The Inside Scoop with Hallie Ephron

Edith here, exulting in spring, at last, north of Boston.

I am so pleased to welcome the great friend of the Wickeds, author Hallie Ephron, to the NightSleeptight2_2-07092014-SMblog today. She’s giving away a copy of her new book to one commenter today, so be sure to ask her a question or leave a remark.

Edith: First, give us the short blurb of Night Night, Sleep Tight – which I loved, by the way – and how it relates to your own life as a girl in Beverly Hills.

Hallie: When I was 10 years old, actress Lana Turner’s boyfriend (a gangster named Johnny Stompanato) was killed by Turner’s 14-year-old daughter. The Beverly Hills house where it happened was two blocks from where we lived, and I used to ride my bike over there and just stare at the house and the windows of what I was sure was the “pink bedroom” I’d read about in the newspaper. Night Night, Sleep Tight combines a fictional version of of that murder  with stories from my own growing up in Beverly Hills. (What if I’d been Lana Turner’s Headlinesdaughter’s best friend and what if I’d been sleeping over at their house the night of the murder…)

E: By some standards Night Night, Sleep Tight is an historical novel. How do you feel when people call it that?  And which details did you have the most trouble finding out about, even though you and many of your contemporaries were alive then?

H: Historical? Really?? It’s true that so much has changed since the 60s and 80s. Remember when we “teased” our hair, used land lines and answering machines, when MovieStarmapbrochurethere were no computers or email? We all read movie magazines and ate at drive-ins. The movie business was very different, too — in the 60s it went through a huge upheaval, which is the backdrop to the novel. My parents were screenwriters. Most of the physical details I dredged out of my own memory, and fortunately there are lots of old-time photographs and ephemera like “movie star maps” of Beverly Hills that I could find easily on the Internet.

E: The rest of us at this blog write primarily series. You wrote a series earlier but now write standalones. I can’t image making up an entire new world every time I write a book. What do you like about that, and what is the most challenging? Do you ever feel moved to continue a hallie-ephron-webpixcharacter or setting on to another story?

H: It’s not that I don’t like writing a series, but the ideas that come to me work best as onesies. Yeah, it’s challenging, and it’s why it takes me two years to write a standalone novel whereas it used to take me one year for a series novel. The hardest part about writing? It’s the writing. Really. Whether it’s a standalone or a series. Just cranking out that first draft is a slog for me.

E: So interesting to hear you say that, since many of us regard you as our teacher! We all met you either through Sisters in Crime New England or at the Seascape Writers Retreat (or both). I’m

Seascape 2009 where Hallie worked with Liz, Sherry, Edith, and Barb.
Seascape 2009 where Hallie worked with Liz, Sherry, Edith, and Barb.

so sorry Seascape has been discontinued, for myself and for all the other getting-started authors out there who learned so much and who got a critical boost from you and the other mentors. Is there any chance that incredibly productive weekend will be resurrected?

H: It was so great going to Malice and seeing Seascape alums like you and Liz Mugavero and Barbara Ross and Sherry Harris with published books and Agatha nominations! Lucy Burdette and I may do it again… 2017 at the soonest.

E: As a group blog, the Wicked Cozys of course very much admire your long-running Jungle Red Writers group blog and the community of commenters you have built up. Personally that’s the first blog I read every morning. Do you all have trouble continuing to come up with topics, or organizing yourselves? I know it’s no issue to find new guests to feature – who wouldn’t want to make a guest appearance over there!jungle-header14

H: Surprisingly I don’t find it hard to come up with blog ideas. It’s infinitely easier than finding a plot for a book!

E: I know you travel regularly to fun places like Mexico and Greece. Do you try to work on trips like those, or do you give yourself a real vacation from writing?

H: Depends on whether I have a deadline. I took my computer to Sanibel for a family week last year and spent 2 hours a day closed in a room working. But mostly on vacations I like to truly vacate my brain.

E: Tell us something you might not have told any other interviewer, something that might surprise us about you.

CtBirdH: I’m a birder. And right now the season’s first catbird is out splashing around in my bird bath.

E: What’s up next for you, writing wise?

H: A book! Please, tell me it’s going to be a book. I’m up to page 50 and wondering what made me think I knew how to do this.

E: LOL. It will be a book, Hallie. Have faith! But that makes me think of people who asked me what I was having when I was pregnant. If I was feeling cranky, I’d say, “A baby” or “a human.” What did they THINK I was having, an aardvark? (Yes, I know it was a gender question…)

Thanks so much for visiting us. Readers, stop by all day and ask Hallie a question or leave a comment. She’ll give a copy of Night Night, Sleep Tight to one of you!


HALLIE EPHRON is the New York Times bestselling author of Night Night, Sleep Tight, a suspense novel inspired by an infamous Beverly Hills murder that took place when she was growing up there in the ‘60s, surrounded by but never part of Hollywood glamour. A starred review in Publisher’s Weekly calls it “a captivating thriller.” It was InStyle Magazine’s #1 “Page-turning Pick” for April. Her earlier novel, Never Tell a Lie, was made into a movie for the Lifetime Movie Network. Hallie is also the author of the Edgar-nominated Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel and a regular book reviewer for the Boston Globe. 

49 Thoughts

  1. I’m reading Night Night, Sleep Tight right now, Hallie and love it on so many levels. It’s not only a fascinating story, the writing is brilliant. Thanks for joining us today.

  2. Sorry Hallie I must disillusion you, we still use a landline and an answering machine. We read books made of paper. Just call us Luddites, I guess. 🙂 We do have four computers, 2 PC’s and 2 laptops.

    1. Gram: Laughing! Because we have a landline and an answering machine, too. In ADDTION to two cell phones and 2 laptops. Talk about overkill.

  3. I’m looking forward to the new book, Hallie. I would do Seascape a third time! Great interview, Edith.

    1. Who knows, we may offer Seascape again. Especially seeing so much talent come to fruition with help from some of its nurturing (and probably tough love). PS Nurse Ratched is one of my favorite characters of all time. Now THERE’S someone you could base a mystery series around. Make her human – give us her back story. I’d be fascinated. Why hasn’t someone done it??

  4. I loved Night Night, Sleep Tight. I see this book going full circle. The story starts with the big screen and I wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t end there. This story has all of the makings of a great movie, but in the meantime, read the book. Deirdre is a compelling protagonist and the setting the epitome of “atmospheric.” What I really appreciate from Hallie, in addition to her being a gifted teacher of writing, is her honesty about how hard the actual writing can be. Very comforting to know it’s hard work, even for the best.

    1. Oh gosh, Michele – as they say, from your mouth to you-know-who’s ear! Thanks for the kind words – can’t wait to fete your new book! I still remember the pink slippers from one of your earlier works, and it’s not often that a detail like that sticks in my overcrowded brain.

  5. Suitor? Lana’s abusive gangster boyfriend = suitor? Oh my gosh. I see a suitor as a young man showing up at the door with a box of chocolates for the girl and flowers for the girl’s mother, being cross-examined by the father. :^).

    (I’ve read it thanks. Great stuff, so no need to include me in the book draw)

    1. Susan: Ha ha! Good point! Still, “boyfriend” rather understates the case too, don’t you think? Though he was just 32 yeas old so he certainly was a younger than one imagines. He threatened to kill Sean Connery on a movie set for getting too cozy with Lana Turner. He was a thug and a narcissist.

  6. Wow, I didn’t know that Lana Turner’s daughter killed her boyfriend! I’m interested in reading Night, Night, Sleep Tight. Sounds like my kind of book. And….I love birds too!! Chickadees, Robins, Cardinals…I love all of them. I’ve seen an Indigo Bunting in my yard, a Brown Thrasher, a Red Winged Black Bird. The Blue Jay is my favorite though. They are just so beautiful to me and I love that shrieking “Jay” sound they make, the big bullies!! What’s your favorite bird? Thx for an opportunity to win your book.
    Lauigl [at] carolina [dot] rr [dot] com

    1. Birds get into all my books and we have more pairs of binoculars than we have computers. One know-it-all reader posted on Amazon that I’d put chickadees in Boston at Thanksgiving and “everyone knows” they’re gone by then. NOT TRUE!!! We’ve had them here at Christmas. I wanted to reach right across the Internet and wring her neck.

  7. First, don’t consider this comment for a copy of Night Night, Sleep Tight because, ironically, it was the book I started yesterday and stayed up until I finished reading. Fast paced, I loved the way it interweaved the Beverly Hills I knew, the historical crime I’d read about, and its own story. I appreciate your comments in this interview comparing the time involved for you in writing a standalone versus a book in a series.

    1. Oh thank you Debra! I love hearing that. Had you been to Beverly Hills? Lived there? (I just went back on book tour and it’s like a different planet from the one I grew up on.)

  8. Another Seascape alum here. It was a wonderful weekend, and it’s how I met many of the Wickeds!

    I know only a little about the Lana Turner scandal, but now I want to read more. I do remember a brief appearance of Johnny Stompanato as a character in LA Confidential. Clearly, it’s a story that still intrigues. Best of luck with it!

  9. Hey, Guys, thanks for the royal welcome! It’s so nice to be here and to have seen you all thriving at Malice. THIS is the best thing about being a mystery writer.

  10. Morning, Hallie (and thanks, Wicked Cozy Authors for having her). Seascape was a marvelous experience for me, and Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel keeps me going. I’m happy to see that Seascape may start up again. I have only one book published, a onesie, and I’m on page 80 of my next onesie, so I know YOU can get that book done.

  11. You don’t have to put me in the drawing either, as my copy of Night, Night is next up in the TBR pile (and I may drag it to Bouchercon and beg for an autograph, Hallie – just a warning). I haven’t started it yet because I know I will get sucked in and right now, I can’t spend an entire day reading. After the kids are out of school… two more weeks.

    I don’t know much about birds, but I love watching them. Saw a blue jay and a cardinal this weekend. That was fun.

    Hallie, you are so talented that I’m sure whatever you’re working on now will turn into another fantastic book. I’ve taken a class with Hank now, if you do Seascape again, I might have to figure out a way to be there!

    1. Thanks, Barb – love your interview today on Jungle Red! Though for me mussels would be a method of murder – they make me deathly ill. Very sad since I love them. Hmmmm seafood as a murder weapon.

  12. It’s hard to wait for another Hallie book but always worth it. No need to enter me in the drawing. I was trying to show some restraint and not start my copy until I had a free day. Lost my self-control last night. Stayed up until the wee hours reading and talking out loud (oh no! what does she remember? him??? wow!) but wasn’t able to finish, so looking at todays tasks to see what I can skip so I can sneak away to read! As always, my brain is working feverishly to figure out what’s next and the suspense is killing me. Thanks, Hallie! Loving it.

  13. I don’t need a copy of the book either. I’ve got a copy of the ARC on my TBR pile. I really do want to get to it soon, especially since I enjoy historical Hollywood stories. Seems like something I would really enjoy.

    And I will be getting a landline again soon. Not my idea, but it’s cheaper to get it bundled with my new TV and internet than to get them separately. I don’t need it, but I’ll have it.

    1. Argh. Cable companies. We now have a completely useless, unused phone number, which, unfortunately we discovered the hard way, the cable company wants you to give them when you call to report a problem with your DVR. (We have no idea what the phone number is.)

  14. Thanks for being on the blog today, Hallie. Congratulations on NIGHT NIGHT, SLEEP TIGHT. I can’t wait to read it–it is on my vacation cruise pile. What a great hook.

    I am so sorry that I never got to Seascape, but I do count you as one of my mentors. You were president of Sisters in Crime NE when I joined, and you made me feel so welcome. Now look what’s happened since.

    Congratulations again!

  15. I loved reading about the book and your connections with living and growing up in the area where the story was set. I also grew up in that era and would love to read the book.

  16. My Mom was fascinated by that murder. She read everything she could about it and was convinced it was Lana who did it and the daughter who took the fall. I’m looking forward to Night, Night, especially from a different point of view!

  17. Hallie! Thanks so much for visiting us. I can’t WAIT to dig into Night, Night, Sleep Tight. I am fascinated with Hollywood and love getting an “insider’s” viewpoint. I’m also thrilled that you may resurrect Seascape – I can’t say enough about that program and the effect it had on me as a writer. Thank you for all you’ve done!

  18. After reading this interview, I asked my Mom if she remembered anything about the murder and she doe. I find your take on using the story in the new book fascinating and I’m anxious to read it! Great interview, ladies!

  19. I remember that murder too. (I was a bit older than 10, though, when it happened.) We also have a land line, an answer machine, and two cell phones. (No answer machine when I was growing up. Would you believe, for a while, we had a wooden box fastened to the wall that was our telephone? We turned a crank to get the operator, and we heard everyone’s special ring on the line—the better to listen in, I guess.) Am I too late to get my name in the drawing?

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