Thursday, November 10, 2016

On the road with SAY NO MORE!

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: What we're writing? I'm in the "after we've written" part--on  the SAY NO MORE book tour! And loving it. 

Here's one shot of launch night! 

 and here's C. J. Box and Linwood Barclay with me at Poisoned Pen (where  the fabulous Rhys came to the Sunday event!) 

and with...Diana Gabaldon!

And in Denver at Tattered Cover with our own Laura DiSilverio (and a bad case of altitude sickness..)

 Right now I’m in such a chic hotel room in Madison Wisconsin, getting ready to speak at Mystery To Me Bookstore, a beautiful independent in the heart of this vibrant college town.
I took a walk down a quaint little street to enjoy the beautiful fall day, and pretend everything was normal, and say hi to the bookstore.  (What a treat to see it! Not only was SAY NO MORE in the window, and prominently on the shelf, but also saw an ENTIRE shelf of just Rhys!)
The bookstore owner was so happy to see me, and it was so touching and lovely. And we talked a bit about bookstore appearances and how they are getting fewer and farther betweener.  About how even the biggest of book big shots often fail to draw a crowd—so true! I have been to some events at various bookstores to see authors I consider must-reads and must-sees, and the attendance is sparse.
Some authors hate to do it—because it takes a lot of time, it’s exhausting and stressful...and in the end, hard to quantify whether it’s worth it.
As you all well know, I am a big proponent of “worth it.”  
Thursday (tonight!) to celebrate SAY NO MORE I will be at the wonderful Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont—and I know some of you are in the vicinity! Come say hello.
And wow—it is getting amazing reviews—The Washington Post calls it “stellar”! I am floating! But one of my favorite review words comes from Publisher’s Weekly—which gives it a rave, and calls it “unflinching.”
Part of that, I hope, comes from my portrayal of a victim of campus sexual assault. Ripped from the headlines? Yes, except remember I wrote this two years ago, and, sadly campus sexual assault is even more in the headlines now. You know the stats: it happens to one in five college women. Most often in the first week of classes—so dangerous, that week is known as The Red Zone.  And 150 colleges are under federal investigation for failing to report the incidents.
So here’s a little from SAY NO MORE from the point of view of a young victim/survivor, a students at Adams Bay College, named Isabel Russo.  She’s so traumatized about her assault, she can’t bring herself to leave her apartment.
Isabel looked at the checkerboard of days on her August calendar, the one she’d found online and printed on the portable device set up by the coffee-maker on her kitchen counter. It was a high point of her day, she had to admit, when she got to obliterate another square, the big black Magic Marker X reassuring her she was one step closer to graduation. One day closer to leaving Adams Bay College, leaving Boston, leaving her old life behind and going somewhere, anywhere, anyplace no one knew her. Where no one knew what had happened to her. And where they never ever ever would. She would never say a word.
She stared at the remaining calendar squares. So many of them. Every day at six p.m. she crossed off that day. If she did it in the morning, the day wasn’t truly over yet, so the moment wasn’t as meaningful.
Twenty years old, she thought, as she poised the thick black Sharpie over the square marked “Monday.” And I am counting the days until I can leave this apartment.
Apartment. She looked around the little place she’d called home since she came to Boston going on four years ago, full of hope and excitement, full of her future as a performer or teacher or both. She’d gotten good news on the very first day, when she’d won the school’s freshman housing lottery and was allowed to opt out of Adams Bay’s notoriously crowded dorms. Her mother, to her wild delight, had agreed to pay the extra it would cost.
At first, Isabel adored her new home base. She painted most of it pale blue, one wall pristine china white. Hand-stitched—because who has a sewing machine?—curtains from yards of blue-striped linen, installed with expandable rods from CVS. As inspiration, she arranged her framed posters of Maria Callas singing Tosca and Mirella Freni as Mimi, and in a fit of do-it-yourself fervor, successfully installed her little corner-mounted speakers. She put two potted scheffleras and a folding chair on her tiny wrought-iron balcony, a fire escape, really, overlooking Kenmore Square. She invited classmates to visit, and they’d drunk Nebbiolo and listened to her vinyl and compared, well, notes. The whole scene was cool, proof she was independent and free and grown-up and on her own.
Since last semester, though—last May, to be exact, one Friday night in May, to be horribly exact—her apartment had been all about allowing her to be apart: an apart-ment. She wished she could be apart from everything.
An email pinged her attention. Professor Ruth Tully. Again wanting her to come to the summer semester’s final Music Theory 301 classes in person, not rely on notes and online lectures. All the classes had video hookups for those who were disabled, or sick, or for when the winter weather was so miserable that attendance would be difficult for commuting students. The college-by-video thing was Isabel’s lifesaver now. If Isabel didn’t have to go outside—not set one foot outside, not ever, not ever again . . .
She pursed her lips, focused on the sunlight fracturing through the faceted crystal she’d hung from a thin wire over her kitchen window. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet . . . silently she named the colors. The world was still beautiful, she needed to remember.
“Sorry, Professor,” she typed. “I’ll do video. Thanks.
Send. Done. With only a twinge of regret. Professor Tully was very sweet to care about her so much. Isabel wondered if she suspected something. Professor Morgan, too, sometimes inquired, wondering why Isabel was no longer attending her gatherings.
Obviously when a once-proficient classical music student vanishes from class, something is going on. But her professors, even well-meaning ones, could pry only so far.
Someday she’d be able to go outside again. She’d tried it already, several times. But when she stepped out into the hallway, or smelled the—anyway. It became surprisingly easy to keep to herself. Friends faded away, most of them. She ordered food from the delivery place, got books online, and sent assignments via e-mail. She had her music. She listened to her operas. She practiced her pieces. She could manage better in another reality. In someone else’s story.
She would have transferred out of Adams Bay instantly, after the event. But she’d have lost her tuition. And credits.
“You’re fine. You’ll be fine.” She could hear her mother’s voice. How could she know about “fine”? But then her mother, long-distance from St. Louis, had closed the door. And locked it. “We cannot afford it, not anymore. And we cannot tell your brother. It would kill him.”
And there it was, the hierarchy, the family relationships in one little sentence. Who mattered, and who didn’t.
Here at “home” she didn’t have to touch anyone else. Or smell any- one. Or look into anyone’s eyes.
Nothing had happened to “him,” of course. She’d never say his name again. Never even think it. Never poison her mind with it. She’d make him a no one, a nobody, exactly as he’d done to her.
She looked up, glanced around as if someone could be watching. It always felt as if someone were, which was ridic. But Dame Callas’s darkly disapproving eyes seemed to stare right at her, and Mirella’s sweet expression had turned to pity. Isabel blinked, dismissing her fantasy. They’re only posters. She looked at her watch. 6:30. Gormay on the Way would arrive in an hour.
She had time.
She clicked into Facebook, hit the bookmark for his profile. Smiling, smiling, smiling. It was like this every day. Why did she keep looking? She went to Instagram, checked his IG photos. She’d watched as his friend list grew, saw him amass endless “likes” with his stupid sports and silly pop concert tickets and dumb jokes. He’d gotten a new car, she saw, scanning the newest photos. Another new girlfriend. She was smiling, too, even kind of seemed familiar. She clicked away from the heart-twisting, stomach-turning site. Enough.
Her next stop was always the “help” sites. Somehow, not being alone in her grief was reassuring. Even though it should have been chilling. But she had to look, once a day, every day.
Sexually assaulted on campus? We want to hear your story.
The headline on the Facebook “WE CAN HELP” home page was so shocking, so surprising, so unexpected, she blinked at it, willing her eyes to go back into focus. The postage-stamp-sized icon was of a scale of justice. “Maybe you can prevent this from happening to someone else,” the article began. “Make a difference,” it said. “Take back the power.”
“Click here,” it said.
She looked up again. It really felt as if someone was watching. The back of her neck prickled, and she could hear the silence.
Click? She could not do it. Why should she? All these hours she’d spent, making this place her refuge. Give that up with a click? No. She’d created a tiny bit of peace out of her shambles of a life. No way would she ever relive or talk about it again.
But how could it hurt just to see? “Prevent this from happening to someone else,” it said. She’d never wish her burden on anyone. Could she help instead? She touched her forefinger to the silver mouse. And pushed.
She steeled herself, waiting, not sure what to expect. Could they trace this? Know who she was? Should she close the computer, forget about it, fade to black? Maybe this was the biggest mistake she’d ever made.
She leaned her head back against the top rail of her kitchen chair, crossed her arms, felt the warmth of her bare skin. Briefly closed her eyes. No. The biggest mistake she’d ever made was going to that party.
She shook her head, wondering. It was an odd relief, maybe, to understand that nothing worse could ever happen to her. Maybe that was her power. Isabel paused, fingers poised over her keyboard. Thinking about the phone number now on the screen. Should she call?
The atmosphere of the room changed—a flicker of shadow through the maple tree outside, then a single shaft of light glinted a rainbow on her keyboard, the spectrum of colors changing, dancing, playing across her fingers. Smiling in spite of herself, she looked up to see her little window crystal twisting in the resolute sunshine.

HANK:  I cannot wait for you to find out what happens to Isabel---because she meets my protagonist, reporter Jane Ryland.  

And thank you, every one of you, for your enthusiasm and support and affection. We have each other, we really do.

So again: When a big name author comes to town, or a personal favorite do you go to your local bookstore and see them?  Why and why not?


  1. What great pictures . . . and now I cannot wait to read the rest of this book. My heart just aches for Isabel. Meeting Jane will probably be exactly what she needs!
    I wish we had a local bookstore, but whenever it’s not too far to travel, I definitely go to see the visiting authors. Why? Having the opportunity to meet the person who writes the books I enjoy reading is such a wonderful gift.

  2. Fabulous scene, Hank. And you sure don't look like you're suffering in that pic with Laura! Hope you recovered soon.

    I miss a lot of people when they come to Boston, because I'm an hour north. But I go see everyone I can at Jabberwocky in the next town - as you and Debs know! (Hank, you've even come to my own town of Amesbury a couple of times.) In fact I first saw Hallie at the inaugural Newburyport Literary Festival, what, nine years ago? I love to support my fellow authors.

  3. Do you think there are fewer of these events than there used to be? It's easier to talk about a nonfiction book, right? Than a mystery or thriller.
    What about reading? Do you like to hear of the authors read?

  4. You don't have many reviews on Amazon or GoodReads. You should ask for some.

  5. Yes, yes, love seeing authors in person. And can't wait to see the New England gang this weekend at Crime Bake!

    To your other question Hank, I'd rather hear people talk about writing the book than actually reading from it. Though I did hear Wally Lamb read from I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE and it was unforgettable!

  6. So happy to hear that the book tour is going so well. Jealous of all the wonderful folks that get to hear you talk about this book.

    I love author events, this is no surprise. There are three local-ish stores that hold wonderful events I always try to attend: The Ivy Bookshop, One More Page Books, and A Likely Story.

    All three of these stores have always had decent turnouts, but it definitely isn't like the past. Not sure it has anything to do with the authors/events themselves and so much more to do with how hectic people's lives are these days. So few seem to have a moment to slow down to read a book, much less attend an event about one. Makes me sad.

    After the events of the current week, I'm hoping that when people need a relief from the stresses of the moment, they will turn to book. Perhaps that is a pipe-dream, but I shall cling to it!

  7. Such a great scene, Hank. I'm reading the book right now and loving it.

    I do try to go to author signings. Our go-to stores are Brookline Booksmith and Porter Square Books and New England Mobile Book Fair. Hank's signing at BB was standing room only. It's fun to read about her book but MUCH more fun to hear her talk about it... and of course the best is reading it.

    And yes, nonfiction books are an easier draw. Certain topics, anyway. I also think when an author has events for multiple books a year it diminishes the turnout, and there's a lot of pressure to produce.

  8. Hank, you've ripped my heart out--I loved my college experience--loved being on campus, loved being a student, and later--teaching--but was and have been acutely aware of the peculiar sense of innocence--you feel like nothing bad could ever happen to you--yet the drinking/partying scene has increased to the point of madness--and with so many colleges concerned more with the bottom line--anything that would affect the bottom line goes under-reported. Rant over--I can't wait to get my hands on this book--I badly want Isabel's life to get better!

    As for attending bookstore events--we haven't had an independent bookstore near here in ages. But reading from a book? No, I'd rather hear stories about how the book came to be, how difficult/easy/long you worked on it--how many drafts--those kinds of details. But, love poetry readings--where the words are a performance that comes dancing or bellowing or whispering off the page.

  9. Kudos on the successful launch and tour Hank. It's not an easy time to be traveling, to be keeping and upbeat demeanor, but you are pulling it off. Brava Maestra!

    I try to go to author signings too. But there aren't all that many here. I keep offering bed and breakfast and dinner to any of you who want to come to Rochester to speak, no takers yet, but I have faith.

  10. Anonymous! I just makes me feel strange to ask for reviews. But I know how important they are, and it is a source of much frustration that right now there are only a handful. The numbers start to increase as the word of the books increases..and I'd adore to have reviews. It's just uncomfortable to ask.

    HOw do you all feel about that?

  11. Want, want, want! Tonight!

    As you know, I've got Mystery Lovers right next door to me, practically. I go to events when I can (allowing for family commitments). I love to see the authors and I can usually meet up with some of my SinC pals before or after.

    Reading is tricky. A lot of authors can't do it well - they are very monotone, which is not...comfortable to hear. But when an author can read with panache, make it a performance, that is good.

    Talking about the writing is much safer. Especially if you are uncomfortable with reading aloud.

  12. OH, Roberta, yes, when the right person reads it is transporting. I once heard Gregg Hurwitz read from one of his thrillers, and it was fantastic. It can be a a real sales-clincher, and incredibly entertaining, when the author knows what they're doing.

    ANd Kristopher, haven't you interviewed authors at these events? I think that is a wonderful "new" way to handle it. It's terrific fun for both authors, and for the audience, too. It's also great to hear authors in conversation. Laura DiSIlverio and I did that in Denver, and Hallie and I do it all the time. I'll be in conversation with INgrid Thoft in January--do you all know her?

  13. Hallie, so great to see you there! It's always such a nerve-wracking event... (I read, didn't I? It all runs together...) You're next, right? ANd eager to hear how you like the book...

    FLora,yes, researching this was heart-breaking, exactly. It made me very very conscious of how carefully I had to write it. Crossing fingers it works. It can also be tricky to talk about sexual assault on the tour. I'm never quite sure how the audience will respond.

  14. Hank, fabulous excerpt from a terrific book! Everyone go out and buy it now!
    I'm always amazed at what distances people will travel to come to a book signing. A hundred miles is nothing. There were folk from Tucson at Hank's signing in Scottsdale on Sunday. I've had people come from over 200 miles. Once in Albany NY in horrible snow I had a woman come from Philadelphia (look at your map. It's a long way. In winter snow)
    I know they don't pay for themselves financially but meeting a favorite author means so much to people. And I love to revisit with the same people too.
    As for turnout, you can never tell. I've had standing room only crowds and I've had embarrassingly small ones. I try to make everyone feel welcome no matter how small the gathering.
    And the other point about book tours (which I voiced to the head of my publishing house when I met her recently) is that a visit by an author generates enough money to keep that store going for another week or so. Without them many indies would go under

  15. Ann, so funny. Yes, it;s bizarre to be traveling, but I have to say, people are being REALLY nice and extra polite to each other. I mean it's--noticeable.

  16. Oh, Rhys, that's interesting! Yes, if a bookstore sells 30 books at a signing, they've got to be happy about that!

    ANd yes, the turnout question--I was so worried about last night--I thought maybe people would not want to come to a bookstore but would want to stay home and figure out the world. But we had a great crowd, so whew. And thank you!

    WHo's the coolest person you've ever seen? I once went to hear Daniel SIlva--he was TWO HOYRS LATTE because of snow in NYC. ANd the crowd, which filled every seat, did not budge. We all sat there and read his book while we waited. (When he arrived, he OLNY took questions. Weird, huh? NObody cared. And the book had already (instantly) hit number one on the NYT.

    ANd last week i signed with Nora Roberts. It was--incredible.

  17. Yes, I've done some bookstore LIVE interviews with Lyndsay Faye, David Swinson, etc. It is a great way to make the events different.

    And yes, I love Ingrid Thoft's books. I'm behind a book or two at the moment. Need to fix that. She really is quite a good writer and a lovely person.

  18. I'm lucky to live in Toronto, where author visits are thick on the ground. And the Toronto Public Library often hosts wonderful author events, both big and small. So we're spoiled for choice.

    Looking forward to meeting you, Hank, when you come to our SinC meeting in June (!!!)

  19. You were in Denver and I didn't know!! Oh man, I am so sad that I missed you. I would have driven down from Wyoming to meet you and hear you speak any day. Besides, a day spent at The Tattered Cover is never wasted. I hope you had a good turnout there. Congratulations! This book looks terrific. I will be headed out to buy it first chance I get.

  20. We don't have enough authors visiting the Triangle area. Fortunately we've got quite a few of our own, whom I go see sometimes. Would love to get you and a few more coming our way!

    On reading: I'd generally prefer to hear the author talk about the writing process, or their inspiration for this book, or something like that. OTOH, one of my favorite author visits was John Scalzi, who did read from his new book. A lot depends on how comfy the author is doing the reading.

    I like the idea of an interview format. Saw one of those two years ago with Louise Penny and it worked pretty well. Would love to have a chance to catch one of Kristopher's.

  21. Lovely post, Hank and thank you for the excerpt. WOW. Enjoy the rest of the tour, and continue to take us along.

  22. For me, I really like seeing the authors in person because I know the books will be available for purchase.

    Personally, I prefer book signings.

    If I can get to the bookstore, I will go. Sometimes it is too far away or the time is wrong.


  23. Which brings up a great point… How often do you go to a signing and not buy the book? My answer is… Never.

  24. Just navigated about 27 million gates at the crazy O'Hare airport, but it's all worth it… boarding in half an hour…on the way to Pittsburgh!

  25. Book signings are like magic. I think the book tours dropped when mega corporations began to weigh the cost of the tour vs. the returns in sales. I also think folks are isolating more communicating via online sources.

    Seeing the person who had the talent, the inspiration and the doggedness to sit, and think and type and edit is .. exhilarating. It is the performance part of the art of the novel.

    When I worked in libraries, I would book children's authors to come speak. To see the wonder in some of the faces as the child began to understand there was a person behind the pages that made the story real. Such a treasure to watch that insight develop. I understand that not all authors enjoy self marketing. As a reader I treasure the ones that do tour and meet and great.

    Hank, meeting you last week is one of the best moments of 2016 to date. Namaste to all have the chance to do the tours.

  26. I've never been to a signing and not bought a book. Might not have been the book that was being promoted, but typically a book by that author. At least. Usually, I leave with several other books as well.

    There is not doubt that signing helps bookstores.

  27. Susan, I am so looking forward to going to Toronto! Can't wait to see you all…

    And oh, Bev, so sad to miss you! We had a great time… Tattered cover has some signed copies, too!

  28. Just arrived in Pittsburgh! And I am in the car on the way to the hotel. Jim, you are so right, it really depends on the person.

    Kait! So pleased you love the book! Hooray!

  29. Coralee. -- was an absolute treat to meet you! How funny to finally see each other in person… and you are so fabulous to have come! Xxxx

  30. Hank, your excerpt is absolutely gripping!!!! I can't wait to read SAY NO MORE when I get home from England (it will be waiting for me!)

    So glad you're having a successful tour. I do try to go to signings when I can but Dallas no longer has an indie, and the flagship B&N is thirty miles. Still, I got to see fabulous Mark Pryor recently and he was terrific.

    I've never left a book signing without buying several books, and I think that authors getting out and meeting readers and bookstore owners is invaluable.

  31. I try to attend as many author talks and signings as I can no matter if the author is one of my "favorites" or if I have never read any of her/his books. This is how I find new favorites. Truth be told, I had never read any of your books when I first heard you speak at The Book Carnival in Orange, Ca. but now I have read all your books, even the "old" Charlotte ones. Thanks for making those appearances.

    What's next for Jane? I am glad that she at least gave lip service to getting health insurance and a retirement plan, even though it was Jake's. (She needs to seriously consider getting her own)

    I'm on page 332 of "Say No More," so I have to get back to reading.

  32. I've gone to hear authors speak whose new book I already had. I bought another one, had it signed, and gave away the original one, hoping to gain a new fan for the author. (It was Hank.)

    I do have a question about protocol: a friend went with her daughter and son-in-law to hear an author (non-fiction) and buy a signed copy of her latest book. They were all sold out. Her son-in-law had planned to give it to his mom for her birthday, as she is another fan of that author. With all the copies of the newest book sold out, he decided to buy her an earlier book and have it signed. He was told he could buy it-- but could not have it signed. He was annoyed and ended up not buying anything. Do authors or bookstores often have these "rules" that the author will only sign the most recent book? (My friend wouldn't buy anything that day, either, and she no longer goes to that independent bookstore.)

    Deb Romano

  33. Sorry, Hank, that I'm coming in so late. I've been gone all day. You know how much I love Say No More. It is spectacular! Hope you're having fun on the tour.

    If I lived near where authors were visiting, I'd be there with bells on!

  34. DebRo -- that is absolutely ridiculous! As an author, if someone buys one of my backless boxed, I will sign it with great joy. I cannot even begin to comprehend the rationale that went into that. Crazy! And I am so sorry.

  35. safe travels, dear Debs!

    Kathy, I have read your review 15,000 million times. I am in love with it… Thank you!

    Barbara, crossing fingers you love it! Keep me posted! Xx

  36. Hank, it was so wonderful to see you last night - as always.

    I never go to a signing without buying a book from that author. As Kristopher (?) said maybe it's not the book being promoted but something. I recently stopped into RG Belsky's visit to Mystery Lovers. I already had Blonde Ice, but I bought the first in the series. And he was over the moon about my review of Blonde Ice, too.

    I also know what you mean about the extra-polite thing. I was going into Bruegger's for a sandwich on Wednesday and an older couple was coming out. I opened the door wide, then stepped out of the way. The man was kind of surprised. "Thank, thank you!" All I did was open a door.

    How sad it takes something like this election to make us remember basic manners, but at least we can remember them.

  37. Deb, I have heard of that happening with some very big name authors - as a way of limited the time people spend in line. But if the store ran out of the current book, that is ridiculous. I would have left with no book as well.

    The only similar situation I had was at an off-site signing, where I purchased 3 books from the sponsoring vendor in the lobby. We were giving numbers for the signing line because it was a huge name author and there were thousands of people. When it came time for the signing, the organizers elected to say that the numbers meant nothing and that people could line up at will. Well, this meant that all those sitting/standing near the start of the line got there first and I would have been in line for several hours. Angry, I took my books back to the vendor and demanded a refund (on 3 books) and promptly went to other bookstore to buy the authors new book (but not the other 2, since I was only buying them to get signed). Bad for the author, bad for that vendor bookstore, but not so bad for the other bookstore who got a sale at least.