Like every author I’ve ever known, coming up with that beautiful gem of the idea, the core of the book, is the hardest part of all. You know it when you have it and when you have, it you can write it! But when you don’t have it, it’s miserable. And I writhe on the couch, haunted by the question, trying to think—what’ll be the unique interesting original plot of next book? And when it’s time—every time!—something presents itself. (Which should teach me not to worry, although that hasn’t quite happened yet.)
It happened with THE WRONG GIRL. And I must confess, when I was about ready to say to the universe: “Hey, sister, all good, but sure would love to hear from you!”
Anyway. In this case, I got a phone call at my TV station from a woman who said she had a story for me. Now, I get a million of those calls a day—well, not that many, but many—and I try to listen to them all as much as I can. Who knows when it may be the story of the century. It could happen.
So this woman tells me a friend of hers had spent the past ten years searching, unsuccessfully, for her birth mother. And finally, it seemed she’d found her. The adoption agency had called to say the birth mother had decided to let herself be known, and as a result, the agency called the daughter and set up a reunion.
But then, the caller said, everything began to fall apart. The “mother” and “daughter” met—they liked each other fine, and had a cup of tea. But as they chatted, things just didn’t add up. Dates, times, cities, birthdays.
And finally, the caller said, they realized the agency had sent the mother the wrong girl.
I still remember the goose bumps I got when she said that.
Now, in reality ,the story of what happened is –surprisingly—not that interesting! It was a clerical error, and a name mixup, and they were indeed relatives, and nothing that would have happened to anyone else. (An incredible series of coincidences, which in fiction, you would never believe, right?)
But I was instantly transported to the world of adoption and foster care and the love of mothers and daughters—and the heartbreaking decisions that sometimes have to be made.
And, I thought: What if an adoption agency was reuniting birth parents with the wrong children? On purpose? Could that happen? Whoa. And in that instant—I had THE WRONG GIRL.
All of us crave family—it’s our identity and our history and our story. For a person searching for her birth parent—do they really want to know? What if they don’t like them? What if the answers they find are unsettling? What if you were happier—before?
Or—and I’m smiling now—what if you get linked up with the wrong person? And what if someone deliberately lied about it? Would you know? How? And what would you do?
What if you didn’t know the truth about your own family?
Again, did I know the answers when I started writing THE WRONG GIRL? Who, what, when ,where why? Nope, not at all. But it was terrific fun and a constant surprise to find out. It was a lot of research, and a lot of thought, and a lot of listening. I learned about worlds I could never have understood before. And I am very grateful.
Do readers have “searching” stories? I’ve been so honored to hear so many of them on my book tour, the joyous, and the disappointing, and the as-yet-unfinished. And I’d love to hear more! Send me an email via my website—or find me on Facebook at Hank Phillippi Ryan Author Page.)
And what about you, Friends of the Fabulous Kaye? Have you faced the complications and conflicts and complications of searching for a birth parent or child?
I would love to hear...and leave a comment of any kind to be entered to win THE OTHER WOMAN, the Mary Higgins Clark award wining first Jane Ryland book!
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN is the on-air investigative reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliate. She’s won 30 EMMYs, 12 Edward R. Murrow awards and dozens of other honors for her ground-breaking journalism. A bestselling author of six mystery novels, Ryan has won multiple prestigious awards for her crime fiction: the Agatha, Anthony, Macavity, and most recently, for THE OTHER WOMAN, the coveted Mary Higgins Clark Award. National reviews call her a "master at crafting suspenseful mysteries" and "a superb and gifted storyteller." Her newest thriller, THE WRONG GIRL, is dubbed "Another winner" in the Booklist starred review. She’s on the national board of directors of Mystery Writers of America and currently president of national Sisters in Crime.
Does a respected adoption agency have a frightening secret? Tipped off by a determined ex-colleague on a desperate quest to find her birth mother, Boston newspaper reporter Jane Ryland begins to suspect that the agency is engaging in the ultimate betrayal--are they reuniting birth parents with the wrong children?
For detective Jake Brogan, a young woman’s brutal murder seems a sadly predictable case of domestic violence, one that results in two toddlers being shuttled into the foster care system. Then Jake finds an empty cradle at the murder scene. Where is the baby who should have been sleeping there?
Jane and Jake are soon on a trail full of twists and turns that takes them deep into the heart of a foster care system in crisis and threatens to blow the lid off an adoption agency scandal. When the threatening phone calls start, Jane knows she is on the right track...but with both a killer at large and an infant missing, time is running out....
THE WRONG GIRL is a riveting novel of family connections—both known and unknown—vile greed, senseless murder, and the ultimate in deception. What if you didn’t know the truth about your own family?