“Reading this book was a treat, and I didnt want to put it down until I found out what happened and how the story ended.”
No doubt about it, novelist Hallie Ephron knows how to write page-turning mysteries. A member of an illustrious writing family, Ephron came to writing fiction later in life. But when she did, the results were amazing. (Missed part one of our interview with Hallie? Click HERE). Ephron’s knack is to take an ordinary occurance in middle-class suburbia — a garage sale — and turn it into a scenario that leaves readers gulping page after page to the resolution.
She’s a master of her craft, having written five novels under the pen name G. H. Ephron, and the highly-regarded WRITING AND SELLING YOUR MYSTERY NOVEL: HOW TO KNOCK ‘EM DEAD WITH STYLE. She also offers workshops for aspiring mystery novelists.
We’re so pleased to present part two of our interview with Hallie Ephron.
Q: NEVER TELL A LIE is a deliciously eerie book about how a pregnant wife’s life turns upside down overnight – a soccer mom’s nightmare. What gave you the idea for this book?
Hallie Ephron: Thank you! The idea came to me at a yard sale—where else? I’m addicted to them. This one was around the corner from me at a house that had been recently renovated. I was talking with the woman throwing the yard sale, peppering her with questions about the renovations, when she invited me to have a look around inside. I let myself in. Being a mystery writer, as I’m wandering around this knock-down-dead gorgeous interior, I’m thinking: What if a woman goes to a yard sale. Somehow she manages to talk her way into the house. She goes inside. And she never comes out.
Q: The destructive power of secrets is a major theme in your novel. Do you determine your themes from the outset, or let them unfold organically?
HE: I remember writing a bit of dialogue somewhere midway through: “Secrets can be toxic. The truth is rarely as dreadful or as terrifying as what one imagines.” When I wrote those words, I realize that was what my novel was about.
Q: Do you plot meticulously in advance or let the characters dictate the plot twists? Have you ever had the story take unexpected turns on you?
HE: I do outline. Meticulously. And I write a synopsis. But I rarely end up writing what’s in the plan. That’s because what seemed perfectly reasonable from a distance can feel preposterous when I go to write it. I’ve learned to trust that feeling. There are a lot of plot twists, particularly near the end of this novel, that came as a complete surprise to me, too.
Q: Your writer’s voice is extremely lean-descriptive passages short, dialogue tags disciplined. Was this always your writing style, or has it evolved?
HE: As a book reviewer, I’m very sensitive to sloppy writing. Heck, I can’t even listen to a TV newscast without editing the commentator in my head. My writing has definitely evolved. And I do think one of the best ways to learn to write better is to read…a lot. And think about what you like and what you don’t like and why.
Q: You end the novel on an ambiguous note. Is it okay not to tie up every loose end in a mystery?
HE: Are there rules? I certainly hope it’s okay not to tie things up. I wanted the ending of “Never Tell a Lie” to feel credible, and real life doesn’t tie itself up in neat packages. It’s messy.
Q: You are embarking on a multi-city book tour in January through March. Tell us a little bit about that.
HE: Actually, this is part of the writing business that I love. Meeting people.
I’ll be in bookstores and libraries all over Massachusetts in January and February; teaching mystery writing for a Sisters in Crime chapter in Pittsburgh and speaking at the fabulous Mystery Lovers Bookstore in nearby Oakmont, appearing at BookMania! In Stuart, Florida, and speaking at three bookstores in Los Angeles. My web site has all the gory details.
Q: Do you think it’s important that writers should promote themselves when they are not out on tour?
HE: I think writers should promote themselves whenever they can…but not seem like they’re promoting themselves. No one likes someone who’s “on” all the time, selling selling selling. I just hope I find time to write the next book.
Q: One of your non-fiction books is 1001 BOOKS FOR EVERY MOOD. What inspired you to come up with this guidebook to fiction?
HE: I love books, and I wanted a very un-stodgy guide to great reads—a guide that mixed fiction and nonfiction, adult and children’s lit, and dealt it in an entertaining but informative way. It’s the perfect bathroom book, to be enjoyed in short sittings.
Q: What is next for you?
HE: Another novel. I have it started but there’s so much work yet to do. I’ll be working on it while I’m on tour.
NEVER TELL A LIE is available online and at bricks ‘n mortars stores now.