Interview with ‘The Wrong Girl’ Author Hank Phillippi Ryan
The Wrong Girl is the second book in award-winning and bestselling author Hank Phillippi Ryan’s Jane Ryland series, following last year’s riveting The Other Woman. Hank answers our questions about this latest installment.
While we recommend everyone starting with The Other Woman, what do you want to tell readers about The Wrong Girl if they haven’t experienced Jane’s world yet?
Okay—suggestions welcome. I’m trying to think of a new phrase to describe a “series” that’s not necessary to read in order. Like Sue Grafton’s books—you can read L and then B, and it doesn’t matter, right? Or Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli and Isles books. (And I love when people compare mine to those paragons!)
All of the Jane Ryland books feature a 33-year-old reporter in Boston—she’s smart, and hip, and incredibly determined. And the books are fast-paced page-turners—the kind where you say—oh, just one more chapter!
In the Mary Higgins Clark Award winning The Other Woman—which some call The Good Wife meets Law and Order—Jane’s tracking down what might be a series of murders connected with the secret mistress of a political candidate. She gets fired—not a spoiler!—for protecting a source. And that’s a key element to Jane—she’s so honorable, she’d give up her livelihood to do what’s right. (Even though…she’s madly in love with a guy who is totally off limits.)
In The Wrong Girl (which a starred Booklist review called “Another winner!”), Jane is on the trail of an adoption agency that may be reuniting birth parents with the wrong children. (Chilling, huh? It could happen—and it’s incredibly scary.) She’s also still in that approach-avoidance relationship with a smart and sexy police detective—but a cop can’t be sleeping with a reporter and a reporter certainly can’t be having pillow talk with a cop—far as their employers protocols go, that’s off limits .But how do you just ignore the attraction?
So I’d say The Wrong Girl and the books to come after that—are individual adventures, featuring some of the same characters. Read them in any order—all good.
How do you balance writing with what seems like the mother of all day jobs, as the investigative reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliate?
Balance? Balance? Well, I just do the best I can. I try not to multitask, and sometimes I succeed. I’m trying to learn that if I choose one thing to do, and do it, and then do the next thing, I’m ‘present’ for each task, and it turns out more successfully. I am a mad serial tasker, I guess. I have lists and I’m very organized. I just won my 30th Emmy, so something is going right.
My husband—who is incredibly patient and supportive—and I haven’t had a real vacation in—I cannot remember how long. We used to give dinner parties, and hang out by the pool. Now he hangs out by the pool, and we have carry-out salmon, and I work. I am focused and determined and a tiny bit obsessed.
And I love both worlds.
Your first series heroine was a TV reporter, but Jane Ryland is a newspaper reporter. What made you choose newspapers for her over TV, and did you have to do any kind of special research to make it feel so authentic?
Research? I’ve been a TV reporter for almost 40 years! I’ve wired myself with hidden cameras, confronted corrupt politicians, chased down criminals, gone undercover and in disguise. Our stories have sent people to prison, changed laws, and changed lives. Being a TV reporter is just like being a print reporter—only you have to carry a camera instead of a pencil. (Okay, that’s not completely true. But as a TV reporter, I always have a photographer with me on assignment. Which can be a very reassuring thing, if you’re in a dangerous situation!). But we have some of the same goals, truth, breaking news, helping the little guy, getting justice, and changing the world.
I felt very comfortable having Jane evolve from TV into print—she’s learning that very different but also very similar routine as she goes—it’s a fascinating combination of an experienced reporter going into an unfamiliar milieu.
But I think a reporter character is a terrific way to provide a logical reason to be nosy—but I didn’t want her to be like the character in my other series (beginning with Prime Time)—so print was a logical and exciting solution.
We love the ethical quandary Jane’s in over her job and her feelings for Detective Jake Brogan. Your husband is a defense attorney. Did you take any inspiration from your own relationship?
Well so funny! Two things. First, thank you. I love their dilemma, and the difficult situation of two honorable people struggling about whether to lie and sneak around. If you’re an honest person, and that’s important to you, how do you justify that ”love” changes the rules somehow? But do you give up someone you’re drawn to because your employer has a rule that it’s forbidden? Hmm.
Another thing that’s fascinating about this: I’ve had people say to me, “Really? What’s wrong with a reporter dating a cop?” Well, if you’re in those positions, you’d understand a bit. If Jane is trying to have a career as a crime reporter, she would not be assigned to cover any situation that involves Jake—no matter how objective she’d insist she could be, her bosses would always wonder if she was pulling back, not being aggressive enough, letting him off the hook. As for Jake—dating a reporter? The first time there is a leak from the police department, who do you think would get blamed? And who would believe Jake when he insisted he wasn’t the one who told? It’d be a disaster.
There are so many problems with that kind of a relationship—when almost every day, because of your jobs, the two of you want the precisely opposite outcomes!
And yes, it’s happened to me and Jonathan. He’s had big cases—including one that was the inspiration for William Landay’s Defending Jacob—that I could not cover because he was the defense attorney. There have been many things I know about cases he’s handling that I cannot tell—and never will—even though as a reporter, I know they’d be big news. Sometimes he asks me—do you want to know something you can never tell? And sometimes I say—no.
I have lots of stories about this! Ask me when we meet at a book signing. And I know, from experience, that even though it seems like something that would be no problem to juggle—there comes a point where it’s a disaster. And that tension and conflict is exactly what Jake and Jane are facing.
Will they decide to call the whole thing off?
What can readers expect next from you?
Well, first, to chat in person! I’m on a crazy book tour, it’s quite hilarious. Come to my website, click on events, and see if I’m near you! I’d adore to meet you all. And I’m eager to hear stories about people who are looking for their birth parents or children, and from those who have found them. Mail me via my website okay?
The third Jane Ryland book, tentatively called Truth Be Told, is also underway. Jane discovers a bank employee who seems to be “adjusting” people’s mortgages so they don’t lose their homes to foreclosure. The employee tells Jane—the banks have been bailed out, now it’s time to bail out the people. (Guess what happens to her?) There’s also Jake, investigating a cold case murder that his Grandfather, the commissioner, failed to solve. It’s now in the first draft—very very exciting!—and will be out in fall of 2014.
What books are currently sitting on your nightstand?
Oh, lets see. I’ve just finished Red Sparrow, a terrific spy novel by an e-CIA agent Jason Matthews. Just finished the brilliant and iconic Sue Grafton’s W is for Wasted. The always wonderful Linwood Barclay’s A Tap at the Window. Rosemary Harris’s hilarious and smart B*tches of Brooklyn, for Susan Isaac fans (and who isn’t a Susan Isaac fan?) My idol Julia Spencer-Flemings Through the Evil Days. She’s brilliant.
But I want to know—whose nightstands now have The Wrong Girl? Crossing fingers you love it!
Hank Phillippi Ryan is the on-air investigative reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliate. She’s won 30 EMMYs, 12 Edward R. Murrow awards and dozens of other honors for her ground-breaking journalism. A bestselling author of six mystery novels, Ryan has won multiple prestigious awards for her crime fiction: the Agatha, Anthony, Macavity, and most recently, for The Other Woman, the coveted Mary Higgins Clark Award. National reviews call her a “master at crafting suspenseful mysteries” and “a superb and gifted storyteller.” Her newest thriller, The Wrong Girl, was dubbed “Another winner” in the Booklist starred review. She’s on the national board of directors of Mystery Writers of America and currently president of national Sisters in Crime.
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