Escape Velocity is a thriller set in a Silicon Valley high tech company. Georgia Griffin has
just arrived in Silicon Valley from Piney, Arkansas on very bald tires, having firmly
rejected her beloved father’s life as a con artist. Her father is in jail
and a certain minister is hugging her mother for Jesus while eyeing Georgia’s
little sister, Katie-Ann. Georgia
desperately needs to keep her new job as paralegal for Lumina Software so she
can provide a California
haven for her sister before it’s too late.
she’s still living in her car, Georgia realizes that incompetence
and self-dealing have a death grip on her new company. She
decides to adapt her extensive con artist training - just once - to clean up
the company. But success is seductive. Soon Georgia is an avid paralegal by day
and a masterful con artist by night, using increasingly bold gambits designed
to salvage Lumina Software. Then she steps into the shadow of a real crime and
must decide: Will she risk her job, the roof over her sister’s
head, and perhaps her very soul?
My inspiration for Escape
Velocity comes from my own work as a Silicon
Valley lawyer. The author
Hank Phillippi Ryan has called the book “wickedly hilarious,” and it has
received a “starred” Publishers Weekly review, (meaning highly recommended.)
Who are your
My favorite living
Hilary Mantel (the
Thomas Cromwell Wolf Hall trilogy, or it will be a trilogy if we ever get that
Donna Tartt (The
Goldfinch is one of my great reads of all time.)
Ian McEwan (best
ever author of literary creepy!)
Murakami (What’s not to love about Colonel
Sanders come to life and talking cats?)
Tana French (I own every book in hardback because my
daughter and I must read them immediately.)
For my favorite
authors of all time I would add:
(Thomas Sutpen of Absalom! Absalom! is to me one the great
characters in all of literature.)
(Love the whale!)
Jane Austen (Emma particularly)
Gustave Flaubert (I
always root for Emma Bovary and hope things will turn out differently.)
Virginia Woolf (She
made me determined to be a writer.)
What advice do you have for other
The best advice I have
ever received as an author came from Elmore Leonard, and I am delighted to pass
it on. Mr. Leonard gave a reading that I attended while I was still writing my
first book, The Last Billable Hour, and when it was time for him
to autograph my copy of his book I asked him to wish me good luck with mine. He
asked me a couple of questions about what I was writing, signed his book and
then as I was walking away he called after me. “Susan!” I turned. “Don’t let
anybody else tell you how to write your book. You write your own book.” It was
heartfelt and fabulous advice.
Let me also mention I have
received some harsh criticism over the years in many forms. Somebody told me
once that my book was a “small” book, and my audience deserved a bigger book.
You have be tough enough to ignore the mean-spirited nonsense and drive on.
What is trickier, though, is well-intentioned criticism from writers and
editors for whom you have real respect. I’m humble enough to know that my
writing has plenty of room for improvement, and I try very hard to listen and
be open to suggestions that will improve my work. I know I have improved my
writing by listening to that advice. But what’s tricky is distinguishing
between advice that will improve your writing and advice that will make your
book lose the authenticity of being your own book. That’s what Elmore Leonard
was warning me about. So here is my second piece of advice for fellow writers:
Listen to and carefully consider all criticism and advice that come from sources
you respect, and then . . . write your own book.
Who is your favorite
character in your book and why?
My favorite character in Escape
Velocity is the protagonist, Georgia Griffin. I conceived the book as a
kind of Dante’s Inferno of high tech Silicon Valley,
where I have worked as a lawyer and executive for many years. I needed a main character to act as the
reader’s guide, and along came Georgia.
She is young, inexperienced and from a completely alien environment, so she
encounters the wonder that is Silicon Valley
high tech right along with the reader. She is also highly intuitive and a
little bit tougher than people around her might expect. She is blessed with a
job that makes people underestimate her. She badly needs the company to succeed
in order to realize her personal goal of achieving escape velocity from the
life she was born to, and she reluctantly decides to use her con artist
training - sparingly - to help the company succeed.
The surprise to me was that Georgia’s
moral and psychological complexities gradually became central to my story. Her
predicament arises because she has con artist talents that can solve critical
problems for her company, but she has sworn to renounce those talents forever
in order to live a more “consequential” and above-board life.
At least that’s
how the predicament begins. What we realize as the story proceeds is that Georgia also
finds it hard to renounce her con artist ways because she gets satisfaction and
excitement out of using them successfully. By comparison, her respectable
paralegal job can seem a little bit routine. So now her conflict becomes a
psychological as well as a practical struggle. She admits this to herself at
some point, and I think one of the main reasons the reader keeps reading is to
find out how Georgia
resolves that dilemma. Does she or does she not achieve escape velocity from
the life she was born to? I don’t think it’s easy to shed the undesirable
aspects of your upbringing, and her success or failure is to me the ultimate
theme of the book.
Why do you think readers
are going to enjoy your book?
From the early feedback I’ve
gotten, people appreciate this book for several different reasons: 1) They like
my feisty, determined main character, Georgia Griffin, and want to find out if
she’ll succeed or fail; 2) They love to see some extremely
annoying people they’ve had to put up with at work get
their just deserts; 3) They like to experience what it’s
like to work in a Silicon Valley high tech company, from being a board member
to being an accounts payable clerk; and/or 4) they think it is “wickedly
hilarious” as one of my reviewers so kindly
said. I do think the book operates on several levels, and hope readers can
enjoy all these aspects of the book at once.
What is your work in
progress? Tell us about it.
My next novel is set in San Bernardino, California,
which couldn’t possibly form a greater contrast to the wealthy Silicon Valley where my first two books are set. San Bernardino
was a reasonably functioning working class town when I grew up there, but
is now the second poorest large city in the U.S.
(after Detroit, Michigan.)
The story begins when my protagonist
is at the vet for a routine visit with his cat. A woman brings in a cat that
has been badly mistreated and then races out the door before anybody can ask
her about it. The terror in the woman’s eyes
triggers memories from the protagonist’s childhood,
and he is convinced the person who hurt the cat is an imminent danger to people
as well. He decides to right an old wrong by finding the wrongdoer before it’s
He manages to enlist the (somewhat skeptical) help of an
animal control person and a forensics veterinarian in his unorthodox effort,
because both of them have strong personal reasons for becoming involved. My story now has four people, including the
wrongdoer, who all badly want to succeed with conflicting goals in a race
against the clock.
Who or what inspired you to become a writer?
To answer this question, I go back to
the first real book I ever read, The Black Stallion by Walter
Farley. I was in Mr. Adams’ second grade
classroom in San Bernardino,
and he gave me permission to find something to read on my own while the rest of
the class finished up. So I found The Black Stallion, settled
into my chair, and the next thing I knew the class was laughing. Apparently, I
had whinnied. I was so shocked to look up and see that I was back in that
classroom that I still remember the way the light filtered in through the
I had just discovered that reading
created a little room out behind my head where I could go to have adventures
and be other people. That little room has been my solace and a major source of
learning and pleasure ever since. By the fourth grade I had concluded that
creating a story that let other people escape to the little rooms out behind
their heads was the highest and best accomplishment a human being could
achieve. It turns out I still believe that to this day. Mother Teresa is great,
Abraham Lincoln is wonderful, but the people I most want toemulateare
Herman Melville and Virginia Woolf and Hillary
So if that’s
what I value most, it seemed like I should try to do it. Which is a misfortune
in a way, because I am also a lawyer. In fact, I’ve been a fairly successful
lawyer, and every writer who’s
honest with herself knows most of what she writes is going to be trash. (Okay,
trash is a little harsh. How about rejectamenta: Things or matter rejected as
useless or worthless.) The only question is whether a writer can ever write
anything worth reading. So on the one
hand you face the likelihood of miserable failure, but on the other hand, if
you don’t try you surely
don’t succeed. I somehow found the courage to try.
What are you currently
I am now and for the foreseeable
future reading the 1100-page Infinite Jest , includingseveral
hundred footnotes, by David Foster Wallace. (My book group is fearless!) He
might get added to my favorite authors, see above, but I won’t
know until I finish.
While I’ve been reading Infinite
Jest I have concurrently read Memento Mori by Muriel
Spark, and Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (one of the three or
four nonfiction books I read in a year.)
My next books will be: Tana French’s
new book The Trespasser; Ian McEwan’s
new book Nutshell; Stoner
by John Williams; and The Sellout by Paul Beatty.
Things have piled up a bit while I read Infinite Jest, but it’s
Where can a reader purchase your
available through independent bookstores and Barnes & Noble throughout the U.S.
It is available on amazon.com
in hardback, paperback and Kindle versions. It is also available online through
The Kindle version only is available on amazon.com.au
and all other Kindle International Markets.
When you’re not writing,
how do you spend your time?
1.Theater! I’m heading to NYC in a few days to see four plays
and an opera in a week. Favorite plays ever:
Sweeny Todd, Amadeus, Doubt, Book of Mormon, Hamilton, Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2 in the same day. London is a favorite
vacation spot because there is so much great theater.
2. Reading, of course. I am in two fiction only
book groups that include both men and women (which is slightly unusual, I’m
learning) and these groups are a major focus of my social and cultural life.
The reason I have two is that some members of my original group declined to
read Faulkner, so we started an ad hoc Faulkner committee. The committee added
members as it read five Faulkner novels in a row, and then realized it had
become its own book group.
3. Travel. Recent
destinations have been Sydney and The Great
Barrier Reef; Paris; Athens,
Mycenae and Delphi; and Rome
and Pompeii. In
February I’m headed to New Orleans, and hope to
go to Tanzania and Kenya in the
4. Cooking for family and
friends. I make quite a few good chocolate desserts, if I say so myself.
5. Hanging out with my two
beautiful rescue cats, one calico and one Siamese mix.
Three women. One mission. Lifelong lessons. BUY NOW http://tinyurl.com/KindleIBIB Kindle and Nook currently on a digital Pre-Order Special: $4.99 (Reg. $6.99) Save 25% for a Limited Time - Valid through May 14, 2017