Yes, that’s right, Hank Phillippi Ryan has graciously (not that she’s ever not gracious) handed over her recorder and notepad and let us ask her Not Quite Twenty Questions.
Is it pure coincidence that her latest book has just released? We think not. Let’s celebrate and see what more we can learn about this woman who is always writing!
Title of your autobiography:
Sometimes I laugh at all my to-do lists. Sometimes I have no idea what day it is! (I am hoping I am not alone in this.) I know I am so lucky, and I am very grateful. But there are days when I wonder: how is all of this going to get accomplished? (I am hoping I am not alone in this.) And then, somehow, it does. Maybe I should change the title to: Doing One Thing at a Time. But that’s not as good a title.
Movie you would see again and again?
Oh, Working Girl! Do you know it? With Melanie Griffith as a smart-but-dissed secretary working her way up in the business world. I cry every time I see it. What else? Desk Set, with the wonderful Katharine Hepburn as a researcher. Philadelphia Story, because, you know, true love. The Godfather is amazing every time.
There are more—with all the movies on TV, what would I stop everything to watch? Ah, Dirty Dancing! Suspicion. The Lady Vanishes. Day of the Jackal! (And what’s that movie with Kevin Costner and the fax machine? No Way Out?) Oh, Sabrina! And Funny Face.
Somebody stop me.
Why those movies?
I’m a sucker for ugly duckling stories, I guess because I was so geeky-unpopular growing up. And for hard-work-and-perseverance-and intelligence-makes-the-difference stories, because of , um, the same thing. And The Godfather—well, every shot, every word, every expression matters. I try to do that in my books, too. You see something differently wonderful each time. And I adore thrillers, that’s my guilty pleasure. Day of the Jackal is just the best one ever.
Pizza or chocolate?
So funny. Pizza. I could have pizza every day. Chocolate I can take or leave.
Spouse? Children? Special people in your life?
Aw, you know Jonathan. (He’s a criminal defense attorney-so nice to have in-house counsel!) We just celebrated our 17th anniversary! We have two kids, my stepchildren, all grown and with kids of their own. Lucky me!
Nope. I had two terrific cats, Lola and Leon. I got Lola from the Humane Society, and she was so tiny she couldn’t even go up steps. Leon (a stray) arrived about 6 years later, and they lived in the same place with me for the next 14 years. (Lola died at 20, and I still dream about her.) For all that time, neither acknowledged the other!
HA! No. (Ha. Hobbies. I am laughing.)
Yes, we have a fabulous gorgeous garden! It is the joy of my life to fill our house with flowers from it — tulips, then hydrangea, now dahlias.
Do you watch TV? What?
Yes, indeed. Thank goodness for the DVR! The Good Wife, Game of Thrones, Outlander(!) Project Runway, Tyrant, The Brief, Forever (silly, but I love Ioan Griffud). My go-to show on the road is Chopped, because it is ALWAYS on.
Best concert you’ve ever seen.
Oh, the Three Tenors, on the Champs de Mars in Paris! The “Concert of the Century” it was billed. And we just happened to be there, and walked in, and got amazing seats. Whoa.
Book you wish you had written.
Well, that’s interesting. I almost said A is for Alibi, because it is so seminal. But then that would have meant I wrote it 20 years ago, and that would have changed my life in a way I wouldn’t want. (I guess…) To Kill A Mockingbird, but again, the baggage. Winter’s Tale, by Mark Helprin is so gorgeous. And it’d be such fun to be as free and timely as Bonfire of the Vanities.
Fear or phobia?
Ah, well? Spiders. SPIDERS! And earwigs. And gas, like gas appliances. I’m okay with flying, and heights, and depths (though I’m not big on swimming) and darkness. I guess my fear is that someone I love will get hurt. Terrified of that. I’ll say to Jonathan: “Be careful!” and he says: “Of what?” and there are the two different personalities.
You can spend the day doing whatever you want. Tell us a little about that day.
Coffee. Do a little email, read nice fan mail. Read good reviews. Write write write in my little study for several hours and good stuff comes out. Take a quiet walk, and think, and have a good idea. Organize dinner, welcome Jonathan, have a glass of wine, chat and watch a movie. Wow. That’s either ridiculously boring or reassuringly possible.
What someone might not know about you.
Oh, gosh, I can’t even imagine there’s anything, after all this time we’ve all known each other!
I am a really good cook! And ironer.
I was Hunter Thompson’s assistant at Rolling Stone Magazine. I traveled with Richard Avedon doing a big photography project. I worked for a subcommittee of the US Senate Judiciary Committee.
I find it very difficult to throw away glossy paper bags or out of style clothes. I am terrible at folding towels, cannot do it. I am a terrible driver; I am terrible at following directions in a car.
Do you have a recurring dream?
Yeah…a couple of them. One is of a house, a beautiful house which I know perfectly well—and I think oh—I forgot about this! I forgot I live here! Similarly, I often dream of a room in my current house that I forgot was there. I open the door-and oh, I can picture it perfectly now. It’s a big, like, library/closet, with lots of those lovely thin map drawers. When you pull out the drawers, they are full of paisley scarves and pearls. It’s nice. I’m always so surprised by the beauty I seem to have forgotten.
I still sometimes have the stress dream — late, lost, unprepared. But a few years ago, when I had it, and I realized I was supposed to go on stage and I DIDN’T KNOW THE WORDS OR STEPS! And then, in the dream, I said to myself, this is a dream. And besides, you do know the words and the steps.
I haven’t had the dream since then.
How about a secret talent?
I MUST have one, right? I can make dinner out of whatever is there? I can make up new lyrics to songs?
Your dream dinner party guests from history or currently?
Shakespeare. Edith Wharton. Stephen King. Judy Collins. Robert Pinsky. Sue Grafton. Nellie Bly. Audrey Hepburn.
Can you believe how wonderfully your career turned out?
Oh, please. I laugh every day with gratitude.
What are you working on now? Or—what’s your latest book? Or both?
TRUTH BE TOLD! Is out this week! I am incredibly excited about it. It’s a big exciting entertaining thriller, set in Boston–about a diabolical mortgage fraud scheme and a notorious cold case murder. And also about a reporter who fabricates stories.
It’s a TOP PICK, and has starred reviews from Booklist and from Library Journal, which says—in the best review line I think I’ve ever seen!–“Drop everything and binge-read until the mid-boggling conclusion.”
Got to love that.
And working on the 4th Jane Ryland thriller, WHAT YOU SEE. Hoping to figure out how that ends. And it had better be soon! (It’s due November 1. La dee da, plenty of time.)
Do you have a motto? What is it?
You Never Know. (it’s the ultimate saying for an optimist—because whatever happens—it could all be good!)
Hank is also visiting the Wicked Cozy Authors today, to continue the conversation!
A bestselling author of seven mystery novels, HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN has won multiple prestigious awards for her crime fiction: three Agathas, the Anthony, Daphne, 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 2013 novel, THE WRONG GIRL, has the extraordinary honor of winning the Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel, and the Daphne Award for Mainstream Mystery/Suspense, and is a seven-week Boston Globe bestseller. Her newest hardcover, TRUTH BE TOLD, is a Library Journal Editor’s Pick and RT Book Reviews Top Pick, with starred reviews from Booklist and Library Journal, which raves, “Drop everything and binge read!”
The bestselling THE OTHER WOMAN, (now in a third hardcover printing and also available in e-book and paperback), was the first in the new Jane Ryland series from Forge Books. It’s listed as a Best Book of 2012 by the Kansas City Star, the Sacramento Bee, Suspense Magazine, and The Boston Globe, won the prestigious Mary Higgins Clark Award, and was the only novel nominated for the Agatha, Anthony, Macavity, Shamus and Daphne awards for Best Novel of 2012.
An award-winning investigative reporter at Boston’s NBC affiliate and a television reporter since 1975, her work has resulted in new laws, people sent to prison, homes removed from foreclosure, and millions of dollars in refunds and restitution for victims and consumers. Along with her 32 EMMYs and 12 Edward R. Murrow awards, Hank’s won dozens of other honors for her ground-breaking journalism. She’s been a radio reporter, a legislative aide in the United States Senate and an editorial assistant at Rolling Stone Magazine.
Her first four mysteries, beginning with the Agatha Award-winning PRIME TIME, feature Charlotte McNally, a Boston television reporter. FACE TIME was a BookSense Notable Book, and AIR TIME and DRIVE TIME were both Anthony and Agatha Award nominees for best novel of 2009 and 2010.
Hank is also on the national board of Mystery Writers of America and served as 2013 president of national Sisters in Crime.
WHAT YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT HANK:
Hank’s first novel, the bestselling PRIME TIME (which won the Agatha Award for Best First Novel in 2007) is actually not her first encounter with publishing. That was in 1969, when she got a summer job as a proofreader, and read the entire Indiana Code of Laws out loud.
Since then, Hank’s been a political campaign worker, a radio reporter, a press secretary to a US Congressman, a legislative aide in the United States Senate, and—in a two-year stint in Rolling Stone Magazine’s Washington Bureau –worked on the political column “Capitol Chatter” and organized presidential campaign coverage for
Hunter S. Thompson.
Hank began her TV career in 1975, anchoring and reporting the news for TV stations in Indianapolis and then Atlanta. She’s battled her way through hurricanes, floods and blizzards, wired herself with hidden cameras, chased criminals and confronted corrupt politicians. With ground-breaking reports including revealing mistakes in the 911 system that sent emergency responders to the wrong addresses, a failing jury selection system, firefighters given outmoded and failing equipment, corruption in the mortgage industry and unfair practices by powerful contractors, her hard-hitting journalism has changed laws and changed lives. She has also covered national political conventions, the NBA playoffs and the Super Bowl, and has interviewed newsmakers from Prince Charles to President Carter to Muhammad Ali.
Hank grew up in the Indianapolis area and went to Western College for Women in Oxford, Ohio, where she majored in Shakespeare (and, she says, “minored” in “independent reading and listening to rock and roll records”). She also studied abroad at the International School in Hamburg, Germany.
Outside Channel 7, Hank is a founding teacher at Mystery Writers of America University. She also served as the 2013 president of national Sisters in Crime, which promotes the professional development and advancement of women crime writers to achieve equality in the industry. She’s also on the advisory board of the Lyric Stage of Boston, a professional theater company. There, Hank founded the Lyric’s “First Curtain” program, which provides the full theater experience for underprivileged students with free tickets and theater education scholarships.
Hank lives in the Boston area with her husband, a nationally renowned civil rights and criminal defense attorney.