The Scribbler is pleased to do a series of guest appearances in conjunction with Creative Edge Publicity of Saskatchewan, Canada. (See below for more of Creative Edge)
Hank Phillippi Ryan has been hailed by book critics as “master of suspense”, “a superb and gifted storyteller.”
She is an American Investigative Reporter for Channel 7 news on WHDH-TV in Boston, Mass.
An acclaimed author of Twelve thrillers. the recipient of numerous and impressive awards, Hank is kind enough to be our special guest this week. The Scribbler is beyond happy to present a 4Q interview.
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN is a USA Today bestselling author of 12 thrillers, winning the most prestigious awards in the genre: five Agathas, three Anthonys, the Daphne, and for THE OTHER WOMAN, the coveted Mary Higgins Clark Award. She is also on-air investigative reporter for Boston's WHDH-TV, with 37 EMMYs and dozens more journalism honors. Book critics call her "a master of suspense," "a superb and gifted storyteller," and she’s the only author to have won the Agatha in four different categories: Best First, Best Novel, Best Short Story and Best Non-Fiction. Her previous novel, THE MURDER LIST, is an Agatha, Anthony, Macavity and Mary Higgins Clark Award nominee. NYT bestsellers A.J. Finn says, “exciting, explosive, relentless,” and B.A. Paris says it’s “her best yet.” Hank’s newest novel: the chilling psychological standalone THE FIRST TO LIE. The Publishers Weekly starred review says "Stellar… Hank Phillippi Ryan could win a sixth Agatha with this one.”
4Q: Let’s talk about your latest work, The First to Lie, to be published in August, 2020. Author Sarah Pekkanen states: “A taut, propulsive plot with twists that will take your breath away.”
HPR: Thank you! I am so thrilled with it. The starred review from Publishers Weekly calls it “stellar,” so as you know, that is as good as it gets. It’s a psychological standalone, and briefly: It is two smart women, facing off in a high stakes psychological cat and mouse game to seek revenge for a terrible childhood betrayal. But which woman is the cat and which woman is the mouse?
I love to explore the themes of betrayal, motherhood, obsession, and revenge--all set in the world of the big money high risk pharmaceutical industry. What is the moral, ethical, and financial calculus for a product that helps many people -- but harms others?
It stars a young woman who faced a devastating childhood betrayal, an undercover reporter who’s in too deep, a beautiful sailboat on the Chesapeake Bay, a rich and powerful family, and an ice pick that is not used for ice.
And it asks the question: what if being someone else could get you what you want?
4Q: When visiting your website, we discover the prestigious awards bestowed upon you and your novels, a long and tremendous list to be proud of. Perhaps the most remarkable is your five Agatha Awards. Which of these has been closest to your heart and why?
HPR: Each of those gorgeous and coveted teapots, (which is what an Agatha award is, in honor of the oh-so-British Agatha Christie) is a joy and a treasure. The first one, of course, for best first novel for PRIME TIME, still brings tears to my eyes to think about. My very first short story “On the House” won in a different year for best short story, a reassuring proof that maybe I could also work in that length. Then my collection of essays from Sisters in Crime members about the writer’s journey won for best non-fiction. How fabulous to have it be a collaboration! And then, in two different years, both THE WRONG GIRL and TRUTH BE TOLD won for Best Novel. So--my favorite? Impossible, since they all signify different and equally wonderful things--most importantly, the approval of readers.
4Q: Pleased share a childhood memory and/or anecdote.
HPR: Oh my goodness, I grew up in really rural Indiana, so rural that you couldn’t see another house from my house. My sister and I used to ride our ponies to the library to get books, and we read up in the hayloft of the barn behind our house. That’s where I fell in love with Nancy Drew, and Sherlock Holmes, and Agatha Christie. So funny that later in life I won an award named after the fabulous Agatha!
4Q: I would assume that your career as an investigative reporter drew you to writing mystery thrillers. Am I correct?
HPR: Well, I’m not sure. I think my career as an investigative reporter is a result of my curiosity, and my love of storytelling, and my--if I can say so--desire to stand up for the little guy and change the world. So, I was a reporter for more than thirty years before I started writing fiction.Still, though I always thought about being a writer, even as a little girl, I decided, back then, it might be more fun to be Sherlock Holmes than to write about Sherlock. So being an investigative reporter and a crime fiction author--I got a little of each.
But both those careers are about storytelling, right? And suspense, and secrets. And I do think being a reporter taught me even more about storytelling--so it all works.
4Q: You are the recipient of many Emmy awards. This is a huge accomplishment. What can you share with us about this achievement?
HPR: It’s fascinating to look at my Emmys--each one of which I am so proud of. And interesting that each Emmy represents a secret that someone didn’t want you to know-- a story my producer and I researched and discovered and made public. Interesting, too, that it’s so parallel to crime fiction. My books, too, are all about secrets--who has a secret, and what will happen when it is told. Again, another example of my parallel writing life!
4Q: Favorite authors/novels?
HPR: Oh my goodness, how much time do you have? Edith Wharton, Tom Wolfe, Stephen King. All fabulous storytellers. Perfect books? The Charm School by Nelson DeMille, and Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth. Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris. They are crime fiction classics--and prove that good writing and good storytelling is timeless.
4Q: The Memories section of your website has you shoulder to shoulder with many celebrated authors of which I admire. Perhaps the one I am most envious of is of you and Harlan Coben, one of my favorites. Can you tell us about this experience and how it came to be?
HPR: Such fun to look at all those photos—I adore looking at that gallery on my website. So many great memories.
As for Harlan-- Isn’t he hilarious? He is the one who told me to write the kind of books you love to read, because if you’re writing something you’re enjoying and are passionate about, then the readers will feel the same way.
I think Harlan and I met, golly, ten years ago? He is quite hilarious, and completely engaging, and loves being Harlan Coben. I have interviewed him several times, and he is always a joy – – he’s truly the genuine article, An incredibly hard worker, and the best of fun, and I applaud his every success.
4Q: Anything else you’d like to share with us?
HPR: I didn’t start writing until I was 55, 15 years ago. And I think that makes me the poster child for following your dreams at midlife. When I wrote my first novel, I called my husband into the room and said: “Sweetheart watch this.” And then I typed the end. And then I burst into tears. Of course, I should not have cried, because that wasn’t the end of anything at all, it was the beginning of this wonderful second half of my life and career.It is amazing to think that I’m here talking about my twelfth novel, THE FIRST TO LIE, and I’m working on my thirteenth. Even with the world as insane and terrifying as it is now, it is always safe inside a book.
An Excerpt from The First to Lie.
from THE FIRST TO LIE
by Hank Phillippi Ryan
from Chapter 11
“I’m coming to get you right now.” Nora took a chance, swerving into the right lane, then back to the center, feeling her tires shift and slide. Her car seemed as unreliable as her emotions. “Pull over. Stop. Just wait for me.”
“Nora. Nora? I am so—I can’t even see straight. I—I told him, that McGinty, that liar, right to his face, that I’m calling the news, I’m calling every reporter I can think of, and telling them this doesn’t work! It not only doesn’t work, it—ah. I swear to God, Nora, he never—”
“I’m with you, I am, but it’s hard to listen properly and drive at the same time.” Kaitlyn had threatened McGinty? She wanted to spill to a journalist? Nora’s stomach twisted. That could change everything. They needed to talk. And now.
“Seriously, Kaitlyn, could you do me a favor and get off the road? Is there a gas station, someplace we could meet?”
“And James! I just called my husband, James, and he’s a mess, and now he’s coming home and I have to decide how to talk to him about it in person, which will be awful, and he’ll be so angry! Like it’s my fault, again, and it’s not!”
“What kind of a car do you have, Kaitlyn?” Nora interrupted, tried to keep her voice calm and soothing . GPS showed the cinema less than half a mile away on the highway. “So I can find you?”
“It’s a white hatchback,” she said. “A Civic.”
A Civic. Hatchback. Nora pictured that. Okay. A small white—
“And now,” Kaitlyn interrupted her thought, “I have to decide which reporter to—damn it!”
“Hey! Watch it!” Kaitlyn’s voice had changed, high-pitched, annoyed.
Then frantic. “Watch it!” “Kaitlyn? You okay?”
Brake lights appeared ahead of Nora, blinking on in unison as if they were synchronized, red and red and red, glowing though the blustery snow. She slowed, craning her neck around the chain of cars lining up in front of her, blocking her way.
She heard sounds through the speakers, wrong sounds, sounds like metal and yelling and horns.
“Hey!” she yelled, and “Kaitlyn!” But no answer. A flash of white noise.
She yanked the wheel to the right, rumbling through the narrow pot- holed breakdown lane, needing to get there, hoping she wouldn’t see what she had heard, what she’d imagined, hoping there was another explanation, her teeth clenched and fingers grasping the steering wheel.
Horns, and more horns now, and other cars moved in her way, with their own needs and their own goals and blocking her way to whatever had happened.
She honked too. She had to get those people to move, clear a path, give her room. She heard the blare of sirens, and saw more red lights, their intense colored beams sweeping across the snow.
A tiny graphic pinged onto her GPS, and then blocky words: CRASH AHEAD. Seek alternate route.
The author and publisher have provided this excerpt to you for your magazines use only. Your readership may not make this excerpt publicly available in any way. Copyright infringement is against the law. If you believe the copy of this e-book you are reading infringes on the author's copyright, please notify the publisher at: http://us.macmillanusa.com/piracy.
Thank you, Hank Phillippi Ryan, for being our Guest this week. Wishing you all the success you deserve.
For you wonderful readers wishing to discover more about this talented author and her novels, please visit this link: