Hank Phillippi Ryan & Lev Raphael Rap about Writing

We all know that writing is a solitary affair–even when you talk to yourself and your spouse or your dog comes in and stares at you.

That’s why it’s so much fun for us authors to go to conferences.  It’s not just about meeting fans, though that’s always a treat.  It’s about communing with our peers.  It’s about piercing the bubble of loneliness.  But there’s something even better than being on a panel  or hanging out at a bar afterwards or going out to dinner: appearing with a fellow author at a bookstore event.  Because that allows for a special kind of intimacy.

I recently did an event in Ann Arbor with the supremely charming Hank Phillippi Ryan, celebrated TV reporter and thriller writer, at the mystery book store Aunt Agatha’s.  Hank had suggested we interview each other, and as a former radio talk show host, I grabbed the first question.  I couldn’t resist asking something lighthearted: who should play her in the movie version of her life story?  She opted for Katherine Hepburn, a natural choice for someone so classy.  I wanted Michael Fassbender for his long lean looks (among other attributes).

We moved on to more serious topics, talking about childhood library-going, our love of books, how our families encouraged our appreciation of art and literature, even though she grew up in rural Indiana and I grew up in the heart of New York City.  Our conversation ranged widely, covering her new book Truth Be Told and my new book Assault With a Deadly Lie, our favorite authors, our inspiration, her work as a reporter, my current work as guest professor at Michigan State University.

We flowed in and out of each other’s sentences and stories, riffing freely and companionably.  If you didn’t know us, you might have thought we were already friends, though we’d never met.  Or that we’d had a glass or two of wine beforehand–that’s how animated and relaxed we were.

We were kindred spirits.  We loved what we did.  We loved being there together in a wonderful independent bookstore.  And we were having so much fun with each other and regaling our audience with stories about doing what we love that we could have gone on much longer.

The audience did not know that I had come there after a car accident.  A few days before, I’d skidded off a rainy highway into a median and suffered a concussion.  I was still feeling the effects and hadn’t been able to drive myself down to Ann Arbor (in fact, I felt mildly panicky just being on a highway so soon after the accident: PTSD).  But for the hour and half that I was in Hank Phillippi Ryan’s marvelous company, it was as if my fog and my fear had completely lifted.

That’s what the fellowship of a wonderful writer can do for you. I felt calm, happy and as glad to be a writer as I typically am.  Because whatever career slings and arrows may come my way (and sometimes I feel like St. Sebastian), I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was in second grade.  And I am living my dream.


Here we are in a rare quiet moment, Hank looking as if she’s summoning a spirit, and me looking as if I’m about to share what my spirit’s already communicated with me.  Who says two people are too few for a séance? 🙂

Lev Raphael is the author of Assault With a Deadly Life and 24 other books in genres from memoir to horror to mystery.  His books have been translated into 15 languages, most recently Romanian.


6 Responses

  1. Hank is truly lovely, in all ways — and some day I hope to meet you, too, Lev! Hoping you solve the riddle of that accident, and heal, in all ways. Loved this post … I share your awe at finally living the life we love!

  2. Lev, you’ve struck a resounding chord in this. I’ve been on panels with Hank, too, and she’s wonderful–charming, yes, and compassionate. I can just imagine what a sparkling conversation this was! I’ve done “interview” panels with just one other writer myself, and it’s always fun. Now I wish I’d been in the audience to hear yours….

  3. The animatronic Lev looks pretty good, and I hope they replace the fuse that blew in the Hank model.

    Seriously, I wish I could have been there. She spoke at Pennwriters last year, and she was a hoot.

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