Tag: Hank Phillippi Ryan

Hank Phillippi Ryan

Awards Season

This is Awards season in the mystery world and several writers close to the Miss Demeanors have been nominated for fabulous awards.

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History and Mystery and Crime Bakes

 I returned home from New England Crime Bake late Sunday night. I spent a wonderful weekend in Woburn, Massachusetts meeting old friends, meeting Facebook friends face-to-face, and making new friends. I participated on a great panel, moderated by fellow Missdemeanor, Michele Dorsey, where we discussed mash-ups/cross-genre novels, what they were, how they came to be, and what they mean for the publishing industry. Hank Phillipi Ryan complemented me on my panel performance. (How cool is that?) I spent time chatting with conference attendees about medicine and whiskey. I got to hang out with the incomparable Walter Mosley. And I heard Mr. Mosley, Frankie Bailey, Bill Martin, and Elisabeth Elo talk about how they use history in writing mystery. This panel especially intrigued me, as I’m a history buff. The past fascinates me. Not so much the big, well-known stories—although as I discover the version of history I learned in school as “fact” may not have been 100% accurate, I’ve re-examined some of the big stories and found them more interesting than I originally thought—but the history of everyday people. How did Regular Jane and Average Joe earn their living? What did they wear? What did they eat? What did they think about the “big” stories, stories that were news to them, not history? How fitting that Crime Bake is held in one of the most history-filled areas of the United States. I wondered why our hotel was decorated with sewing machines, shoe lasts, and photos of old bills for footwear, some Google sleuthing revealed Woburn’s leather tanning industry dates back to the 1600s. Woburn is near Boston, a historical treasure trove, but it’s also near Salem, home of the infamous Witch Trials and location of the house made famous by Nathaniel Hawthorne as The House of the Seven Gables. I made time for a side trip to Salem and spent a sunny afternoon learning about the Turners and Ingersolls (the house’s real-life owners) and Hawthorne. I had no trouble understanding why the mansion (and his cousin who owned it) inspired Hawthorne to make it the centerpiece of his novel. Are you a history fan? Are you a names and dates kind of history buff or do you prefer the stories of the not-so-famous people who lived on the dash between the dates? Or the more thoroughly researched stories of the famous which goes beyond the popular myths and shows them to be humans who accomplished things? What historical person or period would you want to experience in a novel?

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Pitching

 This past weekend I worked at the New York Pitch Conference, which is always a fun/exhilarating/exhausting experience. I’m the workshop leader for the general fiction group, which includes women’s fiction, literary, upmarket and so on. One of the great perks of my job is that I get to listen to editors and hear what they’re looking for and one thing I heard a lot this time was how important it is to know very clearly who you are writing like, and, if at all possible, to try and make connections with that person. Or, as one person said, more or less, if you want to be the next Michael Chabon, you should try to go to his readings, meet readers who are interested in his work, and, if at all possible, get him to write a blurb for you.  That led me to think about how one of the nice things about the mystery writing community is that the writers are so accessible. At the most recent Malice Domestic, I chatted briefly with Louise Penny and Nancy Pickard, was on a panel with assorted great writers, was in an anthology with other assorted great writers and went to the bar and met other great writers. The fabulous Hank Phillippi Ryan wrote a blurb for Maggie Dove. All of this came about because I crept out of my office and forced myself to get out there. So get out there, writer friends, and make friends. Starting with the Miss Demeanors. We’re happy to know you! 

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Cate Tells Us The Truth

Last night I was lucky enough to be at fellow Miss Demeanor and USA Today bestselling author Cate Holahan’s book launch for Lies She Told. To say Cate’s latest book has been getting good reviews would be like saying Coco Chanel made a few dresses. Hank Phillippi Ryan described Cate’s latest as “intricate, intense, and completely sinister.” Our own award-winning Miss Demeanor Alexia Gordon summed up Cate’s third novel by saying, “Wow. Just wow. As soon as you think you’ve figured it out, Cate Holahan hits you with a twist you did. Not. See. Coming…A taut story.” Library Journal had this to say, “Recommended for anyone who enjoys Paula Hawkins or Gillian Flynn, primarily because it’s better.”  I managed to steal this master of psychological suspense away from her fans at The Mysterious Bookshop in Tribeca to ask her a few questions about writing.  Many suspense writers write series. You don’t. How do you come up with completely new ideas and characters for each book? Cate: I don’t really know how ideas come to me. When they do, however, they arrive as semi-fleshed out stories with a beginning, middle, and end. Recently, on a trip to Iceland, I saw a boiling hot spring that could melt a body. That night, I returned to my hotel and outlined an entire story about a group of bachelors that go to Iceland for a stag party and meet a female environmentalist tour guide. Their vacation won’t end as well as my own. I have a folder on my computer where I have outlines and character notes for upcoming stories. My protagonists are often sketched out with my initial idea, but they develop more during my first draft and are fully realized in my second when I re-plot the story so that it grows organically from the people in it.  Without giving anything away, what is Lies She Told about? Cate: Lies She Told centers around a suspense author, Liza, whose work-in-progress novel points to clues concerning a disappearance in her real life. It’s a twisty, psychological thriller that plays with the philosophical concepts of mimesis and anti-mimesis: does art imitate life or is it the other way around? The novel is two tales in one that intersect. There’s the story of Liza, a writer struggling to pen a new suspense book capable of reviving her flailing career, as well as to conceive a child with her husband, David, who is distracted by the sudden disappearance of his law partner Nick. And, there’s the story that Liza is writing about Beth, a mom with a six-week-old who believes her husband is having an affair. As she writes, Liza begins to see parallels in her work that hint at secrets kept by those closest to her, forcing her to confront the inspiration of her fiction. Is her subconscious picking up on information that is revealing itself in her work? Or, are the similarities all coincidences? You’ve been a professional writer for quite some time, but in your prior life as a journalist you wrote non-fiction. What made you want to write fiction? Cate: I always wanted to write fiction. I have a couple books in drawers and wrote novels in my free time. I didn’t write anything worth publishing, unfortunately, until I took the plunge and let go of the steady paycheck that journalism had provided. I loved the interviewing and research aspects of journalism, and writing everyday. But I never felt that I got to stretch my creative muscles writing for business publications. That job was more about understanding the companies that I covered, and accurately and concisely explaining a concept or point of view.  Is there any advice you wish you’d known when you started your career that you can pass on to aspiring writers? Cate: Learn your genre. Telling a good story is one thing but you have to know the readers that you are writing for and what their expectations may be. Before getting published, I wrote a couple “trunk junk” books that I thought had decent stories but didn’t fit into a genre. They were romantic, suspense, literature, comedy, all over the place tales.  What is something readers may not know about you? Cate: I sang and played piano in a rock band–though, I’m not sure that is a surprise as many novelists whom I’ve met have dabbled in music or other performing arts. I have a tattoo of books turning into birds on my left arm. The placement makes it more or less invisible unless I flip my wrist over. I think I might be just preppy enough for this to be subversive. But probably not. Tattoos are so common now.  

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A Different Kind of Launch Party

 No you didn’t miss the evite. And yes, thank you for asking about whether there would be a launch party for Permanent Sunset, the second book in the Sabrina Salter series published today by Crooked Lane Books. More than anything, my gratitude to readers’ who bought and enjoyed No Virgin Island and eagerly anticipated and pre-ordered Permanent Sunset. I had no idea how gratifying it would be to hear from people who read and supported my first book. I hope Permanent Sunset brings you even more pleasure.            So it would seem logical perhaps to celebrate the second in the series with another launch party. After all, the first was a great party held at the James Library in Norwell, Massachusetts, which was attended by more than 100 people, including friends, relatives, clients, fellow-writers, and former classmates. The very generous, effervescent, and talented Hank Phillippi Ryan interviewed me with her usual charm and wit. Later, she wrote, “Now that was a launch party.” As I looked out at the crowd of people who had so kindly supported me, I thought, this is like being at your own wake. The final honor came when relatives of a murder victim in St. John whom I had mentioned in the acknowledgements of No Virgin Island came to honor me and to buy my books.            But somehow, a second launch was feeling a little off to me, or as in the wisdom of the great Barbara Ross, kind of like a baby shower for a second baby. It isn’t that we don’t love and welcome that second baby as much as the first. It’s more that the joy is more subtle and relished. A little less like, “Whew, you finally published one of those suckers,” and more like, “Good for you, daring to put yourself and your creation out there again.” And then there is geography. With readers from all over the country and especially those in the Virgin Islands and Caribbean, an inclusive launch would have to be online. Unfortunately, a glass of virtual prosecco falls a little flat.            Still, I wanted to honor those who have supported me, propping me up when the doubt and dismay weigh me down. The people who have generously shared with me the joy my writing has brought them. And especially those who have made me laugh when I was taking this writing gig way too seriously.            When Hurricane Matthew fell upon Haiti last week, I finally figured how I could do this. In a time when we are divided politically, few can argue that lightning has indeed struck twice on this tiny Caribbean nation where children have suffered unimaginably and cholera is a way of life.            So today, I have created a fundraising page (https://www.classy.org/fundraiser/794775) on Sow A Seed, an organization, whose mission is to bring hope, reduce hardship and promote sustainable change in the lives of impoverished children, placing a special focus on orphans in the Caribbean. And yes I sent the prosecco and appetizer money to them (it won’t show for a bit) in honor of you and with the hope there will be a new sunrise for the children of Haiti.                            Save

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