice Award Winner) and Face Time (Book Sense Notable Book), were best sellers The next in the series, Air Time and Drive Time, are also coming soon from MIRA Books
She and her husband, a criminal defense and civil rights attorney, live near Boston. Please visit her website at http://www.hankphillippiryan.com