May 18, 2014: On Tuesday, May 20 at 7PM, on-air investigative reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan returns to the Brookline Booksmith, 279 Harvard Street, for the paperback release of her latest novel The Wrong Girl—the gripping follow-up to The Other Woman featuring Detective Jake Brogan and reporter Jane Ryland. Also appearing at the Booksmith Tuesday night will be author John Lescroart. I spoke with Ms. Phillippi Ryan by phone about her dual lives as an Investigative Reporter and a thriller author, her recent clinch of an Agatha Award, and the thrill of interviewing John Lescroart.
Brookline Hub: You recently won an Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel for The Wrong Girl. You’ve won other prestigious book awards. Why do you think your thrillers have been so well received? What makes your crime novels unique?
Hank Phillippi Ryan: Whether it’s investigative reporting or crime fiction, it’s about telling a great story. You need to keep people listening or turning the pages. In TV there is no room for tangents—you need a visual, compelling story. I took those tenets and put them into my crime fiction.
BH: How does your work as an investigative journalist inform your mystery writing? Do you mine ideas from real life stories that you’ve reported on?
HPR: One of the joys of my life is my dual career. I’ve been wired with a hidden camera, disguised, I’ve chased down criminals. I’ve had to make high stress, high stakes decisions. What happens to The Wrong Girl’s heroine Jane Ryland could happen to any reporter. But the fictional stories are not true. I’m not going to ignore experiences and I do take little bits of story from here and there and put them together to create realistic fiction. The Wrong Girl is based on a real story—a news tip I got. That tip about an adoption case got me thinking, what if an adoption agency matched birth parents with the wrong children? What if people lied about who you are?
BH: You set The Wrong Girl in Boston with reporter Jane Ryland investigating the secrets of a respected adoption agency. Why choose Boston for your locale?
HPR: Jane Ryland lives in Brookline on Corey Road. What could be more interesting than here—with the area’s history and neighborhoods? Boston has a very special character and attitude. And weather!
BH: What do you find most challenging about writing crime fiction? Is it easier or more difficult than your non-fiction writing?
HPR: Even though they’re both about telling a good story, with writing crime fiction I can’t make stuff up! A reporter can only tell what actually happened—with crime fiction anything is possible. It’s difficult creating a new world that never existed before.
BH: What do you think about the rise of true crime TV (Snapped, Investigative Discovery Channel)? What do you think draws people to investigative stories, murder and mayhem?
HPR: It’s funny you ask that, my next book Truth Be Told (the Jane Ryland and Jake Brogan series) which goes on sale October 7, features that question—why are people drawn to crime scenes? Why do they watch crime dramas? There are several possible reasons. People want justice, we want order out of chaos, and we like to see the bad guys get what’s coming to them. There is solace and comfort in that.
Also, watching bad things happen to other people makes us feel lucky that we escaped.
BH: Which authors do you read?
HPR: John Lescroart is the king of legal thrillers. I’m in the middle of an advanced reading copy of The Keeper (Lescroart’s latest book) and I’m loving it. His books are compelling, fascinating, and original. He asked me to interview him at the Brookline Booksmith event, which will be one of the joys of my life. I’m thrilled and honored to do it.
BH: For many years you lived in Brookline. What did you like best about this town?
HPR: I grew up in rural Indiana. I couldn’t see another house from my house. Brookline is bustling, it’s accessible, exciting. The shopping, culture, library…it’s a gorgeous city.
--By Jennifer Campaniolo, BrooklineHub