HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN is the on-air investigative reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliate. She’s won 32 EMMYs, 12 Edward R. Murrow awards and dozens of other honors for her ground-breaking journalism. A bestselling author of seven mystery novels, 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. (From her website).
She has two series – Jane Ryland and Charlotte McNally series along with multiple anthologies. Her latest book, TRUTH BE TOLD, is the third in her Jane Ryland series.
TRUTH BE TOLD is so exciting for me! Since I have no idea what’s going to happen in my books until I put the words on the page, every scene is a surprise. But I knew TRUTH BE TOLD would stem from a couple of puzzle pieces—my coverage of the housing crisis, and the increasing pressure on reporters to break big exclusive stories. I knew the first scene would be an all-too-familiar tragedy in today’s headlines: a middle-class family evicted from their home in the suburbs of Boston. So Jane Ryland, my main character, is digging up the facts on this heartbreaking story—and on other foreclosures—and soon learns it’s part of big-bucks scheme—masterminded by a group of surprising players who will stop at nothing, including murder, to keep their goal a secret.
I laughed when I figured out their scheme! Because turns out, there’s more than one way to rob a bank.
It also came from the stories of an accused murderer my husband (a lawyer) defended, and another client he had who’d confessed to a murder he might not have committed. Why would someone do that?
So as TRUTH BE TOLD begins, my other main character, Boston police detective Jake Brogan, may have a liar on his hands. A man has just confessed to the notorious twenty-year-old Lilac Sunday killing, a long-unsolved murder that haunted Brogan’s police-commissioner grandfather. While Jake’s colleagues take the confessor at his word, Jake is not so sure. But his personal connections keep him hoping they’ve finally solved the cold case.
And as always, Ryland and Brogan’s paths are once again intertwined. As their clandestine relationship heats up, it may mean difficulties in their professional lives. So bottom line: Financial manipulation, the terror of foreclosures, the power of numbers, the primal need for home and family and love. And what will happen when the truth is told?
Q: The great detectives usually have a personal demon they battle as they search for the truth; Sherlock Holmes and his drug addiction for example. Does Jane Ryland have a fatal flaw?
Oh, such a great question. I hope it’s not a fatal flaw, because I do intend the series to continue! But she is honorable, determined, and curious. All great qualities for a reporter, but ones that can lead you to dangerous places. As Jane finds out. She’s also so true to herself that sometimes it gets her into trouble. In THE OTHER WOMAN, she’s just been fired—the collateral damage of a defamation lawsuit her TV station employer loses.
All she would have had to do is to tell where some information came from. But she’d promised her source not to reveal her identity—and as a result, Jane lost her job. So she sacrificed herself for her sense of honor. It’s complicated, of course, because of her clandestine relationship with the equally-honorable Detective Brogan. In their professional lives they are straight-forward and honest. So how do they reconcile that professional behavior—with their personal secret-keeping?
But hurray—that’s conflict, and that’s what keeps it interesting!
Q: As an investigative reporter you probably don’t have to search very far for ideas for your books. Have any of your plots ever touched home?
Sure. Every plot touches home, because every plot has some of me in it, and my family background, and the events in my personal and professional life, and conflicts and joys and dangers. Right? That’s why each person’s book will be so different—we draw on our personal history. And it’s kind of what Sue Grafton calls magic—because we are most certainly not thinly disguising our own lives. But somehow the writing process mixes reality and imagination in a unique way. And that’s what make the books special.
SO—THE OTHER WOMAN (which own the Mary Higgins Clark Award) comes from my years working on Capital Hill and from the Governor Mark Sandford (“hiking the Appalachian trail”) case. THE WRONG GIRL (which won this year’s Agatha and Daphne awards!) comes from my coverage of the foster care system, and from a call I got from a viewer—whose cousin had been matched with the wrong birth mother. And you see where TRUTH BE TOLD comes from—actual stories I’ve worked on. I’m so lucky to have such a perfect dual career!
Q: Have you had an interesting experience in the research of one of your books?
OH, gosh. I’ve been a T reporter for 40 years. I’ve wired myself with hidden cameras, confronted corrupt politicians, gone undercover and in disguises, chased down criminals, been at fires and crime scenes and hostage situations. Did I call it “research”? Nope, that is my job as a reporter. And that’s one of the fabulous things about how my life has evolved. All these years of being a reporter? Research!
Q: You are a part of the Jungle Red Writers blog. Tell us about it.
Jungle Red! How great is that? Years ago—wow, actually, we’re now closing in on three million visits to the blog, so it’s amazing. Hallie Ephron, Jan Brogan, Rosemary Harris and I started it…after we were all thrown on a last-minute panel together and realized we not only had a lot to say—but that we really enjoyed each other.
Over the years, we’ve evolved—and now Julia Spencer-Fleming and Susan Elia MacNeal and Deborah Crombie and Lucy Burdette are on the blog with Hallie and me. It is fabulous. Everywhere we go, people tell me they are a fan of Jungle Red. It’s about something different every day—from breakfast cereal to literary fiction to fashion to writing tips to…well, everything.
It’s such a joy to be part of something that’s such a success—and such a connection to fellow readers and writers.
Q: Please share your experience as the editor of the Sisters in Crime anthology WRITES OF PASSAGE.
Wow. Life changing. When I became president of Sisters in Crime, I wanted to do something that would leave a legacy. The executive director suggested I edit a book of essays. Wonderful idea! But about what? And then I deiced that what brings us all together is that no matter where we are in writing world, we are all on a similar journey. We handle it differently and at different times, but there are things we can share with our fellow authors that will be reassuring and inspirational and revealing.
And did I saw wow? The 59 essays are brilliant—generous, loving, insightful and inspirational. I highly highly recommend this little book to anyone who is writing or thinking about writing. It makes me cry with joy every time I read it.
Q: What is the one question you wish an interviewer would ask you?
Ha! Let me think about that. Not “what is the one question,” that’s for sure! That’s a toughie! How about his? “What did the Library Journal starred review of TRUTH BE TOLD say? Oh, how lovely of you to ask. It said “Drop everything and binge read until the mind-boggling conclusion.” If you need a follow up, you could ask about the Booklist starred review.
Q: Which fictional character by any author would you like to be friends with in real life?
Kinsey Millhone. Oh this is such a fun question. Atticus Finch! Henry V. (Okay, he’s not fictional. But I used to dream about him in college.) Endeavour Morse. (Yes, I know he’s kind of cranky. But I think he’s terrific.)
Q: Have we seen the last of Charlotte McNally?
Nope! Charlotte McNally is the smart savvy successful television reporter of a certain age who is the heroine of my first series, beginning with the Agatha-winning Prime Time. She starred in four fast-paced funny first-person mysteries, and I cannot wait to write more.
Q: What’s next for Jane Ryland?
Well, I can tell you exactly! In my next book, called WHAT YOU SEE, she’s investigating secret surveillance videos and abducted children. Right now, she’s in a lot of trouble—so I‘d better run back to my manuscript to see what happe