An interview with Hallie Ephron

Gordon, Hallie Ephron, Mary Higgins Clark, and Hank Phillippi Ryan – taken at the reception announcing the winner of the 2011 Mary Higgins Clark Award.

Hallie is an author I discovered not too long ago. I love that she’s a suspense writer, and good at it. Her books don’t just give you a mystery to solve, they provoke feelings along the way, just like the movie she mentions below:

PJ: How long have you been writing?

Hallie: Fiction? For about fifteen years.  I started to get serious when my kids moved out and I finally had that proverbial “room of one’s own.”

PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?

Hallie: A famous writer once told me that being a writer is like flying — there’s always someone in a class ahead of you. So I try to grab every milestone and embrace it as “success,” drink a toast, and savor the moment. From sitting down that first day to write, to finishing my first manuscript, to getting an agent, to holding my first published book, to finishing my 12th book (three weeks ago)… Celebrate! I recommend it.

PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?

Hallie: When we I sold “Never Tell a Lie” to the Lifetime Movie Network, my daughter asked me if we were rich yet. I told her no — it was a car, not a house.

PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?

Hallie: It’s too darned hard and takes too darned long to write a book, so I’m always writing about themes and characters that I really really care about.

PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?

 

Hallie: Two years to get the manuscript ready to send to agents; two MORE years to find an agent and publisher, revising endlessly along the way; another year to see it in print. Five in all.

PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?

Hallie: Deadlines help. I keep a spreadsheet with word count plotted against a calendar, and ever few weeks I update it to see if I have to pour on the gas or if I can afford to ease up a bit.

PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

 

Hallie: The response to “Never Tell a Lie” was a fantastic ride. Lots of foreign sales and a sale to the Lifetime Movie Network (they made “And Baby Will Fall”). Then, to ice the cake, it was nominated for the Mary Higgins Clark Award.

PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

 

Hallie: You’ll need dogged determination and intestinal fortitude to stick with it, through first draft and endless revisions, until your words are polished to lapidary perfection. It wouldn’t hurt, either, to have the hide of a rhinoceros to withstand the inevitable rejections. Talent being equal, what separates many a published mystery writer from an unpublished one is sheer stamina and blind luck. Only gluttons for punishment need apply.

PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

 

Hallie: I combine teaching with writing. I love going to groups and conferences and teaching ABOUT writing, meeting writers, helping other writers get a leg up — and along the way getting my name out there and building readership.

PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

 

Hallie: Writing the dreaded synopsis. AKA book pitch. Feels like it takes out all the complexity and nuance and leaves behind raw sales pitch. Worst thing is, it’s so hard.

PJ: Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:

 

Hallie: You would ask…

Reformed hacker Diana Highsmith is a recluse who works and lives online. She has not ventured beyond her home for over a year – not since that fateful climbing vacation took Daniel’s life.But when her’s sister disappears, Diana is forced to do what seems impossible: brave the outside world. By assuming the identity of her alter-ego, an avatar who is as fearless as Diana herself once was, she finds the courage to set out.

PJ: Where can we buy it?

 

Hallie: Just about anywhere. Amazon, B&N, Books-a-Million, and independent bookstores. The paperback edition came out in March 2012.

PJ: Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:

Hallie: Come and Find Me (Wm. Morrow, March, 2011)
Never Tell a Lie (Wm. Morrow, 2009)
The Bibliophile’s Devotional (Adams Media, 2010)
1001 Books for Every Mood (Adams Media, 2008)
Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel: How to Knock ‘Em Dead with Style (Writers Digest Books, 2005

And the Dr. Peter Zak mystery series by G. H. Ephron written with co-author Donald Davidoff
Guilt (St. Martin’s Minotaur, 2005)
Obsessed (St. Martin’s Minotaur, 2003)
Delusion (St. Martin’s Minotaur, 2002)
Addiction (St. Martin’s Minotaur, 2001)
Amnesia (St. Martin’s Minotaur, 2000)

PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?

 

Hallie: I’m suspense writer, and I’m always going for what I call the “lightbulb in the glass of milk” moment. Think of the scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Suspicion. The Joan Fontaine character believes that her charming, wastrel husband, played by Cary Grant, is an embezzler and a murderer. As Grant mounts the stairs, the camera zooms in on what he’s carrying: a tray with his wife’s nightly glass of warm milk. That milk seems to glow, and we’re wondering: Is it poison?

Hitchcock placed a light bulb in that glass to give it an eerie glow, and I’m always trying to do the literary equivalent, building dramatic tension by making the ordinary seem menacing.

Don’t you just love talking with some of our favorite authors? What would you ask Hallie if she were here?

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3 thoughts on “An interview with Hallie Ephron

  1. Pat Reid says:

    Come and Find Me Sounds like a very intriguing book that I need to read. Thanks for the interview. I found it very informative.

  2. pegbrantley says:

    I love your attitude of savoring every moment and celebrating. A lot more fun than that old comparison game.

    Thanks for providing hours of good reading!

    • radine says:

      Great interview, and glad to get to know you better. While reading and seeing the answer about feeling you were successful as a writer, I thought of the term often used by those in sports…”Personal Best.” Maybe we can claim personal bests as we go along in our careers. Radine

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