Not Quite Twenty Questions for Meg Gardiner

hank-2013-bioHank Phillippi Ryan: Were you at last year’s New England Crime Bake Conference, with the wonderful Meg Gardiner? (She’s gracious, too…she even dressed up for the luau.)

Anyway, her story is remarkable. (She told it at Crime Bake, that’s how I know. And if you’ve already heard it, read it again. It’s worth it.) And such an object lesson for all of us who feel our lives are out of control. Listen: they are! And sometimes that is terrific.

Her second book, China Lake, was published in the US in 2008, and sort of, well, sat there. Everyone loved it, and everyone knew Meg was incredibly talented, but, as I remember how she told this story, there it sat.  And then, her publisher sent a big box of assorted books to Stephen King. Since he can have anything he wants, you see.

Mr. King reportedly, according to Meg, put the box of books in his closet and forgot about them.

Then one day, the tale is told, he had to fly to Europe and needed something to read. Preferably an easy-to-carry paperback. So he rummaged through the box and pulled out—China Lake. He took it on the plane. Read it. LOVED IT.

The thoughtful Mr. King called the publisher and said—hey, whoa! (Or something like that.) This book rocks, and you ought to be making a big deal of it.

Or something like that.

What Mr. King suggests, the publisher does.

So they smacked a big fat lovely Stephen King blurb on the front of the book and the rest is…well continuing to be “best-selling Meg Gardiner” history.

China Lake won the 2009 Edgar.

Now. There’s nothing Meg could have done to make all that happen, except one little thing. And that is to write a fantastic book. A book that was so terrific and so ready to be loved, that when one of the most powerful people on the planet pulled it from a box, at random, it was there, all shiny and gorgeous.

Now, what can we learn from this?  You know what, right?

So read this interview, comment, then get back to your writing.

meg_gardiner_blogAnd if the Not Quite Twenty Questions with Meg isn’t enough fun on its own, there’s a pop quiz at the end! One lucky commenter will win Meg’s new book! (Okay, your choice of The Shadow Tracer, Ransom River, or her about-to-be-published Phantom Instinct!) Watch for the question!


Title of your autobiography?
What Luck.

To be born in the 20th Century, in a country where girls and women were being empowered, to parents who told me I could do anything and who pushed me to reach for the sky: what luck. I am fortunate beyond measure.

Book you wish you had written?
The Divine Comedy. Because that would mean I’ve been alive for at least 700 years.

Oh, Meg, you are such a troublemaker. Really, what book?
The Stand. It’s my favorite novel. To create such a sweeping plot, to bring so many wonderful characters to life, and to grip readers with their story so powerfully—I would love to have written this book.

Movie you would see again and again?
Casablanca … and Anchorman.

Casablanca is an almost perfect tale of love, loss, bravery, and redemption. Plus: Bogart and Bergman. Here’s looking at you, kid.

Anchorman just makes me giggle. “Yeah, there were horses, and a man on fire, and I killed a guy with a trident.” I know, I’m sick.

I love the TV news team gang rumble. Anyway! Exotic drinks–yes? No?
I’ll stick to coffee.

Meg_at_CrimeBakeWhen in history would you choose to visit?
The Oklahoma Land Rush.

I knew my great-grandmother in her eighties. I would love to go back in time to ride beside the fifteen-year-old girl she was when the cannon fired and she shouted at the horses and raced the family’s wagon flat-out across the prairie to claim a homestead.

Thing you always say to yourself when writing?
I’m writing a novel. How fantastic. What a privilege. God, I hate typing.

When you write, are you optimistic about the process? Or worried? Or what?
I become giddy and obsessed. I love developing ideas. Then worry begins to grind me down. What if these ideas aren’t good enough?

Remember Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park, being chased by a T-rex? He chants: “Must go faster. Must go faster.” I hear his voice in my head, urging, “Must do better.”

What are you working on now?
A new thriller.

Are you…enjoying it?
I’m brainstorming, not typing. So: yes.

How will you know when it’s time to type?
When all the major story elements pull together and swell like a tide, and the characters beckon: Jump in the water.

Also, when my agent and editor agree that the story is strong and compelling.

Pizza or chocolate?
I must choose? Damn, I knew if I took this quiz, something awful would happen.

Okay, you can have both. Kids?  Pets?
Three spectacular kids: Kate, Mark, and Nate.

The fabulous Paul Shreve.

Meg Gardiner and hubbyAnd he is…in three words.
Warm, wise, wonderful.

Travel—physically when possible, otherwise via immersing myself in books.

I love gardens but when I touch them, plants shrivel. I am a disgrace to the name Gardiner.

Fear or phobia?
Heights are not my thing.

What someone might not know about you.
I once defended myself using a window screen and a samurai sword. And when I finished, that squirrel knew who was boss.

Do you have a recurring dream? What is it?
I’m back in law school, and it’s five minutes before a final exam. I not only forgot to study, I forgot that I had enrolled in the class.

I have that one, too, but not as often as I used to.  What do you think it means?
Maybe my unconscious is warning me to stay on my toes. I’m more concerned that in the dream, when I get to the exam I see that I have also forgotten my pants.

Ah. Burying the lede there, I fear. Anyway. Do you watch TV? What?
Breaking Bad. House of Cards. Terrible disaster movies.

Can you sing?
Poorly. In high school I was a mime. There’s a reason.

Best concert you’ve ever seen?
The Police. Twickenham Stadium, London. September 2007. Epic.

Secret talent?
Trivia. I am a three-time Jeopardy! champion.

REALLY?? I am so impressed. Whoa. What was the final jeopardy question that made you win the first time?  (We’ll just ignore the one you missed.)
The category was Movie Classics. The clue: “I cannot live without my life. I cannot live without my soul,” is the final line in this 1939 film.

The question: What is –okay, commenters. What is it?

Do you have a motto? (What is it?)
“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” — Steve Prefontaine

Thank you, Meg!


Meg’s bio (from her website):

Meg Gardiner was born in Oklahoma and raised in Santa Barbara, California. She graduated from Stanford University and Stanford Law School.

Shadow_tracerShe practiced law in Los Angeles and taught writing at the University of California Santa Barbara. She’s a former collegiate cross-country runner and a three time Jeopardy! champion. She divides her time between London and Austin, Texas.

China Lake won the 2009 Edgar award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best Paperback Original.

The Dirty Secrets Club won the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Procedural Novel of 2008.

The Nightmare Thief won the 2012 Audie Award for Thriller/Suspense audiobook of the year.

The Shadow Tracer is her latest novel.


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, on Twitter @hank_phillippi and Facebook at HankPhillippiRyanAuthorPage.

About Lisa Haselton

Lisa Haselton has had several short mystery stories published and has a couple of novels in various stages of completion. She always enjoys learning new tidbits about other writers, and takes great pride as an editor when working with writers on polishing their manuscripts. She's living a life around her passions for writing, photography, volunteering, and anything related to New England, particularly New Hampshire.
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19 Responses to Not Quite Twenty Questions for Meg Gardiner

  1. What a fun interview. I’m in awe of anybody who can win Jeopardy even once! And no idea about that movie…

  2. Rhonda Lane says:

    Thanks for a fun interview. I figured out a way to find out about that movie, but I’m not gonna blab it here. Someone Somewhere Out There knows the answer in a cherished section of her (I’m pretty sure it’s a “her”) heart. Let’s just say it wasn’t a crime or action movie. Thanks again, Hank and Meg!

    • hankpryan says:

      And probably not cowboys either, right? And that’s actually kind of instructive, isn’t it–how much you can know about a book from just the last line? Now, if we only knew WHAT book… xoo

  3. mowalsh says:

    What is “Anna Karenina”?
    Great to hear there’s another Meg Gardiner book coming out soon! And that I’m not the only one with a Black Death Thumb. Great to catch up with you, Meg – Mo

  4. Mary Sutton says:

    What a fabulous interview. Movie, um, “What is West Side Story?”

  5. Meg says:

    Thanks for inviting me to do the interview, Hank. It was fun. (Even if you did post a photo of me in the Worst Hawaiian Shirt Contest, with my Hula dancer headband.)

    As for the movie… I’m not going to reveal the answer (I mean the question) yet.

  6. Yep, I’m pretty sure it’s Wuthering Heights.

  7. Sally Schmidt says:

    I think every new interview is my favorite but this one might really be it. Kind of value-added when your favorite authors also seem like so much fun. And smart – Jeopardy!

    Congrats on your nomination, Hank . . . and, What is Wuthering Heights?

    • hankpryan says:

      Oh, thank you, Sally! Yes, I am still floating..xoxo And you are SMART! xoxo (HOw did you know that?)

  8. hankpryan says:

    THE WINNER! Of Hallie Ephron’s book– is Mary Sutton! But all are still in the running for the Meg Gardiner book! (Mary, email me with your address!)

  9. Meg says:

    Y’all are so smart. Wuthering Heights it is.

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