Tuesday, May 27, 2014

What We're Writing--Hank (and her new friends)

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Jane and Jake? I know and love. Well, I don’t know all about them--they always surprise me, and I hope that continues. But one thing that always fascinates me, when faced with blank pages that I know have to somehow turn into pages of words, is whose story am I telling?

Yes, it’s Jake’s journey, and Jane’s journey, but in every book they have to encounter and connect with a world of mostly-new people. In my books you know you’re going to get Jakes partner Paul DeLuca, and ME Kat Richardson, and the gruff but effective Supe, Mona from downstairs, little Eli and his mom Neena who live upstairs, Jake’s imperious mother, and Jane’s cat Coda.

But to make a story, I have to find the new people. The new point of view characters who will make each book unique and compelling.  My books have five points of view—Jane’s and Jake’s—and three more. Three new people we have to care about, and wonder about, and try to decide whether they are good guys or bad guys. And wonder if they will make it through the book, right?

Their stories twist and turn together, and that’s the dramatic irony, right? Because each character only knows what they know—but you, the reader, knows all of it.  And that’s what creates suspense, and misperceptions, and mistakes, and danger.

I’ll divulge this:  as I begin each novel, I have NO idea.  What happens to them? Who’s good or bad? Their motives. It always emerges as a big surprise. (Um, so far.)

In TRUTH BE TOLD, (which comes out this fall and for which I JUST received arcs, so keep reading) I introduce three new main characters.

Here’s how you’ll meet one of them:

                 Chapter 4
Lizzie McDivitt typed out her name, letter by letter, on her new computer. Trying it out. Elizabeth McDivitt.  Elizabeth Halloran McDivitt. Elizabeth H. McDivitt. The admin types needed the wording of the nameplate on her new office door, and she had to choose. First impression, all that.
Would her bank customers be more comfortable with her as the crisp and competent Liz? Or the elegant and experienced Elizabeth? Maybe this was the time to become Beth, the friendly-but-competent Beth. The motherly Bess?
Possibly. Possibly. 
Lizzie stared at the computer screen, the cursor blinking at her. Decide.
Lizzie, well, that was a definite no. Lizzie was fine for her parents, and even for Aaron, but not here at the bank. ‘Lizzie’ sounded like the new kid, eager to please. Semi-true, of course, but not the image she needed. She needed…compassionate. Understanding. Her clients would be the needy ones, the out-of-work ones, the down-and outers who’d once had the assets to get a mortgage from A&A—but now had to scramble for refinancing and loan modifications.
She clicked her plastic ballpoint.
The bank had so much money. Her new customers had so little. 
Click. Click.
What would be the bad thing, she wondered, about making it a little more fair?
Click. Click.
Aaron was still out for lunch, she guessed. She thought of him, his curls, and that smile, and what he’d actually said to her that first day back by the old vault. Their “tryst” last night, that ended—way too late--with her finally saying “no” and cabbing it home. She shook her head, remembering her girlfriends’ advice. You have to stop being so picky or you’ll be alone forever. True, Aaron was more than cute. True, he had a good job. So, okay, maybe. Even though he wasn’t exactly
“Miss McDivitt? You ready for your one-thirty? Mr. and Mrs. Iantosca are here.” 
“Thanks, Stephanie,” she said into the intercom. She punched up the Iantosca’s mortgage loan documents, a series of spreadsheets, tiny-fonted agreements and the decisive flurry of letters stored on the bank’s in-house software. The green numbers that were entered several years ago had gone red last summer, then bold red in the fall, then starting around the holidays, black-bordered bold red. By now, mid-May, Christian and Colleen Iantosca were underwater and in trouble.
So they thought.
She took off her black-rimmed glasses, considered, put them on again.  Slicked her hair back, tucking a stray wisp into place. She checked her reflection on the computer monitor. Lipstick, fine. Portrait of a happy magna cum laude MBA.  Good job, her own apartment, a potential boyfriend—she clasped her hands under her chin, thanking the universe and embracing her karma.  Math geek no more. Future so bright, she ought to wear shades. 
Liz, she decided.  Compassionate, but knowledgeable. Approachable. And, starting today, starting now, Liz McDivitt was in control.

Here’s another:

MAYBE he looks like this??
Five more minutes. He’d give them five more minutes.
Aaron Gianelli waited on the front steps of the triple-decker, peeled the last of the waxed paper from his tuna melt wrap, took a final bite. A mayo-soaked glop narrowly missed his new cordovan loafer, landed on the concrete beside him. Too damn hot for a tuna melt, Aaron decided, too late, but this “meeting” was his only chance for lunch. He crumpled the paper, aimed, and hit the already-brimming dumpster over by the driveway.
His first score of the day.
If the others didn’t show up pretty damn soon, it’d be his only score.  That, he could not afford. He wondered how his partner was doing, at his meeting. They’d talk later. Compare notes. Not that there were notes.
  Standing, Aaron brushed the dust from his ass. Squinted out at Pomander Street. No cars. Nothing. They’d agreed to meet here 1:30. He checked his annoyingly silent cell phone. If they were going to be late, they should have called. If they were jerking him around, they’d be sorry.  But no biggie. He’d find other customers.
He’d parked his car down the street, left his suit jacket inside, thank god. It was brutal out here. He’d be a sweat machine when he got back to the office, but the AC would take care of that before anyone noticed. And Lizzie would believe whatever he told her.  He smiled. He loved Lizzie.
He patted his pockets, still smiling, feeling for the ring of keys. He’d go in without the clients, check it out.  House was empty, that was certain. The bank had made sure of that.
Aaron was still smiling. He loved the bank. 

And here’s new character number three.
                                                    Chapter 5
Sure, Christian Bale, why not? Ramona, what do you think?

“Good afternoon, gentlemen.” Peter Hardesty closed the interrogation room door behind him, plonked his leather briefcase on the metal table, held out a hand. He’d already heard the cops were calling this guy ‘The Confessor.’
Confessor or not, Gordon Thorley was innocent till proven guilty. And, like so many others Peter had represented, profoundly in need of counsel. In this place? Alone with a detective?  A legal minefield.
“Gordon Thorley?”
“Who’re you?” Thorley twisted in his folding chair, scooted it as far from Peter as the cinderblock wall would let him, metal scraping against concrete.  Thorley’s sallow skin stretched over sharp cheekbones, weary eyes too big. Peter could almost hear the guy’s brain shift gears. Surprise. Then fear. Then calculation. Thorley flickered a hard look at Peter, jerking a yellowed thumb in his direction. Spoke to the detective. “He a cop, too?”  
“Holy sh—how’d you get in here, Hardesty? Who called you? Mr. Thorley here hasn’t asked for a lawyer.”
Peter recognized the plainclothes detective in the weary brown suit and ugly tie--Detective Branford Sherrey. “Bing” Sherry. Veteran cop, beloved of the district attorney’s office, and remarkable asshole. Now he looked like he’d been socked in his shirt-straining gut. Sucks when the system works, Peter thought. When you have to provide legal advice to a nutcase who’s trying get himself a life sentence.  Justice. What a concept.

Liz, Aaron and Peter. Faithful  readers will know at least one of my point of view characters sometimes doesn’t quite survive the entire book. How do I decide who lives and who dies? How do I decide who is good and who is bad? I will tell you, that’s the magic.

Because—if I’m lucky--they tell me.

And JUNGLE RED BREAKING NEWS—The Agatha-winning THE WRONG GIRL is now an Anthony nominee! And huge hurrahs to Red Julia, whose THROUGH THE EVIL DAYS is also an Anthony nom! YAY!

And oh, yes, that ARC of  TRUTH BE TOLD!  Let’s see…just guess which of the three characters is still alive at the end of the book, and tell me in the comments. I’ll pick a winner at random!  (And I won't say if you’re right—but it’ll be fun to see later!

(And you’ll still buy the book, right? (Now available for pre-order!) No pressure, it’s just my career…..)


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  2. Oh, my . . . From the snippets you gave us, I liked Liz, thoroughly disliked Aaron, think I'll like Peter. Thanks for introducing all of them to us.

    Who is still alive at the end of the story? What a tough question. While I'm hoping it's Liz, I'm thinking it's more likely to be Peter. I'm really looking forward to reading the book . . . .

    Congratulations on the Anthony Award nomination . . . .

  3. Huge congrats to Hank and Julia on their Anthony nominations!!!

    And Hank, how interesting. I didn't realize you had a system--that each book has three viewpoints other than Jane and Jake.

    I couldn't tell you how I figure out who is going to be a viewpoint character. It's not nearly as logical.

  4. I think it will be Liz. Just a feeling. Can't wait to read this - seeing the books stacked up makes it real, I want to read it now! And now I have to go back and re-read the other books to see the "system" - although you probably intend for it to be transparent to the reader.

    And yes, yes, of course I'll still buy it ;-)

  5. Can't wait to read this, Hank! I think Peter will still be alive at the end.

  6. Sounds terrific! Would like it to be Liz, hope it isn't Aaron, think it will be Peter!

    This series is fantastic!!


  7. I think Aaron will be the unlucky soul who gets it in the end. He's smug, young and brash and he completely underestimates 'Lizzie'. Ms. McDivitt, with her multiple names and eagerness to adapt, is someone who is a survivor. I look forward to seeing how her character develops. Peter seems too clever to be a victim. He's someone who's seen it all before. He's not going to go down that easily.

    Huge congrats on your nomination for an Anthony!

  8. Kill Aaron. I hate tuna melts. And just so you know, Facebook is becoming a real pain for me, the lone exception being your face in some other city, talking about your books. Go Hank, and thank you.

  9. Hank is off in search of a story this morning, per channel 7, and her phone is not letting her comment on jungle red.

    She will be back as soon as possible!

  10. In the Key West series, I only have the point of view of Hayley Snow. But I definitely have to figure out which new characters will appear, and which minor characters may push forward to the spotlight. And then also remember which of the regular characters need to play a role.

    It's all such an interesting puzzle...

  11. Peter!!!! I'm not a big Christian Bale fan, but if he's going to be Pretend Peter, then I will become a Christian Bale fan.

    What's great about all three of these scenes, which introduce each character, is that you learn something right away about each one. No dilly-dallying. Who they are and what they are like are right there in the reader's first glimpse, and each one is intriguing. Kudos, Hank!

  12. Roberta, I've been binge-reading your Key West books all weekend. Love Hayley and her whacky friends and family!

    Hank, darling, you know I'll buy the book--always. One of these days I'd love to have you sign one of them.

    As for the question at hand, I'd like Liz to be the one left standing, but I'm betting it's Aaron. He's deliciously, fringe-y evil.

  13. So excited to read the new book, Hank. And big congrats to you and Julia on the Anthony nominations!! Hmmm, maybe I'll go for the baddie - Aaron. Though I'd rather Liz be alive at the end :)

  14. Thanks a million Karen!!

    Ramona, you're not a fan of Christian Bales? Did you watch AMERICAN HUSTLE? i thought he was brilliant--actually I loved them all in the movie. Watched it a second time just to be sure...

  15. Unlike Ramona, I am a big Christian Bale fan. So, based on that (and on the fact that I, too, think Peter is a survivor), my vote is for him to be left standing at the end.

    I use two points of view (my state trooper and the assistant public defender), but yes, you have to figure out all the other characters. Yes, my quirky deputy coroner will be there, and maybe my shady, yet sometimes helpful, bookie. But who else? And what are they going to do?

    And yes, hopefully they tell me. In my last revision, I was completely stunned by the fact that the guy I thought was the all-out baddie wasn't. Not a nice guy, but not as bad as I thought he was. So much fun.

    And Hank, of course I will buy the book regardless of winning the ARC. I have to continue my set of first editions!

    Congrats to you and Julia on the nominations.


  16. oh oh oh - I cannot WAIT to read this! Thanks for this little sneak peek- it's the perfect little taste leaving me wanting more.

  17. I vote for Liz to survive, although she will undoubtedly have some close calls thanks to Aaron.

  18. I seem to be of the same mind as most here about who will still be alive. I'm settled on Aaron being a goner, but I'm torn between really wanting Liz to survive and common sense telling me it will be Peter who is still breathing at the end.

    Hank and Julia, both of your books are award worthy, and I wish you both the best of luck!

  19. This sounds great! Your question is a tough one for me - something I'd never think about while reading a book.

    From the bits posted, I think Peter has the best chance for survival ... but maybe I'm influenced by the Christian Bale photo.

  20. Peter lives until the end.

    Congrats on the win and the nomination!

  21. Love the photos that goes with the characters. Christian Bale is very handsome. I have some ideas, which I will keep to myself, and see if they match what I read.

    Look forward to reading your new book. What is the date for publication? So I can order a copy.


  22. yikes. I think we can all live without Aaron. Peter seems all capability. Liz has heart. Groan. Capability will probably win out.
    Must read your book!

  23. Huge congrats on the nomination, Hank!

    You know ... Liz is so likeable, but she's up to something, like a Robin Hood thing, I think. Makes me wonder if she's the one who's is going to die. Yes, I vote for Liz.

  24. This looks like so much fun! Another homerun, Hank!

    And congratulations to you and Julia on Anthony nominations.

    Multiple viewpoint still throws me as a writer... and sometimes even as a reader. Powerful but tricky.

  25. Commenting before I read other people's rationale -- I think Liz is too unstable and naive to "make it." The men seem tough and slick and seem to both have "street smarts." I love the idea of this topic in a book -- what a mess out there!

  26. Does one really have to go?? My choice would be Aaron. What can I say, the others just need to stay. Though with two award winning books in your packet, I'm sure you'll make the right choices through your characters actions . Of course, I will buy your books--though winning one is great fun too!! Ronnalord(at)msn(dot)com

  27. My guess is Peter.

    As a child, my imaginary friend was called Peter (aka Christopher Knight) Brady. He went everywhere with me, and even had his own place at the dinner table. You could say I'm still a bit partial to the name. ;)

  28. I loved both nominated books!

  29. Super congrats to both Hank and Julia on their Anthony nominations!

    I think Aaron will live and probably Peter. I'm afraid Liz will die. Loved these snippets of each character.

    This was so apropos for me today because I spent this morning--other than dealing with an online class I'm teaching--developing the characters who'll join my protagonist and her grandmother and son in the new, as-yet-unwritten Skeet Bannion mystery. I'm taking her out of town, so very few of the regulars will show up. So I have to set up a couple of allies and enemies for her in the new location, as well as the folks who'll be involved in the murder.

    And of course, I'll buy your book, no matter what. I'm still horrified that I was so busy stage-managing your last visit here that I didn't ever have you sign any of my books.*headdesk*

  30. I'm back! And writing my story for the 6 pm news..more to come asap..xoxoo

  31. Miss Edna and I can't wait for the new book!


  32. I really want Liz to survive, perhaps be in danger, but survive -- good motives should count for something. I admire your weaving of complex plot lines in such a way that it's easy to follow.
    I've been enjoying Key West with Lucy also, like Karen . . . and then cooling off with Gamache in Canada . . . It's actually above 80 degrees here today, and there was a frog in the mailbox! ;-)

  33. I only skimmed because I don't want to know anything before I have the whole book so I'll just say Liz.

  34. This looks fantastic, Hank. I am very interested, because I have a banking background. Fascinating. Whatever name she decides upon, I love her. Elizabeth, Liz, Beth...I can already tell I like her. And the two men as well. So looking forward to this book!

  35. And let me say, as the story progressed, it did NOT turn out as I had semi-imagined. I love when that happens!

    And oh,thank you hmdt! TRUTH BE TOLD is available for pre-order right now..and will be out October 7!

  36. This book looks perfect or me could it be Peter?

  37. I think it's Liz! Thank you for the giveaway.

  38. Oh, I love it when our characters surprise us!

    My guess is that Lizzie doesn't make it...

    Hank, you're so great at conveying so much character depth in such short introductions. Can't wait to read this one :)

  39. Liz will live; at least I hope so, though I can’t tell you why, I just find her appealing. This early peek is wonderful and I am so ready to read this book. Congrats on the nomination!

  40. Oh, thank you! And yeah, thank you especially for the "topic" reassurance. I wonder--will people care about foreclosures and mortgages? I mean--it's all about saving your home, right? And I am trying to explore that from all sides.

  41. Hank, you are a wicked-good teaser.

    Aaron Gianelli has to go. He eats tuna melts and sells three-deckers in a preppy outfit. I think Lizzie goes down with him. That would leave Peter, the brilliant (and handsome) attorney, left standing—in the cloakroom with a Chiarugi.

    Congratulations to you and Julia on your nominations!

  42. I think Liz will hang on, because after all she is in charge

  43. Congratulations to Julia and Hank! When people like you are nominated for such awards, it confirms for me that I have good taste in reading!

    My guess about the characters is that Peter is the survivor. Not sure how I feel about that... Liz seems cute, but is perhaps making a fatal decision.

    I look forward to reading the book and would love to meet you again, Hank!

  44. I think Liz and Peter are still alive.
    I don't know why this has never hit me before, but Jane and Jake...those were my great grandparents. :) Their real names were Jacob and Eugenia. Her family was French so it had that kind of pronunciation. And so her Americanized nickname was Jane. :) I somehow doubt they had any adventures anywhere close to YOUR Jake and Jane, though. :)

  45. Thanks for the sneak peek! Actually I think Aaron will be alive at the end of the story!

  46. Love your books, Hank, and this one sounds like it will be yet another award-winner! I think like many others that Peter will be a survivor, though I hope Elizabeth will maybe make it through after some scary events. Elizabeth is my name too, though I don't care for the nickname Liz or Lizzie, I can relate to the implied meanings of each. Best of luck on this one, Hank, and keep up the great work!

  47. I think Peter will be alive at the end.

  48. Ann Mettert-that is COSMIC! Thank you for telling me!

  49. ANd all your guesses are SO revealing and fascinating. Love hearing them, and love hearing why. Incredibly interesting..thank you!

  50. Pack for BEA now! See you here tomorrow...and we'll announce the winner--still an hour to go!

  51. I think Peter will survive.

  52. Oh, Hank I meant to tell you what a beautiful sight the stack of Truth Be Told books is. I'm off to pre-order it now, but that doesn't mean I would be thrilled with an ARC beforehand. Sorry, I just had to try.

  53. Apparently, I had already pre-ordered your book, Hank, which just goes to show that sometimes I do pay attention to my list of books to be published that I want to read.

  54. Peter will live. Lawyers always live to do more harm.

  55. Marianne in MaineMay 28, 2014 at 6:33 AM

    Huge congrats to you, Hank, and Julia! Proud to be among your readers.

    I think it'll be Peter.

    (We're in the midst of house-buying and all that goes into that so I'll be trying to catch up with all the JRW family as I can.)

    And I love Jake and Jane!!!

  56. Congrats, Jank and Julia, on the Anthony nominations.

    I loved meeting these three new characters. While I'd love for Liz to live, I think she has a short life span. Peter is too well put together, so off he goes. That leaves Peter, who is a survivor and probably has quite a few stories he can tell!

  57. Peter will be most useful as the series continues, so I vote for him. And of course I'll pre-order regardless!

  58. Peter. I think he is a survivor.

  59. Peter. Could there be a triangle forming?

  60. I'm rooting for Lizzie. She doesn't have the survival skills the guys probably do, but she's less likely to put herself in the way of violence (I hope).

    I just finished The Wrong Girl. Wow! Your writing is amazing, and what a ride! Jane & Jake are a great pair.

  61. And the winner is: Ronna Lord! Ronna, I will email you for your address! And thank you all..I am crossing your fingers your love TRUTH BE TOLD and will tell all your pals!