Hallie Ephron
 

 

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      Please welcome Hallie Ephron!

 

                                      

 

Interview with Hallie Ephron

New Mystery Reader:  Congratulations, Hallie, on your new book Come and Find Me; a fascinating look at the pros and cons of living in the computer age with a personal twist.  Can you begin by telling us a bit about the storyline and where you got the idea for this new novel?

Hallie Ephron:  Thank you Stephanie!  Very briefly—it’s the story of Diana Highsmith, a former computer hacker, now a recluse who works and lives online, who must brave the “real world” when her sister goes missing.



NMR:  The virtual world in which your main character, Diane – aka Nadia – participates in seems to replicate some real life virtual “worlds” that have a rather large following.  And a world that in this case seems to have a positive impact on Diane.  What do you feel are the pros and cons of participating in such virtual worlds?

H.E.:  You’re right - the OtherWorld in the book is based loosely on SecondLife, a virtual world on the Internet today. Corporations like IBM and CocaCola own “islands” in SecondLife; they hold corporate meetings, train employees, and generally use it as an extension of the corporate world. Of course there’s also plenty of shady goings-on like porn.

For some, a virtual world is a place to escape and, some would say, “waste” hours and hours in la-la Land interacting with with virtual friends who are actually complete strangers. But for many, particularly for someone who is for whatever reason housebound, it’s a way to make friends or run a business, interacting with people who could be anywhere the world.

Unfortunately, you’re not always getting what you see—just for example, the people behind some large percentage of female avatars in SecondLife are men. People can disguise themselves in the real world, too, but it’s not nearly as easy.



NMR:   One of the pairs of pros and cons regarding connectedness to an almost infinity of others you bring up in your novel is the loss of privacy on the one hand, and anonymity on the other.  Do these balance each other out in your view?

H.E.:  There’s the risk of people knowing where you are at a given moment, what you’re looking at, and who you’re talking to. There’s the risk of being seduced and betrayed by others pretending to be what they’re not. I’m sure scams are rife. But somewhere like SecondLife is a particularly dangerous place for someone who is vulnerable and needy. But for others it’s a great place to escape—like interactive TV. And for companies using the Internet for corporate training (and authors using it to talk to readers!) it sure pares away the travel expenses.



NMR:  One of the quotes you bring up is how the Internet is the panacea for loneliness (I might be messing this part up).  Is the loss of possible privacy worth it in the end?

H.E.: The dangerous thing about the Internet is that it feels as if you are protected, an anonymous presence, unless you choose to disclose your identity. But most of us have no idea how to mask who and where you are. And our security systems are only as trustworthy as the people who set them up for us. An article in the Wall St. Journal reported, for instance, that a single click on dictionary.com, for instance, results in 234 tracking devices being stalled on your computer—and only 11 of those are installed by dictionary.com. I’m sure you’ve had the experience I have where you shop for a pair of shoes and then the next time you bring up Google all the ads in the sidebar are for sites trying to sell you shoes.



NMR:   No doubt your latest would make a great movie, as your first solo did; is the making of your book into a movie deal something you’d want to repeat?

H.E.:  It would be fabulous and I’d love it! Lifetime Movie Network made a terrific movie (And Baby Will Fall) out of Never Tell a Lie. So well acted, and though the ending is different they were true to the feel of the book.



NMR:  Before you started writing novels on your own, you wrote for part of a series featuring Dr. Peter Zak (which I loved!).  Any plans on revisiting that series?

H.E.:  Oh, thanks so much! I wrote that with a co-author (Donald Davidoff) and I think after five books we were both ready to move on. So no, no plans to revisit the series.



NMR:  I have to say, in your last two novels, you seem to go from an excitement level of 1-100 in seconds; do you write this way, where the plot overcomes you, or do you (sigh) pause before you write?

H.E.:  Effortless? If only! For me writing is more what Flannery O’Connor famously described: “Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair falls out and the teeth decay.” Slow and sometimes painful. That adrenalin rush is usually the result of rewriting and rewriting ad nauseum.



NMR:   Do you ever plan on starting a series featuring any of these same characters?

H.E.:  Probably not, though I think it could lend itself to a sequel or two.



NMR:  You have a background as a teacher; what would be your best advice for new writers starting out, as a teacher?

H.E.:  Write. Not trying to be flip, but really the main difference between writers and nonwriters is that writers write. They put the butt in the seat and the fingers on the keyboard and they work at it. Also: open yourself up to criticism; have people read your work. We all want someone to read our writing and tell us how perfect it is, but you only grow by listening beyond the praise.



NMR:  Were there any teachers from your past that inspired you more than others?

H.E.:  I took a class with Arthur Edelstein when I was finishing my first novel. He taught with what was then the Radcliffe College Seminars. He taught me three invaluable things. 1) Viewpoint (why it matters and how to harness it). 2) Writing scenes. 3) Giving characters a physical presence.  Sounds like “Writing 101,” right? So basic, and in a well written book these techniques seem effortless and transparent.

 

NMR:   And, finally, what can fans expect next?


H.E.:  The novel I’m working on right now is the story of a young woman and a very old woman, and it’s set in the Bronx. I know how it begins and how it ends, but right now I’m in the mushy middle and it’s a mess. But since this will be my eighth novel, I trust that if I keep at it, eventually I’ll get the dots connected.

 

BIO
Hallie Ephron writes suspense novels. Her latest is “Come and Find Me,” published by William Morrow. It follows "Never Tell a Lie" which was a finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark Award and won the David Award for best mystery of 2009. It was made into the movie "And Baby Will Fall" for the Lifetime Movie Network. A book lover, Hallie is also the author of "The Bibliophile's Devotional" and and reviews crime fiction for the Boston Globe.  Her  "Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel" was an Edgar Award finalist. Her web site is www.hallieephron.com and she blogs at www.jungleredwriters.com.