By Guest Blogger Hank Phillippi Ryan
What if you could never be wrong? Never be late? Never call someone by the wrong name? Never make a mathematical error? Never choose the wrong word? And what if you could never wear the wrong outfit or have a bad hair day--and if you did, your fashion mistakes and hair disasters would be seen by millions of people?
That's the TV-centered life of an investigative reporter--the life I've lived for the past 30 years. It's a high-pressure, high-stress, high-stakes world that often rewards you--and inevitably changes you.
I've wired myself with hidden cameras, chased down criminals, and confronted corrupt politicians. I've changed laws and changed lives. Saved people's homes from foreclosure and caused state officials to resign. But it's a daunting challenge for all of us in TV to balance the job we're so passionate about--with our real-world emotions, expectations and hopes.
Personal life? Romance? Ha. There's not much time to meet the many of your dreams when you're on call 24/7.
Want to know one secret to TV success? Be married to your job. Problem is, in a world that sometimes values beauty more than journalism, even the best reporters can wind up on the cutting room floor. So how many media old maids are out there, Emmy award statues replacing children? Some women make the choice. Some won't know until it's too late.
In PRIME TIME, my first novel, devoted journalist Charlotte (Charlie) McNally wonders--what happens to a TV reporter who is married to her job--when the camera doesn't love her anymore?
Charlie's smart, savvy and at 40-something, sexier than she realizes--but like so many of us, she's at a life-changing crossroads of her career and her life. If her love affair with her career is ending--where will she go? If her love affair with a handsome professor is beginning--who will she be? And can she possibly--have both?
Aha, everyone says, is Charlie you? (Well, first off, she's younger than I am.) But those are definitely the questions I've faced in my career. And so have all the other women who started in TV at age 25--as I did. And kept at if for 30 years.
In my next book, one colleague tells Charlie she thinks--for women, TV time is measured in dog years. One year on TV--is like 7 of your life. A 46 year old woman on TV is--a "veteran" "aging" "long-time." A 46 year old man on TV is "elegant" "debonair" "experienced." That on-the-air aging battle is hauntingly constant. And, like Charlie, we all know you're only as good as your last story.
And we can't help but write what we know, correct?
Here's the scoop. We take what we know and we--tweak. We say--here's what really happened...now, what might have been? We take a nugget of reality--and just like when we're getting dressed for a special party--we polish and gloss and add a nice scarf or a new purse or a beautiful shawl.
I like it--Prime Time is real life on TV--with accessories.
I've already explained to my mother--it's fiction. (I didn't really make a brilliant and clever escape from a harrowing midnight car chase.) I've listened to my husband chortle and gasp as he reads my pages and I remind him--it's fiction. (That romantic scene with Josh at the cabin--well, it's all fantasy.) A colleague came to my office door and said: oh, I've learned so much about you from your book. And I said--it's fiction. (I've never solved a complicated mystery using computer records and video--wait! In fact, I have.)
Mom, Jonathan and Kelly--you're right and you're wrong. But you and everyone else will just have to decide for yourself. And then let me know what you think!
But after 30 years of writing only the facts, it almost makes me burst out laughing to think my book--fiction!--will be on the shelves any day now. It's been called "hilarious"--and I hope you agree. One reviewer called it "The perfect combination of mystery and romance."
The key--could that annoying spam clogging your computer--actually be carrying secret messages?
As I sat at my computer, two years ago, I called my husband into the room and said "Honey, watch this." And then I typed "The End." Then I burst into tears.
What makes it all worth it--is that now readers will pick up where I left off. Instead of "The End"--it's "The Beginning."