HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: You may have noticed I haven't been here much over the past couple of days--my work as a reporter was blasted into fast forward by the horrible hideous unbelievable events in Boston. I announced it live, as it was happening...before we even knew anything for sure. I have no idea what I said..although I seem to think it began--"Breaking news now, we're getting word there was some kind of explosion at the finish line of the Marathon...."
I've seen swat teams and armed guards stalking the empty streets, carrying assault weapons with their fingers hovering at the trigger. I've interviewed everyone from vicitms' families to departing runners to law enforcement to the Governor. I said to him--"Someone is out there who bombed the Marathon. How do you tell the public everything will be okay...when you don't know that?"
My husband was inside the federal courthouse when it was evacuated for whatever happened. (And what's actually pretty funny, he was live on the phone on Channel 7 reporting what was happening! )
Boston is--on edge, careful, suspicious, and everyone is trying to pretend they're not terrified.
Normal is such a wonderful thought. We're all wishing things could go back to the way they were. But they won't.
And that's one reason I am so thrilled to have Andrew Gross here today. He's the nicest, most comforting, most normal guy you can imagine. Yes, a terrific writer. And also thoughtful, and compassionate and funny and loving. Exactly the perfect person to come to Jungle Reds today.
WHERE JOY AND TRAGEDY MEET
by Andrew Gross
In a similar way to how the extremes of joy and tragedy came together up there too. Colliding at that finish line. Joy. Tragedy. I’ve written of those things many times; it’s basically what I do. Take a likeable, everyday person, someone you’ve met a thousand times, a doctor on his way to a conference or a yoga mom, and through one fallible or ill-fated moment, rip apart their happy lives. I wrote on Facebook that the image of that eight year old boy, who at first was said to be reaching out to cheer on his dad crossing the finish line, will stay with me a long time. Maybe a bit shamefully perhaps-- at least for a while-- because I’ve drawn up such similar images in my books so many times.
But every writer will tell you its hard for fiction to keep up with reality in recent times.
When I’m asked, “Why thrillers...?” I always answer that in my view thrillers are absolutely the most relevant form of fiction being written today, as they best reflect the real issues and crises that mirror our world. Thriller writers are rarely MFA candidates; they’re journalists, and ex-CIA agents; and doctors and lawyers and cops whose broad experiences inform their craft—and then I say that I understudied for a career writing about crime by spending twenty years in the women’s apparel business.
That’s my only yuk, but I do feel I probably got the better education.
How I made that transition s a story in itself, but my point here is that thrillers matter. And they matter by not just taking stories off the front pages, but also in how those stories grab the heart. It’s my goal to invest the reader in the plight of my hero within the first ten pages—something I learned from writing with Patterson, who understood early the intersection between joy and tragedy. Likeable, everyday people who on a hundred other days would just go on with their lives, but today will be different. And I choose to write about families, because family is the universal back story, isn’t it?
And I always go for an emotional affirmation at the end. After the bullets stop flying and the chase cars screech to a stop, what I want you to take away from one of my books is a dad who had to save his family, not such himself; or a suburban mom who slipped in a moment of weakness and now, when accused of two murders she didn’t commit, doesn’t just have to just prove her innocence, but has to regain the trust of her kids as well. What I always go for, I realized, as I watched the newsclip from Boston over and over, is that eight year old boy.
Which brings me again to yesterday’s events one more time.