Author Hank Phillippi Ryan is an award-winning investigative reporter at Boston’s NBC affiliate. She has twenty-six Emmy’s and ten Edward R. Murrow Awards, along with dozens of other national and international journalism honors. Her work has resulted in new laws, homes removed from foreclosure, criminals sent to prison, and millions of dollars in restitution. Before her reporting career, she was a proofreader, a radio reporter, an Editorial Assistant at Rolling Stone, and a legislative aide in the US Senate. Her titles include: Prime Time, Face Time (coming August 2009) and Air Time (coming September 2009.) She resides just outside of Boston, MA, with her husband.
Thanks for being here Hank. It’s a pleasure!!!
#1- Tell us a little about yourself outside of your writing career…
Oh, that’s funny, Kelly! Outside of my writing career…is my other writing career! I’ve been a television reporter since 19, um, 75. I’m still on the air at Boston’s NBC affiliate, and still at work as an investigative reporter. (And I’m always hoping my best story ever is just around the corner.) So I come to work at Channel 7 every morning—tracking down clues, doing research, hoping for justice and looking for a great story that will change people’s lives. (Hmm..sounds a lot like mystery writing!) Then at night we go back home—and when I’m in writing mode, I write til about ten pm, then cook dinner, and my husband and I have a very late dinner together! You can imagine how patient he is! I used to be a pretty good cook, and diligent about exercise. My husband and I gave dinner parties and went to movies and went on vacation. Sigh. That’s all pretty much over. I have a full time job as reporter, a full time job and a mystery author, and a full time job as a wife (with two step-children and two step-grandchildren!) That doesn’t leave much time for much else.But bottom line—I’m very very happy.
#2- You are an investigative reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliate. Has that ever put you in physical danger and how does your career inspire your fictional books?
Ah, sure. I’ve wired myself with hidden cameras, confronted corrupt politicians, chased down criminals..I’ve been stalked and threatened and yelled at and had many a door slammed in my face. My take on that? I tell my photographer—just make sure the tape is rolling. But of course, that all plays a big role in the Charlotte McNally mysteries. I’d say her fictional reporter life is more dangerous than my real one—I’ve never been held at gunpoint, or chased by a crazed killer, or run off the road by a—well, I won’t give it away. But there’s nothing in the Charlie books that couldn’t really happen, or that hasn’t happened to real reporters. And my real-life experiences certainly color what happens to her, as well as her reactions to threats and danger—and how she balances her desire for a good story—with her desire to stay alive!
#3- What was the transition like going from the cold, hard facts of journalism to writing fictional romantic suspense, (and back again)?
You know—no problem at all! I had wondered what it would be like to “make stuff up”—obviously, you can’t do that in television journalism! So I had considered where in my brain that kind of imagination would reside—and if it even existed. But when I sat down at the computer, my new reality, the truth of Charlie’s world, formed itself very wonderfully. It was—sometimes—almost like watching a move in my head of what happens to Charlie, who she meets and what she does and where she goes. I’d say the biggest problem is keeping reality OUT of the fiction. I want to make sure that my characters are not just re-named versions of real people. And they aren’t—there’s no one like Franklin, or Josh, or Penny. (Is there someone like Charlie? Well, hmmmm.)
#4- You were a legislative aide in the US Senate and an editorial assistant at Rolling Stone Magazine. That seems like such a diverse background. Could you tell us a bit about that and how you got into those roles?
Luck! I went to Washington DC in the 70’s because I wanted to see if I could do some good in the world. I literally went from door to door on Capitol Hill, handing out resumes and looking for a job. I was in the right place at the right time, and started as a legislative aide to the Administrative Practice and Procedure Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee. (Ironically, one of my project s was working on the Freedom of Information Act—a law I use all the time in my investigative reporting. Same with Rolling Stone—luck. I was hanging out with pals at Hickory Hill ( a story for another day) and Richard Goodwin, who was just hired to start the Politics section of Rolling Stone, needed an editorial assistant. He asked me if I wanted the job—and of course I did. I learned a tremendous amount in both places—how the system works, how to find answers, who makes the real decisions, how to meet a deadline and how to be devoted to a job I love.
#5- As you know, I reviewed your title Prime Time for Bookpleasures and loved it. But how do you handle the negative reviews and critiques you receive?
Thanks, Kelly! Such a wonderful review is always fun to read. (Three or four hundred times each…) That’s tough. I have learned over the years to try to bounce back from criticism—as an investigative reporter, I’m always finding out things that someone doesn’t want me to know—and they are never happy when their secrets get put on television. So I’ve had lots on angry phone calls and pushback from people who want me to get in trouble. (One angry caller recently called me a cheese puff! But usually it’s worse than that.) I try to stand my ground, and not take it personally. I’ll admit I’m not always successful at letting it roll off my back! But the key is to do the best job I can. If someone doesn’t like it—well, they don’t like it. It doesn’t mean I did a bad job. You can’t please everyone! Although I admit, I do try.
#6- Are there any upcoming releases we would like to know about, and could you give us your web site so readers can check it out?
Oh, yes, of course! You know FACE TIME is book two in the series, and is a Booksense notable book. That went on sale July 28. (I love FACE TIME—my editor says she cried at the end, she thought it was so lovely. When was the last time you cried at a murder mystery?) And—hurray! AIR TIME comes out August 25. It’s fast-paced and truly suspenseful-and takes Charlie undercover and with a hidden camera in to the not-so-pretty world of counterfeit couture! You know those authentic-looking designer purses you see for sale online and on the street corners? They’re so cheap-they’re obviously fake. But who’s getting all the money? And how do they get away with such an obvious crime? Charlie must learn to tell the authentic from the fake—and if she makes the wrong split-second decision, it might be the last one she ever makes! She’s also becoming more romantically involved—but is he “The One?” In life and in love—how can she tell the real thing? And I promise—after you read AIR TIME, you’ll never look at air travel or baggage claim the same way! Sue Grafton says: “Sassy, fast-paced and appealing. Air Time is first-class entertainment.” And Suzanne Brockmann says—“I loved it! I highly recommend this series.” I must say—I still get goose bumps when I think of those two icons reading my books—and loving them!And then watch for DRIVE TIME in February 2010. Robert B. Parker says: “I loved it! Anyone would.” (Again, wow, huh?) As for my website—come visit at http://www.HankPhillippiRyan.com There are lots of fun new photos…and I know you’ll have fun seeing them. Plus—check out my schedule—maybe I’ll be signing somewhere we can chat! Love to meet you all.
#7- This about concludes it. Thank you again for joining us. Is there anything else you would like to share?
Well, how about books? Shall we give away three ARCs of PRIME TIME? Just go to my website, click on cool stuff, and find the great photos of all the amazing authors. Then click on “contact” in the upper left—and let me know the names of any two of them. The first three readers who get it right—get an autographed book! Thanks, Kelly! It’s so much fun to be here…and I hope you all love the books. I’d adore to hear from you—story ideas? Hopes for Charlie McNally? Suggestions? Advice? Questions? Let me know!