Monday, February 6, 2023

THE HOUSE GUEST by author HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN (releases February 7th!)

The House Guest is another diabolical cat-and-mouse thriller from USA Today bestselling author Hank Phillippi Ryan—but which character is the cat, and which character is the mouse?

After every divorce, one spouse gets all the friends. What does the other one get? If they're smart, they get the benefits. Alyssa Macallan is terrified when she's dumped by her wealthy and powerful husband. With a devastating divorce looming, she begins to suspect her toxic and manipulative soon-to-be-ex is scheming to ruin her—leaving her alone and penniless. And when the FBI shows up at her door, Alyssa knows she really needs a friend.

And then she gets one. A seductive new friend, one who's running from a dangerous relationship of her own. Alyssa offers Bree Lorrance the safety of her guest house, and the two become confidantes. Then Bree makes a heart-stoppingly tempting offer. Maybe Alyssa and Bree can solve each others' problems.

But no one is what they seem. And the fates and fortunes of these two women twist and turn until the shocking truth emerges: 
You can't always get what you want. But sometimes you get what you deserve.


Library Journal * Starred review "Bingeworthy!"
Publishers Weekly "Ryan is a master of supense!"
GOODREADS  A Most Anticipated Thriller 0f 2023
BOOKBUB  A Most Anticipated Thriller 0f 2023
CRIME READS  A Most Anticipated Thriller 0f 2023

“Hank Phillippi Ryan is one of my favorite authors, and THE HOUSE GUEST proves why. This riveting novel twists and turns through the pageturning turn shocking, with revelation after revelation in a thriller that never forgets to touch the heart.” ―Lisa Scottoline

"THE HOUSE GUEST is great! Ryan creates memorable characters―then pulls off the nearly-impossible: she orchestrates half a dozen twists, turns, and backflips―and then sticks the landing. What a pleasure to read this!" ―James Patterson

Author interview with Hank ~ 

Tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you started writing:

I’ve been a television reporter for 43 years! I’ve wired myself with hidden cameras and confronted corrupt politicians and gone undercover and in disguise. And won 37 Emmys for investigative reporting. 

But one day, gosh, 16 years ago? I had what I knew would be a good idea for a novel. I came home and said to my husband: “I’ve got a great idea for a book! I’m going to write a thriller.” And my husband almost laughed, (he’s very supportive, truly), but he said: “Honey, do you know how to write a book?” And I replied – – I remember it so well – – “How hard can it be?”  As soon learned how hard it could be, but that turned out to be my first novel, PRIME TIME, which won the coveted Agatha Award for best first novel. And that was the beginning of my career 

What are some things you enjoy when not writing?

When I am not writing, I am usually thinking about writing, or worrying about writing, or thinking I should be writing. But I do love reading, I know, busman’s holiday.)  And cooking, and walking in our garden, seeing what flowers are arriving and departing. I love good movies, good TV, and sitting by the ocean with my husband, watching the pelicans skim across the water. I also enjoy sleeping, which becomes one of my major goals. 

Do you have a particular writing routine?

I try not to have a routine because I worry if I had one, what would happen if I didn’t do that? Would I not be able to write? I’m very focused, though, and promise myself, I will write 540 words a day, whether it takes half an hour or five hours. Sometimes, I even set a timer for 34 minutes and promise myself I will not do anything else--not do the laundry, not get a cup of coffee, not get the mail, not plan dinner – – until those 34 minutes are up. I think my routine is to be completely focused on writing, and try not to be distracted.  But my “routine” is to force myself to be utterly present and focused.

I love to write on airplanes, I think because it is so enclosed with a set time to begin, and a set time to end. I have finished several novels on JetBlue! I have to say. 

Is there anything major that changed in this novel phone when you plotted it out?

I have not plotted one bit of The House Guest. Every page was a surprise.

What career did you think you’d have as an adult? I always thought I’d be a lawyer, or maybe a geneticist. I know those sound different, but they both seemed like problem-solving to me. It’s funny to think back and ask myself: What did I want to be when I grow up? And I will confess to you that I honestly had no idea. Everything in my life — from working in political campaigns to being a radio reporter, to being legislative aid on Capitol Hill, to working for Rolling Stone magazine, to being a television reporter, and then an author --has been a serendipitous surprise.

What was the original title of this book? Oh, great question! It was originally called Her New Best Friend. But my editor worried that because the previous book was called Her Perfect Life, it might feel like a sequel. I’m really glad we changed it. I absolutely adore The House Guest.  (Because which character is really The House Guest?)

What inspired this book's plot?  

It’s so much fun to try to deconstruct how the character and plot of THE HOUSE GUEST evolved. It’s like a Rubik’s cube, where you take a million little squares of different things, and twist and turn and click-click-click and then, somehow, it’s a finished puzzle. You just don’t know what the puzzle pieces will be the right way. 

SO for THE HOUSE GUEST, a few things became the puzzle pieces. First, since the beginning of the pandemic, my criminal defense attorney husband and I have worked from home—me in my study and him in the breakfast room-turned-law office. For many hours a day, we don’t see each other. But we can kind of, sometimes, hear each other.  

I hear things like “plea bargain” and “mandatory minimum sentence” and “absolutely not guilty” and “how was he supposed to know there was money in the dropped ceiling?”  (Once, even—"I know it seems unlikely that he would commit a crime wearing a GPS bracelet, but there you have it.”)  

But I began to realize that he was lawyering for eight hours a day, and I actually had no idea what he was doing. I mean, we’ve been married for 27 years or something, and I know what a lawyer does. And we talk about his cases in general, and about the law, and it’s very rewarding to have in-house counsel.  

I started thinking—what, specifically, was going on in the breakfast room?  I realized I had no idea.  And then I started thinking about how many couples are shocked when one of them is accused of some crime--and the other one says those very words:  oh, I had no idea! And the rest of us all raise our eyebrows and sneer, and say, come on, that person lives with you! There’s no way you don’t know what they’re doing. And I was among the scornful disbelievers. 

Not anymore. I started to realize how my husband could be doing who knows what in the other room, and if the feds swooped down on him, I would be utterly shocked. Now, you know my darling husband, he’s a paragon and adorable and brilliant and perfect, but I’m just saying. I think of all the people--Bernie Madoff‘s wife, Ted Bundy’s wife, Anna Delvey’s pals-- who insist they had no idea, and we think well, then you’re not paying attention.  

But it’s possible, I began to realize, that it was true. What if they really didn’t know? Or—successfully pretended they didn’t?  So that was one idea.   

Then. I had an acquaintance, long ago, who thought she was happily married, and she’d go to work every day and send her husband off to whatever he did, accounting, or insurance or something financial. And for him, ‘the next big sale’ and ‘the next big deal’ was always around the corner, and she was incredibly supportive. And then one day the police came.  

She found that he had been trading in child pornography at home on the computer all day, and had never never never even been to that supposed job! 

She was a really smart woman. Truly. And she absolutely had no idea.  

So then I put those things together. And I was interested in what it would be like to be the woman whose husband is accused of a terrible thing, and add to that that he’s dumped her. So she’s baffled, and angry, and terrified of being alone for the first time in her life – – what does she do? Does she believe his denials? Or law enforcement’s accusations? And what does she do then?   

So it’s a story about Alyssa Macallen getting her power back. You can see glimmers of Gaslight, and Thelma & Louise, and even Strangers on a Train-- but it’s not any of those. But it certainly was a joy to write. I have no idea how my books will end, so in the end, I will admit there were days that I sat at my computer and read my screen--and applauded. Thinking wow, who would’ve thought that would happen?   

Greed. Betrayal. Gaslighting. Female empowerment. Revenge. THE HOUSE GUEST is a high-stakes psychological cat-and-mouse game.  But which character is the cat, and which character is the mouse?

Do you have a favorite chapter or scene? It’s so funny, but in THE HOSUE GUEST,  I absolutely love Chapter 6. Isn’t that random and strange? But a lot happens in that chapter. And then, I also adore the second to last chapter of the book. I honestly, I will admit, I was by myself in my study as I wrote it. And when I finished, I stood up and uploaded. We take our joys when we can, right?  

Do you have a manuscript in your drawer?

No, I really don’t. Isn’t that odd? But my first book was prime time, and that’s all there ever has been.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers? Oh, golly. There’s something about trust. It’s all about trusting the process. The process of storytelling.  Being a successful author is much harder than anyone could ever have imagined. It takes a long time, and it takes even longer to be good. It can be depressing and intimidating. An incredible amount depends on luck and timing, and those are things you can’t control.

But you can control is writing the very best book you can every single minute of every day. Do not compare yourself to others, just keep forging forward.  So much in your life is being decided by forces that you can’t change, so one step at a time, just keep going. Be kind, be generous, be happy for others. Be patient with yourself.  Your turn will come.  

About Hank and how to connect with her ~

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN is the USA Today bestselling author of 14 psychological thrillers, winning the genre's most prestigious awards: five Agathas, five Anthonys, and the coveted Mary Higgins Clark Award. She’s also an investigative reporter for Boston's WHDH-TV, winning 37 EMMYs for groundbreaking journalism. Her newest novel is the page-turning standalone THE HOUSE GUEST – a story of psychological manipulation exploring the dark heart of marriage and friendship. Publishers Weekly says “Ryan is a master of suspense” and the Library Journal starred review calls it "Binge-worthy.”


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