In continuing my interview series, I have the great pleasure today of doing an interview with Tom Ryan whose most recent book is Keep This To Yourself. You can read my review of that book here.
A little bit about Tom Ryan from his website:
Tom Ryan is the author of several books for young readers. He has been nominated for the White Pine Award, the Stellar Award and the Hackmatack Award, and two of his books were Junior Library Guild selections. Two of his young adult novels, Way to Go and Tag Along, were chosen for the ALA Rainbow List, in 2013 and 2014. He was a 2017 Lambda Literary Fellow in Young Adult Fiction.
Tom, his husband and their dog currently divide their time between Toronto and Nova Scotia.
And a bit about Tom Ryan’s most recent book (also from his website):
A town ripped apart.
A message from beyond the grave.
And a chance for justice.
Last summer, a serial killer terrorized the sleepy seaside village of Camera Cove, killing four people before disappearing without a trace. Like everyone else in town, eighteen-year-old Mac Bell has been trying to move on from the tragedy—easier said than done when Mac’s best friend, golden boy Connor Williams, was the final victim. But Mac is starting to accept that he might never find closure…
Until he discovers a note that Connor left him the night he died—a note hinting he’d found out the killer’s identity and needed Mac’s help. Now, Mac’s on a mission to solve Connor’s murder once and for all. And nobody—friends, neighbors, or even the cute stranger with his own connection to the case—is beyond suspicion.
Can Mac untangle the truth before the killer strikes again?
And now on to the interview!
Keep This to Yourself is the first book that you’ve had published with literary agent representation. How has this process been different for you?
I’ve been publishing in Canada for almost a decade, and it’s not entirely necessary to work with an agent here, so for many years I didn’t. At a certain point I decided that I wanted to expand my horizons a bit, so after writing a first draft of KEEP THIS TO YOURSELF I began querying, and signed with Eric Smith relatively quickly. One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about working with an agent is that I don’t have to spend valuable time figuring out contracts! I really don’t enjoy the ‘business’ side of publishing, so I’m happy to have someone on my side who can handle that end of things. It’s also great to have someone to bounce ideas around with, and come up with a strategy when it’s time to submit a new project.
Keep This to Yourself features the Catalog Killer, a creepy serial killer. Did you do any research into serial killers for this book/if so what did that process look like?
I didn’t do a lot of specific research into serial killers, but I do listen to a lot of true crime podcasts, and have read a lot of crime fiction over the years, so I’d absorbed some details about how serial killers tend to operate (many leave a signature, etc…) that I was able to include as I created the Catalog Killer and developed their M.O.
Keep This to Yourself’s protagonist Mac is gay. At this point in time, I’ve probably only read a dozen of thrillers that have queer protagonists. Why was it important to you to specifically write a thriller with a gay protagonist?
I’m gay myself, and I have committed myself to writing queer characters into all of my young adult novels. My previous YA titles were straightforward contemporary, but with KEEP THIS TO YOURSELF I really wanted to write a mystery/thriller with a main character who I would have had an easier time relating to if I’d picked this book up at fifteen. I read a lot of mysteries during high school (Christopher Pike, Lois Duncan, lots of classics like Agatha Christie) but they never featured an insecure gay teen detective, so I decided to write one!
One of your upcoming books is a co-write with author Robin Stevenson. If you had an opportunity to co-write with any other author (living or dead), who else would you want to co-write with and why?
Great question! I had a blast writing with Robin, who is one of the loveliest people alive, so I’m tempted to say I’d do it again with her, but instead I’m going to be a bit more creative and say that I’d absolutely love to co-write a mystery with Maureen Johnson. It’s clear from interviews she’s given that she’s a devoted fans of mysteries, and I’m obsessed with her TRULY DEVIOUS series. The main character in the TRULY DEVIOUS books is named Stevie Bell, and my main character in KEEP THIS TO YOURSELF is Mac Bell; someone speculated on twitter recently that maybe their cousins and could join forces to solve a mystery, and to be completely frank that would be a dream project!
What does your typical writing day look like?
I am a very methodical writer, and when I’m working on a book, I follow a very specific routine. I get up early, usually between 530 and 6, take my dog for a long walk during which I listen to my project playlist to get in the mood and work through problems and ideas, then I get home, shower and have a quick breakfast, and bring coffee into my office around 8. I try to get 2000 words a day, which can take me anywhere from two or three hours on a good day, to the late afternoon on a slower day. I work best when I’ve been following this routine regularly for days or weeks, and have had an opportunity to really sink into the story.
A hypothetical: Congratulations! You’ve been asked to write an IP work for one of your favorite things. What would you write IP for/would you accept that offer? Explain.
Another cool question! There are a bunch of IP projects I’d love to tackle, but one in particular is Nancy Drew. As a child I spent some time in the children’s wing of my local hospital, and someone had donated a complete set of the Nancy Drew detective novels, which I totally inhaled. Those books really spearheaded my love of mysteries, and I think the characters and atmosphere are ripe for different perspectives. I also know that a Nancy Drew tv series is in the works, so who knows? Maybe there will be some tie-in novels.
Thank you again to Tom Ryan for his time and thoughtful answers!
I’ve dropped some links below to further check out Tom’s work.