Hank Phillippi Ryan: I think the very first real person other than my agent/husband/editor to really read my very first book, Prime Time, was Hallie Ephron. She’s not only an award-winning novelist and non-fiction author, she’s also the crime fiction reviewer for the Boston Globe, so can you imagine how absolutely terrifying that was?
Right. You can.
Funny–back then, 2007–I didn’t even know how scary it should actually be.
I’m not sure there’s anyone in book world who has changed my life in certain ways as much as Hallie, but that’s another blog. Now we’re pals, and we see each other all the time, and I am constantly finding out some wonderful new thing about her. Like—now.
You know about NQTQ, right? Hallie’s Not Quite Twenty Questions have some of our usual fun ones—and some new ones that only Hallie could answer.
(I almost said “the inimitable Hallie.” Then I thought–that’s a cliché. Then I thought—but it’s true! And then I thought—sheesh. This writer stuff is hard.)
Title of your autobiography?
The Other Sister
Book you wish you had written?
Best seller list… how many weeks? And because the writing is gorgeous and you don’t see that plot twist coming.
Movie you would see again and again?
When in history would you choose to visit?
The 1934 World’s Fair.
To walk around in the “Rainbow City” and see all that great Deco design; to see Sally Rand, Judy Garland, the Andrews Sisters, and the Graf Zeppelin. What a trip!
What are you working on now?
The next novel. Always. Working title: Night Night, Sleep Tight. Set in Beverly Hills (where I grew up) in the ’60s and the ’80s. Does that make it a historical?
What do you love about it?Or what are you still considering? Or—what are you learning from it?
It’s making me really think about celebrity and its companion, notoriety, and what they cost in personal terms.
Did you know that was the theme when you started? Or suspect it?
Not at first. I thought I was writing about betrayal (who can you trust?) which is the theme I seem to circle back to over and over.
Thing you always say to yourself when writing?
Just hold your nose and write.
Have you ever thought about just—giving up?
It’s a lovely fantasy when I’m in the middle of a book, wondering what made me think I knew how to do this and with no idea how the story is going to come together.
Worst advice you’ve gotten?
Never start a book with: dialogue, a dream, waking up, a car ride, a phone call, weather… Rules like that are silly.
You’ve seen so many new authors try to be successful. What mistakes do they make?
They’re too impatient, send their work out to agents too early, and then when it gets rejected they get mad and give up. Sometimes they lack the cold-blooded open-mindedness to hear criticism, the stomach to address it, a clear-eyed vision of what really is “good enough,” and the determination to get there.
Do you ever worry you’ll never have another good idea?
Every time I finish a manuscript. I’m not one of those authors who have ideas buzzing in their heads like planes stacked up for landing. Ideas come to me piecemeal, in shards that I have to piece together and make cohere over the 300 or so pages of a novel. Writing is a process of vacillating between hope and despair. It’s a glorious moment when it all comes together at the end.
Fun questions: I know you’re a great cook. But pizza or chocolate?
And grandkids. More delicious than pizza or chocolate.
I wish. It’s complicated.
Since 1969. He’s a keeper.
Birding! Sometimes just watching the bird bath in my own backyard.
Best bird ever?
The Laughing Falcon (aka Snake Hawk). Came upon one unexpectedly, within reaching distance after rounding a bend on a hiking trail in Costa Rica. Big white bird with a black Lone Ranger mask. Made an impression.
My source of solace. Weed a few beds and work through the knotholes in the plot. Maybe this is why I’m less productive in winter.
Fear or phobia?
Not telling. (Read my books!)
Do you have a recurring dream? What is it?
That I’m in a play but I don’t know my lines.
Do you watch TV? What?
Can I admit it? I love TV. Especially Masterpiece Mystery (Sherlock! Scott and Bailey! Silk!). Also, The Good Wife.
Can you sing?
La la la! Only in the car by myself, and then really loud.
Best concert you’ve ever seen?
A Joan Baez concert in the Hollywood Bowl with an unknown opening act, a guy named Bob Dylan.
Pie crust. Gravy. Mayonnaise. From scratch. And not so secret if you’re related to me.
Do you have a motto? (What is it?)
Just hold your nose and write.
Hank: So, sisters, what do you think about Hallie’s advice? And do you ever worry you’ll never have a good idea? Are you surprised by Hallie’s answer to that?
I’ll award the Hallie book of your choice to one lucky commenter!
Hallie’s Bio (from her website):
Hallie Ephron writes suspense novels she hopes keep readers up nights.
A three-time finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark award, Hallie made a splash with Never Tell a Lie. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly called it “stunning” and a “deliciously creepy tale of obsession.” USA Today: “You can imagine Hitchcock curling up with this one.” It was adapted for film as “And Baby Will Fall” for the Lifetime Movie Network.
Hallie’s newest suspense novel, There Was an Old Woman, is set in the Bronx. it’s a story of trust and betrayal, deception and madness. In it, a young woman and a very old woman connect across generations in spite of, or perhaps because, they are not related.
The book has garnered rave reviews. Washington Post book reviewer Maureen Corrigan says, “For those who love Gotham and abhor gore, There Was an Old Woman is the perfect thriller lite.” New York Times bestselling author Tess Gerritsen calls it “an absolute must read. I devoured this in one ravenous gulp.”
There Was an Old Woman is Hallie’s third suspense novel to be honored as a finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark Award. Sarah Weinman named it one of her “Top 10″ for 2013.
Before writing suspense standalones, Hallie collaborated on five Dr. Peter Zak series mysteries with Donald Daidoff under the shared pen name G. H. Ephron and published by St. Martin’s Minotaur.
Hallie’s parents were screenwriters Henry and Phoebe Ephron who wrote such classics as “Desk Set” and “Carousel.” She grew up in Beverly Hills in a house filled with books, the third of four sisters (Nora, Delia, Hallie, and Amy), all competing to be heard. It was a good training ground for a writer.
Hallie lives near Boston, happily married for longer than she can remember, and has two beautiful and talented daughters. She teaches writing workshops at venues across the country. Her Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel: How to Knock ‘Em Dead with Style was the first how-to-write book nominated for the Edgar Award.
Hallie is also is an award-winning book reviewer for the Boston Globe.
HANK 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.