Daley interviews award-winning crime novelist Hank Phillippi Ryan

Lately, Netflix has turned mystery novels into series – “You”, “Stay Close”, etc. – and it looks like the same driveway.

“Her Perfect Life”, by Hank Phillippi Ryan, is a classic Ryan: a mystery set in Massachusetts with many twists.

The 37-time Emmy winner – with 14 more Edward R. Murrow Awards – Ryan is also an on-air investigative reporter for Boston’s WHDH-TV and USA Today’s award-winning and best-selling mystery writer – with Mary Higgins Clark Award, five Agatha Awards and Anthony Awards to her credit.

“I grew up in really rural Indiana. My sister and I used to ride our ponies to the library to buy books, and we would read in the hayloft. That’s where I fell in love. of Nancy Drew, Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie,” she tells me.

“I decided then that maybe it would be more fun to be Sherlock Holmes than to write about Sherlock. So, being an investigative journalist and author of mystery novels, I had a bit of each.

“Her Perfect Life,” her 13th book, also features Lily, an Emmy Award-winning Boston television journalist. According to the synopsis:

Everyone knows Lily Atwood, and that might be her biggest problem. She has fame, fortune. Her dedicated fans even gave her a hashtag: #PerfectLily. But Lily also has a dark, life-changing secret – and if anyone finds out, she fears her career and her happiness are over. The problem is: how do you keep a secret when you’re always in the spotlight?

I met Ryan before a series of online discussions in February, including a free virtual discussion via the Groton Public Library on February 15. (See details at the end of this column.)

Daley interviews award-winning crime novelist Hank Phillippi Ryan.

Q: Lily is also an Emmy Award-winning TV journalist. Is there anything in the book based on real life?

A: Yes and no. They say write what you know – and write what you fear. Me too.

I’ve been an investigative reporter on TV for over 40 years now, yuck. And while I chose the spotlight, with the risks and joys that entails, my family did not. I always wondered: Does this make them vulnerable?

Lily makes enemies along the way. Think about it: every one of those Emmys she’s won means there’s someone whose secret she’s revealed. Someone who would prefer her to shut up. So each represents a new enemy, right? Scary.

Q: Wow. And how do you come up with new ideas?

A: This is the most difficult of all questions. Maybe it’s a real-life snippet, or a conversation, or an unsolved real-life mystery. Maybe it’s just a wonderfully random moment of “what if?” I think journalists and storytellers have a special “blink” reflex, where we hear something and can say, Oh, that’s a great story. And that’s where the novels begin.

Q: You have so many twists. Do you plan the plot? Did you know the ending?

A: No. Never. Not until I got there. My favorite part of writing “Her Perfect Life” was when I finally understood how it would end. I don’t use a blueprint, so the story emerges as I write. It’s like inventing a mystery – which I then have to solve.

It was a real headache. At one point, I was afraid that I couldn’t solve my own mystery. Then he just appeared. I gasped, really. And then I stood up and clapped. Can you imagine that? I was alone. But I stood up and clapped.

Q: I love it. What are some of the best mysteries you’ve read lately?

A: Oh, what a wonderful question! “A Line to Kill”, by Anthony Horowitz – he’s the smartest person ever. “All Her Little Secrets” – a wonderful legal thriller from Wanda Morris. “One Step Too Far” by Lisa Gardner – a wild adventure worthy of a blast. Janice Hallett’s ‘The Appeal’ and Hannah Morrissey’s ‘Hello, Transcriber’ – both brilliantly disrupt the storytelling. And “My Sweet Girl” by Amanda Jayatissa. Read with the lights on.

The interview has been edited and condensed.

Learn more at https://hankphillippiryan.com

Lauren Daley is a freelance writer. She tweets @laurendaley1. Learn more at https://www.facebook.com/daley.writer.

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