Hank Phillippi Ryan: One thing I love about writers. For most people, when something happens, they applaud or complain or persevere--and then, poof, it's gone. Oh, sure, maybe they'll tell a friend over lunch, and, sometimes a particularly unusual event becomes an interesting anecdote or even family lore, retold everytime the clan gets together. "Remember the time Aunt Milly decided the mall Santa was a..."
But writers? No messing around with chit chat. When an interesting or unusual thing happens..the first move is right to the compter. It becomes fodder, it becomes plot, it becomes STORY.
Erma Bombeck made a fabulous career out of telling family stories. Tilia Jacobs is more of a thriller writer, and her newest WRONG PLACE WRONG TIME is anything but funny. (More about that below.) But talk about thrillers! Our dear Tilia--a writer--has managed to take an Erma-type true family event and infuse it with fiction-level suspense.
It all began with Tilia feeling...well
Gardening can be dangerous. Oh, yes, it can.
One day last summer I was in my vegetable garden checking to see if the cantaloupes were ripe; and when I straightened up from sniffing them I noticed that my shoulders were writhing with little brown flecks that upon closer inspection turned out to be ants.
Drawing upon my vast entomological training, I further ascertained that their mood could be best described as "bitey."
So I whipped off my shirt in full view of the neighbors, reasoning in the full one-millionth of a second it took me to do so that the hot pink bra I happened to be wearing might reasonably pass for a bikini top; and that furthermore the mood of the ants was of much more immediate concern than the sensibilities of my neighbors. A swift inspection of my torso revealed that as far as the ants were concerned the shirt was not so much a barrier as a sign reading, "Come on in, the water's fine!" Moreover, their mood had not improved.
I galloped to the back porch, swiping at my anty skin with my anty shirt, and hollered for my husband. When my son appeared instead, I asked him if I had ants in my hair, which he affirmed. Soon my husband showed up, and the three of us gathered in imitation of our lesser primate brethren as the two of them plucked insects from my skin and scalp. During this phase of the operation, my daughter helped out by being afraid of bugs.
It soon became clear that the boys and I were outnumbered, however, especially when I realized that the ants had not confined their activities to the outside of my hot pink bra that might reasonably pass for a bikini top. So I sent my son away and clawed off the rest of my clothing, being very grateful that the woods behind our house are not a popular teen gathering spot; and, clutching the standard bits one clutches in such situations, cantered upstairs to the bathroom, pausing only to remark to my husband that in a sitcom this would be really funny.
Once in the bathroom I upended my head over the sink and brushed at least a dozen more ants out of my hair. Several more came out of the brush when I whacked it against the sink so hard that I dislodged the bristles. Then I showered for about a week. Then I washed my anty clothes, toying only briefly with the idea of boiling them.
Next time, I will buy cantaloupe at the store.
HANK: Tilia, so funny! And I'm with ya on the store thing. But wait--how do you connect the ant invasion with with your life as a thriller writer?
TILIA:Oh, Hank, everything is about writing. One of the things that sets Wrong Place, Wrong Time apart from your standard thriller/crime novel is that the protagonist, Tsara Adelman, is a happily married wife and mother. When she finds herself kidnapped and held hostage, she is determined to stay alive for her children as much as for her own sake. This determination is what fuels her desperate flight through the New Hampshire mountain wilderness as she flees for her life, pursued by an angry kidnapper and two rogue cops. Unbeknownst to her, her husband and brother are working furiously to find her and bring her home safely. Family is everything in this novel.
HANK: I'm with Tilia's daughter. Not much for bugs. How about you, Femmes? You don't need to tell us your best family story--it might take too long--but what's the title of it? Mine is: The Discovery of the Two Dressings. (I'll tell you someday...)