Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Linda Fairstein: An Exclusive Guided Tour

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I know it's a silly complaint, but sometimes at events, people will introduce me by saying "Now here's someone who needs no introduction." And I think, wait--YES I do!

But seriously, Linda Fairstein?  What mystery reader has not read some or all of her books, and what mystery author has not wondered "HOW does she do it?"

And that is exactly what I wondered too...so I asked the fabulous Linda to take us on a guided tour of her writing brain, and let us in on how her brand new book TERMINAL CITY evolved. And it is fascinating!  


HANK: On day one--what did you need to begin TERMINAL CITY? What was the first moment of the first idea?

LINDA:  TERMINAL CITY is the 16th book in my Alexandra Cooper series of crime novels.  As many of your readers know, I was a prosecutor in the Manhattan DA’s Office for 30 years, in charge of the country’s pioneering sex crimes unit – and that’s the job I’ve given to Coop. 

One of the things I do in the series is center each book in a world that explores some aspect of New York City history.  They are places we’ve all been to or seen in the movies, but most have dark undersides.  There really was a murder of a young musician between acts at Lincoln Center, while 4,000 people sat in their seats (DEATH DANCE), and while Central Park is the most glorious place on this island, my unit prosecuted more than fifty crimes – some of them homicides – during my tenure (DEATH ANGEL). 

So the first moment of the first idea for this new book was the question of where to go in the city.  I’ve long been fascinated by Grand Central Terminal – the colossal centerpiece of Manhattan – since my earliest trips to New York City, holding my mother’s hand as we made our way across the concourse.  Last year, it was the terminal’s centennial, and so many wonderful stories –some of them dark and mysterious – surfaced in books and articles everywhere.  All I needed was some good reading material, a few behind the scenes tours, and a vivid imagination.

HANK:  Page 50-- is it what you thought it would be? What fabulous idea did you have here? (Were you still researching?)


LINDA: The terminal was absolutely everything I hoped it would be and more.  It was like unlayering something that had many levels of skin.   Hidden staircases and rooms which don’t appear on any blueprints of the building.  I had never known its creators envisioned an entire ‘terminal city’ underground, beneath the streets of Manhattan.  For me, the research rarely stops.  I get to this point in the story and begin to create a scene, and realize I might be able to find another angle, another bit of intrigue, to build into my plot.  It’s the great fun (sometimes punctuated by a bit of torture) in writing novels.

HANK: Page 100--what surprises were in store? Were you having a good time writing?

LINDA:  Was I having fun?  A great question.  I must say I love to sit down and write the first two chapters of a book.  I’m back with my characters (one of the joys of doing a series) who have become my pals, and they’re inside my head, talking to me.  But then the next eighty pages or so, for me, are the toughest.  I’m trying to create a tight plot, introduce some of the suspects, lay in some clues because crime fiction readers demand ‘smart’ and ‘fair play’ in their stories, I think.  I’m not always having fun until I reach about half way through the manuscript.  I love what I’m doing at the keyboard, but it’s not always fun.

HANK: Page 200--What did you learn. what were you thinking?

LINDA:   Writing novels is a constant learning process, which is one of the most exciting things about it.  At this point, I’ve kind of realized that this book will actually get done.  That there is a story coming together.  In TERMINAL CITY, this part becomes fairly dense.  Some of my readers thoroughly enjoy the history I explore, which gets heavy here.  Others want the faster pace (stay tuned…coming later) of the unraveling of the mystery.  That’s a constant balancing act and usually reaches a peak at this point in the manuscript.

HANK: Page 300--were you excited, inspired, bemused, worried?

LINDA:  So this is the point at which I really get excited.  Usually, this is past the point of worrying (although I hate books that end badly, so I always worry about sticking the landing).  And rarely would I use the word ‘inspired,’ as much as I would like to.  I love writing the last quarter of the novel.  The story line is all crystal clear at that point, and I feel like I’m barreling along.  For me, the first one hundred or so pages are like pulling a heavy sled uphill.  Then I’m on a plateau for awhile, just telling my story.  Then I get on that sled on the top of a peak and just let ‘er rip, all the way to the end.

HANK: You typed THE END--did you?--What goes through your mind?

LINDA: There is always a rare combination of total euphoria and relief when I type THE END.  I was behind schedule this time – never for any good reason – and so it’s a wonderful feeling to get to the finish line.  I never cease to be amazed that I have completed another book, so I often have a good ‘happy’ cry.  And later, always, a stiff drink that evening.

HANK:  You are such a star, such an indisputably successful author--is that how you felt at the end of your first draft?

LINDA:  You’re always so generous to me.  I felt good at the end of the first draft because I make my revisions throughout the process of writing.  Every day as I sit down to write, I start by re-reading the work of the day before.  Sometimes, I go back to the very beginning and read it all as a piece, editing myself throughout the process.  I find it helps the pacing of the story a lot, it catches many of the word echoes or repeats, and keeps me on a good timeline.  So I am constantly revising and editing, which means things don’t change a lot for me when I get the draft back from my editor.  Again, some joy at finishing, and always some relief.

HANK: When you read the printed pages--were there moments when you thought--hey, I wrote this?

LINDA: This is a very funny question – a really good one.  I bet only writers really ‘get’ this.  Absolutely true.  There are times I reach a line of dialogue that stands out and I think to myself, ‘way to go’ – I did this?  Or a good clue I had forgotten I had thrown in.  Sometimes I go back to one of the earlier novels, looking for a description or a fact for the backstory, and come across a surprise from one of the books that simply makes me smile because I had forgotten I had written the lines.  This is a writer’s bit, I think.  It’s just sheer fun.


HANK: When you walk into Grand Central now, what do you think?

LINDA: There’s hardly a day that goes by when I’m in the city that I don’t go near Grand Central, on foot or in a cab.  The building (so glorious) has always grabbed my attention – it has a lot of majesty, and there are 750,000 people who use it, visit it, pass through it every day.  Having inhabited it for the better part of a year, and used it as a crime scene, I’ll never look at it the same way again.  I love being there.

HANK: What is your wish for TERMINAL CITY?

LINDA: My wish for TERMINAL CITY is that readers come to feel the same way about GCT as I do.  It’s a majestic, colossal, historic, dynamic and inviting place to be.  My novels are meant to be entertainments of course, so I want the reader to be drawn into the mystery, suspense, and thrills of the story.  But I also want to introduce them, gently, to one of the great treasures of New York City.

Thanks so much to you, Hank, for such a generous interview – and to everyone at Jungle Red!   


HANK:  We are in awe! And wish you even more wild success. So Reds, what are your memories about Grand Central? Have you been there? Want to go?

A copy of TERMINAL CITY to one lucky commenter! 

(And the winner of the ARC of TRUTH BE TOLD from yesterday is Bev Fontaine!  Email me your address via my website http://www.HankPhillippiRyan.com)

**TOMORROW ON JUNGLE RED:
                      KATHERINE HALL PAGE! 

45 comments:

Joan Emerson said...

Grand Central Station memories? The clock and the never-ending crowds of people, all hurrying off on some self-appointed task. Grand Central is absolutely amazing . . . .
I'm looking forward to reading "Terminal City" . . . .

Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

Fabulous interview Linda and Hank--so clever to set it up this way.

I've been to Grand Central many times and always feel in awe of its beauty. Have meant to take the tour and now really mean to take it. Can't wait to read TERMINAL CITY--thank you Linda!

Hallie Ephron said...

Fascinating. I'm a huge fan of your books, Linda... and have been in Grand Central Terminal more times than I care to count. Always fascinated by the catwalks (you can see them crossing the arched windows). Do you use them in the book? And I had no idea about what's underground.

Best thing about Grand Central for me is its food market. Pricey but so nice to be able to get something other than fast food to take on the train.

Gram said...

No GCT memories, but I would love to be able to take a "backstage" tour.

Mason Canyon said...

Great interview ladies. There's just something about the Alexandra Cooper series that pulls me in every time. I enjoy that you weave bits of history in with the story. Looking forward to reading this one too. Wishing you much success.

Thoughts in Progress

Karen in Ohio said...

Can you believe, in the approximately two dozen times I've been to NYC, that I've never set foot in Grand Central? It was only in the last two years or so that I learned about that glorious ceiling.

I've been to Victoria in London, and the Gare du Nord in Paris, but not our own exquisite jewel. I'm determined, in my next trip to the city, to visit and explore.

Hank and Linda, love the device of using page numbers for this wonderful interview! Really looking forward to this book.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

The fabulous zodiac ceiling! (And it's backwards, right?)

And how about the Oyster Bar?

ANd you're right, Joan,--who all ALL those people?

Karen in Ohio said...

Can you believe, in the approximately two dozen times I've been to NYC, that I've never set foot in Grand Central? It was only in the last two years or so that I learned about that glorious ceiling.

I've been to Victoria in London, and the Gare du Nord in Paris, but not our own exquisite jewel. I'm determined, in my next trip to the city, to visit and explore.

Hank and Linda, love the device of using page numbers for this wonderful interview! Really looking forward to this book.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

And always reassuring to know that even the most fabulous authors have a little apprehension...

(says Hank, now at word 50,000 and in the uh-oh stage...)

Susan Elia MacNeal said...

Welcome, Linda! Great interview!

The Apartment at GCS is one of my favorite bars in NYC... Does it get a mention in TERMINAL CITY?

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Susan, isn't The Apartment very very exclusive? How did you get to go?

Michael Kelberer said...

This post gives a whole 'nother meaning to "Book Tour" - thanks.

Kristopher said...

Linda's books never cease to teach me little tidbits of information about a city I love dearly.

And isn't it amazing that after 16 books, there are still treasures to be researched and explored.

Can't wait to see what Coop and Mike head next!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Love that, Michael! Yup. How an author thinks is so intriguing..and so interesting how we're all so different--and yet, hew have the same emotions along the way.

Linda will be here answering questions today--what would you like to know?

Anonymous said...

As a longtime fan and admirer of unique Linda, I predict that either the new NYC Mayor OR his wife, who received a New Englandish top schooling similar to our Linda, will announce that Linda Fairstein has been appointed as the Chief Honorary Literary Scribe of New York City! I'll eat my hat if this or something close to it does not happen! ( And I would love to win Terminal City - to place it with every one of the other LF books! ) Thelma Straw in Manhattan

Karen in Ohio said...

Sorry about the double post. Internet hiccups here.

Kaye Barley said...

Good Morning to one of my favorite authors who is also one of my favorite people. I have been such a huge fan of Linda's - along with Alex and Mike and Mercer since day one. Not knowing a lot about NYC, I crave these books with the little known stories and secrets about the city and famous landmarks, and this one sounds delicious. Cannot WAIT to read it! This is one of those series I hope lasts forever.

Libby Dodd said...

I was struck by the question of going back to one's book and being surprised by it. I wrote that?!
I'm a painter and I have similar experiences with my paintings. I look at them and wonder how I did it.

Karen Burns said...

I've never been to New York City....I love Linda's books. Thanks for the opportunity to meet her.

Mary Sutton said...

Great interview, I love the way you laid it out. I will never cease to be relieved at the number of successful authors who, like me, get to around the 50% mark and say, "Oh my, whatever possessed me, I'm never going to make this work." And then that pleasant feeling of "hey, I wrote that" when you go back and read a particularly good line or bit of dialog. Yes!

I went to NYC once when I was a freshman in high school. I drove past GCT, but didn't go in it. Someday I'll take my girl, and we'll do Broadway, and GCT - because one day is just not enough time to take in the city properly.

xxxxxxxxxx said...

A genuine passionate Author, Ms. Fairstein shows she weaves stories out of pure love and fascination. A very insightful interview about craft (love the fact she rereads dialogue surprised she wrote a line!) and the reverence she accords Grand Central Station. Terminal City is on my download list from Audible!

Deborah Crombie said...

Linda, hi! So glad to have you here. The book sounds fabulous, and it's the weirdest thing--your writing process sounds just like mine (except faster:-))

And I am always fascinated by the layers of history in London, as you are in New York. AND my new book coming out in September, TO DWELL IN DARKNESS, is set in St. Pancras International, which is--in my opinion--London's greatest train station.

Can't WAIT to read TERMINAL. What fun!

Deborah Crombie said...

Ooops--Meant TERMINAL CITY. Brain dead this morning.

judy hoyt said...

Grand central?? A iconic place that everyone can get in to!!!Used in fiction and auto's alike!!!Love the interview method with the pages used,

PlumGaga said...

I always took a moment to enjoy the beauty of Grand Central, even when I was dashing for the shuttle to take the IRT home to Brooklyn Heights.

Kari Wainwright said...

I've only been at the airport in NYC. If I get to explore the city, one more place has been added to my list of must-sees.

Kari Wainwright said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kim said...

Love this interview - I always love reading about a writer's process, but this one is particularly helpful as I'm veering toward page 100 this week. Educational and inspirational! Can't wait to read your new novel, Linda.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Welcome, Linda! I love your books. And Hank, the format you used for this interview was brilliant. Great train station, great writer, great interviewer, what more could we want?

Best of Luck with Terminal Station. It's on my pre-order list.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

LINDA FAIRSTEIN from the road! SAYS:


Hank - you are indeed my guardian angel! I love being in the 'jungle' with all you wonderful ladies - thanks for your generosity, one and all, and your great books and good wishes xxx Linda

Kathy Reel said...

I was so excited when I saw yesterday that Linda Fairstein would be featured today. I've read all of her Alex Cooper books and always look forward to another one.

I started this wonderful series with Entombed, which was #7, because I am a fan of Edgar Allan Poe, whose story "The Cask of Amontillado" connects to the story told in this novel. Well, of course I was hooked after reading this novel, and I had to go back and start the series from the beginning and stay with it every year. Alex, Mike Chapman, and Mercer Wallace are all such great characters, each bringing different personalities to the table, and, yet, they work so well together. I love their friendship and their dinners together. And, I keep wanting to try Dewar's, but I haven't yet. I was talking about that once, and a friend asked why I was so interested in Dewar's. I replied that it was the preferred drink of one of my favorite fictional characters. I may have sealed my fate as odd with that friend. Of course, Alex's and Mike's complicated relationship has kept me on a bit of a roller coaster, and at times the line from "The Little Mermaid" would come to mind, "Go on and kiss the girl."

Linda, in reference to your choosing a different part of NYC to feature and impart the history of to your readers, here is the first of my review of Death Angel. "There are authors whose fictional works are some of the best trip guides and historical background guides to the settings of which they write, and Linda Fairstein never fails in he presentation of fascinating facts about New York City. Each book in the Alex Cooper series opens up an area or landmark of NYC to the reader, revealing secret tidbits that somehow become integral parts of the story. And, there is always great story to unfold and enjoy." I love the history that each of your books gives me.

I have never been in Grand Central Station, but I have been in Union Station in D.C., and I love it. I've only taken a train there once, but just sitting in Uno's Pizza and watching the people down below and the statues above is a favorite experience. It's been a couple of years, and I need a fix. I'm sure Grand Central would have the same effect on me.

One more quick item. To those who haven't been to Linda's Web site, you will find quite a treat with her reading guides to all her novels (except the last two, which "are coming"). Link is
http://www.lindafairstein.com/novels/ I would love to win this a copy of Terminal City, Linda, but I will be reading it whether I do or not. Thanks for all the great reading so far!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

KAthy, I so agree about Washington DC's Union Station--it has such a sense of importance, like the world is rushing through and who knows what world power you might see!

ANd such a good thing that people are getting together to save these beautiful buildings! -

Deb Romano said...

I LOVE GCT! The first time I was there was the year before I started kindergarten. My father took a day off from work and he and my mom took me and my sister (my grandmother watched the younger kids) into the city to go to the Christmas show at Radio City. That clock! How HUGE! All the people rushing around! Walking through Grand Central was just as much of an adventure as seeing the Christmas show! I love to travel by train and I love nearly every train station I've been to. Union Station in New Haven is also one of my favorites.

No matter how many times I've been to Grand Central, I still find it exciting.

(Ms.) Rickie Banning said...

Linda and Hank-From this reader's point of view, I just love it when an author creates such a sense of 'place' that it makes me want to visit there or be there. NYC is my fave city in the world, and despite I now live in Hawaii, I find the time to holiday there annually and take in the sights, smells, tastes and people of the 'Big Apple.' I always make it a point to walk through Grand Central Station and visit the Starbucks nearby. Murder mysteries being the gripping stories they often are, it is my humble view that the author delights and adds to the story line by also creating such a rich sense of place. Thank you for that.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

And how about those two restaurants on the balconies? (What're they called?) Is there anything more New York-y?

Chris Aldrich (chris1aldrich@gmail.com) said...

Love, love, love GCT!

Visitors should know that there are various ways of taking a guided tour...I did one at Christmas time, and the history of the place is amazing. As are Hank and Linda!

Chris A

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Hey, Chris! So wonderful to see you here! YAy.

Judy in Owego said...

Older railroad stations were built in a time when travel was glamorous. It’s uplifting just to walk through them. I’m old enough to remember when one dressed up for travel. Those days are gone, but we do still have stations like Grand Central to remind us to stand up straight and to smile when we pass through. Terminal City sounds like a great read.

Denise Ann said...

BIG LINDA FAIRSTEIN FAN (I was "introduced" via the Diane Rehm Show when my daughter (Elizabeth Terry) was a producer. As far as I am concerned, there is no better way to read history than to have it spiced up with murder!!!

Thank you, Hank, for this post.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Oh, wow...Diane Rehm. One of my role mode,s absolutely. Denise Ann, I had no idea! SO interesting!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

models. But you knew that.

Margie Bunting said...

Linda, really, number 16? I know I've read them all, but I'm just as eagerly anticipating Terminal City as I have all of your others. You always manage to make them interesting and exciting--wish I could slow down when I read them but I'm always in a hurry to find out what happens next. Please keep 'em coming!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

See you tomorrow,everyone! And thank you, dear Linda!

Dru said...

I love Grand Central Station as us New Yorkers like to call it. When I have friends from out of town visiting, it is one of the places we have to see. I take them downstairs where there is a smorgasbord of eats.

Dru Ann

macpug said...

Hank! Great interview with one of my favorite writers. Wonderful format, very refreshing. I love the "history and mystery" that sets Linda's books apart from others. It seems that the really good attorneys are great writers -- they have to be great storytellers to get their point across to the jury, right? ;)

The first book of Linda's i read was actually her non-fiction "Sexual Violence: Our War Against Rape" when i was working on my Master's Degree as a Nurse Practitioner. I emailed her and she was so encouraging and helpful to me during a difficult time. Finally got to meet her when she came to Memphis and crossed that item off my bucket list...and she is every bit as awesome in person as i thought she would be. I'm a forever fan!

I have not been to GCT yet, but hope to cross that off in the near future. I do love DC's Union Station.
Thaanks again for a great interview!