Not Quite Twenty Questions for Vincent O’Neil

hank-2013-bioHANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: New England Crime Bake is coming! And we are so excited about that…(If you’re attending, hurray. It’ll be pretty darn interesting to hear the tales guest of honor Craig Johnson has to tell, right?)

And I always say: something wonderful and unexpected happens at every convention and at one of my very first Crime Bakes, I met the wonderful Vinny O’Neil.

He’d just won the St. Martin’s prize for best manuscript, but being Vinny, he didn’t mention that when we first sat down together at dinner. We just talked about writing and mysteries.

Then, if I remember correctly, he said something about graduating from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Cool! So, pursuing that, I managed to get him to tell me that he was also a West Point graduate, and a long-time infantry officer, in PANAMA, and he speaks Chinese. There’s probably a lot more, but he said, if he told me, he’d have to kill me.

Crime Bake 2008 with GOH Harlen Coben (back left) poses with Vinny, Hank, and other panelists.

Crime Bake 2008 — Vinny, Hank, and other panelists pose with GOH Harlen Coben (back left).

Who’d a thought? You never know who you’re going to sit by—and you never know if, like Vinny, that person will turn into a lifelong friend.

Vinny is having quite the adventure in mystery/thriller world. And his new book—with an entirely different bent!—is just being published.

So—although I kinda think he’s used to be the one DOING the interrogations, here’s Not Quite Twenty Questions for Vinny O’Neil.

VincentOneil_headshotTitle of your autobiography: 
 A Non-Standard Career Path

Why?
I once heard that phrase used in reference to an individual who marched to the tune of his own drummer. It was meant as an insult, but I’ve had so many different careers by now that I think it fits.

Movie you would see again and again?
The Godfather!

Why?
Godfather is not only my favorite movie, but it is also my favorite book. Once you get past the ludicrous assertion that there is such a thing as a “good” crime family, there is so much great dialogue, so many towering characters, and such gripping action that I must have seen the film (and read the book) a dozen times. At least.

Exotic drinks?
These days the most exotic drink would be some kind of seasonal coffee; my gone-but-not-forgotten Borders Bookstore coffee shop used to serve an excellent Pumpkin Spice coffee around Halloween and a very tasty Gingerbread Man latte around Christmas.

Pizza or chocolate?         
Oh, chocolate. Definitely.

Spouse? Children? Special people in your life?
No kids and never married, but I do come from an extended family that is very tight. I also have a great many friends from my different careers, especially my writer friends.

Pets? 
I grew up with collies and have always loved dogs. Although I don’t have one of my own, every place I’ve lived there has been a dog who became my special friend. Right now it’s an aged Bassett Hound named Yulie who loves to have his back scratched.

Vinny with friend in Panama

Vinny with friend in Panama

Hobbies? 
Foreign language, movies, and physical fitness.

Garden?
I don’t have the green thumb, but I did once manage to successfully transplant an Asian Lilac from a pot to a flowerbed outside the building where I was living at the time. The plant was a gift when I was in the hospital after breaking my elbow in a mountain biking accident.

Do you watch TV? What?
There is so much great TV out there these days that I have to be careful about watching too much. I LOVED Breaking Bad, never miss Justified, am addicted to Game of Thrones, and I’m looking forward to the Breaking Bad spin-off Better Call Saul that’s due to start in February.

Can you sing?
Not even in the shower.

Best concert you’ve ever seen.
The Charlie Daniels Band. They were all over the radio at the time with “Devil Went Down to Georgia” and other hits, but their show was simply amazing. They did everything: jazz, blues, rock, country-western, and others, and of course when Charlie himself started sawin’ on his fiddle it was an astounding thing to see and hear.

Book you wish you had written.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Why?
The laugh-out-loud humor and the witty wordplay is only surpassed by the otherworldly imagination of Douglas Adams.

Oh, I love that book, too. Fear or phobia?
Sharks. I blame Jaws, which I saw in the theaters.

What someone might not know about you.
I played a mean tenor saxophone in my High School’s jazz band. That group won the New England championship year after year because of the musical genius who ran our school system’s entire music program.

Do you have a recurring dream?
This is a great question. I have two recurring dreams, and I’m told they’re both very common for Type A people. The first takes place in college, where for some reason I have never attended a single class in one course and yet I’m going to go take the final exam anyway. That one is doubly funny because the only time I ever got into real trouble at West Point was for accidentally missing a class.

1991 - Vinny standing in front of his troops from the First Battalion (Airborne) of the 508th Infantry

1991 – Vinny standing in front of his troops from the First Battalion (Airborne) of the 508th Infantry

The second recurring dream is in Ranger School, which was a grueling two-month commando school I attended as a newly-minted lieutenant in the US Army in 1986. Sleep and food deprivation were compounded by the carrying of heavy loads over brutal terrain while attempting to perform tasks that were sometimes highly complex. Although I graduated after being forced to repeat a two-week stage of the course, in the dream I’ve been called back to do the whole thing all over again. The best part is that I know I’m far too old for this and no longer in the army, and yet I’m going to try it anyway.

How about a secret talent?
I can still recite the “Definition of Leather” rapidly and without error. The “Definition of Leather” was one of many items of Plebe knowledge we were required to memorize at West Point. For some reason that one stayed with me.

Just so you don’t have to Google it (and you can Google it):

If the fresh skin of an animal, cleaned and divested of all hair, fat, and other extraneous matter, be immersed in a dilute solution of tannic acid, a chemical combination ensues; the gelatinous tissue of the skin is converted into a nonputrescible substance, impervious to and insoluble in water; this sir is leather.

You know we’re going to ask for a performance of that at Crime Bake! So– if you could meet and chat with one person, it would be…
Theodore Roosevelt. One of the few “bigger than life” characters of history who actually lived up to the hype.

Can you believe how wonderfully your career turned out?
I’ve done so many different things and held so many different jobs that I’m thankful every day for being able to write. Although I learned something from every job I’ve ever held, there is a special feeling about being allowed to simply sit down and try to create something entertaining, meaningful, and, every now and then, beautiful.

Yeah, those moments are amazing. Things you say to yourself when writing:
Get the words on the page. Writing is rewriting. You can’t edit what you haven’t written.

Just tell the story.

GloryMain_VincentOneil_coverWhat are you working on now? Or—what’s your latest book? Or both?
HarperCollins recently picked up my military science fiction series, so I’ve been working on that for well over a year. The first Book, Glory Main, was released in July of 2014 and the paperback will come out in September. The sequel is done and is scheduled for release in December. It’s tentatively entitled A Hand in the Stars, and I’m currently writing the third book in the series.

Tell us something else about that!
It’s a lot of fun writing this, because although it’s science fiction I have to make the settings real for the reader and the whole story is very character-driven. Glory Main is essentially a story of survival, with four characters marooned on a barren planet where they have to first find water, then food, and then safety. Their situation deteriorates rapidly when they realize the planet is inhabited by humanity’s enemy, an alien race that resembles mankind so closely that they’re called the Sims.

A Hand in the Stars is a much more complex story. It follows one of the soldiers who had been marooned in Glory Main, but it also introduces the highest level of the human government fighting the Sims and the difficulties of maintaining an interplanetary alliance in a war that has dragged on for decades. So Glory Main worked on the micro level and was focused on the basics of survival while A Hand in the Stars goes all the way to the macro level.

Are you enjoying it? 
Action-adventure in a completely imaginary world is always fun, and of course I get to draw on my personal experiences from nine years as an infantry officer in the US Army from the mid-eighties to the early nineties. The biggest challenge for me has been transposing the basic issues and concerns of soldiers from time immemorial into a future world that is believable and relatable but still loaded with all sorts of science fiction goodies.

I have an especially good time coming up with the nicknames the future soldiers would create for their common equipment and the acronyms they might use. In A Hand in the Stars I introduced a group of individuals who accompany the infantry on the ground while coordinating air support assets ranging from surveillance robots to rockets fired from orbit. Officially designated as “Aerial Support Systems Liaison”, they are affectionately addressed by their acronym ASSL.

Oh, hilarious! Do you have a motto? What is it?
It’s not so much a motto as a favorite quotation that applies to so much of life.

“Nobody knows anything.” – the first sentence in screenwriter William Goldman’s memoir Adventures in the Screen Trade

HANK: Oh, I love that! And ya know, it’s pretty darn true. So who’s going to Crime Bake? If you’ve been before, has anything wonderful happened to YOU there?

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Death Troupe_VincentOneil_coverVincent H. O’Neil brings a wealth of life experience to his writing. Over the years he has been an officer in the US Army, a consultant, a risk manager, and an apprentice librarian.

A native of Massachusetts, he holds a bachelor’s degree from West Point and a master’s degree in International Business from The Fletcher School. After writing in his spare time for many years, he won the St. Martin’s Press “Malice Domestic” Writing Competition in 2005.

His award-winning debut novel, Murder in Exile, was the first book in a mystery series featuring the background-checker Frank Cole. It was followed by Reduced Circumstances, Exile Trust, and Contest of Wills.

His mystery novel Death Troupe is the first book in a theater-based mystery series featuring playwright Jack Glynn and the unusual members of the Jerome Barron Players theater troupe.

Harlequin Worldwide Mystery has released all four of the Frank Cole “Exile” novels in paperback, and published a paperback version of Death Troupe in 2013.

Interlands_VincentOneil_KindleIn 2012 he released a military science fiction novel called Glory Main: A Story of the Sim War. Harper Voyager has acquired Glory Main and the next two books in the series, and Glory Main released on July 29th, 2014.

His latest work, Interlands, is a Lovecraftian horror novel set in Providence, Rhode Island. It features graduate student Angela Morse, who is searching the local woods for a lost stone obelisk once worshiped by a colonial-era cult that perished at its feet.

 

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Wrong GirlHANK PHILLIPPI RYAN is the on-air investigative reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliate. She’s won 30 EMMYs, 12 Edward R. Murrow awards and dozens of other honors for her ground-breaking journalism. A bestselling author of six mystery novels, Ryan has won multiple prestigious awards for her crime fiction: the Agatha, Anthony, Macavity, and for THE OTHER WOMAN, the coveted Mary Higgins Clark Award. National reviews have called her a “master at crafting suspenseful mysteries” and “a superb and gifted storyteller.” Her newest thriller, THE WRONG GIRL, has the extraordinary honor of winning the 2013 Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel! A four-week Boston Globe bestseller, it was dubbed “Another winner” in a Booklist starred review and “Stellar” by Library Journal.  She’s on the national board of Mystery Writers of America and 2013 president of national Sisters in Crime. Watch for her next novel, TRUTH BE TOLD, on October 7, 2014.

Visit her online at HankPhillippiRyan.com, on Twitter @hank_phillippi and Facebook at HankPhillippiRyanAuthorPage.

Posted in Crime Bake, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Interview, Not Quite Twenty Questions | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Online Networking for the Social Media Perplexed

nameBetween Twitter and Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram, FourSquare and GooglePlus when is a writer supposed to, well, write?

Whether you’re a Twitter quitter or a reformed Facebook addict (Candy Crush anyone?), there is a way to approach social networking to get the most out of it in the least amount of time.

Unfortunately, I have no idea how so I can’t share any great tips with you.

No, sadly, I’m one of the writers perplexed by the intricacy and fast pace of social networking sites. No sooner do I (think) I’ve figured out tagging photos on Facebook then I find that everyone under the age of forty is leaving for something brighter and shinier. This new site will (of course) require me to learn a whole different set of rules and guidelines and processes and practically another language in order to use it.

Meanwhile our manuscripts herky-jerk behind us as we rush from one social networking platform to another. We can’t let our feeds get stale! People may forget about us. And seeing as most authors on Twitter remind us hourly that they are a) authors and b) have this #fabulous #book out, we too, must keep posting. We must keep up. Sometimes it feels like all of this marketing ourselves has turned us into a nation of five year-olds yelling, “Look at me! Look what I made!”

While I certainly don’t have any advice for specific social networking sites to use or even how to use them, I do have this one bit of advice: choose something you actually LIKE to do.

I have been a member of Goodreads for years and I’m just now starting to cultivate a community there. And you know what? I am finding it interesting, engaging and even (gasp!) easy to communicate with fellow book-lovers. Instead of dreading my “social media time” like a dental extraction, I’m looking forward to it each day.

Of course, I still haven’t quite figured out all the in’s and out’s of the platform yet. Which is why I was super excited to see that fellow Sister in Crime member and Guppies instructor, Sarah Pinneo, is holding a class called “Goodreads for Authors” starting September 21st. Guppies can find out more about the class and register by clicking here. *Note: You must be a member in order to access the information. 

J.P. Choquette lives and writes in northwestern Vermont. She likes long walks, sipping hot drinks and reading great suspense . . . but not all at the same time. If you’d like to exchange social networking woes or chat about scooter-riding, marking art from junk or writing, please visit her website or shoot her an email at scaredEcatbooks@gmail.com

Posted in Book promotion, Guppies, J.P. Choquette, Marketing, Writers, Writing | 5 Comments

The Road to “Writes of Passage”

The Road to Writes of Passage
by Hank Phillippi Ryan

hank-2013-bioYou have to picture us at Malice—you might have seen us! Not this year, but last. Beth Wasson and Elaine Will Sparber and me sitting at one of those little tables under the escalator, talking about what kind of a book I might want to edit for Sisters in Crime.

Roberta Isleib did such a wonderful job with Shameless Promotion, and L.C. Hayden with Breaking and Entering. So what could I give Sisters in Crime that would be new and helpful and valuable and—well, even inspiring?

At some point, I said—let’s make it about—the journey. The writer’s journey. And we can divide it into sections, like beginning, hoping, working, thinking…and I saw Beth nodding and Elaine writing things down. (She’s very organized.)

Fast-forwarding, we asked some Sisters authors to contribute—from the newest of newbies to the very most experienced and successful. As editor, I said—here are the categories. What strikes you? What can you share?

Tell me a personal story, I said. Not a speech or a class, but something that happened to you. Something you learned from. A path you took, or didn’t, or a decision that’s haunted you. Tell me something wonderful or tragic, a success or a failure, a landmark in your journey.

And the essays came in. Look at the lineup of authors! (Including many SinCNE members, of course.) Amazing. Gorgeous, generous, and revealing. I can tell you—I was in tears much of the time.

WritesOfPassageWhat to call it? What to put on the cover? I remember driving somewhere, saying words out loud to myself. Journey, passage, adventure. Pathway, highway, travel. Travel together. In it together. What we share, what we have in common. The things we all go through. The rites of—ah. Writes of Passage.

But now it turns out that Writes of Passage is on a new journey of its own. It’s being published (on September 9) in a whole new edition with the whole new look by the wonderful Henery Press. And it will be available everywhere: paperback, hardcover, and digital from all the popular retailers (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, Google Play).

Here is the link! http://henerypress.com/books-humorous-mystery-series-book/writes-of-passage/

And when I chose the quotes for the chapter divisions, little did I imagine that a brilliant cover artist would come up by chance with such a brilliant articulation of ‘hope is the thing with feathers,’ the poem that headlines the ‘hoping’ section. It’s all about creativity, right?

And I love this, because not only is the origami crane the symbol of peace and good luck—it also proves what you can make out of one piece of paper!

Sometimes the universe just works. Writes of Passage is the story of us all.

I am so proud of this, grateful to all the authors, and to Elaine Will Sparber for doing all the complicated administrative stuff, and Beth Wasson for allowing it to flourish, and to Henery Press for the loving and elegant publication. Please let me know if you like it!

- Hank Phillippi Ryan

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Writes of Passage: Adventures on the Writer’s Journey is newly published by Henery Press, and edited by Hank Phillippi Ryan (with Elaine Will Sparber). The book is a collection of essays by SinC members, written to inspire other writers.

To read more about the book – and an interview with Hank about it – visit http://www.henerypress.com.

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Wrong GirlHANK PHILLIPPI RYAN is the on-air investigative reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliate. She’s won 30 EMMYs, 12 Edward R. Murrow awards and dozens of other honors for her ground-breaking journalism. A bestselling author of six mystery novels, Ryan has won multiple prestigious awards for her crime fiction: the Agatha, Anthony, Macavity, and for THE OTHER WOMAN, the coveted Mary Higgins Clark Award. National reviews have called her a “master at crafting suspenseful mysteries” and “a superb and gifted storyteller.” Her newest thriller, THE WRONG GIRL, has the extraordinary honor of winning the 2013 Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel! A four-week Boston Globe bestseller, it was dubbed “Another winner” in a Booklist starred review and “Stellar” by Library Journal.  She’s on the national board of Mystery Writers of America and 2013 president of national Sisters in Crime. Watch for her next novel, TRUTH BE TOLD, on October 7, 2014.

Visit her online at HankPhillippiRyan.com, on Twitter @hank_phillippi and Facebook at HankPhillippiRyanAuthorPage.

Posted in Book promotion, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Writers, Writing | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Forensics, Anyone?

hank-2013-bioHANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Breaking news, this just in, and all that kind of stuff. Are you going to Bouchercon? Have you seen this? This is going to be the most fabulous session on forensics you’ll ever encounter—the amazing Jan Burke is headlining an unbelievable line-up of experts—see below. (Death investigation, cadaver dogs, crime scenes, trace evidence, and answers to all the questions you can ask.) And it costs…fifty bucks!

Click below on “workshop registration” to sign up—let me know if you have any questions. Who’s up for this? See you there!

SinC into Great Writing VI!

A Forensic Science Day with Jan Burke

Bouchercon InformationWorkshop Registration

Featuring Donald Johnson, Beatrice Crofts Yorker, Katherine Roberts, Elizabeth Smith, Cat Warren and Jan Burke*

Wednesday, Nov 12, 2014 ♦ 7:30am–3:15pm* ♦ Renaissance Hotel, Long Beach, CA

Sisters in Crime is holding its annual SinC into Great Writing! one day prior to Bouchercon. Bouchercon registration is not necessary to attend this one day workshop.

*Note Well: Because our speakers are human beings and because they may be called upon to handle cases or testify in court, program subject to change without notice.

jan-burke-200A Forensic Science Day with Jan Burke

7:30–8:00 am: Registration

8:00–8:10 am: Welcome and introduction by Hank Phillippi Ryan. Logistics announcements by Jan Burke

8:10–9:00 am: Session 1 — Crime Scene Processing with Donald Johnson

9:00–9:50 am: Session 2 — Medical Serial Killers with Beatrice Crofts Yorker

9:50–10:05 am: Break

10:05–10:55 am: Session 3 — Trace Evidence with Professor Katherine Roberts

10:55–11:25 am: Question and Answer Session for morning speakers

11:25–11:55 am: Lunch Break (box lunch provided)

11:55–12:40 pm: Session 4 — Death Investigation: Homicide Detectives and Coroner’s Investigation with Elizabeth Smith

12:40–1:30 pm: Session 5 — Working with HDR (cadaver dogs) to Find Human Remains with Cat Warren

1:30–1:45 pm: Afternoon break fruit/sodas/coffee/tea provided

1:45–2:35 pm: Session 6 — What Writers Need to Know about Forensic Science and How to Learn More about It with Author Jan Burke

2:35–3:15 pm: Session 7 — Question and Answer Session for afternoon speakers

Cost: $50 for SinC Members. Not a SinC member? Join us at the Active or Professional level ($35/$40) and then register for this workshop.

When: Workshop check-in begins at 7:30am in front of the workshop room. Room details will be sent closer to the event.

Where: Renaissance Long Beach Hotel 11 E. Ocean Blvd. Long Beach, CA 90802. You may stay at the Renaissance or stay at one of the other conference hotels and take a short walk to the Renaissance. The conference hotels will extend the discounted conference rate to you if you call them 1-562-437-5900 directly. Fly in Tuesday night and start the workshop on Wednesday.

Notes: Attending Bouchercon? Have you made your hotel reservations for Bouchercon yet?

Questions: If you have any questions, you may contact us at admin@sistersincrime.org

Presenters

Donald Johnson has been actively involved in the forensic sciences for over two decades, both as a practitioner and academician. His career began with service to the Lucas County Coroner’s Office and the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner. He then advanced to senior criminalist at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, where he was an ASCLD/LAB qualified DNA analyst and specialized in the forensic investigation of violent crimes. Professor Johnson continues to serve forensic laboratories as a consultant and trainer. Professor Johnson received his graduate degrees at the UCLA School of Medicine, and has published on research in neurobiology and criminalistics in scientific journals such as Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, and the Journal of Forensic Sciences. His research has received National Institute of Justice research grants. Professor Johnson is additionally investigating the role and impact of forensic evidence in the criminal justice process under a National Institute of Justice research grant given to Drs. Peterson and Sommers of the CSULA School of Criminal Justice and Criminalistics. Professor Johnson brings his casework and research experience to the classroom in his teaching of forensic science to undergraduate and graduate students at CSULA.

Katherine Roberts is a Professor at California State University, Los Angeles and the Director of the university’s Criminalistics MS Degree Program. She has served on the National Institute of Justice’s Technical Working Group for Education and Training in Forensic Science. Dr. Roberts’ research interests relate to the development and application of analytical methods to enhance the value of forensic evidence. Her current projects focus on nuclear/mitochondrial DNA analysis and trace evidence analysis.

Beatrice Crofts Yorker is the Dean of the College of Health and Human Services for California State University, Los Angeles, of which the School of Criminal Justice and Criminalistics, and the university’s forensic science programs are a part. She has both a juris doctorate from Georgia State University College of Law and master’s degree in nursing from the University of California, San Francisco. She has published groundbreaking research on hospital homicides, Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, and medical serial killers.

Elizabeth Smith is a homicide detective with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Cat Warren is a former newspaper reporter and is currently a professor at the University of North Carolina, where she teaches a variety of reporting, editing, and science journalism classes. She is also a cadaver dog handler and author of What the Dog Knows: The Science and Wonder of Working Dogs, about dogs who work in the military, in police departments, and by searching for both contemporary and historical missing remains. She’ll talk about how cadaver dogs and their handlers are trained, the environments and conditions they work in, and what we do and don’t yet know about how dogs find the missing dead.

Jan Burke is a lifetime member of Sisters in Crime and the recipient of MWA’s Edgar Award for Best Novel. A New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, she is also an active advocate for the improvement of public forensic science. She founded the Crime Lab Project and has been an invited speaker at meetings of the National Institute of Justice, the American Academy of Forensic Science, the American Society of Crime Lab Directors, the California Association of Criminalists, and other forensic science organizations. She is a member of the advisory board of the California Forensic Science Institute. With Dr. DP Lyle, she hosts Crime and Science Radio, an online program produced by Suspense Magazine.

 

It’s going to be fabulous! An amazing unbelievable lineup of speakers—with insight and information and insider stuff you will never get anywhere else. I mean—look at that! All for fifty bucks!

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Wrong GirlHANK PHILLIPPI RYAN is the on-air investigative reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliate. She’s won 30 EMMYs, 12 Edward R. Murrow awards and dozens of other honors for her ground-breaking journalism. A bestselling author of six mystery novels, Ryan has won multiple prestigious awards for her crime fiction: the Agatha, Anthony, Macavity, and for THE OTHER WOMAN, the coveted Mary Higgins Clark Award. National reviews have called her a “master at crafting suspenseful mysteries” and “a superb and gifted storyteller.” Her newest thriller, THE WRONG GIRL, has the extraordinary honor of winning the 2013 Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel! A four-week Boston Globe bestseller, it was dubbed “Another winner” in a Booklist starred review and “Stellar” by Library Journal.  She’s on the national board of Mystery Writers of America and 2013 president of national Sisters in Crime. Watch for her next novel, TRUTH BE TOLD, on October 7, 2014.

Visit her online at HankPhillippiRyan.com, on Twitter @hank_phillippi and Facebook at HankPhillippiRyanAuthorPage.

Posted in Conferences, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Of Interest, Upcoming Events | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Not Quite Twenty Questions for Rhys Bowen

hank-2013-bioHANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I hope you know Rhys Bowen. The words “indefatigable” and “hilarious” and “surprising” spring to mind…we secretly call her the Duchess. She’s had tea with the Queen—yes! And knows Simon and Garfunkel, she’s been a singer, and a broadcaster, and is endlessly glamorous.

And thing is, with all that, she’s still a brilliantly clever writer. When I read her books, it’s as if I’m hearing that fabulous accent reading them to me. She’s done three series, amazingly, and writes TWO books a year, and they all are bestsellers and amass starred reviews.

Wait—I just remembered that in her intriguing and multi-layered past she’s written a bunch of other things, which I hope she’ll tell us about in the comments—one of which is being made into a TV series in the UK!

And—pant pant—she still has time to give back. She’s such a supporter of her beloved Malice Domestic, and helps in ways she never talks about, but just quietly does.

So you know about the Royal Spyness books, right? In her new one–the eighth!–Lady Georgiana, 35th in line to the throne of England but penniless, finds herself dragged off to America, and becomes entangled and immersed in the glamor and intrigue of old Hollywood.

So, yay for Rhys! She’s done it again. And in honor of her brand new QUEEN OF HEARTS, I did my best to get the scoop on Not Quite Twenty Questions from the hilarious and wonderful Rhys Bowen.

RhysBowenTitle of your autobiography?
“Been There, Done That.”

Wonderful. Why?
I’ve had quite an eclectic life and the opportunity to live in different parts of the world.

So—what would you still like to do?
A safari is still on my bucket list. And I’d like to write that one definitive book, like To Kill a Mockingbird. Oh, and I wouldn’t mind winning an Edgar either. (Only modest ambitions, as you see.)

Very Rhys! Book you wish you had written?
The Lord of the Rings.

Movie you would see again and again?
Out of Africa

Why?
It’s so beautiful and so sad, and reminds me that I never experienced that great and doomed love. Also Robert Redford washes Meryl Streep’s hair in one of the sexiest scenes ever.

Exotic drinks–yes? No?
When I’m somewhere exotic. Sangria when I’m in Spain, Mai Tai when I’m in Hawaii, Margaritas in Mexico. At home I’m sensible.

When in history would you choose to visit?
I’ve always been fascinated by ancient Rome.

Why?
They were so modern in many ways. Central heating, lending libraries for novels! Of course I’d stay away from the gladiators.

Very sensible. Pizza or chocolate?
No contest. Chocolate. Dark chocolate. After 8 mints.

Spouse?
Does that mean do I want one or have I got one? The latter. Doesn’t necessarily mean I don’t want to trade him in sometimes.

Kids? Pets?
Four kids and now 5 grandkids. The latter are much easier because I can send them back. Actually they are all wonderful and adorable. I love them to pieces and we have great times laughing together.

No pets. We travel too much.

Hobbies?
We travel a lot. I hike once a week with friends (saved a fortune in therapy bills). I sing. I paint (not very well) and I play the Celtic harp. All of the above only when I have time, unfortunately. With 2 books a year it’s not easy.

RhysInterviewSeriously, how do you do that?
It’s part insanity, part not being able to say no.

Garden?
Well, we have a lot of land, but we live on a hill and there are deer so it’s impossible to grow much. Mainly citrus and lavender. Actually I have no free time for anything more right now.

Fear or phobia?
Hate spiders. Hate ‘em but I’m civilized enough not to kill them. I trap them in a glass and carry them outside, which I think is very noble of me.

What someone might not know about you.
I used to sing in London folk clubs with Al Stewart and I knew Simon and Garfunkel.

Dish, please! Just tell us ONE cool thing about that.
I had been singing with Al Stewart. We were in a café late one night when Paul and Artie came in. They said they’d come to say goodbye because their manager wanted them to come home to the US. It seemed a record they had made, called The Sounds of Silence, was doing quite well. The rest, as they say, is history.

Paul and Artie, huh? Oh, Rhys, I bet you have SO many stories! But let’s see…Do you have a recurring dream? What is it?
I’ve had several. The one I have most often these days is rushing to catch a plane and trying desperately to pack but can’t find my clothes.

I also dream I’m in a play but don’t know my lines. Sound familiar?

Had that one myself. Last night, I dreamed I was supposed to find the cello player for the concert, which I did, and was so proud of myself. But then I couldn’t find him again, and the concert had started. Shaking head. DO you think we’re all a little…stressed? Anyway. Relaxing. Do you watch TV? What?
Mostly PBS. Masterpiece and Mystery, and travel and Nova and British comedy.

I also like watching sports, especially tennis.

Can you sing?
I’m Welsh. All Welsh people can sing! But the answer is yes. I’ve sung all my life, from folk clubs to the local opera chorus.

Best concert you’ve ever seen?
Hard to think of this one. Harry Connick was terrific once. So was Pavarotti.

Secret talent?
I’m good at boogie boarding!

That I’ve GOTTA see! Thing you always say to yourself when writing?
For the first half of the book it’s usually that this one will be a hopeless failure and I’ll be revealed as a fraud. Then by the second half I can see it’s going to be okay after all. But the one mantra is “Nothing is written in stone.” You mustn’t love anything so much that you’re not willing to axe it.

QueenOfHeartsSo—you had a pub day last week! Yay. Tell us about QUEEN OF HEARTS!
It’s the 8th Royal Spyness book. Georgie is dragged across the Atlantic by her much married mother who wants to get a quickie divorce in Reno. On the way they meet a jewel thief and a movie mogul who persuades her mother to do a cameo role in his movie.

Of course I had to research this well, including taking the Queen Mary 2 across the Atlantic. (How one suffers for one’s art…)

But such fun to satirize Hollywood in the 30s.

Whoo hoo! Does it ever get old—pub day? What are you thinking RIGHT NOW?
Never! It is still always a thrill to see one of my books on a shelf and to get fan mail. And to do a book tour and see expectant faces waiting for me.

As to what I’m thinking—I always worry that this book won’t do as well as the last one.

Tell us one more thing about that.
What can I say—I’m a born worrier.

Are you working now? On what?
The 9th Royal Spyness book called Malice at the Palace.

Are you…enjoying it?
I’m still in the first half. But I’m beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel, and these books are fun to write.

Can you believe how amazingly your career has turned out?
I still remember my first mystery with a first printing of 2500 and I realize what a big part luck plays. I think I’ve learned how to craft good books, but so have many people whose books have gone unnoticed. Being a friendly person has helped with all those fan-based awards. Paying my dues in writing and travel and outreach have certainly contributed.

But things like being an Audible bestseller—that was pure luck for me. Right place at right time.

Right place at the right time, sure. But with a terrific book, and a terrific attitude, and a lot of hard work. Right? Do you have a motto? (What is it?)
No pressure, no diamonds. (I borrowed it from someone else, and now I don’t know who that was.) But I have it on my bulletin board.

HANK: Terrific. And readers, the Reds want to award a copy of The Royal Spyness book of your choice to one lucky commenter! So—what’s your favorite old Hollywood movie? I have dibs…what’s the Preston Sturges movie where he plays the director, and it has Veronica Lake? That one is my favorite. And Adam’s Rib. And Desk Set. (Which Hallie’s parents wrote!)

How about you?

****************

RoyalThreesomeRHYS BOWEN was born in Bath, England, of a family that was half Welsh, half English. She was educated at London University and then began her career with the BBC, where she became a drama studio manager. She had made up stories all her life. While working on a boring play she decided to write a play of her own. With the bravado of a 22-year-old, she marched into the office of the head of BBC drama and handed him the script. Two days later he summoned her and told her that they were going to produce the play. Rhys has never looked back.

The British climate forced Rhys to escape to Australia, where she worked for Australian Broadcasting before meeting her future husband, a fellow Brit who was on his way to California. So Rhys packed up again and found herself in San Francisco, where she settled and has lived ever since, raising four children.

Finding nothing like the BBC in San Francisco, Rhys turned to writing children’s books under her married name, Janet Quin-Harkin. Her first picture book was an immediate success and won several awards. More picture books followed, then her agent asked her to write a book for young adults. This was a turning point in Rhys’s career. Her first young adult novel was an instant hit. By her third she was selling half a million copies. Many more popular YA novels followed until Rhys decided she had said all she wanted to say about teenage love and angst, and she turned to her real love—mysteries.

The sort of books she loves to read are those with a great sense of time and place. So she considered where to set a series of her own and chose the mountains of North Wales, where she had spent many happy childhood vacations, and used her grandfather’s name as her nom de plume. Constable Evan Evans was the hero of these novels that took place in a tiny fictitious village in Snowdonia. The series was well received from the start. The second book, Evan Help Us, was nominated for a Barry Award. Evan’s Gate achieved the ultimate success when it was nominated for the Edgar best novel—the highest prize in mysterydom.

CityOfDarknessBut it was a chance visit to Ellis Island that made Rhys start thinking in a new direction. The spunky and not always wise Molly Murphy came into her head, fleeing from Ireland and finding herself implicated in a murder on Ellis Island in the first book, Murphy’s Law. This book won the Agatha Best Novel award, plus three others. Every subsequent book in the series has received awards, nominations and glowing reviews. Book eleven, Hush Now, Don’t You Cry, was a New York Times bestseller. The latest Molly Murphy book, City of Darkness and Light, was published in March 2014.

Never one to rest on her laurels, Rhys reacted to the gloom and doom of real life by creating a second heroine—this one aimed to amuse. She is Lady Georgiana, 34th in line to the British throne but utterly penniless and struggling to make her own way in the cruel world of the Great Depression. Her Royal Spyness was a bestseller, nominated for many awards, and instantly endeared readers to her heroine. The following books have all received award nominations. The 2011 book, Naughty in Nice, started off with a starred review from Publishers Weekly and was then nominated for an Agatha, Bruce Alexander and RT Reviews award. The audio version was also nominated for an Audie. In April 2012 it won the Agatha Award for best historical mystery. The next Lady Georgie book, Queen of Hearts, will be published in August 2014.

Rhys is listed in Who’s Who in America under her married name, Janet Quin-Harkin.

As well as novels, Rhys has written many short stories, including an Anthony winner. She is an ex-chapter president of Mystery Writers of America. When not writing she loves to travel, sing, hike, paint, play her Celtic harp, and spoil her grandchildren.

http://rhysbowen.com/

****************

Wrong GirlHANK PHILLIPPI RYAN is the on-air investigative reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliate. She’s won 30 EMMYs, 12 Edward R. Murrow awards and dozens of other honors for her ground-breaking journalism. A bestselling author of six mystery novels, Ryan has won multiple prestigious awards for her crime fiction: the Agatha, Anthony, Macavity, and for THE OTHER WOMAN, the coveted Mary Higgins Clark Award. National reviews have called her a “master at crafting suspenseful mysteries” and “a superb and gifted storyteller.” Her newest thriller, THE WRONG GIRL, has the extraordinary honor of winning the 2013 Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel! A four-week Boston Globe bestseller, it was dubbed “Another winner” in a Booklist starred review and “Stellar” by Library Journal.  She’s on the national board of Mystery Writers of America and 2013 president of national Sisters in Crime. Watch for her next novel, TRUTH BE TOLD, on October 7, 2014.

Visit her online at HankPhillippiRyan.com, on Twitter @hank_phillippi and Facebook at HankPhillippiRyanAuthorPage.

Posted in Hank Phillippi Ryan, Interview, Not Quite Twenty Questions | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Goals: Set or Forget?

cslewis119176Are you a goal-setter or a goal-hater? Some people thrive on goals: clearly mapping out their short, mid and long-term goals for the next decade. Others like to let things happen without a lot of planning.

There’s a plethora of information online about setting and accomplishing goals and how life-changing it can be. Successful indie author, Joanna Penn, talks a lot about it with guests (and fellow authors) on her popular podcast.

But are goals really all they are cracked up to be? Can’t we be successful authors without all that mapping and planning?

Maybe, but I believe it makes the journey harder. Let’s say you are preparing for a trip. Without setting at least some of your plans “in stone” (goals) you could wander aimlessly from locale to locale. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to visit the site of the largest ball of twine. I have no idea why you’d want to do that, but let’s just say you did. You leave your house and head west–a good start. But along the way you decide that you really don’t need this GPS or map so you toss them out the window. First of all, tsk-tsk for littering. But more importantly, you’re now unsure of where to turn, when to get off the interstate or which roads to follow to find your destination.

With one’s writing career it can be the same. Without goals set (even broad, generic goals like, “I want to someday be a bestselling author in YA fiction”) how will you know if you ever arrive at your destination? And more importantly, how can you CELEBRATE once you get there?

This week I met a significant book sales goal. Significant in my mind, anyway. While I’m far from bestseller status, I am thrilled to have sold many more books than I ever dreamed possible when my first came out in 2013. But if I hadn’t set the goal and then met the goal, would it be harder for me to keep going? Being an author, while wonderful in so many ways, can also be alienating, lonely and frustrating. Without goals I may have already given up on this dream.

What do you think? Are you a goal-setter and if so, how detailed do you get (spreadsheets? charts? bar graphs?)? If you don’t set goals, why not? 

J.P. Choquette writes and sets goals from her office in northwestern Vermont. She’s currently at work on her third suspense novel. This one features a spunky, sarcastic vigilante named Tayt who keeps the author on her toes. Learn more on the author’s website.

 

Posted in Craft, J.P. Choquette, Opinion, Writers, Writing | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Not Quite Twenty Questions for Elaine Viets

hank-2013-bioHANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Imagine yourself in a crowded room, maybe Bouchercon. (Have you registered yet? It is going to be fabulous )

Imagine yourself in a room full of mystery writers and mystery readers.

Okay. Got it? Now imagine—and this isn’t too difficult—a roar of laughter from one corner of the room. Someone has obviously said something hilarious.

Who is it that made the bon mot, told the joke, found the funniest way on the planet to regale her colleagues with a side-splitting story? Betcha it’s Elaine Viets.

She’ll also be the one giving the good advice, working a million hours a day, being generous and loving and diligent. She’s the one writing two series, no, three, making every best-seller list and is short-listed for every award.

Elaine, who years ago had the infinitely brilliant idea to do real-life research as a hotel maid, a telephone boiler room caller, a sales person, a dog walker—and then write her Dead-End mysteries with the insight she gained from real life. She taught a whole generation of fellow mystery authors on book tour never to leave a hotel room without leaving a tip—when she reminded me how difficult it was to pick up a pile of wet towels, it changed my life.

Not Quite Twenty Questions—for the fearless, hilarious and intrepid Elaine Viets.

Photo by Cristiana Pecheanu. Hair and makeup by Mario Ortega.

Photo by Cristiana Pecheanu.
Hair and makeup by Mario Ortega.

Title of your autobiography?
“Fighter”

Why?
I had to fight to go to journalism school at the University of Missouri. My parents wanted me to go to a genteel women’s college, so I worked my way through school proofreading medical books and journals. I fought to marry my husband. My parents disapproved. Don and I have been married 43 years. When I worked at a newspaper I fought to break out of the traditional women’s assignments and eventually became a syndicated humor columnist for United Media in New York. In 2007, I was hit with six strokes, including a hemorrhagic stroke, and had brain surgery. It took a four-year fight to regain my health, but I’m fully recovered.

Movie you would see again and again?
“Burn!” the 1969 movie by Gillo Pontecorvo, starring Marlon Brando as Sir William Walker, the British mercenary who starts a slave revolt on a mythical Caribbean island.

Why?
Haunting music, good writing, stunning photography, and a fine performance by Brando. Much underrated.

Exotic drinks?
Vintage port at the Savoy Hotel in London.

(You are so sool.) More mundane: Pizza or chocolate?
Chocolate

Spouse? Children? Special people in your life?
My husband, Don Crinklaw. My friends. I’m very lucky to have so many friends in St. Louis, South Florida, and the mystery world.

Pets?
Two cats, Harry and Mystery

Hobbies?
Reading and walking along the docks near our home late at night.

Garden?
I live in a condo. My garden is a pot of basil, a Kentia palm, and an eight-foot-tall papyrus plant, all in my livingroom.

ElaineViets_BoardStiffDo you watch TV? What?
Love TV. Have to ration it, or I’d sit down in front of the set and stay there all day. I like “The Rachel Maddow Show” and love watching series DVDs, especially “The Good Wife,” “Downtown Abbey,” and “House of Cards.”

Can you sing?
Only in the shower.

Best concert you’ve ever seen.
Duke Ellington playing in the Rainbow Room in New York.

Book you wish you had written.
Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”

Why?
It’s a fine piece of reporting and entertainment.

Fear or phobia?
Spiders. I kinda like rats, especially tame ones. They’re very smart.

What someone might not know about you.
I’ve eaten brain sandwiches and pig ear sandwiches.

Um, really? Why? I mean—why did you do that?
Both are ethnic specialties. Brain sandwiches are a local specialty in St. Louis, my hometown. My family is German-American, and the thrifty krauts never wasted anything. A deep-fat-fried calf brain sandwich, properly prepared, is like biting into a cloud. My grandma made good brain sandwiches. Few people eat brain sandwiches any more, and that’s probably a good thing. One sandwich had 3,000 mg. of cholesterol, which I think is the average annual cholesterol allowance.

Pig ears are an African-American specialty and delicious. They taste like pork rinds in barbeque sauce and they’re crunchy.

Do you have a recurring dream?
I’m late, I’ve forgotten something, and it has to be done now.

How about a secret talent?
I’m good at finding four-leaf clovers.

If you could meet and chat with one person, it would be…
Helen Mirren

JM-09-Fixing_to_DieWhat was the very first moment of your very first idea for your very first mystery—do you remember?
Yes. I think good mysteries are also good reporting and I wanted to report on reporting in my first series, the Francesca Vierling novels: Backstab, Rubout, The Pink Flamingo Murders, and Doc in the Box.

I was a newspaper reporter in St. Louis for more than 25 years, and this series is about when newspapers went from being crusading institutions to corporations. I wanted to write about how newspaper management brought in consultants for “team building exercises.” Reporters already had team building exercises. We hung around and griped about management.

This four-book series is darker than my Dead-End Job mysteries, and still in print as e-books and paperbacks.

Can you believe how wonderfully your career turned out?
It’s had so many twists, turns, and coincidences, I wouldn’t be allowed to use them in a novel.

Things you say to yourself when writing:
You’d rather read a mystery, Elaine? Go ahead. Miss this deadline and you’ll have plenty of time to read.

When you are writing, do you have moments when you think—“wow, this is good!”? Or are you more likely to think—whoa, this stinks.
Both. Some days the words seem to flow from my fingers and I enjoy writing. I can feel sparks flying. Other days, writing is a chore. When I go back and read my work later, I can’t tell if it was written on a good day or a bad day, but there are always passages I wish I could improve.

What do you think about that?
I think all writers feel that way, don’t you?

Elaine Viets CatnappedI do! Absolutely. I hear it all the time. So what are you working on now? Or—what’s your latest book? Or both?
My latest Dead-End Job mystery is Catnapped! set in the world of cat shows. I’m just back from a cross-country tour promoting it. I’m currently writing my May 2015 Dead-End Job mystery, Checked Out.

Tell us something else about that!
Checked Out is set at a Florida public library, and my protagonist, private eye Helen Hawthorne, goes undercover as a library volunteer to find a missing million-dollar watercolor that was stashed in a book donated to the Friends of the Library. The library is supposed to be haunted, and Helen is also on the track of the so-called ghost.

I’m working as a volunteer at my local library, the Galt Ocean Mile Reading Center to research Checked Out.

Are you enjoying it?
Absolutely. I love libraries and librarians. They keep us writers going by recommending our books and hosting reading programs. I like volunteering at Galt Ocean Mile, too. I find myself reciting the alphabet when I shelve books and DVDs.

Do you have a motto? What is it?
Work hard and work smart.

HANK: Cannot put it better than that! What’s the worst job you’ve ever had, sisters? (I worked at the candy counter at G.C. Murphy’s, but I wouldn’t call that bad. Although I cannot look at a peanut butter krispy thing ever again in my life.) A copy of Elaine’s latest book to one lucky commenter!

Oh, and don’t forget to register for Bouchercon! http://www.bouchercon2014.com/registration.php

And you do know about SinC’s special fabulous amazing forensics class with Jan Burke and a cast of incredible insiders the day before, right? Hope to see you there—check it out now!
https://m360.sistersincrime.org/ViewEvent.aspx?id=96942&instance=0

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Elaine Viets MURDER UNLEASHED coverElaine Viets is the author of two national bestselling mystery series. Her Dead-End Job series is a satiric look at a serious subject – the minimum wage world. Her character, Helen Hawthorne, works a different low-paying job each book. She’s been everything from a telemarketer to a hotel maid. The South Florida series has been called “Janet Evanovich meets The Fugitive.”

Publishers Weekly called “Murder Unleashed,” Elaine’s hardcover debut, “wry social commentary.” Her series has received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and raves in The New York Times. Catnapped! is her thirteenth Dead-End Job mystery.

Her Dead-End Job series is taught in universities in the United States and Japan.

Elaine’s second series, featuring Josie Marcus, is a look at the pink collar world of secret shopping. This critically acclaimed series debuted in October 2005 with Dying in Styleand tied with Stephen King on the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association bestseller list. Fixing to Die is her ninth adventure.

Elaine’s short stories have appeared in two New York Times bestselling anthologies. “Vampire Hours” was in Many Bloody Returns, edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner and reprinted in Vampires in Love, published by Barnes & Noble. Her short story, “The Bedroom Door,” was in Mystery Writers of America’s Crimes by Moonlight, edited by Charlaine Harris.

She has had short stories published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and anthologies such as Drop-Dead Blonde, High Stakes, the award-winning Chesapeake Crimes I, Mystery Writers of America’s Blood on Their Hands, edited by Lawrence Block; Mystery Writers of America’s Show Business Is Murder, edited by Stuart Kaminsky; and The World’s Greatest Mystery and Crime Stories, edited by Ed Gorman and Martin H. Greenberg.

Her short stories have been published worldwide, including Britain, Australia, Turkey and France.

Elaine Viets is a frequent guest on local, national and international TV and radio shows, including the Discovery Channel’s MythBusters, and Michael Feldman’s Whad’Ya Know? show. Elaine also hosted the syndicated Travel Holiday Radio Show and was a commentator for the National Public Radio station KWMU. She hosted a prime time television program, Viets Beat, for KMOV-TV in St. Louis and won two local Emmys. She was featured on National Public Radio station WLRN with Jeff “Dexter” Lindsay on Literary Florida. She was inducted into the St. Louis Media Halls of Fame in 2011.

She hosts the half-hour Dead-End Jobs Radio Show on Radio Ear Network.

Elaine has served on the national boards of the Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. She won the Agatha, Anthony and Lefty Awards.

http://elaineviets.com/

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Wrong GirlHANK PHILLIPPI RYAN is the on-air investigative reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliate. She’s won 30 EMMYs, 12 Edward R. Murrow awards and dozens of other honors for her ground-breaking journalism. A bestselling author of six mystery novels, Ryan has won multiple prestigious awards for her crime fiction: the Agatha, Anthony, Macavity, and for THE OTHER WOMAN, the coveted Mary Higgins Clark Award. National reviews have called her a “master at crafting suspenseful mysteries” and “a superb and gifted storyteller.” Her newest thriller, THE WRONG GIRL, has the extraordinary honor of winning the 2013 Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel! A four-week Boston Globe bestseller, it was dubbed “Another winner” in a Booklist starred review and “Stellar” by Library Journal.  She’s on the national board of Mystery Writers of America and 2013 president of national Sisters in Crime. Watch for her next novel, TRUTH BE TOLD, on October 7, 2014.

Visit her online at HankPhillippiRyan.com, on Twitter @hank_phillippi and Facebook at HankPhillippiRyanAuthorPage.

Posted in Hank Phillippi Ryan, Interview, Not Quite Twenty Questions | Tagged , , | 29 Comments