Tuesday, September 1, 2009

On Air Time

“Sassy, fast-paced and appealing. First-class entertainment.”
**Sue Grafton

“I love this series!”
*Suzanne Brockmann

“AIR TIME is a fun, fast read with a heroine who's sexy, stylish, and smart. I loved it."
**Nancy Pickard

Smart and savvy Boston TV reporter Charlotte McNally is back. This time she’s taking on the fashion industry, where she learns “When purses are fake – the danger is real.” I chased down Hank – Hank Phillippi Ryan –Emmy-winning Boston television reporter and our own, Agatha-award winning mystery writer to tell us more about Charlie’s latest adventure. Air Time is in bookstores now!

JAN: Tell us more about the glamorous world of high fashion Charlie enters and the fun I know you must have had in putting her there.

HANK: Imagine the research I had to do into the world of designer purses! It was tough, but someone had to dive in…

Actually, Charlie’s investigation into the world of counterfeit couture came straight from been there-done that. In my day job as a TV reporter, my producer (not Franklin!) and I have done several in-depth investigations into the world of knock-offs—not only purses and scarves, but blue jeans and watches and DVDs and videos.

We went undercover and with a hidden camera—like Charlie does—into various back-alley stores where counterfeit merchandise was being sold, and also into some suburban purse parties where women—certainly knowing they were fake and thinking was fine—were scooping up piles of counterfeit Burberrys and Chanels.

You should know— law enforcement tells us, it’s not illegal to buy the purses—unless you’re buying large amounts that are obviously for resale. The illegality is in the copying and manufacture and sale of what’s clearly a trademarked and proprietary item. (As the elegant fashion exec Zuzu Mazny-Latos tells Charlie in AIR TIME—it’s like taking Gone with the Wind—and putting your name on the cover.)

JAN: Something I've always wanted to do, by the way. So much easier than all that darn writing!

HANK: Anyway—lots of AIR TIME is based on research and reality—besides the undercover work, and the research, I’ve done may interviews with the federal agencies in charge of battling counterfeiting, the attorneys who help big companies protest their products, and even the private investigators the designers hire to scout out counterfeits.

JAN: Charlie is smart, savvy, compassionate, witty and hip. Is she an effortless creation or are does she ever give you trouble some days?

HANK: Oh, yeah, effortless is exactly the word. (Pausing to laugh.) Well, thank you. Yes, I like Charlie. But some days she does fight me. And actually, I love that. I have put her in situations…where she just won’t do what I say. There was one day when she was in a room with some others—in a draft of PRIME TIME—and she put her hands on her hips and said—“Hank. There are too many of us in this room!”

I remember it well—I burst out laughing, and rewrote he scene with fewer people. She was right. In this case, at least. And in AIR TIME, there’s a scene (which, spoiler-wise, I can’t tell you about now) where she absolutely would not do what I planned. Would NOT. And in her head she said exactly the sentence she now says in the book. I loved it—she was right--and we can talk about that later.

JAN: It sounds like Charlie faces more direct danger in this book than in PrimeTime and FaceTime. Did that present new writing challenges?

HANK: Face more direct danger. Well, yes she does. And that’s an interesting question, because I didn’t plan it that way. Or even think about that.

I had what I think is a pretty great idea for a counterfeiting scheme—and when I talked to law enforcement types about it, they had to admit it would work! So I just took my criminal enterprise and played it out to the logical conclusion.

In writing, I always ask myself: what would really happen? And then that’s what happens. So Charlie’s in more direct danger, yes, she is. Because the people she’s dealing with are more desperate and more malevolent and the stakes are higher.

JAN: What does Charlie learn in this particular adventure?

HANK: I always knew my years of being devoted to Vogue would be valuable! And now I can probably deduct my subscription, right? But I must admit—lots of the inside scoop on the fashion industry in AIR TIME is, um, made up. The company Delleton-Marachelle, and it’s history, and its atelier and methods—all fictional.

Oh, Charlie learns a lot in AIR TIME, and it’s not all about fashion.

The theme of AIR TIME is authenticity—how do you tell the real thing?

Of course, that’s what counterfeiting is about—trying to fool someone into accepting a fake.

But also of course, in a 40-something woman’s search for true love, there are going to be exactly the same kinds of questions. In love: How do you know it’s the real thing?

In AIR TIME Charlie has a split second to decide who’s the real thing. Her life depends on it.

JAN: Finally, how do you an Emmy-award winning reporter who delves into investigations and still jumps on a breaking news story --- like Charlie – balance it all? An exhausting news career while writing and promoting three novels and pitching in to help the Boston mystery writing community the way you do.

HANK: Ah, thanks Jan. When I was writing PRIME TIME, I was about 40,000 words in, about halfway through, and I realized I had NO idea what I was doing. I called my mother, and said—Yikes, (or something like that.) I love my book, but I have no idea if I can finish it.

Mom paused and then said: You will if you want to.

And I think of that every day.

JAN: You know, you told me that once a while ago and I STILL THINK of it all the time, too.

HANK:Plus, Jonathan does the laundry and we get a LOT of take out food.

And although some days are SO BUSY I can barely think straight…all in all it’s so wonderful it brings tears to my eyes.

JAN: Come back tomorrow when debut thriller writer James Hayman , author of The Cutting, will be talking the strategies of reclusive writing.



  1. Finished it last night! Great balance between the twin tensions of chasing that hot story and hanging on to that hot guy. But maybe you should send copies to airport baggage inspectors, so they can close that little loophole...

  2. Congratulations, Hank. I ordered my signed copy from Mystery Lovers Bookshop (as well as Snake in the Glass, Sheila), and can't wait to read it.

    Thanks for sharing that bit from your mother. I am going to keep that in the forefront of my consciousness. I'm currently about 30000 words into my book and am feeling the same way: I don't know if I can do this! And I also have a regular (although not public or glamorous) day job, and live with somebody I like to spend time with, and need to exercise, and so on. Wise words.


  3. Thanks, Sheila...without saying anymore about it, I realy do wonder how certain airport employees will feel about AIR TIME..I guess I'll be hearing feedback soon enough!

    And I included "brave flight attendants" in the dedication...I'm in awe of those people.

  4. Thanks, Edith! YOu can call my Mom any time you want to. But I agree, I do think of her words often.

    Oh, I have prize winners to announce from last weeks contest!

    I'll do that later today..

  5. Hank-
    I can't wait to read it! And I don't know how you do it all--but I'm so glad for us readers that you do! Let's hear it for supportive mothers...


  6. Hank - Your mom is awesome! I only met her that one time and that conversation I had stays with me. Just "Being" with some people is a great experience. You and your mom are at the top of my list so far.

    Jan and Hank - nice piece of interviewing. Enjoyed your descriptions thoroughly. Love the premise!

  7. Thanks Meredith..and hey, did I see a new title under your name??? Tell all..

    ANd hey, "MTV"--lovely to see you! I'll tell Mom you said hi. I'm back in Indianapolis next week!

  8. Hi Mike,
    Glad to see you around again! You must be back from some fabulous location.

    Meredith, congrats on a new book?

    Hank, a friend of mine who came via Facebook, emailed me there to say he loved your mother's advice.

    Tell her she's the belle of the Jungle Red Ball!

  9. Oh, yeah, that's all I need--telling mom she's the belle of the ball.

    I just got off the phone with her--she's giving me strategies about how to sell AIR TIME. WHy don't I just got to Borders and convince them to order more copies and make a big display? Yeah, I should have thought of that. Sigh.

    But yeah, she's amazing. ANd I'll tell her JRW is thinking of her...

  10. Quite the character--both Charlie and YOU!

  11. Hank - is that part of your "Air Time" book tour?

    My sister is in from CO next week, otherwise I'd come visit! Would love to see your mom again!

    Will be in Boston in early Nov. My brother-in-law, the Fulbright Turkish scholar, will be giving a presentation. We were with him in Turkey for almost a month this year.

    I'll keep you posted.

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  13. Hank Phillippi Ryan said...
    ANNOUNCING THE WINNERS! Of your choice of PRIME TIME FACE TIME or AIR TIME (or, if you choose, a book from a different JRW author..)

    Kara C
    Elise Stone

    Please contact Hank at hryan@ whdh.com and put Jungle Red in the subject line!

    Thanks so much...and xo

  14. Jan and Hank, Just wanted to jump in and say how much I enjoyed the interview! Charlie is a character who continues to fascinate me--she's a great blend of qualities. Plus, the tag, "When purses are fake--the danger is real," makes me laugh every time!

  15. Thanks, Marilyn! HOw lovely of you...and yeah, tht's a pretty hiarious tag line, I agree. After 30 years of working in TV, I can make up those lines with the best of 'em.

    xxo H

  16. Thanks Hank! The new book doesn't come out until 2010, but I'm pretty excited about it. It also features Lydia McKenzie, but this time she is photographing prostitutes on the Williamsburg waterfront and one ends up a floater in the East River.

    Let me know if you're coming south on your tour, Hank!