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Printers at the BookFest

This year we’re hosting several printers who will be demonstrating their art form and allowing bookfest visitors to pull a print themselves. One of them is new to us and two are long time exhibitors.

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Chad Pastonik

Chad Pastonik of Deep Wood Press in Bellaire, Michigan, returns as he has every year to exhibit his gorgeous work. He will be demonstrating the centuries old process of intaglio printing, specifically how it relates to book illustration, map making and contemporary fine arts. The tools and press will be available to view and audience participation for pulling prints is encouraged!

Joining Chad will be Amos Kennedy of Kennedy Prints! Amos’ distinctive letterpress prints will be on display, and he will create a special “Save the Date” card for the 2017 BookFest. He’ll have a printed background prepared, and guests will be encouraged to print the text for themselves.

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Amos Kennedy

And finally, a newcomer to us, will be Wolverine Press from the University of Michigan. Wolverine Press is the letterpress studio of the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan. They are housed by MLibrary. They will be printing historic images of campus and the region from their collection, and talking about some aspects of Michigan printing history.

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Work by the Wolverine Press

This is an aspect of the BookFest not to be missed!

Meet speaker William Kent Krueger

This interview was conducted by Robin Agnew of Aunt Agatha’s, shortly after the publication of Krueger’s novel, Ordinary Grace, which went on to win virtually every award the mystery community has to offer, including the Edgar.  When BookFest rolls around, there will be a new Cork O’Connor novel to savor, Manitou Canyon.

I’ve known Kent since he invited himself to the store when his first novel, Iron Lake, was published in 1998. As long as I’ve known him, I’ve been a fan of his work. His new novel, Ordinary Grace, is an extraordinary leap – a deepening of previous work. It was a pure delight to read.

Q: One of the things I found most interesting about this book was the voice. While it’s set in 1961, it doesn’t in any way seem like a period piece or an historical novel. How personal to you are the memories of 1961 in small town Minnesota?

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A: One of the main motivations for writing Ordinary Grace was the opportunity to explore memories, emotions, and experiences out of my own life when I was, essentially, the age of the story’s narrator, thirteen-year-old Frank Drum. For boys—maybe it’s the same for girls, I don’t know—that period in our lives is an important threshold. We’re about to step out of adolescence and into manhood, and the crossing over is sharp, significant, and full of deep emotion. Everything before seemed simple, and, afterward, everything so terribly complex. Growing up, I lived in many small towns, and I wanted to capture the essence of those places, both for the benefit of the reader and, I suppose, to indulge my weakness for nostalgia. So, yes, I mined a lot of my own background for this novel.

Q: The narrative feels more like a fable or a remembered dream. How did you accomplish this?

A: My own feeling is that this is the result of the way the narrative is constructed. It’s told by Frank forty years after the events took place, but the perceptions and the way in which occurrences, people, places, and emotions are described is often in the moment and from the point of view of a thirteen-year-old kid. So the voice is both current and past. It’s like a recollection that drifts between dream and reality.

Q:I think most serious writers have certain themes they are working through in almost every book. I think in all your Cork books the themes you seem to be interested in are kinship and loyalty and what those things mean. Any thoughts on that?

A: Yeah, I have a few. I write pretty close to the bone. In my series, many of Cork’s concerns and considerations are my own. So, Cork believes in justice; I believe profoundly in the necessity for justice in this world. Cork believes that you make commitments, and, come hell or high water, you stand by those commitments. That’s pretty much what I believe. Cork believes that in this life, family is the most significant relationship you’re likely to experience. Ditto for me. So what interests me in the stories is the struggle to hold to these ideals in a world that seems often bent on either forcing or seducing you from them.

Q: As this book comes after many Cork O’Connor novels, I am wondering if that writing journey led you to write this book? Do you feel like it was intensifying some of the themes you’ve written about in the past?

A: I think I had a lot to learn about storytelling before I was ready to take on the challenge of writing a novel like Ordinary Grace. It seems a rather simply told tale, but that simplicity hides a lot of depth, complexity, and meaning. (At least, I hope it does.) And that point of view I mentioned earlier, the voice that is of the moment and, at the same time, of the past, is a tricky thing to pull off. I’ve learned a lot about storytelling with the Cork novels and a lot about myself as a storyteller. I think I was aching to write this kind of book, and finally had to do it. Ordinary Grace allowed me to speak more directly to issues and themes that have been a part of the Cork O’Connor stories but seldom front and center, things like faith and the spiritual journey. Having done it and believing that I did an all right job of it, I’m eager to try this kind of story again.

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Q: At the center of this book is a minister. Many of your books have a spiritual quality, and it’s not a pounding it into your head type deal, it’s part of the fabric of your storytelling. While you often write about very grisly happenings – and there’s some grim occurrences in this one, as well – the ultimate outlook at the end of every novel is a hopeful or optimistic one. I think it’s a quality many of your readers cherish. Anyway this is a long way of asking why you chose a minister as the central character?

A: My first thought, when mulling over the story that became Ordinary Grace, was to make Nathan Drum a high school English teacher in this small town, because that was my father and that was an experience I knew well. I wanted to write about a family that, in a small community, is watched carefully, and that’s definitely a teacher’s family. But I’ve always wanted to talk about faith, really about the whole consideration of God, and so the ministry became a better choice of profession. Over the years, I’ve known a lot of PKs (preacher’s kids), and I’ve heard stories of the pressures they were under and of their rebellions. I thought that kind of kid would make a compelling narrator. Also, I realized early on that when the death in the family occurs, if Nathan Drum is a minister, the tragedy would be such a tremendous challenge to his faith that exploring his reaction—and the reactions of each member of the family—would be a fascinating journey for me as a writer. Was it ever!

Q: As I was reading this for the second time, I was wondering about the structure of this book. You foreshadow what will happen, but the central death doesn’t occur until almost exactly halfway through the novel, making the story a stark “before” and “after”. Was this structure intentional, or did it happen organically while you were writing it?

A: Although the death provides a compelling mystery element to the story (I am, after all, known as a mystery writer), this was not intended to be a mystery, as such. It was, from its earliest beginnings, going to be a story about a family in a small town who experience something awful. It was going to be about love and struggle and faith and hope. I knew that eventually it would deal with a tragic death that turns out to be a murder and challenges a family, and, in a way, a whole community, to reconsider their values. So the first part of the book was intended to draw the reader into an engagement with the Drum family and the town of New Bremmen, so that when the tragedy occurs, if I’d done my job correctly, it would be an emotional blow not only to the characters in the story, but to readers as well. However, because I didn’t really outline this story, as I usually do with my Cork O’Connor novels, I felt my way along with the actual events. So, to a degree, I suppose, things did happen organically.

Q: Did this novel refresh your palate? Did it make you feel ready to dive back into the Cork novels?

A: These days, I never have to refresh myself in order to dive into a Cork O’Connor story. I love Cork and his family and Tamarack County, and I’m not at all tired of writing the series. I promised myself a long time ago that when I did grow weary of it, I would end the series, because I never want to offer readers a story in which I haven’t invested my whole heart. But if that time does ever come, the way I’m feeling right now, it’s still a long way down the road.

Q: What’s next for you as a writer?

A: I have another in the Cork O’Connor series due out at the end of August. It’s called Tamarack County, and I’m really pleased with it. That concludes my current contract with my publisher, but we’ve just negotiated a new three-book contract that includes two more in the Cork O’Connor series and another stand alone. I’m at work on the stand alone, a novel titled This Tender Land, which is, in a way, a companion to Ordinary Grace. It’s also set in southern Minnesota and in an earlier time, roughly the late nineteen-fifties. It’s the story of a wealthy farmer found dead in the Alabaster River and of the secrets, long buried in the soil of Black Earth County, that come to light during the investigation of his death. Thematically, it’s an exploration of the extremes we’re willing to go to in order to hold onto the things—people, land, ideals—that we cherish. I’m having a ball with it.

The Book I Love

We asked 2016 BookFest speakers the title of “The Book I Love”, the book that,  for whatever reason, changed their reading and writing lives.  I think you’ll agree their answers are fascinating.

Patricia Abbott: The Diary of Anne Frank, which has repeatedly reminded me of the power of,the pen even when held by a fifteen year old girl.

Trudy Bulkley (Mother Goose): The Tale of Two Bad Mice by Beatrix Potter.

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Casey Daniels/Kylie Logan: I clearly remember the day I got my (pink cardboard) library card and the first book I took out, Horton Hatches the Egg. I remember that my dad took me to the library and how proud I was to come home and show my mom the book! So many, many favorite books since then, but Horton’s still at the top of my list!

Vicki Delany/Eva Gates: I’ll say Bitter Medicine by Sara Paretsky. I had no interest in reading crime fiction, thinking it was books about tough guys written by men who wanted to be tough guys, until heard Sara being interviewed on CBC radio. I thought her book and her character sounded interesting and so I read the book.I wouldn’t be the writer, or the person, I am today unless I’d discovered Sara and V.I. Warshawski.

Kelly Fordon: I’m a huge fan of Christie Hodgen’s Elegies for the Brokenhearted. It’s a novel-in-stories, and the stories are all elegies for the people who have shaped the protagonist’s life. I tell everyone about this book. A quick search of my records shows that I have bought the book for 19 people. elegies

Brian Freeman: When I was a teenager, I read the epic novel Trinity by Leon Uris, about the struggles in Ireland. It’s told in the first person, but Uris does something shocking as a writer by killing off his narrator at the end of the novel. I remember thinking how courageous it was for a novelist to do that – and it showed me how you could write deep, emotional thrillers that engage the heads and hearts of readers. I’m still trying to do that today!

Barbara Gregorich: Moby Dick is the book I love. (I love MANY books, but we’re going for one in order to meet the criteria.) Each time I read it I’m made aware of the power and beauty of the natural world, the violence that human enterprises do to that world, the many opportunities presented to us to turn back from a doomed course, and the refusal of some people to heed the warnings and make the turn.

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Ellen Longsworth: Winnie the Pooh has stayed with me my whole life, for its wit and wisdom and brilliant illustrations. I kept a copy at my bedside for years. A Tale of Two Cities–the first “grown-up” book I remember reading–is probably the reason historical fiction is the genre I most enjoy, along with history.

Andrew Mozina: A book I love and that changed my life is a short story anthology edited by Tobias Wolff called Matters of Life and Death. This was assigned in a fiction writing workshop I took as a senior in college, and the wonderful stories in it by Jayne Anne Phillips, Richard Ford, Stanley Elkin, Ann Beattie and others convinced me of the value of writing, gave me a standard to aspire to, and made me want to be a writer.

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Loreen Niewenhuis: I think the book that opened me up to having adventures was a book I read when I was quite young. My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George allowed me to imagine venturing into the wilderness on my own.

Kristen Remenar: I loved The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. I loved the odd ensemble cast and the unraveling of clues that solved the million-dollar murder mystery.

Hank Phillippi Ryan: At age… 12 or so, I think, I read The Diamond in the Window, by Jane Langton. Smart geeky kids? A mystery puzzle to solve? The transcendentalists? This book allowed me to think it might be acceptable to be a misfit, and reasonable to love mysteries, and it taught already-curious me that it was fine to ask questions. It also taught me a lot about friendship and sacrifice and doing the right thing. All these years later I still think about this novel. I keep a stash of in it on hand (with the Edward Eager books) to give to visiting kids. zen

In college? No question Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Again, I still think about the search for quality, and taking the time to do something properly, and pursuing the journey, and being present in life.

In the 70’s? Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail. I worked with Hunter Thompson at Rolling Stone, and got to know him very well. He taught me to push the limits in reporting and writing–and that telling a story was about intensity and emotion and voice and freedom and breaking the rules.

And then, in my otherwise workaholic professional career, there was the day I called in sick to work – – when I wasn’t sick – – because I could not put down Stephen King’s The Stand. Not only is it a fabulous and gripping story, but it taught me about storytelling, and voice, and conflict, and characters we care about, and structure, and point of view, and the power of high stakes. (I once told Stephen King himself that I had cut work to read The Stand, and smiled, and said that was a good choice. I bet it wasn’t the first time he had heard something like that.)

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Barbara Shapiro: This is a tough one, but I think A Wrinkle in Time because it was the first book to show me the power of a story to take me out of my world and put me in the middle of another one where everything I took for granted wasn’t there.

John Smolens: I suppose I could go back to when I was a little guy, to Ferdinand the Lonely Bull and to the copy of Dante’s Inferno that was in our living room, which was illustrated with the gorgeously horrifying Gustave Doré etchings, but the book that caused me to turn a corner in the sense that I wanted to write novels and stories I read as a freshman at Boston College: “In the town there were two mutes, and they were always together” is the opening sentence of Carson McCullers’s The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, a line that reverberates throughout the story about need, desire, loss, and isolation. It’s also the book that says “Next to music, beer was best.”

The 2016 Book Cover Design Contest

For the past nine years, the Kerrytown BookFest has sponsored an art contest for Michigan high school students. We ask the students to re-design the cover of an existing book, and the top three chosen are awarded cash prizes.

The first step is choosing a book. We have tried all kinds of books through the years but have discovered students really enjoy mysteries, science fiction and young adult books. This year a young adult book, Of Scars and Stardust, by Andrea Hannah was chosen.
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We first asked Ms. Hannah, who agreed, and who also agreed to be one of the judges. Then we contacted her publisher, and Flux/Llewellyn Worldwide agreed to donate copies to give away to the students.

Then we sent out inquiries to art teachers all over the state, inviting them to ask their students to participate. This year we had students from Ann Arbor, Flint, Hillsdale and Kensington Woods send in entries.

We received some wonderful work, submitted by students at the beginning of May, and on a beautiful May evening our judges set to work.

This year our judges were Jackie LaRose, an expert in children’s literature; Linda Caine, a bookseller and manager of Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor; Andrea Hannah, the author of the book; and David James (not pictured) another young adult author.

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The deliberations led to these five finalists.  Left to right: Shaye Rumsberger, 11th Grade, Kensington Woods; Peyton Johnston, 10th Grade, Kensington Woods; Julianne Cooney, 9th Grade, Community High school; Logan Gorman, 9th Grade, Community High school; and Alexis Higgins, 11th Grade, Hillsdale High School.
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Join us at the Ann Arbor District Library, 543 5th Avenue, Friday, September 9 at 7 p.m. for a celebration and exhibit of all the student work submitted. The announcement of first, second and third place winners will be made that evening.

Congratulations to all the students who participated, and thanks especially to their art teachers: Michael Crawford, Mindy Eggleston, Elena Flores and Jesse Pratt.

Meet speaker Hank Phillippi Ryan

Hank Phillippi Ryan is one of the anchors of one of this year’s mystery panels. She is herself an on air television reporter, and her character, Jane, is a reporter as well, lending her books a true authenticity.  Robin Agnew of Aunt Agatha’s interviewed her a couple months ago and we all thought you would enjoy getting to know this fascinating person a little better.

Q: What do you think you have learned as a writer through now eight books, four with Jane, and four with Charlotte?

HANK: What have I learned? I really thought about this when you asked, because I wondered, too. And I guess two things: one, I have learned to write more quickly, in the first draft stage, to get myself through the story without worrying.

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But I’ve also learned to write more slowly, thinking about each word, and each sentence, and each paragraph, and each scene. I am profoundly aware of how permanent a final manuscript is, a reflection of every careful choice I make. So “fine” is not enough, not at all, and I am consciously, actively, much more careful. I want it to be perfect, gorgeous, unusual, intriguing and the most surprising it can be.

That is hard work, harder than I ever predicted, and I revel in every bit of it. Usually.

Is it a paradox to say I have also learned to trust the process? I often tell myself: Come on Hank, you know what you’re doing. Just go on. It will all work out in the end.

Q: What kind of character arc do you have in mind for Jane moving forward?

HANK: Oh Robin, I have to laugh when you use the word plan. I have no idea what will happen to Jane. And I love that, because her life is like a real life, and of course we have no idea what will happen in our future. Sue Grafton once told me Kinsey Millhone reveals herself to Sue book by book, and that’s exactly what happens with Jane.

People often ask me if Jane will get married? I have no idea. To Jake ? I have no idea. Because they don’t either.

What fascinates me about this question is motivation. Why do people do what they do? Why do people make the decisions they make? A good novel of suspense is all about choices, and how a person behaves when faced with a big decision. So whatever happens to Jane, and Jake, they’ll have to deal with it, separately and together.

I am so eager to find out myself! But plan? There is no plan. Should there be a plan? If there were a plan, it would change, right?

Q: I know your experience as a reporter adds to your writing – it gives it an added punch as it feels so “right.” That’s from a layman’s point of view. What is mostly true, in terms of Jane’s life as a reporter, and what is mostly fiction?

HANK: I can safely say my books are not only ripped from the headlines, but ripped from my own headlines! I have wired myself with cameras, confronted corrupt politicians, chased down criminals, and gone undercover and in disguise. I have battled with management, and with angry story subjects, had my notes and raw video subpoenaed, been threatened and stalked and yelled at.

In that sense, what happens to Jane is realistic and authentic and could happen to a real reporter. True, Jane’s life is a little more dangerous than mine, that’s the part that’s fiction. But nothing happens to her that couldn’t really happen.

What You See certainly comes from stories I have covered, about surveillance, and privacy, and child abduction, and a certain murder case in Boston where my husband defended a man who was accused of stabbing someone else near Faneuil Hall. You will recognize that scene on the book—it is straight from real life, up to the point where my imagination took over.

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But even though the stories are inspired by my investigations and my husband’s work as an attorney, they are not fictionalized versions of a true story. They are a compilation of adrenaline-injected, polished and tweaked puzzle pieces that fit together, somehow, into a brand-new story.

Q: Is it true cops and reporters can’t date?

HANK: Depends what you mean by “can’t.” It would be frowned upon, discouraged, and, bottom line, incredibly difficult. And unworkable. I’m trying to think if I know any reporters who date police officers, and I don’t think I do. It is an impossible journalistic situation and an impossible law enforcement situation… fraught with potential problems and hideously tangled in conflict.

Jane and Jake’s dilemma is realistic, and the idea that they are hiding the relationship from the world is also definitely realistic. A reporter who is dating a police officer would have to reveal that, if they were assigned a story he or she was handling—because a reporter would never be allowed to cover story for which they have a personal interest.

My husband is an attorney, and there are many times when I have to recuse myself from getting anywhere near his newsworthy cases. And there are many times I know something I cannot tell.

Also, if a police officer were dating a reporter, and there was a leak in the Police Department, the officer would be the first to be blamed, whether he or she was guilty or not.

So it is a huge mess, and best to avoid it at all cost. But what about passion? That’s what leaves Jane and Jake in their impossible situation. Both are so honorable in their professional lives, and it is very difficult for them to be so duplicitous in their personal lives. What will they do? I have no idea.

Q: How do you start with a plot? I read an interview with Ngaio Marsh where she said she created a group of characters, then imposed a plot on them. I think a thriller is kind of structured story first, and that is then imposed on the characters. I think you write thrillers, but you also have a recurring character, so how do you balance plot and character?

HANK: That is such an interesting idea from Ngaio Marsh, but I think my experience is a little bit the opposite. When I began writing the Jake and Jane books, I actually started with the plot. I had read an article about Mark Sanford, the disgraced ex-governor of South Carolina who told everyone he was out hiking the Appalachian Trail when he was really off with the other woman. There was a quote in that story that said “you can choose your sin but you cannot choose your consequences.” And I thought: my book my book my book!

Right then, and I get goosebumps remembering, I knew I wanted to write a big thriller about the consequences of being the other woman, and the pressures of politics, and the pressures of being a reporter covering such a story under a deadline.

And for that I needed a new character, and then I realized I probably needed two, since it was such a textured story. And poof. (Ish.) There were Jane and Jake. And on day one of The Other Woman that’s all I had.

Since then, each new novel has started with what I call the glorious gem of the one good idea, the irresistible core of the mystery.

I don’t have an outline, so I don’t know what’s going to happen until the next word and the next sentence and the next paragraph and the next scene. The plot advances based on what the characters decide when faced with an obstacle or goal or conflict or pressure.

I give each character a starting point, and then I see what happens. Since I don’t know where the story is going, I’m not shepherding them in any direction, I’m simply seeing what unfolds. In a strange way it’s as if I set up the first domino in a row of dominoes—even though I don’t know what the other dominoes will be!

And then I push it over, and see what happens.

So people say to me—wow, the end of What You See really surprised me! And I say yes, it surprised me, too.

Q: While I think you write thrillers your books seem to straddle traditional—with your traditional story structure—and thriller. Do you think that’s one of the things that’s helping you find such popularity as an author?

HANK: What a great thing to say! Thank you! And if you say so, then, well, sure. That label “traditional,” or “thriller,” or “mystery”—that’s a tough one.

My books are certainly thrillers, in that you will never see a phrase like “two weeks later,” or “after a leisurely dinner” or “let me think about that for a couple of days.” There is a relentless sense of a ticking clock through the whole thing. What You See takes place in less than 48 hours. So that’s thrilleresque. Jake and Jane are always in some sort of conflict, or danger, or high-pressure, or high-stakes, or some sort of critical decision-making. That’s thriller too.

But you won’t see oh, nuclear war, or terrorists, or an international ring of spies. My books are designed to feel as if they took place in your hometown, with people you might know, in situations that might really exist. (Situations where people get killed, of course.)

Maybe they are… Investigative thrillers? Like an investigative story that a journalist would do. Imagine that!

Q: Any writers that are influences? (I prefer this answer not be “Stephen King” or “Jane Austen” but if you must you must).

HANK: Definitely Edith Wharton, for her brilliant and insightful take on the spirit of the times, for wonderful dialogue, and her deeply human stories.
Tom Wolfe and Hunter Thompson, for their bravery in storytelling, and their fearlessness, they’re incredible sense of voice and music. Sue Grafton, she’s so—thoughtful. Agatha Christie—diabolical!

Shakespeare, definitely, for theme and connection and throughlines and language.

And even though I know you are cringing, you have to love Stephen King. There is no one who is a better storyteller, no one who gets voice—myriad voices in every book—so recognizably differentiated. (In 1980, I called in sick from work when I wasn’t really sick, because I had to finish The Stand. I guess it’s okay to confess that now.)

My favorite book of all time may be Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin. It is magical.

Q: What book was transformational for you? I think there’s always some book in childhood or early adolescence that is never forgotten.

HANK: I grew up in really rural Indiana, and used to read up in the hayloft in the barn behind our house. I fell in love with Sherlock Holmes stories, devoured them, and remember when I understood the music and rhythm of Conan Doyle’s writing, and the excitement of solving a puzzle.

Back then, I used to read books one after the other, as fast as I possibly could, but I remember reading Black Beauty, and when it was over, realizing I couldn’t just pick up the next book. Gosh, I must’ve been how old, nine? And I remember very clearly thinking: there’s more to this book then the story of the horse. I guess that was my introduction to theme.

The Edward Eager fantasy/mysteries. (I have a stash of them I hand out to any kids who come over.) And Jane Langton’s The Diamond in the Window. Those books made it be okay to be smart and nerdy, and that doing good was valuable, and helped me understand there was more to the universe than we can easily understand. Visit to the Mushroom Planet, too. Later, in college, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and Look Homeward, Angel.

Q: Any big surprises that came with writing mysteries?

HANK: I had been a reporter for 30-some years when I started writing mysteries, and I realized, when I sat down at the computer that first time, that for the first time in my life, I was about to make things up. And I wondered if my imagination would do that—create a new world that never existed before, rather then reporting on real life. What’s surprised me, so gloriously, is how the walls fell away, and time ceased to exist. When I’m in the midst of telling a great story, there’s nothing else but me and the characters. I have to say I never expected that.

Q: Finally, can you give us a teeny preview of what might be next for Jane?

HANK: I’m so excited about the new Jane and Jake book! It is called Say No More and will be out his time next year. It’s about campus sexual assault, and witness intimidation, about when we decide to speak up, and when we don’t, and why—and about the power of silence.

I’m almost finished, and now, because you know how I write, I cannot wait to see what happens in the end!