Hank Phillippi Ryan: She looks like such a nice woman. Pleasant, well-dressed, smiling and cheerful. But Laura DiSilverio has a pretty amazing—and incredibly tough!– resume. She spent twenty years as an Air Force intelligence officer – serving as a squadron commander, with the National Reconnaissance Office, and at a fighter wing.
Just thinking about what training and skills that entailed is astonishing. And hey–I saw the movie Air Force One with Harrison Ford. And I watch The Americans on television, too. I know what kind of stuff goes on. Imagine the stories she has to tell! But, of course, she can’t.
Fiction, though? Sure.
So here’s our Laura, president of national Sisters in Crime, mom, wife, authors of, gulp –is it TWELVE mysteries? Written in–how long Laura? Two years? That can’t be true, but she’ll tell us in the comments.
And now she’s on the path to another whole series of books…
As always some of the Not Quite Twenty Questions are the same very week—that’s part of the fun. As always, some are new!
Frankly, I cannot even believe she had the time to answer these questions. But when you want to get something done? Ask Laura.
Title of your autobiography?
Never, Never, Never Quit (with Apologies to WC)
Perseverance is one of my defining qualities. My mom tells the story of how when I was eleven or twelve, I dove into an Olympic sized, outdoor pool wearing my brand new contact lenses (the ones my father didn’t want to buy me). One of them came out and I searched the pool for hours until I found it. Ever tried to find a smidgen of green plastic (back in those days, they were hard contacts) in a swimming pool?
Book you wish you had written?
The Virgin of Small Plains by Nancy Pickard.
It’s lyrical and meaningful and so well structured that it inspires me as a writer.
Movie you would see again and again?
I don’t like to re-watch movies, for the most part. That said, I have re-watched Sense and Sensibility and Four Weddings and a Funeral after a suitable gap (and everything Disney during that period when children want to watch the same movie eight times in one day).
Exotic drinks–yes? No?
When in history would you choose to visit?
As long as I can come back when I need to use the toilet or shower, the court of Elizabeth 1.
What are you working on now?
The second novel in a YA dystopian trilogy. Having a blast with it!
Tell us more—what are you learning from it?
I’m learning a lot about pacing and writing action sequences. Also, through research, I’m learning a lot about future weapons and farming technologies, as well as DNA, locusts, and genetics. My protag is a 16-yr-old bio-chem genius, and she exists in a world decimated by pandemic and famine where the government, the Pragmatists, decide who can bear children and who can’t, and who manipulate DNA to try to create children with the “optimal” qualities for rebuilding and repopulating the country, the Confederated States of Amerada. (Anyone want to guess what countries I combined to come up with Amerada? :-) )
We’ll give a Laura book to a correct guesser! So does it have a theme? Did you know that when you started?
I hate to talk about themes up front but I had a couple in mind when I started and others have emerged as I’ve written. Really, I’m more wrestling with questions that have no right or wrong answers (at least, I don’t think they do). How much control can/should a govt exercise over people’s rights to ensure the population’s survival? Can individuals be sacrificed for the good of the whole? Who gets to decide who gets sacrificed? If one (or a govt) is willing to sacrifice individuals, does that devaluing of humanity, that willingness to say one life is worth more than another, lead to negative consequences, no matter how good the intentions? If you’re born with a specific talent, are you obligated to use it for everyone’s betterment, even if you’d rather do something else? (If you’re a great soldier but hate killing, do you have to be a military leader, if that’s what the country needs, or can you go off and be, oh, say, a musician?) You’re sorry you asked, right?
One Wire-haired Pointing Griffon, two immortal goldfish. They may discover their mortality not long after Daughter #2 goes off to college in 3 ½ years.
One. Starter model.
Singing. I started taking voice lessons for the first time in my life last summer.
I decided I needed a new creative outlet and that I had never worked on developing my voice, even though I’ve sung in choirs since middle school. It’s mostly for my own pleasure, but I like the feeling of tackling something new and challenging, and I even sing in my teacher’s recitals. I call myself the AARP rep since all the other students are teens or younger.
Yes, although I prefer planting to weeding and my garden attests to that.
Fear or phobia?
Thing you always say to yourself when writing?
Write a good book. Nothing else matters.
Are you optimistic when you begin each writing day?
Almost always. I am so grateful to hop out of bed every day and head to my computer, eager to work. Most people I know dread Mondays and drag themselves home from work at the end of each day. Writing invigorates me and I am grateful, grateful, grateful to work at something that inspires and fulfills me.
What did you learn in the air force that you bring to your writing job?
Self-discipline, the need to show up and do my best every day, even when no one’s looking over my shoulder.
Anything you had to UN-learn?
I can’t be responsible for results as a writer. What I mean is, I can write the best possible book I have inside me, but I can’t dictate what happens to it after I type “the end.” The publisher markets it well—or doesn’t. People read it—or they don’t. I can’t control any of that. It’s hard—but necessary—to let go and be satisfied with writing the best book I could at any given moment. I have to get my joy from the writing, not from anything extrinsic to the process.
Wonderful .Thank you. So–Do you watch TV? What?
Downton Abbey, Sherlock, Elementary, Blue Bloods, NCIS, Castle, Big Bang Theory
Best concert you’ve ever seen?
Oakridge Boys (in college). More recently, Carrie Underwood. I’m sure you see the musical theme . . .
I can wiggle my ears.
Do you have a motto? (What is it?)
You cannot discover new worlds unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.
Laura DiSilverio’s Bio (from her website):
I wrote my first novel for a creative writing class at Trinity University. Professor Bob Flynn inspired me and heroically refrained from gagging when reading the contemporary romance I titled “Jeweled Torment.” That manuscript is buried in a box in the garage, along with the Regency romance I wrote shortly after joining the Air Force. I concentrated on becoming a good intelligence officer for many years before doing any more significant writing. I served with an F-16 wing in Korea, helped resolve reports of live-sightings of Vietnam prisoners of war while working out of the embassy in Bangkok, pushed paper at the Defense Intelligence Agency, earned my Master’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania, taught English for three years at the Air Force Academy, learned cool things about satellites (none of which I can ever write about) at the National Reconnaissance Office, attended various professional schools, did my time in the Pentagon, commanded a squadron in England, and ended up in Colorado. Along the way, I married my wonderful husband and produced two beautiful children who re-defined what is important in life. A moment of Holy Spirit-guided epiphany in Elliot’s Bay bookstore in Seattle convinced me it was time to embark on writing and mothering full time. I retired from the Air Force in late 2004.
Hank Phillippi Ryan is the on-air investigative reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliate. She’s won 30 Emmys and dozens of others honors for her ground-breaking journalism. The best-selling author of six mystery novels, Ryan has won multiple prestigious awards for her crime fiction: two Agathas, the Anthony and the Macavity, and for THE OTHER WOMAN, the Mary Higgins Clark award. Her newest thriller THE WRONG GIRL (now an Agatha and Left Coast Crime nominee) was dubbed “Another winner!” in a Booklist starred review. Her upcoming novel is TRUTH BE TOLD (Forge, 2014.) She is 2013 president of national Sisters in Crime. http://www.HankPhillippiRyan.com