Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Scoop on Hank Phillippi Ryan

posted by Nancy

Award-winning investigative reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan is on the air at Boston's NBC affiliate, a job that has earned her several Emmy awards and a wide range of journalistic honors. Today, though, she'll talk to us about her career as a multi-published romance writer. 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. Her fourth book, DRIVE TIME, is out now from Mira Books.

Welcome, Hank! Tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to create Charlotte “Charlie” McNally and her first adventure, PRIME TIME.

I’ve wired myself with hidden cameras, confronted corrupt politicians, and chased down criminals—and that’s in real life! For the past 30 years I’ve been a television reporter, and am now on the air as investigative reporter at Boston’s NBC affiliate.

But you know? I’ve always wanted to be am mystery author. Ever since I read my first Nancy Drew...well, you can imagine the rest. But even though TV became my life, there was always the mystery-possibility simmering in the back of my brain.

How did I come to write PRIME TIME? It was really a special moment--and I remember it all perfectly.

One day, I got a strange email. It was clearly SPAM, sent to millions of people, but the subject line and the subject matter inside didn’t match. The subject line said “mortgage help for you”—you’ve gotten those, right? But the body of the email was what looked like lines from a Shakespeare play. I thought: Why would someone put lines from a play from Shakespeare in an obvious spam about mortgage refinancing?

It crossed my mind--maybe it's a secret message.

And then I thought: My plot! And from that moment I was obsessed with writing what become the Agatha-winning PRIME TIME. Nope, it wasn’t a series to begin with. But then one day I thought--Face Time. Air Time, Drive Time. And I couldn't resist.

As for Charlie herself—I knew I had a good plot for the novel. But I needed a main character of course. And she just—presented herself in my head. Fully-formed, named, a real person to me! Now, just like a real person, she surprises me from time to time—and I love when that happens.

How are you and Charlie similar and different?

When my husband talks about Charlie, he calls her “you.” As in—when “you” are held at gunpoint, when you track down the bad guys, when you solve the mystery . . . and I have to remind him, “Sweetheart, it’s fiction. It didn’t really happen.”

But a couple of things: It would be silly, in writing a mystery 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 everything that TV people do and say in the books is authentic and genuine. (Of course, Charlie can say things I can’t say, and reveal things I can’t reveal.) We’re both devoted journalists, and 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. Funnier. And, as you’ll see in the exciting high-speed chases in DRIVE TIME, a much better driver.

In PRIME TIME ,Charlie first meets Josh. Could you tell us a little about him? And will they wind up together?

Charlie McNally is smart, savvy, sassy (according to Sue Grafton!) and successful. (She’s also a lot sexier than she realizes. ) But for all her career years (except for that one marriage when she was oh-so-young, but that’s another story) she’s been married to her job in television. Has she made the wrong decision to be so devoted to her career? She’s beginning to wonder—what happens to someone who’s married to her job in TV—when the camera doesn’t love her anymore.

So, like so many of us! Charlie is checking out the possibilities of every man she meets. (Ring? Or no ring?) But no one is ever quite the one—and Charlie’s not one to settle.

But do you ever think—something wonderful might be just around the corner? Charlie’s on the hunt for the story that may save her career—but she opens the door to a certain professor’s office—and she could never have imagined who might be inside. And she could hardly have predicted how much he might change her life…

But will Charlie and Josh stay together? He’s divorced ,with a young daughter. Is Charlie ready to be an instant mother? Is she ready to focus her life on love and not her career? These are the decisions that so many women are facing—and we’ll just have to see what happens.

And I must admit—even I don’t know!

I notice that their relationship has changed from book to book. After taking a sneak peek at Drive Time, I saw that the change continues. Was establishing a continuing, evolving couple whose adventures are shelved in romance but are not paranormal a challenge?

You know what? I never thought of it that way. People have asked me if I could write a romance without a suspense or mystery element. I always laugh, forgive me—and I think—what would the people DO?

But they also ask if I could write a suspense thriller without any romance. And that’s even funnier—not a chance, I say. Not if the story is about real people.

So in writing a series, where the characters are real—to me, and I hope to the readers—it’s been a real pleasure to allow Charlie an Josh to go through the surprising passion of a first-time kiss, the fear and wonder of the first-time hot sex, the travails of learning about each others quirks and idiosyncrasies, and the struggle, sometimes, for two grown-up people to adjust to each others lives.

Charlie also has an evolving relationship with Josh’s daughter. What inspired that?

Don’t you love it? Penny--who is introduced in PRIME TIME as age 8, but who has a pivotal role in FACE TIME—is one of my favorite characters. She’s smart and sassy and…hmm..that sounds a little like someone else we know. But here’s a little girl who’s parents have split, and who’s trying to find her place in the world.

What I’m really exploring with Penny in mother-daughter relationships. My own mother cried when she read FACE TIME, and so did my editor. She said—it’s a mother daughter love story,.

Lots of book groups read FACE TIME—its not only a love story between a man and a woman—but between several different mothers and daughters.

Can we have a peek inside Drive Time?

Sure! Let me say first: Drive Time brings Charlie’s impossible decision. What happens when you get everything you always dreamed of—but it all happens at the same time. And you cannot possibly do it all?

She’s successful at work—so successful she’s offered a wonderful new job. In another city. Finally, at age 47—she’s successful at love. But if that’s to continue—she can’t leave town.

And it seems, everyone has a secret. And they’re all asking Charlie to keep them. Does she tell? And when? And how does she balance her loyalties to her job and to her personal life?

And as her decisions unfold, parts of her life become dangerous and threatening: Someone dies. And then someone else. And someone she loves is accused of murder. What if that person is guilty? What will that do to her hope and fears?

There’s blackmail. Extortion. Murder. And a deadly scheme so diabolically clever—you’ll wonder why someone hasn’t tried it! (Yes, perhaps I should have chosen a life of crime—well, I guess I did. It’s just fiction!)

So here’s an excerpt: (And you can read more on my website.)

“DRUGS? AT BEXTER?” Josh rolls over, propping his head on one hand. “Of course. It’s a school. No place is immune. But some huge scandal?”

Josh shrugs. The blanket slides away, revealing bare chest and the drawstring of his plaid flannel pants. We’re in bed earlier than usual. Penny’s sleeping over at Annie’s and we’re alone. Botox is curled up, a calico puff at the end of the bed. She’s pretending we’re not here.

I turn over, facing Josh. It’s all I can do not to reach out one hand and postpone the conversation. Maybe give a little tug at that tempting drawstring. Resolute, I yank the pale blue blanket up to my chin. He yanks it down. I yank it back up.

“Don’t try to distract me,” I instruct. Although it’s too late. I’m already wavering. “I said I’d keep the phone calls secret. And now I’m feeling guilty, even telling you. But demanding money? That’s new isn’t it?”

Josh rolls his eyes, then reaches to yank down the blanket again. I pull it up. Determined to stay on track. “The police are investigating. Let’s let them investigate.”

“Did the person who called Alethia say anything about money?” I’m ignoring him. Because I just had a thought. “It could be the police don’t even know about the extortion. Hey. Speaking of Alethia. Is there news? Has she been able to tell the police anything about why she fell down those stairs?”

“Nope. She’s sedated. Sleeping safely in the hospital. But honey? Nothing is going to happen between now and tomorrow. So, I say we...”

He creeps his hand towards the blanket. I smack it to a halt.

“Do you think there’s a drug thing going on? Have you heard anything?”

“Honey, as I said. Drugs in school? I wouldn’t be shocked. Still, would I know if kids were smoking dope behind the athletics shed? Probably not. Are kids falling asleep in class? Strung out like crystal meth users? Not that I know of, at least.”

With a sigh, I flop over onto my back, pulling the covers around me. “I wish they’d all just tell the police, you know? I’m tired of keeping secrets. I can barely remember who knows what.”

“I know something secret,” Josh says. He reaches out for the blanket again, and begins to pull it, inch by inch, away from me. “I know how to be two places at once.”

The phone rings. Jangling. Botox leaps from her spot. Josh pulls the entire blanket off the bed and tosses it over the phone. It rings again, muffled.

“Hey!” I yelp, grabbing the blue-striped sheet. I scramble after the blanket, naked, laughing, pawing for the phone. “It might be Penny, you know? Hello?”

Listening to the voice on the other end, I slowly wrap the sheet around me, tucking in a corner to keep the fabric in place.

“I’ll let you tell Josh,” I say. I hand him the phone. “It’s the Headmaster. About Alethia.”

The room stills as Josh puts the receiver to his ear. I know he’s hearing what Byron Forrestal just told me. Alethia’s in a coma. She’s not coming out of it. She’s dying. Her family is bringing in her priest. It’s over.

I watch Josh’s face go solemn. He’s murmuring into the phone.

Sitting on the side of the bed, I tuck the sheet more tightly around me. Maybe the cops are buying the accident theory. But I’m not.

I note that Charlie’s producer, Franklin, is a southerner who is not a caricature. As a southerner sick of the regional caricatures, I appreciate that a great deal. Was he inspired by a particular person?

No! And thank you so much. Where in my head did Franklin come from? That is a true mystery—he’s not based on anyone. In fact, my real producers have been nothing like him! He and Charlie are a real team, and usually sees right through her—but in DRIVE TIME, their relationship becomes very different. In fact, I was crying while I wrote it!

Franklin is organized, pulled-together, confident and has a love life of his own. But he—like Charlie—is a devoted journalist. I adore Franklin. Still, what happens to Franklin in DRIVE TIME may surprise you!

What’s next for you?

I’m working on several big stories for my job as a reporter—and I’m very excited about that. In book world—I’ll be traveling the country introducing people to Charlie McNally and DRIVE TIME, and I hope I get so see you all! (You can’t believe the schedule! I’m going to need a little nap….) And well, here’s a secret. I’m working on a whole new series.

(From Hank): Since DRIVE TIME is all about keeping secrets--how good are you at confidentiality? If you promise to keep a secret--can you do it? Or are you always tempted to tell?

(Not you, Sven. We all know enough not to tell you anything. And anyone know if Demetrius and Marcus even speak English? I just tried to chat them up--and they acted like they didn't understand a word I said. Are they...keeping a secret?)

Five lucky commenters will win a book each and will choose whether they want Prime Time, Face Time, Air Time, or Drive Time. One very lucky commenter will receive a set of the first three books and a cool "Time" totebag.


Becke Davis said...


Becke Davis said...

Wow, I was late for Kate's party but looks like I'm early for Hank's - woot! I LOVED Drive Time - I've loved the whole series, but this is my favorite now.

What? Was that a squawk I heard? Someone doesn't like the weather in Cincinnati - I don't blame him!

mariska said...

Hi Hank ! *waving*
(with my running nose i type this :)

I'm a very trusted friend. i mean, most of my friends , without i'm asking, always telling me their secret, coz they know that i won't tell anyone, and i'm an introvert person.

i will keep the promise and i wont' tell a soul :)

gotta lay down now. i got my paracetamol and decolgen.

Becke, Congrats on taking the rooster !

Becke Davis said...

I had the opportunity of reading DRIVE TIME prior to its publication, and I mistakenly listed it at B&N as one of my best books of 2009. Guess I jumped the gun a little!

Unknown said...

Congrats Becke for getting the rooster today!

Great post Hank! Your books sound fabulous but I have never had the chance to read one, not sure why. So many authors and so little time I guess!

As far as keeping secrets I am very good at it. If I think a secret should be keep it will never pass my lips. You can trust me not to tell. If you got any secrets just send them my way.

Becke Davis said...

Thanks, Mariska and Virginia - it was a fluke!

Donna MacMeans said...

Yay Becke - The GR gets a change of scenery (that will teach me to be careful what he wishes for - Cincinnati in February!)

I love the sound of these books. I'm not a big suspense reader lately - but I can be easily persuaded with a good story.

As to secrets, well it's part of my job. I'm a CPA and thus am privy to a lot of my clients secrets, financial and otherwise. Fortunately, most people don't know my clients and so aren't inclined to ask any questions about them - makes the keeping of secrets much easier.

Donna MacMeans said...

Hah - that will teach me to actually proofread what I post - that should be "that will teach HIM to be careful..." Was that a freudian slip?

Anna Sugden said...

YAY!! Hank is in the Lair - fan-girl squeal- Sven make sure you give her your best massage. I'll even lend you one of my best hockey hunks - they're really good with their hands and sticks ;)

You probably won't remember me, but we met at one of the signings in DC - I'm the Brit who did her fan-girl thing and we discussed your cool promo chapsticks *g*.

I LOVE Charlie and her escapades and can't wait for Drive Time to arrive (bloody Amazon pigeon!) to see what she gets up to next. I love her boss who says - 'don't you just love it' (been there and got that t-shirt!) and Penny when she calls her 'umm' (Got that t-shirt too) and Franklin is fabulous foil. Josh is, of course, yummy.

But, what I really love is that Charlie is a woman I can really relate to - she has the same worries and foibles we all do, especially those of us who've been in that kind of business (I was in marketing). And her actions/ reactions are so true to life that I feel I'm on her adventures with her. She makes me smile and she makes me feel her angst.

Enough gushing! *g*.

Yes, I can keep secrets. I feel uncomfortable though if it's not a good secret, or it causes a moral dilemma. I wouldn't tell, but I'd encourage the person to do something about it.

Helen said...

Congrats Becke and what are your plans for him today?

Hi Hank
What a great post Ladies I have heard so much about these books they have been added to my must have list.

As for keeping secrets as I said before I am pretty good at keeping them because I have a really bad short term memory LOL and often forget what someone has told me straight away but I will remember probably days later or if someone says something that reminds me. I would never tell someones secret on purpose unles I thought it was truly necessary.

Congrats on the release Hank and I gotta say what a busy exciting life you lead it makes me tired just thinking about it.

Have Fun

Scott Romanski said...

This sounds like a very interesting series. I'll definitely be checking it out

pjpuppymom said...

Hi Hank! Congrats on the release of DRIVE TIME. I'm sure it's going to be another roaring success!

If you tell me something in confidence, it goes no further. I haven't faced this yet, but the exception would be if someone's health, safety or well-being was at stake. In that case, I'd do my best to keep the confidence while getting the info to the right people to keep the person safe. Trust is very important to me but not to the exclusion of someone's safety.

Gillian Layne said...

I've heard nothing but good things about Prime Time! Can't wait to read it.

I am very, very good at keeping secrets....unless chocolate bribery is involved. :)

Virginia C said...

Hi, Hank! It's that lively mind behind your gorgeous smile which makes you a great writer and reporter! I can see you now reading that enlightening email, and saying to yourself: "The game's afoot!" : ) From Nancy Drew to Jessica Fletcher, female mystery mavens rule!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Running running running to catch up!And I thought I would be here SO early..litle did I know, the fabulous BECKE (smooch) would grab the GR.

And when I had such marvelous plans for it. Him. Whatever.

And hey Becke, calling DRIVE TIME one of the best books of 2009 was lovely--can you just skooch it up to add it to 2010???

Poor Mariska! Feel better...

I'm running to the office now..more later. (Don't tell..but then, I know I can trust you all.)

Marie Force said...

Hi Hank,
Great to see you in the lair, my New England friend! Congratulations on the release of Drive Time. I love the new covers and I always love the story of how your got the idea for Prime Time. Good old Spam! Best of luck with the new book and your tour!

Christie Kelley said...

Welcome to the lair, Hank!

Becke, congrats on the GR!

Hank, your series sounds fantastic. My mother is big mystery reader so I'll have to ask her if she's read your series yet.

As far as secrets, yes, I can keep them. The only big secret I spilled was my first pregnancy. My husband and I decided not to tell anyone until after the 1st trimester. But then my father had a stroke and I wanted him know. Thankfully, he survived the stroke and lived to see my son's 7th bday.

Susan Sey said...

Oooh, Becke with the GR! Congrats!

Susan Sey said...

As for secrets, I'm terrible. I want to keep them, I do. But there's always such a great STORY there, and it's so hard not to think it's okay to tell so long as the person you're telling has absolutely no connection with the person for whom you're keeping the secret...but there's always a connection. Just always.

So, yeah, secrets & I are a dangerous mix. :-)

Thanks for coming by today, Hank. Your schedule makes me feel faint but I'm totally going to check out Charlie's books.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Hey,Anna! SO lovely to see you--you've got to admit, before blogs how did any of us keep up with each other?

(I just ordered the lovely new DRIVE TIME lip balm--so it should be here any minute. Free gift with purchase--and we're on the honor system, of course, so just let me know when buy DT and I will send you one!)

(And hey, never enough gushing..xoxo)

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Donna--I'd be interested to know what you think of the books, if you don't consider yourself a suspense reader. I've heard readers tell me they miss their stops on the subway because they want to find out what happens that's a good thing! but my books aren't--violent. Or nightmare--inducing.

(Unless you get nightmares from work related stress and wondering why the airlines always lose your luggage and driving in the snow and wondering if you'll have time to plan your wedding before your fiance gets arrested for--well, I won't give away that secret!)

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Helen, you are TOO funny! Can't give away secrets because you can't remember them? I'm with you, sister!

Becke Davis said...

Hi everyone! Helen, you asked what I'm doing with the GR today -- he turned his nose up at my tea and oatmeal, grumbling about the gloomy weather. (Hey -- it could be worse. I could be in Chicago!) To cheer him up, I promised to bring him to with me -- lots of ladies there this month (and a few brave men).

I'm having a Month of Romantic Suspense, featuring a different author every day -- today it's Sharon Sala. There's an "old friends" thread for authors who have been featured there before, and that includes several Banditas.

There's also a "new friends" thread for authors who haven't been featured there to plug there books. They can't be self-pubbed, but anyone who writes romantic suspense -- or mysteries that include a romance -- are welcome to post there, as long as I can add links to their books at

Sorry to make this sound like a promo, but I'd love to have you all there. I'll have to get creative to put a smile back on the GR's face! He keeps mumbling that he prefers to be Down Under in February!

Here's a link to BN's Mystery forum:

Becke Davis said...

Donna - Please tell the GR Ohio's not all that bad. He just picked the wrong season to come here.

Thanks, everyone - nabbing the GR was as much as surprise to me as it was to him.

As to secrets, even though I'm a blabbermouth most of the time, I'm excellent at keeping "serious" secrets.

Nancy said...

Becke, congrats on the rooster! I hope you have fun with him. A little cold weather will do him good. So would a little hard work if you have any chores that need doing.

Sorry you were late for Kate's shindig. What with Edinburgh Castle, and all that, it was quite a party. But we're glad you're here today.

Nancy said...

Mariska, I'm so sorry you're sick! Feel better soon.

Nancy said...

Becke, I have now also read Drive Time, and I agree that it's really terrific. Can't blame you for jumping the gun. :-)

Nancy said...

Virginia wrote: So many authors and so little time I guess!

LOL! Too true, Virginia. Too true. I have a sweatshirt that says "So many books, so little time." A friend gave it to me many years ago, and it gets a lot of comments in public.

Nancy said...

Hi, Donna--These books are suspense but with a lot of romance and character in them. They remind me of some of my favorite mysteries.

I guess a CPA knows a lot of deep secrets, dark or not.

Llehn said...

Congrats on the release of Drive Time. I haven't heard of the books but I am intrigued now! Thanks to Romance Bandit for the intro!

Nancy said...

Anna, good point about not-good secrets. Some secrets really do need to be aired.

I like Charlie, too. The voice was one thing that drew me to these books. And I like all the characters.

Nancy said...

Hi, Helen--

You wrote: I have a really bad short term memory

Sometimes I do, too. I forget what I've told whom about plans, for example. But it sounds handy for secret-keeping.

Nancy said...

Hi, Scott--I think you'll like them. They have a quick pace and, as I said, very engaging characters.

Nancy said...

Hi, PJ--I never had to face the trust versus safety issue, either. Codes of professional responsibility govern what some people do or don't do at work, but personal life is different.

Nancy said...

Gillian, chocolate? Always a tough choice!

Nancy said...

Virginia, hi! Your comment about female mystery mavens pinged with me. My first critique group were mystery writers, all women, and called themselves the mystery mavens. And most of the mysteries I read, though not all, are written by women.

Nancy said...

Hi, Hank--I hope your work day goes well as you juggle us into all the balls you have aloft.

Nancy said...

Hi, Marie--Those covers really are great, aren't they?

Nancy said...

Hi, Christie--We kept my pregnancy secret through the first trimester, too. I wish we'd kept our name choice secret, too. People started using it before the boy was born, asking how he was, and it weirded me out. Felt like a jinx or something.

Nancy said...

Hi, Susan--Story is a powerful lure, isn't it? Good thing you can spin these secrets into tales of nonexistent people.

Now I'm going to read Money, Honey and wonder. *g*

Nancy said...

Hank, you're giving away lip balm? What a cool gift!

Nancy said...

Becke, what a cool idea about the "old friends" and "new friends" threads.

Nancy said...

LLehn wrote: Congrats on the release of Drive Time. I haven't heard of the books but I am intrigued now! Thanks to Romance Bandit for the intro!

Llehn, you're welcome! We live to add to people's TBR piles. *g*

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Becke, can't wait to visit the mystery forum!!

I still feel like such a new kid in book world--it's funny to be considered an "old friend"!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

ANd another thing about secrets--what if it's something about you, that YOU'd like to know?

My husband and I have a deal, for instance, that he will NEVER give me a surprise party. I'm just not big on surprises...or on that kind of secret.

How about you? If there were a surprise party for you, would you like to know?

Becke Davis said...

I hesitated to use the word "old," Hank, since it's a sore point with me these days. But I meant it in a good way!

Hellie Sinclair said...

Depends on the secret. If it's a secret I think I would hurt the originator or others it might effect, I can keep it.

If it's a secret like someone got a great publishing deal or a new house or is having a baby--but they don't want to tell yet--THAT one I have a lot harder time keeping to myself.

So it depends on the seriousness of the secret.

But usually I can even keep the fun secrets too, though my poker face needs work.

Suzanne Ferrell said...

Great interview, Nancy! Welcome to the Lair, Hank. We'be been looking forward to you coming to visit for some time.

You said: You know what? I never thought of it that way. People have asked me if I could write a romance without a suspense or mystery element. I always laugh, forgive me—and I think—what would the people DO?...I so get this. I don't write straight suspense or even truly romantic suspense, (okay not all the time, there is that GH finaling pair from a few years back)...but I seem to always have a dead body, or potentially dangerous situation pop into every book...because...what would the characters do without them? :)

Suzanne Ferrell said...

Secrets...Can I keep a secret?

Learned that lesson back in the 8th grade when I passed on a secret someone passed to me. It came back to me as the culprit...(I was like 20th in line, but became the scapegoat.)...My mother's comment through my teen-aged-angst-tears?

"So, what did we learn from this?" (That's my mother's phrase that I find myself using often with my kids and yonger co-workers.)

So, yes, I can keep a secret...IF someone says, "This is for your ears only, don't tell anyone but, I just have to tell someone, this is under the dome...then my lips are sealed (well, unless someone's life is in danger)."

Drives my friends nuts. "You know, don't you?" "I can't believe you won't tell me." etc... To which I usually reply..."It's not my secret to tell." hehehe

tetewa said...

Looking forward to the latest release!

Nancy said...

Hank, I gave the dh a surprise party one year. He'd never had one, and that just seemed wrong to me. I admit, though, that as he stuck his key in the lock to come in, I had jellyroll insides and suddenly feared this was not a good idea. I remember thinking, I'm pretty sure he won't want a divorce, anyway.

Luckily, he enjoyed himself once his heart rate went back to normal.

I had a surprise party in high school, but it wasn't really a surprise. My friend who put it together wasn't especially subtle.

If someone were to plan one now, I don't think I'd want to know--but I'd expect whoever planned it to be sure I was presentable.

Nancy said...

Ms. Hellion, doesn't good news just feel as though it wants to pop right out of you? I have to pretend I don't know it, or else I LOOK like I'm keeping a secret, y'know?

Becke Davis said...

In the 40 years I've been with my husband, I've sprung two surprise parties on him -- one at age 21 and one at age 40. I finally realized he is too much of a hermit to enjoy parties at all, much less surprise parties. But I did a really great job of keeping them a secret.

Nancy said...

Suz wrote: but I seem to always have a dead body, or potentially dangerous situation pop into every book

Me, too. What's the harm in a little danger?

Glad you liked the interview.

jo robertson said...

Hi, Hank! A hearty welcome to the Bandit Lair.

Congratulations on the rooster napping, Becke!

Hank, this series sounds delightful. I enjoyed the excerpt and am intrigued by the use of an "older" female protagonist in a romance LOL.

Did you get much resistance to creating a character like Charlie?

Amber said...

What a great post and interview! Your a new author for me, and I can't wait to start this series. I love discovering new authors and books to read, especially books that are part of a series.

I like to think I'm pretty good at keeping a secret as long as I know nobody will end up being hurt.

Anonymous said...

Hank, darling, how are you? I'm guest-posting on here in a few days and just stopped by to see how a real pro does it. And then, wham, right at the end of the post you drop the big bomb: Working on a new series? Pray tell more!

(And, also, tell me you're not ditching Charlie. I totally have a thing for her and would hate to lose her after just four books!)

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Working on a story...ah...breaking news back asap


xoxo Hank

traveler said...

Welcome Hank. Congratulations on your new release. MY lips are sealed always. What a wonderful post.

Cassondra said...

Hello Hank, and welcome to the lair!

Congratulations on this fabulous series and on your success in this direction.

First, the questions: It depends on the secret. Some secrets will die with me. I haven't even told my husband. Some secrets I have a harder time keeping. I think it depends on the type and subject matter of the confidence. I know this-- telling that truth which you know to at least one person can be therapeutic and healing-- and that means somebody trustworthy has to hear it. I try to be that person. And because of the type of work that my husband has done, I know some things I shouldn't know. And those things I will never tell. Secrets fall on a scale, I guess. Gosh, that sounds wishy washy.

Now to your books--
I LOVE the sound of this series. I know you probably hear this a lot, but in particular, I'm intrigued by your older heroine, and I'm interested in hearing about your process of writing her.

I love it that you're giving her a fabulous romance and even more I love it that because of who she is, she has enough savvy and moxy to pull off the kind of stories you're writing. Sometimes when I read an amateur sleuth who's solving the really gritty stuff at 22 I go, "uh...yeah..right."

I'm in my 40s, struggling with the same aging and desirability issues that many women do, I suppose, and I notice of late that there are fewer and fewer available guys to whom I'm actually attracted and about whom I think, yeah, I could do that. (grin)--seems my body ages but my eye for hotness doesn't! Oh, and of course having all of them call me "Ma'am" or refer to me as an "older lady" doesn't help any. (Must stop and buy more miracle cream immediately!) So, as I think about writing romances about a mature woman, it takes on interesting twists.

Were there any particular challenges for you, writing a heroine who's older and single? And did you have a particular person in your mind's eye as a model when you wrote Josh?

When a writer twists anything successfully away from the deeply-cut rut of what's on the shelves, I'm always intrigued by her process.

Thanks so much for being here, and Nancy, thanks for bringing us this fabulous interview with such a rockin' lady!

Cassondra said...


Wooohoo on the GR!

Roll him around in the snow if you've got any up there!

gigi said...

Hi Hank,
I do enjoy your mysteries.
Hmmmmm... how good am I at keeping secrets? I would have to say the older I get the better I am at keeping them. You just need to know what secrets really worth keeping and which ones aren't secrets at all.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

I'm back! (Breaking news, the sourge of being a reporter. And it turned out to mbe noting. Which is even worse!)

(Or--better, because nothing bad happened. But therein lies the constant dilemma of being a reporter. Bad news is good news. But you'll read all about that in DRIVE TIME!)

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Jo--intersting question on getting resistance to writing an older heroine.

First, it's hilarious , because to me, Charlie is not "Older." She's younger than I am, so hey! But you're exactly right--and here's kind of a secret. But I can tell it here in the Lair, right?

When I intially wrote PRIME TIME, Charlie was my age. (Okay, fifty five.) There was some discussion about that.(Not with the eventual publisher.) Everyone was thrilled that there was an "older" protagonist. But, they said--55 was--wait for it--TOO OLD.


So, she became 46.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Hey Gillian--so you can be convinced with chocolate?? Writing that in my reporter's notebook...xoxo :-)

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Suzanne--"it's not my secret to tell" is a GREAT line. And completely makes sense.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Cassondra, thank you! YOU'RE the rockin lady!

As for Josh--well, I envisioned Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch when I wrote him..yes, you have to be of a certain age to flutter when you think of him, but he's always been my heart throb. (Get away, Sven..)

But hilariously, on Becke's website, she posted photos of Gabriel Byrne and Jeremy Northam--and wow, they both seemed perfect! I couldn't get them out of my head.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Amber, thank you! Hope you love them..

And Susan, schedule. Crazy, huh? I try not to think of in in big picutre, you know? I just do one (or two) things at a time.

If I worry or panic, it doesn't help, right? SO I persevere. And it's pretty much always wonderful. Or at least--fine.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Oh, gosh, you guys. You invited BRAD PARKS???

jo robertson said...

Talking about age, anyone under 60 is young to me, but I realize most readers want a heroine who's less "seasoned" LOL.

But, hey, 50 is the new 40, so Charlie's cool.

Karyn Gerrard said...

I am surprisingly closed mouthed when I am told a secret. However, if it was a matter of life and death,(esp if it is MY life! LOL!) I am sure I would babble fairly quickly.
Telling me too many secrets may not be a good thing, I did let one slip once, because I couldn't remember who knew what. Oh Mercy.

Great excerpt, all the best with the release!!

Becke Davis said...

It's only fair, Hank, because I can't get Gregory Peck out of my head, either.

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Welcome to the Lair, Hank!!!
HUGE THANX to Nancy for enticing you here!

WOOT! WTG Becke on capturing the GR! Tell him to keep his beak closed about bad weather or we'll send him to Minnesota with Smoov. ;-)

Keeping secrets? Oh yes, Aunty is very good about that when need be. And of course, I have The Crop to encourage OTHERS to keep their secrets too. Though I will admit, sometimes when people tell me something and then say, "Please don't tell!" I heartily wish they had NOT told me! :-P


Louisa Cornell said...

55 is too old? THUNK !! My 51 year old self is HIGHLY insulted !! LOL Hello, Hank !! I've spoken with you at Nationals in San Francisco and in DC. And you always make me feel like a midget! Then again each time I have been with my buddy, Tammy Lynn, and she makes me feel like a midget too. I look like the letter O between two L's ! And for those who have not met Hank's hubby he is a doll! And you can tell how proud he is of her!

Prime Time is still one of my favorite thrillers. Can't wait to read this one!

Hey, Becke, can you keep the GR's presence a secret? Don't tell him ANYTHING !!! He'll squawk!

I'm great at keeping secrets and I tend to get mad when people start a conversation with "Don't tell anyone but so and so told me ..." If they told you not to tell, then don't!

I do love secrets that involve surprises for other people.

My late husband was a psychiatrist so secrets were his stock and trade. The hard part was that he was a prison psychiatrist and many of the things he was told were awful, awful secrets. On only one occasion did he break confidentiality. He made an anonymous phone call to let law enforcement know where to find a young lady's body. The murderer, in for another murder, enjoyed telling my dh about the murder and about what he did with the body. My dh did some research and discovered the man's story was true. He debated and worried a long time before making that call. In the end he did it because he knew how he would feel if it was his daughter.

I truly admire those people who must keep awful secrets as part of their profession - doctors, lawyers, counselors. Before I tell someone a secret I tend to count the cost of the burden before I do. Some secrets are harder to hear than others.

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

OOOO, Gabriel Byrne!

But then again, he's Irish, so what did you expect me to say?!?!

who does NOT think 55 is old!

Nancy said...

Hi, all--

Had a faculty meeting that ran longer than I expected. Sorry!

Nancy said...

Hi, Amber--If you're looking for new books and authors, you're in good company. All of us around here enjoy those discoveries.

Nancy said...

Hi, Brad--We're looking forward to your visit!

Nancy said...

Hi, Jo--The rest of the book is as much fun as the excerpt. :-)

Nancy said...

Hi, Tetewa--Thanks for stopping by!

Nancy said...

Cassondra, glad you liked the interview. :-)

Y'know, I'm cool with "ma'am." I expect it from anyone I don't know and pretty much always have. I was taught that was the polite way to address a woman one did not personally know. What has begun to annoy me as I age is having people who are much younger refer to me as honey or sweetie. It seems to disrespectful and patronizing.

Nancy said...

Traveler, thanks for stopping in!

Pissenlit said...

Hiya Hank! I think I'm going to have to check out Prime Time. My TBR list does not thank you. ;)

Yep, I can keep a secret though sometimes, depending on the type of secret, I wish I weren't the confidant.

If there were a surprise party planned for me, yes, I'd definitely want to know about I could veto it. I am not a surprise party-kinda gal.

Nancy said...

Gigi wrote: You just need to know what secrets really worth keeping and which ones aren't secrets at all.

This is true. Some things aren't really secrets, just gossip.

For some reason your comment reminded me of Eleanor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility, which has been on TV lately, having to keep secret the engagement that dashed her own hopes.

Nancy said...

Hank, Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch is a fabulous model! I love him in that role.

It's my all-time-ever favorite movie.

Nancy said...

Hi, Karryn--Especially in a small town, where I used to live, figuring out who knows what can be a real challenge! And even more so if the person who swore you to secrecy is telling other people and swearing them to secrecy, too.

Nancy said...

Hi, AC--That crop is, indeed, effective!

I know what you mean--sometimes people tell us things we'd really rather they didn't.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Hey all--yes, it's just the transition.

At one point you're "Miss"--and then suddenly, you're "ma'am."

And that's a moment.

Nancy said...

Louisa, you may be petite, but I'd bet your voice stands tall. I'd love to hear you sing sometime.

I think criminal lawyers have it the worst in terms of secrets. But there are limits on that, which vary from state to state. In some states, the planned commission of a crime is exempt from privilege. Child abuse and neglect are often exempt in a range of professions.

Nancy said...

Hank wrote: At one point you're "Miss"--and then suddenly, you're "ma'am."

And that's a moment.

Yep. And then there's the moment when someone uses "miss," and it's just obviously kissing up--like young waiters when I go into a restaurant with my guys. Do I look single in this context?

Nancy said...

Hi, Pissenlit. You know how we feel about building the TBR pile around here! Our misery loves your company. *g*

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

I agree, Aunty--sometimes knowing is more difficult than not knowing.

And oh dear, Ms. have a wonderful poker face. At least..I thought so..huh. Maybe I was a little seasick.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Nancy Says: like young waiters when I go into a restaurant with my guys. Do I look single in this context..

Last night, a waitress called me "Sweetie." She was really about 12. (Although Jonathan said she was older.) I didn't quite know what to make of it!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

My husband is a criminal defense attorney--and wow, he's the best about keeping secrets. Amazing. He's not even tempted to tell. His mind just doesn't work that way.

But he's SO easy to surprise! I've given him a surprise birthday party ever year for about, oh, ten years. And he's ALWAYS surprised. It's hilarious.

Nancy said...

Hank, the waitress was probably over twelve, but I've gotten to the point where a lot of people look like they're maybe 12 even though context says they have to be older.

The "sweetie" thing just jars my back teeth.

Nancy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Beth Andrews said...

Welcome to the lair, Hank! What a fabulous post and your books sound wonderful. I can't wait to read them *g*

If I promise to keep a secret I definitely keep it - although it's not always easy :-)

Sorry for the drive-by post. I'm finishing up a proposal and so want to send it to my editor TODAY.

Thanks again for joining us and thanks to Nancy for such a fun interview *g*

Becke Davis said...

The GR is behaving badly over at He's discovered all the women there, and I'm doing my best to restrain him -- without much success.

Nancy said...

Beth, yay on finishing up your proposal!

Glad you could pop in.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Beth! Sending you good good karma!!
Get that proposal out..and we are all behind you! Yay!!

Nancy said...

Becke wrote: He's discovered all the women there, and I'm doing my best to restrain him -- without much success.

Maybe some thriller writer can come knock him into shape.

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Becke, a rooster for you! It's been a while since he visited Ohio!

Hank, welcome to the Bandita lair. It looks like you've been having quite a party here! Yay! And what fabulous prizes. Hey, am I eligible? Bats eyelashes winningly!

The books sound absolutely fantastic. Oh, my aching TBR pile. I remember the amazing splash you made with your debut and the buzz has just kept building and building. Congratulations!

Laughed at your husband and the 'you'!

catslady said...

Oh, all the books sound so wonderful. I don't know how I haven't read these yet. As to secrets - I'm really very good at it. My son-in-law just bought my daughter diamond earrings for Christmas and had me keep them (for 4 months) while the payments came to my house. I would never spoil a surprise. If I am told not to say something, I won't, but betware if you don't say it's a secret lol.

Anna Sugden said...

I think my lovely hubby would kill me if I gave him a surprise party. He has a big birthday this year and doesn't even want a normal party! Still, I may get a romantic trip to Italy out of it, so I'm not complaining .

As for secrets - he's such a non-gossip, it's hard to get anything out of him! LOL

Hank - the whole lost luggage thing cracked me up - there was a time when I travelled on business where I got so well known for losing my bags, the stewardess would give me the lost luggage form before I travelled, so I could fill in the form on the plane and save time!

And 46 - great age - very young

Ooh you're doing the lip balms again! Excellent! DT is in the hands of the bloody Amazon pigeon - I swear he holes up somewhere and reads my books before delivering them.

Tawny said...

Hi Hank -welcome the Lair! I'm a huge fan after listening to your workshop at the DC RWA conference. It prompted me to run right out and get your book :-)

Secrets. I adooooore secrets. And I love collecting them LOL. I rock at keeping a secret, as long as I can tell one other living thing. My dog, my husband if it has nothing to do with him, the plant on my desk - something! Once I've whispered it somewhere, my mouth is closed up tight!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

OH,Anna, thank you! And catslady, too. (What cats? I had Lola and Leon, and still miss htem. And still dream about them, actually...but that's another blog for another day.)

I know you're hoping to win the books--and I hope you do! But if you want to order any of them with FREE shipping, and get a FREE wonderful black canvas tote bag and lip balm...I'm working with the fantastic Mystery Lovers Bookshop to make that happen for you! Click here...

..and tell them "Hank sent me" in the comments! (The offer will not appear on the website! It's just for people I tell...)

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Okay, so you can't click. Sigh. But you know how it works...xoxo

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Tawny--that's wonderful. Thank you. That was a terrific conference. I was so tired afterwards, when I got home, I didn't notice I wore non-matching shoes to work that Monday.

Nancy said...

Hi, Anna C.--We've been having quite a day here. The prizes are, indeed, fabulous. And if the tote bags are anything like the ones Hank sponsored for Moonlight and Magnolias, they are very versatile.

Nancy said...

Catslady, diamond earrings and you didn't say a word? Very cool.

Nancy said...

Hi, Anna S.

I'd take a trip to Italy over a party pretty much any year. Don't even have to stop and think about it. Of course, I'd like my luggage to arrive when I do.

The dh's sister-in-law also used to travel a lot. She became a big proponent of cheap luggage. She said it held up as well as some of the more expensive brands, and if it took damage, she wasn't broken up about replacing it.

Nancy said...

Hey, Tawny! Dogs really are great as secret sharers, aren't they? They just look sagely at you while you talk and never reveal that they know anything extra.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Anna, of course you're eligible. And the eyelash batting was quite fetching!

And thanks, Nancy! Yes, the tote bags are the updated version of the M&M bags...I agree, they are terrific. Big, and strong, with lots of deep pockets. Kind of like..Hugh Jackman. :-)

Kate Carlisle said...

Squeeeeeeee!!! My idol is here!!

Hi, Hank! Welcome to the Lair! You are amazing, can I just say that first off? And along with everyone else, I can't wait to read Charlie's latest adventure!!

I see Tawny already mentioned your DC workshop tape but WOW, let me add my kudos. It was really fun and inspiring. LOL on the mismatched shoes. I don't believe it for a minute. ;-)

So....secrets. I see you're keeping one, not telling anyone about this new series you're working on. You can whisper it in my ear. I'm really good at keeping secrets! No? Really? Sigh. Okay, but I can't wait to hear all about it!

Are you coming out to the West Coast on your tour? I hope so!

Hi Becke, congratulations!! I'm sure you kept the little squawker warm and cozy all day. But seriously, a little hard work around the house would warm him up just as well. LOL

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Hello, dear Kate! Thank you--and I am offering you the Lair floor to tell us about your wonderful new book!! Do tell! (Demetrius, let her in, okay?)

As for me--lips are zipped. (Ow.)

Nancy said...

Hank wrote: Big, and strong, with lots of deep pockets. Kind of like..Hugh Jackman. :-)

He's very popular here, y'know. *g*

Nancy said...

Hi, Kate--Glad you could stop in when you're having such a busy day! I'm looking forward to reading If Books Could Kill.

Anna Campbell said...

Hank, you're the only person who's ever fallen for my eyelash batting. I think you should come back and see us again!!!!!

Kate Carlisle said...

LOL, Hank ... ooh, thanks Demetrius. I see you've changed out of your kilt. Or was that a tartan loincloth you were wearing at the castle last night?

Ahem, anyway, the new book! Brooklyn goes to the Edinburgh Book Fair, where an old friend asks her to authenticate a rare, unauthorized collection of Robert Burns poems so scandalous, it could take down the monarchy. Men in kilts, murder and mayhem ensue!

Whew, men get so rambunctious when they put on a kilt, don't you agree? ;-)

Nancy said...

Kate wrote: Whew, men get so rambunctious when they put on a kilt, don't you agree? ;-)

Oh, yeah. Downright frisky.

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

I have a rule, no one is allowed to tell me secrets, not that I would tell it but from past experience, I learned that the secret teller can't keep their own secrets and generally tell it to more than one person. When it does get out the secret receivers all get in trouble when only one did the deed. Nope, don't tell me any secrets cos I am not taking the fall for someone else.

I haven't read any of your work but from the descriptions I can see that is going to have to be remedied. :::Sigh::: the teetering TBR tower just groaned as I typed those words, I think it is taking on a life of it's own.

Nancy said...

Dianna wrote: the secret teller can't keep their own secrets and generally tell it to more than one person. When it does get out the secret receivers all get in trouble when only one did the deed.

So very true, and an excellent point.

As for the TBR pile, you know we all feel your pain!

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Hi Hank!!! So thirlled you're here. Sorry to be late to the party. Grins.

Becke, congrats on the GR!!!

Cannot WAIT to read Drive Time!

Nancy said...

Hey, Duchesse--I think you'll like Drive time.

And Brad was here earlier, too.

Nancy said...

Urk. Drive Time, capital T!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Listen, gang, you invited Brad Parks?? Be very very afraid...he's so adorable, I just fear letting him loose around here.

And the guys are going to be big big trouble when Brad is in the Lair. I'd send them off to, um, visit GR at Becke's, maybe.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Oh,Dianna, thank you! Let me know. okay, how you like them?

And yay, Jeanne! So wonderful to see you!

ANd Anna..well, thank you! I'll come back any time. (Sven just gave me a strawberry Bellini. Nice!)

Nancy said...

Hank, if Sven gave you a Bellini, that's a sign of approval. He can be very persnickety about offering drinks around!

I think Joan had a word with Demetrius, too, about being so snooty.

Suzanne Ferrell said...

Suzanne--"it's not my secret to tell" is a GREAT line. And completely makes sense....Hank, feel free to use it anytime!Be prepared, friends, mothers and grown children will growl at you in response, hehehe

And hey, did someone say Bandits are eligible for stuff today? (Or is that the leftover haze of cold meds and lunch out with writer friends talking in my head?)

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

I said "gave me a Bellini." I should have said "sold me a Bellini." Is he allowed to do that?

Nancy said...

Hank wrote: I said "gave me a Bellini." I should have said "sold me a Bellini." Is he allowed to do that?

He WHAT? No, he most certainly is NOT allowed to do that! He has been spending too much time with the rooster.

Sven! We do not charge for drinks in the Lair. You know this. Now give Hank back her money--along with another beverage of her choice--unless you want to chat with AC and her crop tomorrow.


Sorry, Hank.

Nancy said...

Has anyone ELSE been held up by Sven for a drink today?

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Sven is up to some tricks, I see.

Yes, Hank, Brad's with us on Friday. Should be fuuuu-uuun!


Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Hank, you've been a hoot. Which is more than enough 'H's for this particular post! Seriously - and not even batting eyelashes. By the way, tackle Sven for your money back. and even if you don't get it, YOU'VE STILL TACKLED SVEN!!!

Joan said... a "Steaming Sven" REALLY a drink?

Hank, sorry to miss out on the fun...long day. Thanks for visiting us and in a sorry attempt to compensate for Sven's machinations....Demetrius is offering you a month's worth of shield sledding...It'll be a bit crowded with a gladiator at the helm but..he says there is room for you ;-)

Suzanne Ferrell said...

OMG....don't tackle Sven....last time WE tried that, the cabana boys AND the Gladiators came to his rescue and it was a free-for-all...naked arms, legs, body parts.....GEESH...took us weeks to clean up the!

Nancy said...

Anna, has anyone ever tackled Sven before? I mean, that we knew about?

Nancy said...

Joanie, you mean Demetrius is going to be on the shield WITH Hank?

Wow. Excuse me while I go fan myself!

Nancy said...

Oh, Suz, you're right! I forgot about that.

Or blocked it out, more like.


Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Okay, this whole thing has now completely deteriorated--hurray! Bellinis for everyone, on me.

Okay, fine, not really ON me, but my treat.

Thank you for a wonderful day! I hardly got any sunburn at all, and I'm sure the champagne will come out of my skirt. And my eyelashes will grow back. And really, who cares about the...oh, hello, Sven. You want to talk about...what???

Linda Henderson said...

I'm pretty good at keeping secrets. I have a real problem with it if I know someone will be hurt by my silence. But other than that, I can be a clam.

Nancy said...

Hi, Linda--Thanks for stopping by!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Hi Linda!

And...night, all!


Pat Cochran said...

I think Becke and I have traded places! I seem to have shown up
in opposition to her, timewise!
Well, I got here so I could tell
Hank that I think her books do
sound so interesting. I'm looking forward to reading them!

Pat Cochran