HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Everything old is new again? Well, kind of.
When my publisher asked me to take a fresh-eyed look at my Charlotte McNally books in preparation for their re-issue—my first series in all new editions with gorgeous new covers!—I knew that could be a…shall we say, fascinating experience. I could change things if I wanted. Yay.
But I would also see—in unassailable black and white--what needed to be changed. Would that be the good news or the bad news?
So with much delight and little trepidation, I opened the pages of the four books in my first series, and read all the way through. PRIME TIME came out in February, and I am so happy Charlotte McNally is making friends with lots of new readers.
FACE TIME is coming next week. So today my “what we’re writing”
today is about “what we’ve written.”
And then written again.
First, the fabulous news. Were you hooked on Serial, or Making A Murderer, as I was? It turns out that the Serial and Making A Murder theme is what FACE TIME is all about! So that was a treat to discover.
However. It was quite the education to see what needed to be changed in the books. It’s like watching a movie from 9 years ago. Things that seemed so timely and hip become…well, not so relevant.
First, in AIR TIME (coming in June) I had to change the announcement flight attendants make before takeoff. You don’t have to completely turn off your phones any more, right? You can keep them in airplane mode. That almost ruined a plot point—it was very nice to be able to have the flight attendant yell at Charlotte to power down.
I also almost hit plot-disaster with beepers. You remember beepers, right? Those little gizmos everyone had? Especially reporters, who were not allowed to leave the station without them. Now, almost no one has a beeper. But um, rut-roh. I really needed them in the plot of one of the books. I finessed. Instead of Charlotte reassuring herself: “Everyone gets beeped!” She now thinks: “It’s okay, people still get beeped.”
n PRIME TIME, someone’s computer proclaims “You’ve got mail!” Uh, hmm. When was the last time you heard that once-constant refrain? So now I made their email ping. But a person still says “You’ve got mail.” The “you’ve got mail” reference is critical later in the book, so I couldn’t ignore it altogether.
There’s a reference, sigh, to Puff Daddy. Charlie’s producer Franklin, corrects the speaker, reminding him it’s now P. Diddy. (Are you with me here? Of course not. And if you are, I love you madly.)
But because a suspect wears an item from his Sean John clothing line and that leads to his identification, it was a real key to the story. (You’ll understand when you read AIR TIME. It works.) So I had to keep it—but how?
“How do you even know about P. Diddy?” someone now asks.
“Oh, Franklin’s big on fashion history,” Charlie now says. “He knows all that vintage stuff.”
Another oops? Someone bought a home “a few years ago in 2005.” Now it’s simply “a few years ago.”
The crazy-crowded Cape Cod rotary is now gone. Luckily Charlie doesn’t have to use another route to be caught in the traffic jam. The toll booth on the Mass Pike are now mostly unstaffed E-Z pass automatic machines—happily for me, not ALL of them.
My editor back then yanked out all the current cultural references, much to my chagrin at the time. I remember telling her: “Jane Pauley will ALWAYS be on the Today Show!” Okay, the editor was right. Big lesson learned.
Some things I just left the way they were—I mean, Charlie is 46, and her mental rolodex would be that of a person that age. So she refers to the Beatles, and Ed Sullivan, and having had a collection of VHS tapes twenty years ago.
And from the “need I say more” department, here are two more snippets from the “change” list I sent for AIR TIME :
p 217 2nd line from bottom
“Josh is getting cable,” I say.
“Josh is upgrading his cable,” I say.
P 226 Line 12-13
Time to hit the pay phone.
Happily, Logan still has one pay phone.
And now, here’s a bit from the about to be re-issued FACE TIME, a BookSense Notable Book (see? They’re called Indie Next Picks now!), about which Sara Paretsky (hurray!) said: “A gripping fast-paced thriller with an important story line and an engaging and unusual heroine.”
In this scene: our heroine, reporter Charlotte McNally, is not only facing a last-minute TV live shot about a new political candidate, but a disaster only possible to people of a certain age.
“Just read the news release,” Franklin instructs. “It’s got the whole drill, law and order, convictions out the wazoo, death to infidels, all that. Y’all know the lowdown on this guy, right?”
I do, in fact. Oscar “Oz” Ortega: recruitment poster for the
prosecution—cool, hot, and politically connected. Known for his
outrageous neckties and outrageous legal talent. Scholarship to
Boston College. Scholarship to Yale Law. Could cross-examine
blood out of a turnip. And, some predict, he’ll step out of the attorney
general’s office, percolate for a term or two on Beacon Hill,
then head for the Oval Office at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
“Thanks, Franko,” I say, taking the release. Less than a minute
to go. I’ll read it through quickly, then use it to sum up when Oz is
finished. Done it a million times. Like riding a bike. “No problem.”
I can’t see the words. I mean, I can see that there are words, but
they’re a complete blur. I glance over at Franklin, ready to ask if
there’s a problem with the copy he’s offered. I can easily see the
crease in his predictably impeccable jeans, the tiny polo pony on
his pink knit shirt, even how the ten- o’clock stubble on his face
darkens his coffee skin to espresso.
Clearly, what’s wrong is me. Without my reading glasses, this is
going to be impossible. And even if I could get to my glasses,
tucked in my red leather tote bag and back in the van, I couldn’t
go on the air wearing them.
“Thirty seconds,” I hear in my ear.
I can’t read this news release, but I have to. Tucking the paper
under one arm, I use a finger to pull back my left eyelid and pop
out my contact lens. With a brief wince of regret and one flip of a
finger, I discard the contact onto the parking lot pavement, and try
again to read Oz’s formal announcement.
“Four. Three.” I hear the countdown in my ear. “Two. Go.”
HANK: SO excited about this! And soon I will have fabulous other news. And—soon--there’ll be the brand new SAY NO MORE, about which you will hear, um, relentlessly. I'm working on the updates to DRIVE TIME now…and I will keep you posted.
But let’s talk about change. If you had a do-over—about anything—would you? Or how about this: Would you mind if I’d mentioned the Cape Cod rotary or Jane Pauley?
And—a copy of the all new PRIME TIME to one lucky commenter!