September 6, 2012

Made It Moment: Hank Phillippi Ryan

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 8:47 am

The Other Woman

Occasionally I hear from writers who ask what I think about writing conferences. My answer always comes fast: I love them. (Just recently I co-authored a piece about the fabulous ThrillerFest for The Big Thrill e-zine). But today’s Made It Moment illustrates the real reason I think conferences are such a wonderful experience. If I hadn’t gone to Malice 2011, I wouldn’t have met Hank Phillippi Ryan in person. Hank had long been an author whose work I admired, but when I signed up to sit at her table at the banquet, I had no idea she would become such a person to admire, too. You’ll see what I mean when you read Hank’s Moment, which gets at the doubt we writers live with everyday, and how we just might surmount it.

And if you get hold of a copy of Hank’s hot-off-the-press latest suspense novel, The Other Woman, and play the video which goes “behind the scenes,” well, I think you might find real inspiration there, too. I did.

Hank Phillippi Ryan

For me –a TV reporter—the “made it moment” has a completely different meaning. As in—it’s two minutes until 6 PM, my news story is on the air at 6, and we’re still in the edit booth. The seconds tick by. If I miss my slot–a cardinal sin in TV news–that will not be a good thing. The machine whirs, the computer connects, the pictures are all in place, my voice is there, no black holes in the video—we push ENTER! Right on time.

Made it! I say.

And if that moment sounds stressful and frantic–yes, indeed it is.

Which is why my made-it moments in my other world of fiction writing are so wonderfully different.

I’ve been a reporter for 30 years—more!—wired myself with hidden cameras, chased down criminals, confronted corrupt politicians—and it’s often instant gratification. You got the story, or you don’t. You get the sound bite, or you don’t. Yes? No? And the next day you start from scratch.

But in writing fiction—imagine that, I get to make stuff up–the timeline is incredibly different. I’ve learned—it all takes a long time. Overnight successes are measured in years. Years! Think how long Charlaine Harris has been writing, Lee Child, Lisa Scottoline, Tess Gerritsen. My heroes in the mystery world are—long-term heroes. And it took impatient me some time to understand that the glory of writing a novel is that it takes a while. A long while.

And you have to be diligent, and persistent, and devoted. Even—obsessed.

So every day I write, I have a made it moment. I sit down at my computer, I hear the hum and I revel when the manuscript is –yes! still there!– and hasn’t disappeared in some unpredicted disaster. I’ve made it back to my place. The story is moving ahead, unfolding. I’m never sure what’s going to happen next—with no outline and no plan, my new world takes shape.

(I had a little separate made-it moment when I got the idea for THE OTHER WOMAN, I must say. The moment I thought about this sentence: “You can choose your sin, but you cannot choose your consequences,” I realized I had a story to tell. A story of secrets and sex and duplicity and revenge and consequences—and the conflict created when a devoted reporter thinks she’s onto a big pivotal election scandal—but what if he’s wrong?)

And—a year or so later—that turned out to be THE OTHER WOMAN. But every day that year, at the end of each writing session, I thought—oh, I made it! I did this. I’m doing this! I’m a writer. My story is growing and soon—but okay, not THAT soon—I’ll know what happens.

And I cannot wait until I make it to my desk again the next day. A new world awaits. In just the next moment.

Hank Phillippi Ryan is the investigative reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliate. A television journalist since 1975, she has won 27 Emmys and ten Edward R. Murrow awards for her work. Her work has resulted in new laws, people sent to prison, homes removed from foreclosure, and millions of dollars in restitution. A best-selling author of four mystery novels, Ryan has won the Agatha, Anthony and Macavity awards for her crime fiction. Her newest thriller, THE OTHER WOMAN, was published by Forge in September 2012. She’s on the national board of directors of Mystery Writers of America (and an instructor at MWA-U) and will be president of national Sisters in Crime in 2013.


  1. Thanks for this glimpse into the life of one of my favorite authors. I am so looking forward to The Other Woman.

    I loved this comment, “So every day I write, I have a made it moment.” That is so true for all of us who are compelled to tell stories.

    Comment by Maryann Miller — September 6, 2012 @ 10:49 am

  2. Aw, Jenny, thank you so much for inviting me! Yes, serendipity, huh? And I cannot wait to read your book–and see photos from your amazing travel adventure!

    Comment by Hank Phillippi Ryan — September 6, 2012 @ 10:50 am

  3. Thank you, Maryann! And when you look at it that way, every day you’re a success, right?

    Comment by Hank Phillippi Ryan — September 6, 2012 @ 10:51 am

  4. Thanks, Jenny, for posting a blog piece about Hank Phillippi Ryan. I had a chance to meet her briefly at the LIM conference this year. You’re right, she’s as cool as her books–a very classy person. I’m looking forward to checking out her latest.

    Comment by susan furlong-bolliger — September 6, 2012 @ 11:02 am

  5. Hi Jenny, very interesting Moments.


    Comment by Aryhur Levine — September 6, 2012 @ 11:22 am

  6. Thanks for sharing your story with us.


    Comment by Kellie — September 6, 2012 @ 11:27 am

  7. Sounds like an interesting read. Impressive career without writing awards. On TBR list.

    Comment by Jake — September 6, 2012 @ 11:56 am

  8. Hank, I love the idea of having a made it moment every time you sit down to write. That joy comes through in your wonderful books.

    Comment by Lynn Franklin — September 6, 2012 @ 1:39 pm

  9. Hank,
    Can’t wait to read your latest. When are you writing your autobiography?

    Comment by Marilyn Levinson — September 6, 2012 @ 3:11 pm

  10. I attended Hank Phillipi Ryan’s Master Writing Class at LIM in February and found it lively and informative. She’s a wonderfully knowledgeable speaker, a very sweet lady, and a talented writer.

    Comment by Evelyn Cullet — September 6, 2012 @ 4:48 pm

  11. This was so interesting! Thanks!

    I also can’t wait to read your autobiographies, Hank! (At least one for each career or topic?)


    Comment by Brenda — September 6, 2012 @ 6:04 pm

  12. The Other Woman sounds thrilling. What a story! And I love Hank’s Made It Moment: “Every day I write, I have a made it moment.” I think I’ll make that mine too.

    Comment by Kathleen Kaska — September 6, 2012 @ 6:42 pm

  13. Hi Hank, thanks for sharing your story. It helps put our careers in perspective to realize that every day we create a magical moment for our characters and the stories they share. We met briefly at SF B’con in 2010. I love your energy and your shoes! And I never miss a panel you’re on because you can’t help but be entertaining. As are all of your books. This was on my TBP list so I’ll throw in my hat and hope I get lucky, but if not, I’ll be reading it soon anyway.

    Comment by Cindy Sample — September 6, 2012 @ 7:44 pm

  14. Love your made it moment, Hank! Thanks, Jenny. Nice inspiration!

    Comment by Pamela DuMond — September 6, 2012 @ 11:23 pm

  15. Oh, thank you! You are incredibly inspirational. What a treat to read this..Autobiography, huh? Yeah. Sigh. I can’t remember a thing.

    And (swaggering a bit) I just received Jenny’s book! I thought, oh, I’m crazed, but I can’t resist reading one chapter. Bingo. Fabulous. I mean-fabulous! More to come…xoo

    Comment by Hank Phillippi Ryan — September 7, 2012 @ 12:26 am

  16. Nice interview. Hank tells a good story, both in her narrative and in her writing. If a person every gets a chance to see Hank (such as at an MWAU seminar) don’t miss it.

    Hank not only writes good stories (novels) but she knows how beats the heart and both crushes and entralls the sould of the writer.

    Jack Bludis

    Comment by Jack Bludis — September 7, 2012 @ 10:29 am

  17. The word was enthralls … not sure what entralls means but it sounds like “entrails” which is guts. That might apply too. Sorry about the typo.


    Comment by Jack Bludis — September 7, 2012 @ 10:32 am

  18. Absolutely loved the ARC of The Other Woman that I won. All of you should read it. It’s a fascinating puzzle – not all the pieces look like they fit, but eventually they do. So glad that Hank is enjoying her made-it-moments.

    Comment by Jody — September 7, 2012 @ 11:18 am

  19. Lovely to read your “Made Moment.” I do agree that when you’re working creatively there are many made moments. Congrats on a great career!

    Comment by Jacqueline Seewald — September 7, 2012 @ 12:57 pm

  20. Sometimes there are small made it moments, and there are big ones. It seems that Hank has a handle on all of these. Read her book; I just did and loved it.

    Comment by Lil Gluckstern — September 7, 2012 @ 3:30 pm

  21. Hi Jenny,

    This is a lovely interview. I’m fascinated by Hank, and love learning more about her. I don’t need to win a copy of THE OTHER WOMAN because I already won one! Forget Mount TBR; I’m going to read it next. Next, I tell you!

    And here’s some of Hank’s XXOX back at you both.


    Comment by Theresa de Valence — September 7, 2012 @ 3:33 pm

  22. Hank, you are so inspiring! (And I love that different idea of a “made it moment” for reporters!)

    Comment by Gigi Pandian — September 7, 2012 @ 4:19 pm

  23. Whoa! Wise woman! I love the concept that each writing day is a “made-it” moment. My personal mantra is to cherish the process. Now, I’m going to revise that ever so slightly to cherish the time the process takes!

    Comment by Anne K. Albert — September 8, 2012 @ 9:15 am

  24. Dropped in to say hello and give you another pulg on Twitter & Facebook. Can you give us a hint as when to expect the next adventure?
    I’m learning to recognize those little “made it moments” every time you close the computer. They are very important to keep you going.
    Nash Black (Irene)

    Comment by Nash Black — September 8, 2012 @ 12:32 pm

  25. Just back from Detroit….and very difficult computer find these lovely comments! Thank you, so much…I’ll come bck tomorrow and catch up! love love love–it is such a treat to read these!

    Comment by Hank Phillippi Ryan — September 9, 2012 @ 11:45 pm

  26. I love the ‘made it moments’ and this one was somehow truly special and affirming, contrasting two worlds and two moments. It really spoke to me. Thank you, Jenny, for making these wonderful moments available – and thank you, Hank Phillippi Ryan, for sharing yours.

    Comment by Diana Wilder — September 10, 2012 @ 10:07 am

  27. You have an exciting and scary job, Hank!
    No wonder you write such exciting, scary books!

    Morgan Mandel

    Comment by Morgan Mandel — September 17, 2012 @ 1:57 pm

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