Friday, January 6, 2017

Questions from YOU!

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Well, wow. Earlier this week we asked you to think of some  good questions for our new Reds Jenn McKinlay and Ingrid Thoft.  We got SO MANY great ones, we can’t even fit them all. So here are, oh, twelve?  And we’ll bring you the others someday soon--you all are brilliant! 
(And wow--again--their answers are fascinating: Nutter Butters and the kitchen counter?) 
From Grace Koshida 
Ingrid, were you a PI in a former life? If yes, do you have a story to tell about a former case/investigation?
INGRID: I earned a certificate in private investigation in a year-long program offered by the University of Washington.  I’m not licensed to practice, so I never did any on-the-job work.  I do have stories, however, from the class itself!  I think I’ll save those for a future blog post!
JENN--How do you juggle writing the three series?
I try to work on one book at a time and maintain full immersion in that world. Plus, I write 10 pages per day every day.
(HANK: All together now: TEN PAGES A DAY??? Okay, fine. )

From Hallie Ephron
Where are we more likely to find you--in your kitchen or garden?
INGRID: Wait—what?  What’s a kitchen?  What’s a garden?  I prefer spending time in neither place!  I would much rather be outside in the water or taking a hike.  If the hike brings me to a restaurant, it’s a win-win!
JENN:  Garden.

From Karen in Ohio
Before you started writing your mystery series, did you do any other kind of writing, and was it professionally or as a hobby?

INGRID: I’ve always loved to write.  My first publication was a “newspaper” with a circulation of five: my parents and three sisters.  Much of the coverage focused on Jimmy Carter.  My jobs after college entailed a lot of writing—at a non-profit, in corporate communications and in higher-ed.  All of it good training in fiction writing!

 JENN:  I wrote some rom-coms for Harlequin - very educational right up until I was fired.

From Sheila K.
What fiction book do you love so much that you re-read it over and over again?

INGRID: I’m not a re-reader, truth be told.  That said, I did pick up “Rebecca” this week after hearing Jenn’s recommendation.  I read it a long time ago, so I imagine it will seem quite new.
JENN: There are several but I do love to revisit Anne of Green Gables every few years.

From Ladybear
I always worry that the protagonist will get killed. I would like to know—do you enjoy putting them in danger & how do you decide on how much danger.
INGRID: I think your protagonist has to be in some danger—either physical or emotional—because you want the reader to be engaged.  It’s fun to create danger and suspense from my the comfort of my desk.  I can’t think of many books where the protagonist dies.  I think that would result in a lot of unhappy readers.  Can you guys think of any?
JENN:  The level of danger depends on the scene and the plot. I don't enjoy torturing the characters but I love the challenge of writing a scene that elicits strong emotions for the reader.

From Victoria Smith 
Do you have any special food that you must have close-by when writing? 
INGRID:  Fina eats everything I would like to: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Nutter Butter cookies, and a lot of take-out.  I used to share her diet soda habit, but I’ve cut way back, and she keeps on chugging.  I actually try to keep water nearby, which sounds very boring, but it’s important to stay hydrated!
  JENN: Chocolate - lots of chocolate! 

From J Cochran
If you could have lunch with any three authors- past or present, who would they be? Present company excluded, of course. Or, which three characters?
INGRID: Only three? The late Robert Parker, the late Maya Angelou, and Leah Remini.  That would make for an entertaining meal!
JENN:  Three authors who set me on my current path would be my pick for lunch dates - Robert Crais, Janet Evanovich, and Harlan Coben, accordingly lunch with Stephanie Plum, Myron Bolitar, and Joe Pike would be a hoot! 

 From William Mackela
Do any of you have a program that lets your fans become characters in your books?
INGRID:  No, but I love the idea!
JENN: Not a program but I have done charity events where I auction off being written into a book.
(HANK: The first time I did this, I got Urszula Maszny-Latos.)

From Lala 
So cool to discover this blog at the beginning of the year. My question: would you ever be tempted to take on the Kennedy assassination or the lost Anastasia or other major real life messy story? 
INGRID: I would not.  I think there are other people who would do it better, and I don’t like to be constrained by reality (when writing)! 
 JENN:  I haven't been tempted as yet but I never say never.

From Kathy Reel
Was there a murder case while you were growing up or in your young adult life that captured your attention and made crime/mystery writing even more alluring to you?

INGRID:  YES!  Hank, you’ll remember this one: The Charles Stuart case had the whole city of Boston enthralled.  Charles Stuart and his wife were ambushed one night in their car, and his wife and unborn child were murdered.  Stuart claimed a black man perpetrated the crime, and the Boston Police Department banged down every door in certain neighborhoods to find the man.  It turns out that Stuart killed his pregnant wife, and when the facts began to emerge, he killed himself by jumping off the Tobin Bridge.  It was a tragic, fascinating case, the stuff of “Dateline.”

((Hank: yes, I covered this forTV! And I cannot tell you haw hilarious it is to hear that this happened in your “young adult life.” Ahhhh.

JENN:  None that I can think of but perhaps on a subconscious level?

From Lucyelmer 
Where do you write?
INGRID:  At a desk in my home office with a lovely view.  I’m very close to Pike Place Market where I do my errands and pop out for fresh air and a dose of humanity.
JENN: Where do I write?  Standing up at my kitchen counter. Weird, I know.
(Hank—really? I think that calls for a follow up question…uh, how did that start? Tell us in the comments…)

From Daniele K
What's next for you both?
INGRID:   Next week, I go on tour for DUPLICITY and then I’m coming home and sleeping!  After that, I need to get cracking on a stand alone that I have in the works.
 JENN: I have five books coming out this year, so three mysteries - ASSAULT AND BERET, CARAMEL CRUSH, and DEATH IN THE STACKS and two romantic comedies - ABOUT A DOG and BARKING UP THE WRONG TREE. 2017 is looking to be a whirlwind and we're only on day six!

HANK:  WOW! Such fun to hear these—you all had terrific questions!  Now we have one for you:  What are you reading this weekend?

PS: Tonight I will be at MURDER ON THE BEACH bookstore in Delray Beach Florida with Andrew Gross, Charles Todd and PJ Parrish!  Come say hello—Joanne is promising food, drinks and free books!

Any other Reds or writers appearing at events we should know about?


  1. Jenn and Ingrid, it’s so interesting to read your answers to these questions . . . thanks for sharing with us.

    What am I reading this weekend? Michael Perry’s “The Jesus Cow,” Lisa Jackson’s “Final Scream,” and Tana French’s “The Trespasser.”

  2. Such fun questions and answers. And this is why I didn't submit one, I knew others would ask better questions.

    I've been reading up a storm this week, and have finished off Nun Too Soon by Alice Loweecey, Murder with a Twist by Tracy Kiely, and on audio "F" is for Fugitive by Sue Grafton. This weekend, I hope to get a lot of Hearse and Gardens by Kathleen Bridge read.

  3. Ingrid, I'm also a Jimmy Carter fan, and the idea of a family newspaper about him has my cackling.

    The only protagonist I can think of that dies is already dead at the beginning of the book, the murdered young girl in The Lovely Bones.

    This weekend I'm rereading Tell the Wolves I'm Home, by Carol Rifka Brunt. It was my turn to pick for book club, and I really wanted to discuss this, especially since half our members are artists. But I can't remember unless I've read something very recently, so I get to enjoy it again.

  4. Hank: Thanks for compiling the first set of great questions from us.
    Ingrid and Jenn: Lots of fun reading your responses!

    Lots of books to read this weekend:
    Finishing off FELIZ NAVIDEAD by Ann Myers, MURDER OF A CRANKY CATNAPPER by Denise Swanson
    Then will start a couple of ARCs:
    DARK FISSURES by Matt Coyle and WHERE THE LOST GIRLS GO by R.J. Noonan

    Happy reading everyone!!

  5. Hank, thanks for selecting these questions, among the many, and I enjoyed what Ingrid and Jenn had to say.

    I'm finishing up DEATH IN ADVERTISING by Laura Bradford and next up is GARDEN OF LAMENTATIONS by Deborah Crombie.

  6. What fun answers. Jenn, so your kitchen counter is your standing desk. I like it! Ingrid, I was in the Boston area when the Charles Stuart case happened. Horrifying how quickly the police jumped to "black man must have done it."

    I have an event on January 28 at Toad Hall Books in scenic Rockport, MA. "Tea and Intrigue" at 4:30 pm talking plot with Susan Oleksiw and Marian Stanley. Join us!

  7. Fun to read these questions and answers! This weekend I have the first two of Ingrid books on hand (plus my perennial go-to re-read: my "Jill" pony books by Ruby Ferguson from 45 years ago; I love the characters - such resilient children, and the stories - always horse-focused and fun).

  8. Such fun to hear from you! And we will definitely do it again… I am headed to the airport, so I will see you when I get to Florida!

  9. Hank, I hear ya. Started snowing here last night and now I'm freezing in my dining room. Don't want to turn up the heat or build a fire because I'm leaving in a couple hours.

    Lala, if you are looking for a book with a Kennedy assassination tie-in, check out THE KENNEDY CONNECTION by R.G. Belsky. Thriller - very good.

    Jenn, five books? Wow. And yeah - how did you come to be standing in your kitchen?

    I'm in the mood for something lighter, so I'm reading SILK STALKINGS by Diane Vallere.

  10. Hmm, some of these we're going to have to circle back to. Fired from Harlequin? The Charles Stuart case!

    I'm reading Deb's new book which I have in galley (nyah nyah) Garden of Lamentations and I am loving it. Just finished the Goldfinch (fist pump!)

  11. Mary - I had the same reaction as you to Jenn's upcoming roster: Five books?! Holy cow!

    Jenn, I definitely want to hear more about Harlequin. And writing at the kitchen counter? I need more info!

    For those of you who have listed multiple books for the weekend, will you finish them all? Are you just dipping into each one?

    Hallie, now that you've finished "The Goldfinch" would you recommend it?

  12. Ingrid: The first two books are more than half finished. And if I hunker down on a bad weather day, I can read 2-3 books in a day. So reading the 4 books I listed this weekend is quite doable!

  13. Great questions and answers! I need to emulate Jenn -- not the writing (couldn't do that in my wildest dreams) but the standing. This weekend I'm finishing Ingrid's Loyalty (love Fina!) and next up is Home by Harlan Coben.

  14. Ingrid - I remember the Charles Stuart case. I was in college in New Haven at the time and it was on the news constantly! Weird. I also remember the the CT wood chipper murder a few years before that one. Dang, New England was a creepy place in the late eighties!

    Edith - You got it! It's my stand up desk. I was feeling like all I did was sit all day so I wanted to try writing while standing up. My kitchen counter which is the right height ergonomically. Now I write and pace and write and pace. So far, I really like it.

    Mary - I love Diane Vallere!

    Hallie - Yep, fired. I couldn't master the short (50,000 word) form for romantic comedy that Harlequin was looking for at the time. They were very pleasant about it - so pleasant I didn't really realize I was fired until a year later. Not sure what that says about me, but it got me to try mysteries so it all turned out okay in the end.

    Reading Susan Elizabeth Philips's The Great Escape -- she cracks me up and I figured I needed to start this year with some laughs.

  15. Would I recommend The Goldfinch... that's a tough one. A qualified YES. It's brilliant writing, unforgettable characters and situation, at the outset rich and Dickensian -- and for the first 100+ pages, well, it doesn't get much better than that. But my attention waned through pages 150-450. Maybe it's because I write and read so much crime fiction where everything has to be taut and leading somewhere. After awhile reading it felt like wrestling an octopus. A very handsome octopus.

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  17. Interesting about THE GOLDFINCH Hallie...I don't know whether I'll dive in or not. So many great books in my pile calling to me. I just finished ICED UNDER by Barbara Ross--love this series. And now halfway through Jenn's most charming ASSAULT AND BERET. Then I have Hank's SAY NO MORE and Deb's GARDEN OF LAMENTATIONS!

    And you all, don't forget to finish reading or rereading BEL CANTO by January 19:)

  18. Ps, I was in New Haven in the late 80s too, and definitely remember the gruesome wood chipper...

    and I meant to say January 18 for BEL CANTO!

  19. What am I reading?

    Just finished Deliver the Truth by Edith Maxwell, Mary Russell's War and Short Stories by Laurie King and Murder at Longbourn by Tracy Kiely this week. Either Nine Lives by Wendy Corsi Staub (new series) or The Necessary Murder of Nonie Blake. IF I find the new Bakeshop mystery, Fudge and Jury by Ellie Alexander this weekend, then I will read that book. I love that series!

    Darn it! I missed the chance to ask a question.

    IF I still can ask a question, here is my question (or two) for Ingrid and Jenn:

    Thinking of Murder, She Wrote, have you been consulted by the police to help solve a murder in real life?

    Do you have relatives or friends who work or worked in the police department?

    Welcome to JRW!


  20. What a great Q&A blog -- I really enjoyed it. The temperature is in the negatives this morning and will be through the weekend, so I am looking forward to some warm and cozy reading; I just need to find the right book. Have a great weekend everyone, and safe travels, Hank!

  21. Very enjoyable getting to know Ingrid and Jenn through these answers! Thanks, Hank, for coordinating it.

    Top of my list for the weekend is Bel Canto. If I finish it with time to spare, might finish X by Sue Grafton, which has been languishing. If some miracle occurs and I still have reading time, probably moving on to A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman, which a close friend is DYING for me to read and discuss.

  22. Hmmm...wrestling an octopus...that really only appeals in the wild, Hallie!

    Edith, my spine doctor suggested a standing desk, but I worry that my posture would be less than ideal and create new problems.

    Jenn, I can't believe the wood chipper murder escaped my attention! I'm usually on top of these things!

    I'm reading ARCs at the moment, in anticipation of some events. I'm really enjoying "Burning Bright" by Nicholas Petrie and "The Old Man" by Thomas Perry.

  23. Jenn, I do get the standing desk and I've written bits here and there standing at my kitchen island, but it must not be the right height for me because I get all out of whack. Ingrid, I'll bet if you tried a ergonomic standing desk it might work.

    Jenn, what really astounds me is the ten pages a day. TEN. I can sometimes do that at the very end of the book when I know exactly where everything is going, but a day or two of writing like that and I'm toast.

    Ingrid, what's a good day's writing for you?

    I started Bel Canto last night. Lovely writing. Can't wait to see where it goes.

  24. Jenn, I may try your kitchen counter idea! I've been wanting a standing desk for a while, so I could alternate sitting/standing at the computer. Unfortunately, the ones that looked good in my office (which is also our front parlour) were too expensive, and the ones I could afford looked like gym equipment. The kitchen counter may be the perfect no-fuss no-muss solution!

    I'll echo Debs - ten pages a day! I'm in awe.

  25. Great answers, ladies! I'm currently reading a Christmas gift, Lawless and the Devil of Euston Square by William Sutton. Billed as Victorian crime fiction. It's a 500 page paperback and I'm halfway through it. Next up is Bel Canto. I just raced through a slew of Tai Randolph books by Tina Whittle. Absolutely loved them. I'm waiting for the newest to show up in the mail.

  26. Deb, A good writing really depends on the day and the project. I generally aim for five pages (1.5 spacing,) but I've been known to do ten, and I've been known to do less.

    It's been interesting for me to kind of broaden my definition of "writing a book" to include coming up with ideas, research, etc. Some days I feel like I'm not getting anything done, but I may actually figure out a plot point or something that has been problematic in the story. I'm not actually writing on those days, but I'm definitely working.

  27. What a treat today, reading the questions and answers! Ingrid and Jen, you are such great additions to the Reds. Jen, five books this year? I am speechless (and that doesn't often happen). Ingrid, I love the newspaper for your family. I wish I'd thought of that when I was a kid. Ingrid, the Charles Stuart case rings a bell, even though I'm not from the area. Jen, being fired from Harlequin makes a great story.

    My reading for the weekend. Last night I worked on my reading list for 2017 and my new publications list for 2017. I love lists. My 2017 Reading List is already a daunting one, as it contains older books I've yet to get to (at least six from 2015), new books, and series catch-ups. I started 2017 out in a bit of a tangle. I needed and wanted to read Terry Shames' An Unsettling Crime for Samuel Craddock and get a review or piece about it and the series posted on my blog. I thought I'd read it over Christmas, and, well, the best laid plans and all. So, I was caught in the middle of Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner, which I had to set aside, something I rarely ever do. But, of course, I was thrilled with Terry's Samuel Craddock prequel. Now, I have a book I need to read and review for next Tuesday book publications, Where I Can See You by Larry D. Sweazy. So, my plan is to finish Missing, Presumed and then read Where I Can See You. See how I can take a simple question and write a thesis on it. Kind of reminds me of writing a 75-page paper for my Masters when a 35-page one was required. Hahaha!

    Then, there is Bel Canto, which I am going to reread for the discussion here. Debs, is this your first reading of Bel Canto? It sounded like that's what you were saying. I hope you love it as much as I did, and, oddly enough, I hope I love it as much as I did when I first read it. It's one of those books that I rather revere, and I'm almost afraid that it won't live up to my memory of the first reading, but since I'm an Ann Patchett fan anyway, and it's on my favorite books list, I'm optimistic that it will. I do wish I could read faster. Grace, I need your speed.

    Have a lovely day everyone.

  28. Anonymous- I have never been interviewed by the police in an official capacity :) But I did attend the Scottsdale Citizen's police academy, which was fascinating and I also have several friends on the force of the Phoenix PD so I feel like I have an in if I ever want to go in a more police procedural direction.

    Ten pages per day is mostly because I repeatedly overcommit myself. If I wasn't such a spaz I'd be doing way, way, way less - more like ten pages per week.

    Bel Canto - got it! Am going to try and score a copy now!

  29. Anonymous, I've never been consulted by the police, in any kind of capacity. :)

    I've done a ride along with the Seattle PD, which was a fantastic experience. Out of that, I've become friends with some cops, and in August, they took me to the Seattle PD gun range to practice shooting. In DUPLICITY, they're listed in the acknowledgements for answering my endless questions!

  30. Just finished deck the halls and I'm reading final reverily. Jenni I'm so happy you have 5 books coming out! Yay!

  31. Just finished Hank's Say No More and Edith Maxwell's Farmed and Dangerous
    Now reading The Lightkeeper's Wife by Karen Viggers (not a suspense)

  32. Wish I had known about Murder on the Beach. I live close by and would have loved to visit with you all.