Friday, March 18, 2011

Hallie Ephron: Guest Blogger/Book Giveaway

Today I welcome Hallie Ephron as Guest Blogger. I knew I had to invite Hallie after reading an advance copy of her latest suspense novel, COME AND FIND ME (HarperCollins; March 22). I was fascinated with Second Life and the whole other world. I wanted to know more about how Hallie became involved and how she 'did her research.'  Come and Find Me tells the story of a recluse who works and lives online and must brave the “real world” when her sister goes missing.

Win a signed copy of Come and Find Me by entering a comment at the end of this blog. Just mention why you want to read the book. Winner will be chosen by random number selection and announced on this post with an update on March 21, so be sure and stop back by.

3/21/11: And the winner is: CPatLarge (Cyndi Pauwels). Thank you all for entering!

Hallie Ephron wrote her first mystery novel Amnesia with a good friend, neuropsychologist Donald Davidoff, and together they penned a series of five “Dr. Peter Zak” mystery novels for St. Martin’s Minotaur under the shared pen name G. H. Ephron. She made a splash writing solo when she turned to psychological suspense. Never Tell a Lie was published by HarperCollins in 2009. It was nominated for multiple awards, including the Mary Higgins Clark Award, and won the David Award for Best Mystery Novel of 2010. Never Tell a Lie was also made into the Lifetime film And Baby Will Fall. 
 
Hallie combined writing talent with a love of teaching in Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel: How to Knock ‘Em Dead with Style (Writers Digest Books). The book was nominated for Edgar and for Anthony awards. She also wrote The Everything Guide to Writing Your First Novel. Hallie is also is an award-winning book reviewer for the Boston Globe where her column "On Crime" appears every month. She lives near Boston with her husband and has two wonderful daughters. Hallie can be found at her website or blogging at Jungle Red.

Hallie Ephron:

For my new suspense novel "Come and Find Me" I created Diana Highsmith, a young woman so traumatized by loss that she's afraid to leave her home. She's a former hacker who was about to go legit, using her experience to help companies protect themselves, when the man she loved was killed in a climbing accident.

I knew just what Diana would do--she'd create a life for herself on the Internet while barricading herself behind locked doors, fire walls, and security systems. What I didn't know was whether that was possible. Did the world which I envisioned as 3-D virtual reality exist?

Like most everyone else who lives in Massachusetts, I'd worked in high tech and had tons of friends who still did. So I started asking around and I quickly discovered that there were a number of virtual worlds out there, and the one called Second Life seemed to fit the bill.

Could Diana make a living as a computer consultant, operating in the virtual world of Second Life, while remaining safely barricaded in her own house? Absolutely.  She would have created her alter ego, an avatar to represent herself. She could have bought an "island" in Second Life, as have real companies like Coca-Cola and IBM, where her avatar could meet with the avatars of real clients in virtual conference rooms. She could hang out with other avatars--friends she's never met in person. And she could shop for virtual clothes for her avatar or real clothes for herself--which immediately suggested to me the idea that she might buy herself the same outfit her avatar wears, and maybe, just maybe, wearing them would help her step out into the real world.

To create a world that felt authentic, I had to try it out myself. Armed with enough information to be dangerous, I created an account and logged into Second Life. First, I created an avatar. That was easy. Moving her around was not.

I'm not a gamer, so I'm pathetically ineffept at the fine art of using a mouse and arrow keys. I knew my avatar could walk, run, fly, sit, and teleport, but I couldn't keep her from bumping into furniture. Once I got her sitting on a chair I had to access HELP to figure out how to get her up again.

It was exhilarating when I finally got her aloft, watching like I was perched on her shoulder as she soared over the island at the entrance to Second Life. Not so exhilarating seconds later when she plunged into the ocean. I actually found myself gasping for breath, then panicking when I couldn't quickly get her out.

So most of what I learned about Second Life (in the book I call a similar place OtherWorld) was gleaned by talking to folks who play and work there, generous souls who let me ride shotgun while they went about their business in 3-D virtual reality. Among other things, I learned that a good percentage of men with accounts on SecondLife have female avatars. I learned that even bucolic corners of the virtual world could be infested by "griefers," mischief-makers who enjoy raining down toasters or flying phalluses or dropping cages to trap the avatars of unsuspecting players. The first time I experienced a griefer, even though I wasn't at the controls, I was genuinely terrified.

While in most places in Second Life, avatars can't get hurt, other places are "damage enabled." In combat sims, avatars compete against one another with awe-inspiring weapons. It's hard, but not impossible, for an avatar to get completely destroyed, but while I was writing the book I found a news article about a wife who managed to kill her ex-husband's avatar after he divorced her. I definitely had to use that. Somehow.

The more  I learned about Second Life, the more I started to feel like a kid in a playground loaded with new toys. I had to pick and choose (falling toasters or flying phalluses?) among them. I also had to sand down my geeky edges, realizing that most of my readers are not nearly as fascinated by technology as I am.

Incidentally, when I started writing the book, its working title was "Avatar."

25 comments:

CPatLarge said...

What a fascinating concept! I've started writing a novel about a female hacker just last month and can't wait to read 'Come and Find Me' for tips and inspiration.

Also looking forward to meeting Hallie at Mad Anthony Writers Conference in April. I'm betting her talk will be incredible.

silverlining1 said...

As a retired high-techie, non-gamer, and fellow-member of Sisters in Crime, I can't wait to read Hallie's new book. Her prose is always beautiful to read and her concepts are always fascinating.

Janet Rudolph said...

I couldn't agree more with you both. You'll love this book. Hallie's writing is fabulous, the suspense is great. Fabulous read!

PoCoKat said...

Sounds like an excellent thriller, please enter me.

pocokat AT gmail DOT com

Tim said...

I read "Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel" but haven't read any of her fiction. This one sounds kinda different, and I'd like to read it. Please enter me in the draw. Thanks.

Carol N Wong said...

I am not familiar with the writer but after reading this I want to read all her books. I love high tech stuff and this is an interesting spin that she was a hacker who wanted to go legit.

Wow!!

CarolNWong(at)aol(dot)com

Hallie Ephron said...

Hey, CPatLarge... people think geeks are all guys. But it is tricky to write it so it doesn't turn off the technically challenged (or disinterested)!

Hallie Ephron said...

Thanks, Silverlining1 and PoCoKat -

Tim, hope the writing book proved useful!

Carol - so glad to hear that you like a little high tech. I'm always wondering whether to soft pedal it. Because in the end it's the characters that matter, not the bells and whistles (what IS the high-tech equivalent of Bs and Ws?).

L.J. Sellers said...

As someone who feels like I "live and work online," this book sounds fascinating.

AnnOxford said...

I'm not entering the drawing, as I ordered Come and Find Me when Hallie first talked about it on Jungle Reds. But I just wanted to say, Hi Hallie. Yes, Hallie's prose is elegant and she does know how to hold a reader in suspense. Now, not to be a nag, but I'm already waiting for the next book. ;0)

Susan C Shea said...

Hallie, I like the idea of having a protagonist who can't leave the house! I also tried Second Life (with sons who are techies, what choice did I have?) and found it a little creepy. Some ostensible guy began to follow me around trying to be friendly and it was just like 8th grade! Can't wait to read the new book, which sounds terrific.

wabbstersbooks said...

I have never read any or your books and would love to give yours a try. I read a lot of mysteries and this one sounds good.

CPatLarge said...

@Hallie: I don't mind being a geek, but I understand what you're saying about keeping it understandable for those who aren't. I also don't want (unfavorable? impossible to meet?) comparisons to Stieg Larsson...

skkorman said...

The Ephron sisters are wonderful writers, and this book sounds like another great read—please enter me to win!

Sixpence said...

I am a total Second Life addict and this books sounds terrific! Please enter me.

Signing in with my SL name, of course :D

Kathy said...

This book sounds intriguing! I'd love to read it.

Gram said...

I am looking forward to reading this one! Dee

carfair said...

I am a sort of computer geek, but have never done gaming. I WILL read your book (and a won copy would be very cool).

Carol F

shirley said...

I love the tech world even when I don't understand it. Looking forward to reading this book.

dlhaley said...

I love thrillers and this one sounds great. Thanks.


dlhaley{AT}hotmail{DOT}com

Kaye Barley said...

This sounds great and I cannot wait to read it. Hope I win a copy!

barleykw@appstate.edu

Hallie Ephron said...

Thanks @AnnOxfored! LOVE your words...
@Susan - yes, I agree - people do and say things they'd never dare to, to your face (or back)
@Sixpence! Sorry I didn't know about you when I was writing it!!

SalT said...

Sounds like a great premise, Hallie. Looking forward to reading it.

paula said...

I'm looking forward to reading it. I find it challenging to not just learn about this different world, but to understand it enough to write a compelling thriller.

CPatLarge said...

Thank you so much, Janet & Hallie! I can't wait to read Come and Find Me. I'll be meeting Hallie at the Mad Anthony Writers Conference next month, too.