Tuesday, February 9, 2021

What We're Writing: Hank Gives A Sneak Peek at HER PERFECT LIFE



HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Well, yikes. Will ya look at that cover? I have never seen such a gorgeous thing, and I will pause, now while you swoon.  (Thank you, designer Katie Klim!)

So. HER PERFECT LIFE is now in copy-edits, and at the proofreader, while I fuss and fidget and wonder what career-ending errors it includes.

This tiny tiny bit is NOT the beginning. It is not chapter two. More I cannot say. But it does give you main character (Lilly Atwood), her world, her conflict, and...several secrets to the entire story.

It doesn't come out until September 14, SO far away and so soon at the same time.  And that's why I feel fine about letting you read this snippet. By the time the book comes out, you'll have forgotten it. 

from HER PERECT LIFE


They’d gone through a rough patch, a few years ago, when Rowe had started asking about her father. Lily hadn’t been ready to discuss it, and, stalling, had successfully skirted the issue. But an insistently curious woman in the produce section of the grocery store had stolen Lily’s control over that.

 “And this must be Rowen,” the woman had said, reaching out to the little girl, almost touching her, until Lily had inched the shopping cart between them. 

 The woman—black yoga pants and a shabby-chic leather jacket, stylish crimped hair and careful lip gloss—had looked Rowen up and down, assessing. “I’ve heard all about you on Facebook, Rowen,” she said.

 She’d started digging into a black leather tote bag, and Lily had felt her own heart constrict when the woman pulled out a cell phone.

 “I love penguins, too. Do you and your mother visit them at the aquarium? Can I take a selfie with you two? Right here by all these beautiful apples?” 

 No no no, Lily thought. She never put Rowe’s photo on social media, not a recognizable one at least, but once used a shot from behind showing Ro’s sandy hair in a penguin-ribboned ponytail. BG loves penguins, Lily had captioned. She called Rowen “BG” online, for baby girl, and never used her name. How did this woman know it? Easy enough, Lily supposed. It was impossible to keep anything secret.

 Lily had wanted to yank the penguin ribbon out of Rowe’s hair, right there in front of the Granny Smiths and the Honeycrisps, and spin her cart away. But the public Lily had to be approachable, relatable, engaging. One wrong word in the Star Market and the internet could turn Lily from beloved icon to full-of-herself-bitch. Social media loved a falling star. 

 “Oh, I’m so flattered, thank you, but how about you and me? Just the two of us?” Lily had stopped the selfie train in its tracks. “But not my--” 

 “Of course,” the woman said, the warmth leaving her voice in just those two words. She stashed her phone away with an unnecessarily dramatic gesture. “Far be it from me to intrude on your precious--”

 “So kind of you, I so appreciate it,” Lily had said, as sincerely as she could, then turned her cart deliberately, telegraphing her intention to continue down the aisle. “Happy shopping!” 

 “Why do we never hear about Rowen’s father, Lily?” 

 In the beat of silence that followed, Rowen had curled a finger into a belt loop of Lily’s jeans, and tucked herself in behind her mother. Rowen, then not even four feet tall, had left no space between the two of them. 

 “Oh, gosh, I beg your pardon?” Lily tried not to react, tried not to grab a Granny Smith and lob it at the woman’s smug face. “I’m not sure why’d you’d ask me that?”

 “You media,” the woman had sneered, suddenly a viper. “You think you’re above it all.” She pivoted her cart, then pivoted it back. “Better ask your mother about him, Rowen,” she’d said. 

 And then, the wheels of her cart rattling, she bustled away. 

 “Attention shoppers,” a fuzzy voice on the public address system had boomed through the store. “In our famous cheese section right now, a demonstration of all the different kinds of Parmesan….” 

Rowen had not budged.

 Around them, shoppers pushed their rackety metal carts, a display of Meyer lemons tumbled to the ground as a toddler wailed, the fragrance of fresh cilantro and parsley, of ripening cantaloupes and pungent spring onions surrounding them, just another Saturday in the grocery. Except to Rowen and Lily, now side by side at a moment in their lives that Lily had planned for. She had. 

But not now, not today. Not in the grocery store.

 Rowen had asked of course, since about the time she’d turned four: Why don’t I have a daddy? And Lily had been ready for that. You do have a daddy, she’d assured the little girl, and I love him very much, but he lives far away, and I love you enough for both of us. That had satisfied Rowen; or seemed to. 

But then the grocery store viper struck. “Mumma?” the girl’s almost-green eyes had welled, widening, as they looked into Lily’s matching ones. 

Lily had stooped, dropping herself to Ro’s height. “What honey?” 

Lily knew Rowen would ask—her daughter was whipsmart, with a memory like a computer. Lily had learned not to make promises she couldn’t keep. And negotiation was less and less successful. 

"Why did the lady ask about my father?” Rowen whispered.

 Lily felt like bursting into tears. “Why do you think, honey?”


HANK: So, there you have it. HER PERFECT LIFE. And, you know, in that one half a scene is the whole book. I'm just not going to tell you the rest of it. You'll have to read it on your own. No pressure, you all. Just my career.

Please mark it as to-read on BookBub and Goodreads, okay? And sign up for my newsletter for a chance to get an advance review copy. Scroll up and look at that cover again! Whoa.

And darling reds and readers, cross every finger you've got. What do you think?

76 comments:

  1. Oh, goodness, the social media strikes again. Lily’s distress certainly is palpable; readers are sure to sympathize with her.
    As for the woman . . . her self-absorption shows in her belief that she’s entitled [good grief, the idea that posting on social media really creates such entitlement is downright scary] . . . . I just can’t wait to read the rest! [And although I know it’s not necessary, my fingers are crossed.]

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    1. Yay! And thank you so much! I can’t tell you how scary it is to have real people read this…

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  2. Intriguing scene. Proves to me that it won't be a career ender at all.

    And yes, that's a great cover.

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  3. Whoa! What I say is how engaging! I was right there in that grocery store, wanting to throw an apple at the nosy lady, too. You really know how to build a scene, Hank. I can't wait to read this book.

    And, the cover is indeed stunning. The colors are balanced so perfectly, as are the font sizes. The woman's lipstick is just the right shade of red. I love the title, too. I feel like Her Perfect Life is going to be wildly successful.

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    1. This is so fabulous to hear on so many levels! As for the cover, I cannot tell you how we all discussed, literally, fractions of inches between letters. xxxxx

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  4. Ya got me hooked! And yes, great cover.

    My goddaughter - not a famous person at all, although a successful real estate agent - has the same no-faces-on-social-media rule about her daughter, whom I adore. I've posted a few pix of Miss C from the back, but only after clearing it with Anna. I think it's such a wise parenting choice.

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    1. Yes, it is very creepy out there! (How’s your hand?)

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    2. (Thanks for asking. Hand is quite painful, even though I now have a pretty lime green cast. Neither fingers nor brain are up to working, so it's a perfect time to whittle down the TBR stack.)

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    3. Edith,

      Agreed. A bookstagram friend NEVER posts photos of her children. Once in a while she will post photos of her with her husband.

      Wishing you a healthy recovery from hand surgery. Hope that your hand is better.

      Diana

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    4. We don't post photos of the kids on Facebook. Rachel does but I never do. Maybe when they are older. Cristina has posted a few of Benjamin, but again, I don't. And, it's so tempting to show them off, they are all so cute!

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    5. Edith, keep us posted! And yes, it is probably not a good idea to post the children... no matter how adorable.

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  5. Completely riveting! Brava, Hank!! I especially love the way you play out that fraught conversation against that everyday uncharged background. And isn't that the point? Echoes the title. Brilliant. I'm of the no-faces-on-social-media rule, too, for children and really anyone else who's recognizable and hasn't given me explicit permission. And that cover positively pulses.

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    1. So thrilled to hear this! Thank you thank you thank you… I hope so. xxx

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    2. I post photos of Wren every once and a while, but I always ask permission from her mom.

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  6. Oh Hank! My heart is pounding for Lily! You can't leave us like this. I better read it again and see if there isn't something I missed even though I know I did read every word. Maybe more will appear if I try very very hard.

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    1. I always hope that once you read the whole book, if you go back and read it again, you will see or… Yes, indeed! xxxxx thank you!

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  7. Gorgeous cover and enticing snippet, Hank. I’m not worried about the success of your new book.

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    1. That is so great to hear! I have to say, we went through maybe 10 covers before this one… And then tweaked it a lot! It is quite the process.

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  8. Brilliantly beautiful cover, Hank! BRAVO! And yes, the dangers of celebrity and how social media can intrude upon innocent family members is very real. Anxiously waiting to learn more!

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    1. Crossing fingers, dear Grace! And Hannah will read it on first chapter fun… Isn’t that amazing?

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    2. HANK: Yay! Looking forward to Hannah reading HER PERFECT LIFE on FCF!

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  9. I guess you wouldn't be Hank if you didn't worry, but really?! Another knock our socks off entry into the canon of your work! I'm sitting here ready to cry for Lily and her Rowe.

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  10. I like it. I don't think you need to worry about it being a career-ender. I need to pre-order my copy.

    And I love the cover.

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    1. Yaaay! That is so wonderful of you… Thank you! Nothing could make me happier.

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    2. Liz, congratulations on your new book. I'm checking that out later today.

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  11. Fabulous, Hank! I can't wait to find out more. As Liz suggested, you don't need to worry about it being a career ender.

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    1. Oh, thank you dear friend! But you know, as a writer, there is always worry…

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  12. Hank, you pulled me in. September is so far away. You got this!

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    1. Thank you! It’s interesting, isn’t it, I was September seems so far away, and then suddenly it won’t be??

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  13. A grocery store encounter equals a diner fight. Congratulations!

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  14. WOW. And we don't get to read the rest until SEPTEMBER?! That's just mean ;)

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    1. Amy,

      Your book just launched this week, right?

      Diana

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    2. Yaay! And you’ll all be hearing more about it right here on these very pages!

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  15. Hank,

    Quite riveting! That is quite a hook! That snippet really grabbed my attention. I was thinking of a big supermarket type of grocery store. Or is it one of these local Organic grocery shops in the neighborhood?

    Looking at the cover, if that is Lily, she looks barely old enough to drive let alone old enough to get a glass of wine in public. I have so many thoughts here.

    I wanted to throw an apple at that horrid person in the grocery store. The shabby chic clad person sounds like a stalker to me.

    With children, you have to be very careful about posting photos because there are crazy people out there. I was looking at old newspaper clippings of my relatives as children in the 1950s and I was Surprised that the newspapers mentioned the addresses where the families lived!

    Some people post photos of their children. Some people do not.

    Your book would make a great read for Halloween because it sounds very spooky! I am adding this book to my Halloween reading.

    Diana

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    1. Oh, thank you! Yes, things used to be so much more lax, so crazy to think about! As for the woman on the cover, is she Lily? You’ll have to read the book to find out xxxx

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    2. Hank,

      I knew you were going to say that. LOL. I plan to read the book.

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  16. So much packed into such a short scene! I think it's super-intriguing, super-relatable, and just all around super. I'll mark it as "want to read" for sure!

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  17. Hank, it is tantalizing and I cannot wait to read it. I'm so worried about Lily.

    But, I am not worried about you. This scene is golden and the story pulses from this spot in front of the apples. Is this the book you had to cut by 20,000 words last month?

    BTW, The Back Room rocked last Sunday!

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    1. Oh, so pleased you had fun in the back room! We are loving it, too… And wait till you see who’s coming up! Xxx
      And yes, that is the book I had to cut 20,000 words from! I am so pleased with it… I love cutting out words.

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  18. Wow. That's a teaser extraordinaire, Hank! Bring on the pub date!!

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    1. Thank you! So much to do before then… The book is still in copy edits, so one step at a time :-)

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  19. Wow, Hank! Your excerpt really grabbed me and made ME want to throw a Granny Smith apple at that nervy supermarket stalker! You have definitely hit a nerve here.

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    1. And after reading it myself, i wondered if I should change the second Granny Smith reference to Winesap. Or something. hmm.

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  20. I've said before and I'll say it again - mean, you are just mean to tease us with this snippet of the book. I remember an earlier peak at the cover and I liked it then and now I'm wondering who the lady is but, again, you won't tell. So mean. :-) When is Hannah reading the first chapter, this week?

    Children's pictures on social media, yes or no. I have friends who have posted pictures from their children's infancy. I can see the pros and cons of doing that. There are really dangerous people out there. But it is also a simple, more immediate way for family members to watch children grow up when they aren't living in the same area.

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    1. Oh, thank you! Hannah is reading in September, the week before the book comes out!

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  21. Oh, September is just too far away . . . Brava, Hank! <3

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    1. Thank you, dear pal. September will be here all too soon...

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  22. Hank, you are such a tease!! The cover is fabulous, just perfect, and I can't wait to find out the rest of the story!!

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  23. I love it!! Put me on the can't-wait-to-read list. I already love little Rowan and hate that crimped-hair Karen who CLEARLY knows something she shouldn't.

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    1. Possibly! Or possibly she's just nasty nosey intrusive fan. xx

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  24. Oooh. Not sure what that was all about, but I definitely want to know!

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  25. Ooooooooh, I am all in! I just want to hug both Lily and Rowen and run down that skanky woman with the shopping cart, but I also MUST KNOW who her father is...you're killing me, Hank. CAN NOT WAIT for this book. Reds get ARCS, right?

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    1. Reds get ARCS! And, a blog for another time, when I wrote that section, I had NO idea whether her father would turn out to be good or bad.

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    2. AND--certainly we'll have giveaways here and Goodreads...

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  27. Did you miss me?? I was getting my first does of COVID VACCINE!! yay. ANd now to read the comments I missed..

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  28. All fingers crossed! Can't wait!

    Congratulations on getting the vaccine, Hank. My husband is on his way right this minute.

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  29. Wow. OK, I'm hooked! And congrats on getting the COVID shot!!

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  30. This excerpt is gooseflesh good. My favorite line: ". . . now side by side at a moment in their lives that Lily had planned for". Home run. Congratulations.

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  31. Well done!!! Just enough to draw me in .Her Perfect Life is in BOLD PRINT on my TBR. This will be a good start to fall reading

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