Friday, June 21, 2019

The Fish, the Plane Crash, and the Coyote


BREAKING NEWS!  

You can now download a HUGE excerpt of 
THE MURDER LIST free! 

 Here's the link: 

https://www.torforgeblog.com/2019/06/18/download-a-free-digital-preview-of-the-murder-list-by-hank-phillippi-ryan/



ANd now: back to our regular programming! 

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: How many times! How many times have people asked: Is Charlie McNally YOU? Is Jane Ryland YOU?  Even—Is Mercer Hennessey you? (And I can’t wait to hear what they say about the characters in the Murder List.)

 But no no no. She’s not. (Except Charlie. Maybe a little.)

A dear pal and talented colleague who is fighting the same battle is our fab friend of the Reds: Lynn Chandler Willis. (Her newest mystery, TELL ME NO SECRETS, is out right now!)

 But is Ava Logan really Lynn herself? See what you think.  


The Fish, the Plane Crash, and the Coyote


In my former life, I owned and published a bi-weekly newspaper. Circulation 15,000, thank you. Not bad for a totally ad-supported paper that covered one incorporated rural town and a couple unincorporated surrounding communities. The paper lasted thirteen years and probably could have gone on a few more but I was tired. I was tired of small-town politics, the neighbor against neighbor, the curses of angry mothers because you misspelled their kid’s name in the Honor Roll report. Or worse, spelled the Mayor’s son’s name correctly in the police report.

The paper did have its bright side and they far outweighed the down sides. I met people I never would have met and was introduced to some of the most amazing experiences – like watching the Hinshaw brothers make homemade maple syrup, meet the Budweiser Clydesdales up close and personal (and they are MASSIVE), and get courted by a guy who brought me a fish. Dead.

The guy kinda had a crush on me and dropped by the office – we’re talking rural community so the office isn’t a skyscraper – and asked me to come outside with him for a minute. He said he had something to give me. I walk outside with him and he reaches into his Coleman cooler in the bed of his truck and pulls out this massive fish. It might have been a bass, I don’t know. It was big, and it was dead. He’d caught it earlier and knew I’d be impressed because I was such a down-home type girl. I told him I couldn’t accept it because my husband might not appreciate it so he took his fish and went home. And no, I wasn’t married.

Then there was the plane crash. A small charter plane went down in a field near our neck of the woods. I head out there dressed for field trials and get right up to the crash site to take pictures. One of the large daily papers showed up but the reporter, in her high heels, couldn’t get anywhere near the site. They ended up using my pictures. Thankfully, there were no serious injuries, unless you count the reporter’s ego and sprained ankle.

Often, people would drop by the office for a cup of coffee and some chit-chat, or to offer me a fish, or a photo op.

 This particular time, an avid outdoorsman wheels up to the office in his heavy-duty truck and rushes in to get me. Bring your camera, I’m instructed. We get outside and he drops the tailgate of his truck and there’s the largest coyote I’ve ever seen. Like the fish, dead. The thing stretched nose to base of tail across the tailgate. Coyotes in our area are considered a nuisance so it’s always open season. And we have had problems with coyotes in the past so people are a bit scared of them ‘round here. So this guy wants me to take a picture for the front page – above the fold – to warn people coyotes are in the area. The problem was, the coyote was dead. With very visible bullet wounds. And blood. I could not run that kind of picture on the front page of a family friendly newspaper. The guy accused me of doing a disservice to the people and their pets and every cat and Yorkie that got attacked by a coyote was on me. I’d have the blood of many small pets on my hands. 

At least a picture of blood wasn’t going on the front page. 

I gave up the newspaper business in real life but write about it in my fiction. Ava Logan of the Ava Logan Mystery Series is – surprise—a small town newspaper publisher struggling with work-life balance, and the brutality of small-town politics. And the occasional murder.

Set deep in the Appalachia Mountains, the second book in the series, Tell Me No Secrets, involves serpent-handling churches, granny women folk healing, and muddy river baptisms. I never covered any of these in my newspaper but I did interview Prince WadaWada DuDu of the Great Zanbini’s Traveling circus one time. That interview may make it into a book someday.  

HANK: But  Ava Logan is NOT YOU, right, Lynn?
So Reds and readers, when you read a book with a strong character , even especially a first-person character, do you imagine them as the author?  Do you assume it’s autobiographical?
>>and added later--this has me thinking-do you have a small town newspaper? Do you read it?



 Lynn Chandler Willis is a former newspaper publisher and award-winning author living in the heart of North Carolina. In 2013, she was the first woman in a decade to win the SMP/PWA Best 1st PI Novel competition with Shamus-Award finalist, Wink of an Eye. Her Ava Logan Mystery Series features a small-town newspaper publisher trying to balance being a single mom and owning a newspaper. Any resemblance is strictly coincidental. Besides, Ava is a brunette.











In the heart of Appalachia, newspaper publisher Ava Logan should feel joy and pride as she watches her thirteen-year-old daughter being baptized in the cold water of Jackson Creek—but she can’t rejoice when thoughts of an employee who failed to show for work keep pulling her attention away. Ava’s convinced something horrible has happened to Scott. Then his backpack is found floating in the same river her daughter is being baptized in. While clue after clue leads her deeper into the hollers of Appalachia—ripe with tradition and folktales, store front religion, and the darkest of secrets, Ava discovers truths about those close to her and about her own beliefs. With her own life in jeopardy, how deep will she go to find the truth? What secrets will she expose? What secrets will she keep?

Links:
http://lynnchandlerwillis.com/

55 comments:

  1. I never wonder if a character is really the author. Maybe because I'm well aware that my characters are not me. But yes, I have had readers mistake my characters for me, too. I suppose I should be flattered, because my characters are always more interesting than I am in real life!

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    1. Well, exactly! If people think I am any of my lead characters, well, hooray!

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    2. Exactly! Ava's an avid hiker. I'm sloth-speed walker. She has a lot more guts than I ever did, too!

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  2. Congratulations on your new book, Lynn . . . Ava sounds quite intriguing.

    I've never thought about the author actually being the main character in the book, but I have sometimes marveled at the author's vivid imagination . . . .

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    1. You haven’t? That’s so fascinating! So you picture the character as a real unique character?

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    2. Thank you, Joan! What's that old saying - write what you know? I know small-town newspapers and being a single mom so those scenes came so naturally.

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    3. I get the whole “write what you know” idea, and I often recognize traits in characters that are comparable to the author, but when I read a good story, I generally see the character as unique to that story [or series] and not as meant to be autobiographical of the author . . . .

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  3. Congratulations Lynn. Having grown up in a small town that still has a weekly newspaper, I get it!

    Do I think of the author as character in the books I read? It depends. And it has nothing to do with their real life other jobs.

    Of course Jane Ryland is Hank. Who else could she be?

    And Debs is Gemma. They look exactly alike. In my head.

    I asked Julia something about this a couple of weeks ago, and this was her reply:

    "As for your question, I don't separate my essence form (sic) my characters, because I lean heavily on my training as an actor to create believable characters. The trick is to use what you know of and have experienced when it comes to emotions, without making making your cast self-inserts/wish fulfillment. An editor once told me the best writers are a little cool with their characters, and keep them at arms length - that way you can let them be themselves, even as you draw on your own self to animate them."

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    1. As always, Julia has it perfectly! I am often surprised about what my characters do, and very pleased with it.

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    2. Ooooh...that's perfect!

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  4. Such great experiences to draw from, Lynn. I've been living in small New England towns for decades, and I know what you mean about the kinds of politics and petty issues that go on. Off to look for your book!

    As for characters being the author (or vice versa?), I know we all draw on parts of ourselves, especially for our protagonists, whether it's experiences we've had or personality traits. Since I've been writing, when I've had to go through a physically or emotionally painful thing, a part of me always tries to remember to remember those feelings, jot down what it was like. It's all material!

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    1. Is there a small town newspaper in Amesbury, Edith

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    2. There was a daily until a year after I moved here - go figure. But the Newburyport Daily News is pretty small, too, and covers all the local towns.

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  5. I agree that a second pair of eyes is absolutely essential to avoid rejections. Through WordsRU.com I was able to get top class editing and proofreading, manuscript critique. They also write excellent author profiles and book synopsis, so pretty much the entire package.
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  6. Congrats on the new book.

    I figure that bits and pieces of an author may leak into the creation of a character or inform the narrative. But heightened or exaggerated so that it becomes a completely fictional whole.

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    1. My first experience with this, truly, was writing my first Charlotte McNally. She had to drive somewhere, and I thought oh, i hate to drive. And then I thought… No! Charlie loves to drive! It was quite the breakthrough :-)

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  7. And I asked about small-town newspapers, because we get one, called the tab. Sometimes I read it, but not… Not always.

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  8. I'm afraid I often think that the main character is more or less the author. Not physically so much as same kinds of thinking. Okay, I'm beginning to confuse myself now.
    Yes, there is a small town weekly that I do subscribe to and read. It has changed over the years though. There's hardly ever an engagement or wedding item or birth announcement. Besides the "news" which is hardly too new by the time the paper comes out, there is pretty good coverage of the 3 schools in the area. The little hamlets, maybe 7 or 8, have a correspondent who sends in chattier news. The letters to the editor are also a must read.

    Looking forward to reading the books,Lynn.

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    1. Oh, yes. letters to the editor are always wonderful. I always picture the people writing them, you know?All passionate. xoxo

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    2. Thank you, Judy! I used to run obits free of charge. The local funeral home (which was across the street from the nursing home - go figure!) sponsored the page so I never charged the families. I'd change the service times to past tense since the funerals were probably over with by time the paper ran.

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  9. I don't wonder if the character IS the author, but I'm pretty sure I know when the author's experiences influenced the development of the character. Since my characters are an attorney and a cop, this will never happen to me (although I did want to be a defense attorney many, many moons ago).

    And yes, although I don't live in a "small town," we have a small, local paper. I skim it every week, mostly to see if they've figured out what my next tax hike is going to be.

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    1. They are perfect for that! Or what new zoning thing is going on. I did find out they have to rip up our street for gas lines or something, sigh.

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    2. Zoning was ALWAYS the biggest issue in our little town. Now when I pass a "public hearing" sign on the side of the road, I look the other way. Don't even want to know.

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    3. :-) Because what can you do, right?

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    4. Our latest one was replacing all the electric line posts - which they are STILL working on, months later!

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  10. Congratulations on your new release. I love small town papers, particularly the police blotter, but we don't have one in suburban Cincinnati.

    My protagonist is younger than I am, thinner, and a much better tennis player. I internalize her emotions but also regard her from an arm's length: "No, don't go there. You'll be sorry!"

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    1. I hate reading the police blotter these days. Entirely too many of my former players seem to be getting arrested for a wide variety of charges.

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  11. I don’t assume that the protagonist is the author. I might marvel at the author’s knowledge of certain matters, but I assume research had something to do with that!

    When I first moved to my town thirty-five years ago, there was a small daily newspaper. Most of what I know about this town (and I am in love with it!) I learned from that newspaper. It was almost more like reading a neighborhood newsletter than a newspaper. I even cried when one of their columnists died. The newspaper was taken over by a larger one in the area that promised to cover our town the way the tiny newspaper did. Unfortunately, they don’t.

    I must look into Lynn’s books!

    DebRo

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    1. Thank you DebRo! I always ran a "remember when" type story in each issue and people loved them.

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    2. Aw, yes, love those! And "This day in history."

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  12. Cincinnati actually does have several weekly newspapers: Cincinnati Herald, aimed at the black community; City Beat, for all things entertainment in the area; and the Suburban Community Press, which publishes 27 weekly newspapers for various communities in the area, including Northern Kentucky (right across the river from Cincinnati, and part of our suburban reach). We used to have more; one that aimed for several communities, and included police blotters, local high school information, and recipes and other homey stuff. The other one was aimed at the more affluent communities, and was in a more sophisticated format, booklet-like, with lots of human interest stories, business profiles, and society news pieces. Alas, they have both gone by the wayside. I was lucky enough to write pieces for both of those weeklies, long ago.

    I always wonder about the protagonist's resemblance to the author, but not as a fully drawn person. I wonder, rather, which characteristics of the character are taken from life.

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    1. It's been more than 20 years ago. I can't remember. One article in each, though.

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  13. Congratulations on your new book Lynn.
    I don't usually think of a character as being the author. I think that authors take parts of their experiences and feelings to construct characters in general.
    There is a small weekly newspaper ( since 1951 ) for our small city and surroundings. I'm ashamed to say that I don't always read it.

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    1. You do get a lot of inside scoop, that's for sure. On the real ground level.

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  14. I don't know, Lynn...depending on how fresh it was, I might have taken the fish. :-)

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  15. There's a couple of weekly papers for my town. One is a free weekly and the other is a pay one. Neither really break REAL news but occasionally there's an article I'll read. But these days I just read it from the link they put up on their respective Facebook pages.

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    1. Oh, that's interesting--very wise of them to go on line in addition to the print..

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  16. Even when a character is clearly influenced by the writer, like your series characters, Hank, or Ava, Lynn, I assume the characters aren't the writer. They may face some things the writer has faced, but they aren't a clone of the author.

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  17. This series looks good! Whenever I read about a strong character I assume he/she shares some traits and experiences with the author. But I do not think the character is the author. As for small town newspapers I love them! I always subscribed when we lived in or near small towns in Ohio and Minnesota. I loved the police blotter and the letters (read complaints) to the editor. Where else would you learn about the police being called out for trespassing chickens? Here in Houston we have neighborhood/area weekly papers but they just aren't the same.

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  18. I love that you wouldn't run a picture of a dead coyote. Because what IS the newsworthiness of it? Love your 'voice', so looking forward to reading your books, Lynn!

    I always assume that characters grow out of the writer's imagination, and imagination is informed by experience. It's always personal. I worry about Stephen King.

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    1. He is a special case, gotta be. Because he is so lovely...

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  19. I never pictured a character looking like the author's picture but assumed that some things came out of their lives. I always read our local paper but it is only published 3 days now. We have PennLive online but I hardly look at that since I prefer to read the paper version. The Patriot runs the obituaries but seldom has engagement, wedding. or anniversary pictures or announcements anymore.

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