Welcome Back, Hallie Ephron

by Barb, who as of when she’s posting this, has no idea what U.S. state (or what mental state) she will be in when it’s published.

If you’ve read this blog for awhile, you’ve heard of Hallie Ephron. She’s been our guest on the blog several times, and has been a teacher, mentor, and friend to each of us. Not to mention, she writes for one of our favorite blogs, the Jungle Red Writers.

Now she has a fabulous new book, You’ll Never Know, Dear. I devoured it in two greedy days. Spoiler alert, I loved it and you will, too. Please welcome Hallie back to the Wicked Cozies.

Barb: You’ll Never Know, Dear is set in the fictional town of Bonsecours, SC, a departure for you. Why did you set this story in the south?

Hallie: I imagined the book opening with two of my main characters sipping sweet tea and eating egg-salad sandwiches on a front porch hung with wisteria. The older woman is a doll maker. I knew we weren’t in New England. Or Hollywood. Or the Bronx. Or anywhere else I’ve set a story.

When I envisioned the town around them, I “saw” Beaufort, South Carolina. I’d been there a few times. Historic. Gracious. Riverfront. Perfect. Then I fictionalized it to Bonsecours because the real Beaufort has such an incredible history (it rivals nearby Savannah) and has already been immortalized by writers far more brilliant than I.

Barb: The book is about a crime in the past, the abduction of a little girl and her doll in the 1970s. The narrative takes place entirely in the present, when the doll comes back. Why did you decide on that timeline? Was it an easy decision? Did you every write any of the scenes set in the past?

Hallie: Such an interesting question. No, I never considered writing full blown flashbacks, or starting in the past which is where the story really begins (as do most!) I wanted secrets from the past to be uncovered in the present, by the reader as much as by the characters. That’s why I couldn’t let the grandmother, Miss Sorrel, narrate. She knows too much.

Barb: You’ve recently published an updated edition of your acclaimed writing book, Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel: The Complete Guide to Mystery, Suspense, and Crime. I’ve always wondered, does thinking through and externalizing your writing process–i.e. consciously knowing what you know, help you as a writer? Or does it make that voice from your internal editor even louder?

Hallie: Spontaneity has its limits. Then it helps if you have some idea what you’re doing. Knowing what I know is especially useful in plotting, making sure there’s an arc for the main character, making sure that something HAPPENS…every so often.

Barb: Recently, Wicked guest, Lori Rader-Day, posted here about why she writes standalones. You switched from series to standalones. Why? Have you ever wanted to go back?

Hallie: Only when I start a new novel and have to start all over with new characters, new setting, new dynamics. Once I’ve got a story up and running I never look back. I was afraid switching to standalones would be bad from a business perspective–that my publisher wouldn’t maintain my backlist. But they have, even better than my previous publisher did for the series.

Barb: What are you working on now?

Another standalone, this one set back in New England. I’m only 50 pages in and no one’s been murdered yet. But for once I know who’s the victim and who did it. Or at least I think I do.

HALLIE EPHRON is the New York Times bestselling author of suspense novels reviewers call “deliciously creepy” page turners. He new novel, You’ll Never Know, Dear, tells the story of a little girl’s disappearance and the porcelain doll that may hold the key to her fate. The Boston Globe called it “an accessible, easy read that deftly integrates the mystery genre with women’s fiction, it’s made compelling by the depth and resonance of the relationships.” In Night Night, Sleep Tight, Hallie took her experiences growing up in Beverly Hills in a family of writers and wove them into a suspense novel with echoes of a scandalous true crime. Her Never Tell a Lie was adapted for film as “And Baby Will Fall” for the Lifetime Movie Network. She is a four-time finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark Award and author of Writing & Selling Your Mystery Novel, an Edgar Award finalist.

Readers: Do you like standalones? Novels of the south? Suspense?

If so, this book is for you.


34 Thoughts

  1. Hallie, this sounds terrific. I’m taken by the setting you describe as much as the story and feel the suspense already!

  2. i have it downloaded on my Kindle! What is it about dolls than can be so creepy? I loved them as a child, but now… Do dolls bother you?

    1. My daughter had a My Buddy doll that still haunts me. I think it’s like clowns and masks…so real and yet NOT. The perfect prop for a suspense writer.

  3. I’m so pleased for you, Hallie. Like Barb, I LOVED this new book and also devoured it in two days after we came to your Topsfield talk. I also love that Lis is named for my friend and tech-writing teacher Lis Strenger! My doll collection is in a glass fronted cabinet in our living room. It includes a big baby doll that was mine, and it’s getting creepier the older it gets, sitting there staring out at us.

    1. Behind glass! That is where the most precious ones should be. I was never into dolls as a kid… just undress them and forget about them. Now I appreciate them more.

      1. My grandparents did some amazing travel when I was young and my grandmother brought each of us a doll from Japan, China, India, Turkey, and Spain. Also have a couple of my mother’s dolls. Pretty amazing.

  4. I mostly read series but this book sounds good. I’ll add it tomy TBR list. Dolls are like clowns to me…really creepy…

    1. Hope you try it, Christi… yes clowns are so creepy. Except for Grandma the clown of the Big Apple Circus. The only clown that didn’t creep me out.

      1. It felt like they were everywhere, but mostly in the living room. It didn’t help that my sister and brother-in-law worked at Gorham–the source of many of the dolls.

  5. Sounds like an awesome read. I wonder what that child’s doll reveals.
    And yes, I like standalones, suspense and books set in the south, since I live in NC.

  6. Sounds fascinating – onto the summer reading list! It may inspire a shedding of dolls – I’ve gathered more than a few, especially antique kokeshi dolls from Japan.

  7. I do get attached to protagonists, like Rose Carroll in Edith’s Quaker Midwife series, so I am probably a built-in reader – always an advantage for an author. But I am happy to read a good standalone – just got YOU’LL NEVER KNOW and looking forward to the read. Kind of a built-in reader for certain authors too, as I am for certain protagonists.
    As a writer on my third book, I really did intend to make this one a standalone, but somehow it was the perfect story for the protagonist – Rosaria O’Reilly – in my first two books. Sigh. So, I surrendered. It’s her book again. She’s so aggressive.

  8. I got my daughter a My Buddy doll too, and it really did give me the creeps (which is the tragedy (?) of it all, because it’s supposed to look like your child). She hated it, and it would turn up in different places all over the house. One night I got up to go to the kitchen and it was sitting on the sofa in the dark — I’m surprised I survived that one. I can’t wait to read your book and am so glad you visited Wicked Cozy Authors!

    1. Celia, that cracked me up! Turns out My Buddy looks exactly like my 1-year-old grandson Jody, bright blue eyes and all. My daughter posted them side by side on faceboo and it was eerie the resemblance. Only Jody isn’t even a smidgin’ creepy.

  9. It’s a wonderful book. I carried it from room to room until I was done, much to my husband’s annoyance since he had to talk to me with a book over my face. I liked it so much, I went on and read two other Hallie Ephron books in the same week!

  10. I must admit I’m more of a series man. I love returning to characters I know and love. It’s like spending time with old friends. Not to say that I don’t read the occasional stand alone. And I might have to make an exception here since this one is getting so much praise (here and elsewhere).

    1. Mark, I love series too. The trouble is I put my characters through SO MUCH in each book, a sequel would be cruel and unusual punishment, not to mention not very believable.

  11. Hallie, enjoyed this and gave it a great review on my crime blog (www.auntiemwrites.com) in June, but I have to say, clowns and dolls do have that creepy factor to me. Yet one thing that surprised me was listening to your characters talk about the love that went into each doll and that made these particular dolls not as creepy! A great read, and looking forward to seeing you at Crimebake!

  12. I love series and standalones. This new book sounds fascinating. I’m definitely looking forward to reading it.

  13. I read everything! This one is on my list….I think it was john Wayne Gacy that made clowns creepy for me!

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