Monday, July 21, 2014

The Truth about TRUTH BE TOLD

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  It’s “what we’re writing” week!  And I am deeply in the midst of (you heard it here first) WHAT YOU SEE, the next Jake and Jane novel.

I am also deeply into author-crazy.  TRUTH BE TOLD comes out October 7 (you may hear a bit more about that around these parts), and the author-crazy comes from knowing the reviews are about to start.  And I’ve just received advance notice of two of them…and I’ll reveal (!!!) below.

But first.  There’s a question that some authors loathe...but I love. And that is: where do your stories come from? Some authors answer with caustic throw-aways—Schenectady, says one very famous guy. The grocery, says another.

But I think “where do your stories come from” is fascinating. I recently heard Jacqueline Winspear talk about her new book, and she has an amazing book-birth story.  Hallie, too. And Susan.

And as for TRUTH BE TOLD, (And oh, did I tell you it it’s a Library Journal Editor's Pick? Whoo hoo!) I can tell you exactly where it came from.

It’s a puzzle of four parts.

The first? My husband is a criminal defense attorney. When we first met, I asked: Have you ever had a murder case where the defendant was convicted, but you still thought they were innocent?" His eyes softened a bit, and then he said: “Yes.”   The man was charged with murder in the death of a young woman—the prosecution said he had lured her to a forest, and tied her to a tree.  

The first time Jonathan represented the man, the case ended in a hung jury. The state brought the charges again, and again Jonathan represented him, and again, a hung jury.

The state brought the charges again, and the defendant—well, let’s just say he decided he wanted to handle the case his own way this time. Jonathan disagreed.  The man got a different lawyer. He was convicted, and is still in prison.
Jonathan told me he still, to this day, thinks the man is innocent.

Hmmm.  Idea.

Another puzzle piece? Another of Jonathan’s cases. A man in prison, incarcerated with a life sentence for shaking a baby to death, recently confessed to a cold-case murder. It’s very unlikely that he actually did it—so why would he confess? 

Hmmm. Idea.

Another puzzle piece.  We recently did a big story on abandoned homes in Boston. They are all places the banks have foreclosed on, where the owners have been evicted, and the houses are now empty. All are for sale.  Many of them are neglected, with broken windows and overgrown lawns. But some are in good shape.  While I was interviewing the head of Boston’s Inspectional Services Department about this, I began to wonder. What could be going on inside those forgotten empty houses?

Hmmmm.  Idea.

I also thought about the people who had been evicted from those homes. People who’d gotten mortgages from banks with lots of money, but who through some failure of their lives, some catastrophe or disaster, some wrong decision or bad luck had not been able to keep up the payments.  Wouldn’t there be something that could have ben done to prevent that? If a banker-type really cared about their customers, wouldn’t there be something that could be done to keep people out of foreclosure?

Hmmmm.  Idea.

And finally, I was sitting at the computer in my TV station office, writing a story, and thinking about why I do what I do as a reporter.  It’s making history, I decided. It’s creating the record of what happened in our lives, the comings and goings, that issues and the solutions, the documentation of how we live.  And people believe it, right? What’s on TV and in the newspapers becomes a resource by which all is remembered and relied on.

And then I thought—what if some reporter decided not to tell the truth? Not big discoverable lie, but simply—little things. A sound bite, a reaction, a quote.  Who would know? What difference might that make?  And what would happen when the truth was finally told?

Hmmm.  Idea.

And in the way we all do as authors, by spinning and polishing and twisting and turning, and shooting it full of a lot of adrenaline and a little romance, I got the key elements of TRUTH BE TOLD:
 A mortgage banker turned Robin Hood decides to manipulate bank records to keep people out of foreclosure, a murder victim is found in a foreclosed home, a man confesses to the unsolved Lilac Sunday murder, and a reporter makes stuff up.   

And when it all comes together in the end: TRUTH BE TOLD.

And now you know exactly where it came from.

Reviews? So far—so fabulous.  Publisher’s Weekly says:

"Smart, well-paced…Ryan cleverly ties the plot together, offers surprising but believable plot twists, and skillfully characterizes the supporting cast."

And whew, Kirkus says:

"Foreclosure fraud entwines with a 20-year-old murder case in the latest knotty, engrossing mystery-thriller by an award-winning Boston journalist...  Ryan seasons her mix with vivid Boston local color and caustic observations on new media—which one would expect from a journalist who's won even more awards for her TV reporting than she has for her mysteries. Ryland and Brogan are such a cute couple that you wonder how long it'll be before somebody makes a TV series out of them." 

And here’s a tiny bit from Chapter 2.

                                                        Chapter 2
          “Why would he confess if he didn’t do it?” Detective Jake Brogan peered through the smoky one-way glass at the guy slumped in the folding chair of Boston Police Department’s interrogation room E. What Jane would probably call “skeevy,” too-long hair scraggling over one ear; ratty jacket; black T-shirt; tired tan pants. Thin. Late thirties, at least, more like forty. How old would Gordon Thorley have been in 1994, when Carley Marie Schaefer was killed? Late teens, at most. Around the same age as Carley. “This guy Thorley just shows up here at HQ and insists he’s guilty? You ever seen that? Heard of that?”
 “Let’s get some lunch. Ask questions later.” DeLuca jammed his empty paper coffee cup into the overflowing metal trash bin in the hall outside the interrogation room. “Sherrey will get all we need, give us his intake notes after. Could be a bird in the hand.”
“Not exactly ‘in the hand,’” Jake said. “If he’s a whack job. There’s also that old ‘innocent till proven guilty’ thing.”

HANK: So, Reds and readers, do you like to know where a story came from? Or would you rather believe it’s all a product of the author’s imagination?
And pssst. I have an ARC of TRUTH BE TOLD for one commenter! 


  1. Sounds so good! I can not wait to read it!!!!!

    Must be patient. Must be patient... and hope I can get my hands on an ARC via Amazon Vine again.

  2. Yes, when the answer is as fascinating as yours! I love your Jane and Jake adventures and think that a TV-Series would be outstanding.

  3. I love knowing where the ideas for the story come from . . . I'm all for any idea that gives us another Jane and Jake story.
    Nice reviews, too . . . .

  4. When the "where our came from" is this intriguing, yes, I absolutely love to hear the story. Also, the bit in the review about making a tv series made me perk up. Yes, please!

  5. Fabulous Hank--you make it sound so easy as though all the pieces just fell into place:).

    Question--are those old cases of Jonathan's? that you'd sat on for a long time waiting for the right book to appear in your mind?

  6. **Knowing where the story came from adds to the "wonder" as a reader. I recently watched a documentary on John Nash, the subject of the movie "A Beautiful Mind." His explained why he "believed" the voice he heard when deep in his schizophrenia by saying," They came to me the same way my mathematics did, so why shouldn't I believe them." Thus knowing the ideas that came together to become a writers vision, adds to the story and the pleasure of being a reader.

  7. I love to know where stories come from. My current project comes from an innocuous Facebook post.

    A Jane & Jake TV series--I could dig that!

    Great reviews. I'm sure there will be more of the same type to follow.

  8. Hey Lucy--yes, they are old cases. I met Jonathan about 19 years ago, and the case was just over then. Shaken baby confessor is newer--maybe a couple of years ago. SO that's exactly right--its interesting. Little elements of reality get tucked away in my brain, just waiting for the right time. Or maybe--just waiting for something else to connect to.

    And oh, right, easy. Laughing now. It was the empty house piece that started the brain rolling on this one. And the theme of "could there be a lie that's a good thing?"

  9. MArk, that would be so wonderful! Let me know if it's on Vine, okay? I can never understand how that works...and THANK YOU!

  10. Karen B, Joan and Sandi--thank you! And whew. I always wonder if readers will say--who cares, just let me read the fiction.

    But when you do--and I hope you do!--read this boo, one of the fun parts for you will be to see how different the book is from reality, and how a true story morphs and changes into fiction. It's kind of amazing (I think, at least) to see how different the stories become.

  11. Mathreader--wow. That is an incredible story, and very intriguing how the line between reality and fantasy blurs. And fascinating, too, how John Nash actually questioned what was going on in his head--and decided it was okay.

    I did not read the book, but I saw the movie, of course. Was it true to life?

  12. Thank you, Ramona, especially. xoxooo

    And yeah, JAne and Jake on TV? Could be pretty great! Moonlighting meets Newsroom? What would be a better description of the mashup?

  13. So I read this with my eyes half closed because I am in the middle of reading TRUTH BE OLD and I loving it. Happily, no spoilers.

    I love how Jane is struggling to keep her own priorities straight while holding onto her new job which has serious challenges for a scrupulous journalist; and the story of a bank executive who has the power to... well, no spoilers here, either.

    Great advance reviews, Hank! And

  14. oh Boy Howdy, I LOVE hearing where the ideas come from!

    Congratulations, Hank, on some pretty super early reviews from such excellent sources. And well deserved, my friend, SO well deserved. This is my favorite Jane and Jake so far. xxoo

  15. Hallie, that is my favorite typo EVER. Look how you typed TRUTH BE...

    Crossing fingers you continue to love it!

    And thank you, Dear Kaye! (And how is our favorite canine author?)

  16. I like to know where authors get their ideas. And I'm looking forward to "The Truth be Told". Hoping I don't have to wait until October to read it. :-;

  17. Omigosh - I'm dying here Hank! Cannot wait until October - I'll be first in line to get this one. It sounds fabulous - and the reviews surprise me not one bit.

    I like hearing where stories come from, especially when the answers are as interesting as the ones here on Jungle Reds. It gives me even more appreciation for the imagination of the writer - how to take something and morph it into a gripping story.

    And Jane and Jake on TV? Yes please!

  18. Oops, didn't mean to post as Anonymous.

  19. Great inspiration Hank. The book is moving closer and closer to the top of my TBR pile.

    I already know there are a few books that I will push aside for Truth Be Told as we get closer to release date. (Shh, don't tell those authors, but rest assured that they are not JRWs or commenters).

    But I must be patient just a little bit longer. Too many good books, not enough time!

  20. What is truly interesting to me is that you took multiple sources to create your book -- the layers of story make your books so rich because the "subplots" are well integrated into the main plot line. To add a current issue -- like people losing their houses -- and "investigating" the why! Love it.

  21. - Karen Bacigalupi - Wow! Each Jane and Jake story is even better than the last. I just finished reading The Wrong Girl recently and loved it. Can't wait to read the rest of this one! And I love hearing about where stories come from.

  22. Aw, thank you! And yes, it's one of the real delights of having the double life as a reporter and author--new story ideas are coming in every day!

    And talk about subplots.. I interviewed our Susan for BookTalk Radio--I have the link somewhere.

    And we talked about how she writes the different point of view elements for her books. She said --let me know if I get this correct, Susan!--she writes the whole story for one plot, then the whole story for another, and another..then cuts them apart and weaves them together.

    Whoa. I could NEVER do it that way! I write my elements chronologically as they happen in the book, Jane's part, then Jake's part, then another character's part, then Jane's again--switching points of view in my head as I go.

    So fascinating how our brains work so differently.

  23. Hank, great reviews, congratulations! CAN'T WAIT! And yes, TV series, please! Who would you cast in a perfect world?

    Yes, I do write my plots and sub-plots that way -- had no idea it was so unusual!

  24. Oh, Susan that is so interesting. And I will never say. NEVER. Because I want readers to imagine Jake and Jane, in their own ways. I have photos I clipped from magazines of "them" on my bulletin board..but they are real people, not actors.

    I know exactly what Maggie Hope looks like--but I know she's not precisely the Maggie in YOUR head. (Still, who would you want to play her?)

    I will confess there's one model--not a supermodel, just a regular-model--who looks like Jane to me. But I'll never tell.

    I wish there was a way for readers to tell me what they look like.

  25. Congrats on the great early reviews!

    I think it's interesting how one book's idea can be a patchwork of different inspirations. It's like in Working Girl, when Melanie Griffith's character gets her idea from columns in W and in the daily newspaper. "I read a lot of things. You never know where the big ideas come from." (or something close to that).

  26. Yes, I love knowing where stories come from. It's a little like being an insider, and who doesn't like that?

    This is especially true with stories that have so many disparate elements and threads to them; I'm continually amazed at how an author so skillfully pulls all these threads together and weaves them into a tale that makes sense. It's just fascinating. And makes me realize I may never write fiction, or at least not successful fiction. :-)

  27. DIane! I think about that ALL THE TIME. Really, exactly, Working Girl. That is so brilliant of you!

    (Still one of my favorite movies of all time-- and I still cry EVERY TIME the music plays at the end.)

    Have you all seen it?

    Lemme see if I can find that exact quote. I need to print it out.

    (Karen in Ohio! I am right now seeing if I can get to Ohio this tour... xoo!)

  28. Congratulations on the early reviews! Not surprised but must be so wonderful for you to read them.

    I love to hear where the story came from and appreciate that you are willing to share it. I understand if an author doesn't want to reveal or discuss the origins of the story but could do without the smarty-pants answer.

    And now I am reader-crazy! I was already impatiently waiting for Truth Be Told, but after reading this I want it now, I want it now, I want . . . .

  29. Hank, Your new novel sounds fabulous!!

    Although I know a novel should stand on its own, I love knowing about the author and the background for the story. It actually can (not always, of course) make a difference in my enjoyment of a book. Thanks for sharing your inspirations today!

  30. The reviews sound great. Please throw my baseball hat in the ring for an ARC.

  31. PS - I'm fascinated by Susan's technique. I have been doing that for parts of my WIP, and it's been extremely helpful since I have a few significant subplots. I also do what I call layering - almost like painting, where I start with a sketch, then layer some color over it, then some more, and then some more. Not revising, but developing draft after draft. Must go listen to the BookTalk Nation interview now!

  32. Hank, I must have been reading an old PEOPLE magazine. ;-)

  33. Ho ho ho, Hallie. At least you are listening to me! xoo

    ANd yes, Kim, the layering, It's so much fun..because to me, the skeleton is the most difficult. ANd then i ask myself--why? What's really going on? HOw can I make this bigger,richer, deeper...and the layers develop. And then, If I'm lucky, I think--whoa. I wrote that. And if I'm really lucky, it means more than I even imagined.

    Thanks, Grandma Cootie! I love reader-crazy!

  34. DO your captcha words say: photo sphere? Do you think captcha has realized they could sell that space as ads? Is that brilliant or what?

  35. I love hearing all the elements that go into a book. :)
    Part of the process of what makes writers tick. :D

    Pen M

  36. Several weeks ago, there was a sentencing televised here in Anchorage. The judge was berating the defendant, said he was the worst kind of coward. for killing two women on two different occasions. And the defendant said "What about the men?"

  37. Okay, now I'm even more excited to read this book!

    Diane and Hank -- ditto on that Working Girl scene!

    I love how story ideas come together... :)

  38. Oh, my gosh, Keenan. Truly? It was like--a confession? Right out of Perry Mason..and way too incredible to put into a book, right?

    Thank you, Gigi! Yup, like a recipe, right..? But you don't exactly know all the ingredients at the beginning.

  39. What a marvelous collection that led you to what sounds like a terrific storyline! I look forward to reading it.

  40. Keenan, I love the dumb criminal remark. Hank, your latest story sounds wonderful. Let's face it. There are so many things happening in our world that you can take bits and pieces of to work into a story. My husband was written several books (unpublished) and he would base the stories on investigations he did of white collar crimes. Suitably gussied up of course.

  41. Hank, I hope you make it to Cincinnati! We have Joseph Beth here, two different locations. One is in Northern Kentucky, but it's right across the river. Closer to the "Cincinnati" airport, CVG, which is also actually in Covington, Kentucky.

    If you come in October we can celebrate our birthdays together. Hint, hint. :-)

    Thank goodness, I'm still getting numerals for my Captcha.

  42. I love your puzzle pieces, Hank! I can't wait to get my hands on this novel.

    Congratulations on the great reviews!

  43. I love to read about how an author gets her ideas! I would also like to get a look at your story board and the pictures of how your characters might look.

  44. Well, Nancy, thank you! But its' not so much a "Story board" (sigh, that sounds so cool and organized...) as it is photos slapped up with thumbtacks. :-)

    Karen, is Twinsburg close to you? Hint, hint?

    Thank you, Lisa and LIbby! (Crossing fingers you love it..)

    Oooh, Pat D, sounds great! What a wealth of great ideas..

  45. I do enjoy knowing where the stories come from, or in this case the different threads that came together.

    I also like seeing stories on television or in print media that remind me of books I read in the past - they often send me back to reread an old favorite: bodies revealed by recent droughts led me back to Peter Robinson's "In a Dry Season."

    I'm looking forward to reading "Truth Be Told" this fall.

  46. I forced myself to not read Chapter Two because I want to be surprised when I read the book!

    Reading your explanation of the origins of Truth Be Told was like reading a family tree - so fascinating!

  47. Hmm, Twinsburgh is not far from Pittsburgh. I sense a road trip!

  48. Road trip! Hurray!

    (And aw, DebRo, that's so lovely of you. But it's only three paragraphs...)

    Sharon, that's fascinating! What an interesting idea..hmm, I sense a blog... xoxo

  49. As long as you are talking about getting out on book tour: will you be in CT for this book? I'd love to see you again!

    (Okay, maybe I'll take a peek at Chapter Two...)

  50. Hank, congratulations on being a Library Journal Editors Pick! That's fabulous!And of course all the reviews are full of praise.

    I love to hear how writers write their books, and I write mine like you rather than Susan, chronologically and then layering by drafts.

    I cannot wait to read TRUTH BE TOLD and hope you're coming back to KC this fall. xoxoxo

  51. Those are some great reviews! And yes, I dearly love knowing where a story comes from. I liked how you wove four different what-if concepts together to create your premise. Wishing you a ton of sales and more smashing reviews!

  52. Thank you! ANd how wonderful to hear from you, Linda and Maggie! xooo

    Linda--hope you're feeling better.. we've been missing you around the Jungle. oxo

    And Maggie, so lovely to see you too! (Sales and reviews to you, too!)

  53. A great example of an alert and creative mind in process, Hank - thanks for giving us this perspective. Really enjoyed it.
    Looking forward to another great mystery in TRUTH BE TOLD!

  54. Oh, I love hearing how those disparate elements from different sources and time periods came together in your head! The creative process in its mysterious glory.

    And I hope it's kosher to share here a blog post I recently wrote on the same subject, "The Secret Life of Ideas." (The contest is over, but the column is still up.)

    Congrats, Hank, on the marvelous advance reviews!

  55. Hank, what a wonderful, interesting, story about your story! YES, that's where they come from, into the hands of a writer who knows what to do with them and doesn't let them run out through her fingers like water!!! Can't wait to read this book!


  56. Hank--I love hearing where stories come from! None of those pieces you mentioned screamed "ahah! put us together!!" It's that creative brain at work--doubly so for you, since your 'day job' consists of asking questions about what is going on in the world and seeking to make connections. The fact that you could interweave those disparate elements so beautifully to garner such glowing reviews is a testament to your talent and hard work as a writer!!

    Twinsburg is sort of in my part of Ohio!

  57. Oh, it's such fun to hear from you all..really, this is the kind of thing that makes me so happy to live in a time when we can all have a conversation like this.

    I picture you all, each one where you are--do you realize how geographically far away we are from each other?Me in Boston, Leslie in Montana--but wait, Mary is, too! (DId you know that?)

    But anyway. We can all get together and chat, and all understand what the others are saying..and learn about how the others think. SO nice!

    And you can't see how weird my hair looks, in a scrunchie on top of my head, and that makes it all even better.

  58. I LOVE know the "behind the scenes" on books! I can't wait to read this!

  59. Hank, I love to hear where and how an author's book developed. Of course, I read books on how to write, because I can't get enough of them.


  60. Oh, my, I'm coming in late again today. I've had my older granddaughter for a few days, and I just got back from returning my sweetie.

    Hank, what a great peek into your story gathering mind. I love hearing where authors get their ideas and stories. I read somewhere that authors don't like to be asked where they get their ideas and that it's basically just an inept question to ask an author. I didn't agree, and you have just proved me right with the fascinating details of your ideas.

    Congratulations on Truth Be Told being a Library Journal's Editor's Pick, Hank! I know that honor is a very big deal. Great reviews from Publisher's Weekly and Kirkus, and Publisher's Weekly really has their finger on the pulse of your writing.

    Then, you go and give us an excerpt! I actually gasped with excitement when I saw that coming up. I hope I don't have to wait for October to read Truth Be Told. You're making it awfully hard to be patient in view of today's post.

  61. Aw, so wonderful to hear from you!

    Yeah, the question is so often scorned, and I just don't understand that. I think people are fascinated--I am at least--by the workings of other people's minds.

    ANd if each of us here today took the same story puzzle pieces, each of our results would be different. That's so fantastic.

  62. Thank you all! ANd the winners are MathReader and Kathy Reel! (If you are in Canada, sorry, not eligible...)

    Because really, why not have 2?

    Just email me at h ryan at whdh dot com with your address!

    And hey. xoxoxoooo

  63. Do you think Jake could come over to my house for coffee? <3

  64. Hank,
    I cannot wait to read this one. And I absolutely love reading about where all the ideas for the book came from. I'm such a nerd about other writers and their process. Very, very cool. You are such a rock star. I'm only a reporter nowadays part time (one day a week) and I think about you and how busy and prolific you are! You are an inspiration!

  65. Yes, Reine, both of us will show up soon!

    ANd Kristi, aw...xooxo thank you!

  66. Mary is in Montana, too? Scrolling. Not Mary Sutton, so it must be Mary Patterson Thornburg. Where where where? I'm in the Flathead -- do be in touch!