June 29, 2021

Ann McMan There's No Subject She Won't Touch

Ann McMan There's No Subject She Won't Touch

Ep:090 Ann McMan is the author of twelve novels and two collections of short stories. She is a two-time Lambda Literary Award winner, a nine-time winner of Golden Crown Literary Society Awards, a three-time IPPY medalist, a Foreword Indies finalist, and a recipient of the Alice B. Medal for her outstanding body of work. She resides in Winston-Salem, NC with her wife, Salem West, two precocious dogs, and an exhaustive supply of vacuum cleaner bags.

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Ann McMan's Website

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Galileo by Ann McMan on Bywater Books

Galileo on Amazon

Galileo on Audible

Hallowed Murder by Ellen Hunt

Brad Shreve's Website


Transcript
Brad Shreve:

Coming up, Justene got around to reading the previous guests book and is thrilled. She did. And Ann McMan joins me as we talk about her 40 something cranky, fouled mouthed, ex Catholic protagonist. It doesn't get any better than that. I'm Brad Shreve. And this is Queer Writers of Crime, featuring LGBTQ authors of mystery, suspense, and thriller novels. Justene what are your thoughts about Facebook?

Justene:

you know, I really like Facebook. the stuff people complain about doesn't really affect me one way or another. And I've never been concerned about it going into my privacy or the like, and I just, I love it. I live most of days on there, you know, and it'll have, I'll have it running in the background.

Brad Shreve:

and you don't really have any privacy in this world today anyway, but,

Justene:

Well, that's what I always say.

Brad Shreve:

Facebook pisses me off a lot with some of the things they do, but they actually did something cool. Last week,

Justene:

Okay.

Brad Shreve:

as of last week, you can start airing podcast on Facebook.

Justene:

Excellent.

Brad Shreve:

It's on a Facebook page. You have to have a Facebook page to do it. Now here's the deal. They sent out invitation only for people that. Can start it out and we didn't have a Facebook page. So of course we didn't get an invitation

Justene:

yeah,

Brad Shreve:

secondly, they didn't send that many out anyway. And third, it was supposed to roll out last week and it looks like it was a complete disaster.

Justene:

good to know.

Brad Shreve:

Yes, that all being said. In fact, I talked to a couple of podcasts and they said we're going to wait and see what happens before we consider getting in on this. It looks like they were good to wait a week. but because we want to be ahead of the game when it comes time for us to be able to get our podcast on Facebook. So people can cruise through Facebook and listened to the show. At the same time, we now have a Facebook page and I will put a link in the show notes and people can please go in and sign up. Because I think the more people we have that like the page, the more likely we're going to get a invitation quicker than others.

Justene:

Yes. were there a new Facebook page, people can be more interactive. Listeners can actually talk to each other.

Brad Shreve:

I would love that I would love that and start sharing what they think of your books and what they think of the guest. That would be wonderful. So we're going to make it their page.

Justene:

That's right. Right?

Brad Shreve:

So what have you got going on? Did you read something this week?

Justene:

well, I did. I did. And you know, people who follow me on Facebook may have noticed that I'm really annoyed with Amazon because when it suggests books for me to read. It doesn't take into account that he knows damn well, which books I have bought because when I click on it, yeah. It says you bought this. and so the recommendations, I was thinking, you know, we've done how many shows now? 75. So I've read 75 mysteries. Which I've recommended. I've read more mysteries in that. And Facebook or Amazon just keeps recommending books. I've already read. It says, here are books. You might like, well, I did like some pay attention and Amazon let's keep going.

Brad Shreve:

you would think that would be an easy algorithm to build

Justene:

Yes, you would. And it would be to the benefit because they're, they're actually selling me books that I might buy.

Brad Shreve:

well, strangely enough, I get book recommendations that are my books

Justene:

you're not the only author I've heard that it has that problem.

Brad Shreve:

So I've been buying them so I can make money, but then I realized I'm not making money.

Justene:

but you know, sometimes it takes a little bit of digging for me to find the book and, you know, I'll mine various sources. And this week I mined our spreadsheet of guests and decided that Ellen Hart who's been a guest on the show. I think she was on last September. I had a really well, I hadn't read any of her books. and I don't know. quite how I made that omission, because as you, as you say, in the show notes, she's the Agatha Christie, of LGBT, mysteries. And so boy, I don't know where that just hits my sweet spot.

Brad Shreve:

And actually I'm not the one that said that. there are lots of reviewers that said that.

Justene:

that's. Yeah.

Brad Shreve:

that way, if somebody doesn't trust my judgment, there are other people they can trust their judgment.

Justene:

well, I, trusted, your judgment, not knowing that it was other people's judgment,

Brad Shreve:

Well, there you go.

Justene:

I picked up the first book in her Jane Lawless series. And. it had been moved to Kindle in 2010. And as I was reading it, I thought, golly, when the heck was this written and so it, it was originally written in 1989. And you can tell us written in 1980 and nine, because nobody's got the internet. Nobody has cell phones. In fact that, you know, nobody, even the cell phones, there's a scene where the couple of the characters fall asleep in front of the television and then the national Anthem comes on. And I would venture to say that about half of our listeners have no idea that the national Anthem used to come on when they'd stop airing TV for the night. You know, when I was a kid, the only thing I ever wished for was 24 hour TV, because I didn't want to see that national Anthem. and I've certainly gotten more than I've wished for, but it was indeed written in 1989. The story itself holds up. the, homophobia is, much more prevalent than a book like that. Everybody, almost everybody is, either virulently homophobic and, expresses it loudly or is, quietly. so, and then the people who support gay people will say so, and, and just a, a small, minor whisper. so that part, I think, took a little getting used to for me and transported me back into that era of the 80s. against that backdrop, once I made that cultural shift, the book itself is very interesting and it's Ellen Hart and it is the first in her Jane Lawless series. The book title of the book is Hallowed Murder and. In it, Jane Lawless who owns it. Yeah. And English pub, which by all descriptions is the kind of place I would just love to visit. it's set in an old lodge and it has a big bay window and it serves things like steak and kidney pie. And you can sit there and play darts or cribbage boards are set up on the table. And it just seems like the most welcoming spot that it is. Um,

Brad Shreve:

Is this pub in a small village in English country side?

Justene:

It is not, it is modeled on a pub and a small village in English countryside. However, uh, the character Jane grew up in England and says there, there were hundreds of pubs in London and they're all different. So this is, the kind of pub that she would like it is set in Minneapolis.

Brad Shreve:

oh, okay. Well I was way off. Okay.

Justene:

You were way off. so it is, it is the Midwestern take on a, uh, English pub, but it just, it just sounds delightful. And she runs this pub. She's an alumni of the local university and she is the alumni advisor to a sorority on campus. And a member of the sorority, ends up dead Jane and her friend Cordelia stumble upon the body. they're out with Jane's dogs and Jane's dogs go nuts and find the body. And then, Jane and her friend discover it. And Jane realizes that the victim is a, a young girl that she has known from the sorority, The police, and to write it off as a suicide, it's never clear to me whether the. police really think it's a suicide or not, but most people think it's a suicide and Jane is pretty certain that it isn't. And so she sets out to investigate it. And as with most amateur detectives, she of course ends up being put in danger herself. She comes up with a intricate plan to catch the killer, which goes. Horribly side wise and she's in danger in the, Minnesota, winter, which I find even more chilling than being in danger and, you know, good weather,

Brad Shreve:

well, Minnesota winter is dangerous in and of itself.

Justene:

that's right. That's right. And, when one is running from a killer, it is not a good place to be. she is very calm throughout. She's got very gentle, demeanor. She is always sensitive to the various young people, whether they're in sororities or they know, uh, they know, the victim from other parts of her life. And she, questions them. And when they. Refuse to go further, ask her to leave. She moves along politely, but she gathers the information and eventually figures out who she thinks is the killer, but she doesn't have enough to go to the police and decides to use herself as bait. Always a bad idea. In my book, You know, did Jessica Fletcher ever set out to use yourself as, bait or did she ended up getting just targeted by the killer.

Brad Shreve:

She never had to worry about cause she was the killer.

Justene:

Yeah. Okay. There is that, that, that is the, uh, the non cannon way to look at Murder. She Wrote. Um, But it's a marvelous book. I, you know, Jane Lawless just seems like the kind of woman that you would want to know in real life. There's just the right mix of intrigue and the subtle undercurrent of danger. You don't know quite who's next and you don't know quite who to suspect. there's not an overtly evil person, uh, among the characters. So you're always wondering and, the killer is, well, we all know that I never try to figure out these things, but it was a surprise to me. But once you put together all the facts, it should have been obvious. One of those things,

Brad Shreve:

yup. They played fair and you didn't get it.

Justene:

they played fair and I didn't get it. yes.

Brad Shreve:

I love that.

Justene:

Yeah. I love that too. I love that too. I would say that's probably the, biggest, standard I have for a book for a mystery, you played fair. All the clues, none of the clues are kind of left hanging. Um, you don't say, well, that clue you know, they, they never really tied that in, and, and it wasn't a red herring and they just, the author just must've forgotten and on the table. Um, and didn't catch it when editing, no, everything in here is deliberately placed and it, it's just, it's just a terrific book. She's won five Lambda mystery awards. and well-deserved, many more nominations and well-deserved..

Brad Shreve:

Five Lammys. She must be pretty good.

Justene:

Yes. Yes,

Brad Shreve:

And she was delightful to talk to

Justene:

yes, yes. She was. Yes, she was So it's an intriguing, I would almost came, became a thrilling, but you know, Seeing what the killer at the end is, is somewhat expected these days. And so, I don't think it falls into my thrilling category It's an intriguing mystery and it gets my intriguing recommendation.

Brad Shreve:

And you had something on your list you forgot to do, you were supposed to do a shout out

Justene:

This week we have a certain fan who put a lot of money into Buy Me a Cup of Coffee. We want to let them know that we appreciate it. And, they did not give us permission to use their name on air.

Brad Shreve:

Actually, they did give their name. They put "Someone"

Justene:

Okay.

Brad Shreve:

Well, I was thinking maybe our listeners can narrow it down with that.

Justene:

Well, yes. so go ahead, talk about not having clues that will lead you anywhere. Here's the mystery for this week, who is the someone who gave us a lot of money in the cup of coffee?

Brad Shreve:

All right. coming up, I've got Ann McMan. we had a lot of laughs. We had probably even more laughs when we weren't recording, but there were plenty of them in the show.

Justene:

Sounds great. Sounds wonderful.

Brad Shreve:

Enjoy it.

Justene:

see you next week.

Brad Shreve:

Welcome to Queer Writers of Crime, Ann

Ann McMan:

Thank you. It's delightful to be here.

Brad Shreve:

Well, it's wonderful to have you on and I want to say great job on winning the 2020 Lambda Literary Award for best lesbian mystery.

Ann McMan:

Thank you very much. I wanted to win the Pillsbury Bake-off, I'll take the Lammie.

Brad Shreve:

the Oh, you have better chance to win in the Pillsbury bake-off than I do. I can assure you that that there there's a reason why my husband does all the cooking.

Ann McMan:

Well, I guess that makes you a half-baked writer.

Brad Shreve:

Well, yeah. People would tell you that's true.

Ann McMan:

Well, actually I went up and looked at your books and I thought they both looked great. Um, I, I read all of the free samples that were available and I guess I'm happy to break down buy them.

Brad Shreve:

I would love to hear what you think of them.

Ann McMan:

I'd be happy to share. I'm sure I'll love them.

Brad Shreve:

and folks out there. I did not ask for the plug here, so.

Ann McMan:

He did too. He's lying.

Brad Shreve:

Yeah, I there's actually a contract. Every guest has to sign a waiver that they mentioned my book, at least once.

Ann McMan:

At least once.

Brad Shreve:

Well, I've got to tell you my guests come from many places here. They contact me through social media, emails. I get listeners that will send me emails or contact me on social media. and they say, You have got to get this person on the show Sometimes I get emails from editors And sometimes when I realized the show, hasn't been as diverse as I want it to be. I reach out myself.

Ann McMan:

Right. Okay.

Brad Shreve:

but. You are on today because a certain person reached out to me and they said, you have got to get Ann McMan on your show.

Ann McMan:

Was it my mother from the grave?

Brad Shreve:

No, it's actually a person that you told me, you stalk.

Ann McMan:

Oh, it's Michael. I only guessed correctly because he is the only person I stalk. Okay. mean since Jessye Norman died.

Brad Shreve:

if you folks are wondering who she stalks, it's Michael Nava. So yeah, when Michael Nava sends me a message and says, you've got to have this person on your show, you know what I listen?

Ann McMan:

Oh, that's so lovely. I mean, I'm surprised he did that after the restraining orders.

Brad Shreve:

Oh my goodness. You're so stoic.

Ann McMan:

I am aren't I? It's so tragic.

Brad Shreve:

You know, Ann, I want to tell you something, despite Michael's recommendation, I did have some grave concerns about having you as a guest.

Ann McMan:

Uh oh.

Brad Shreve:

And we're going to get to that in just a minute. After I do your formal introduction.

Ann McMan:

Okie dokie.

Brad Shreve:

Okay. So here we go. Ann McMan is the author of 12 novels and two collections of short stories. She is a two time Lambda Literary Award winner, and nine time winner of Golden Crown Literary Society awards. A three time IPP medalist, a Forward Indies finalist, and a recipient of the Alice B Medal for her outstanding body of works. She resides in Winston-Salem North Carolina, with her wife, Salem West, two precocious dogs and an exhaustive supply of vacuum cleaner bags. That was pretty good since I can't find my glasses.

Ann McMan:

That was very good.

Brad Shreve:

You've gotten quite a bit of attention based on that.

Ann McMan:

Yeah. I suppose. I mean, I oh, and I even have an amendment. Um, I'm now a Forward Indies winner. the announcements came out yesterday and my novel, The Big Toe actually did a medal in its category.

Brad Shreve:

Well, Great job. As, as I think my listeners know, I never say congratulations because these aren't prizes, you work hard for them.

Ann McMan:

Yeah, that's very true.

Brad Shreve:

Good job on that. And also, you know, I'm here in LA and I want to say hi, back to my home state of North Carolina.

Ann McMan:

I think that's incredible. I can't believe that you actually, um, what did you say? You're from the High Point area?

Brad Shreve:

I'm from High Point, which used to be just a little distance from where you are in Winston-Salem.

Ann McMan:

20 miles about 21.

Brad Shreve:

now that the highways are open there, they're practically neighbors.

Ann McMan:

Yeah, absolutely. In fact, the, um, um, my most recent book, is a kind of a comic romp called The Big Toe. And it's about two women who inadvertently get, uh, temp jobs, repossessing cars, and part of it actually takes place in High Point.

Brad Shreve:

Well, I'm definitely gonna read that.

Ann McMan:

I think you'll get a kick out of it.

Brad Shreve:

I say every week, I'm going to put that on the list, but that one has got to be on the list. So, definitely do it. And I doubt any of the listeners pay that much attention to me,

Ann McMan:

Hm.

Brad Shreve:

just in case they do okay. When I have a guest on from the Midwest, I say, oh, I grew up in the Midwest. And when I have the guest on this from the south, I always say, oh, I grew up in the south. So the explanation is. I grew up in elementary school in Michigan, and then I did a brief stop in Western Pennsylvania, where I know you lived at short time as well.

Ann McMan:

Absolutely.

Brad Shreve:

And then in middle school, I think they called it at the time I moved to High Point North Carolina. So, sometimes I have a Midwestern accent and sometimes I have a Southern accent. It all kind of depends on. who I'm talking to.

Ann McMan:

How about a Pennsylvania accent?

Brad Shreve:

I don't know if the, is there a Pennsylvania? The

Ann McMan:

Well, I mean, if you watched mirror of east town, you'll know there is.

Brad Shreve:

Okay. Well, I only lived there for two years,

Ann McMan:

Oh, okay. Well, I, I grew up there. I grew up in Northwestern, Pennsylvania, not too far from Lake Erie.

Brad Shreve:

Okay. You were quite a ways I grew up, uh, I was in Greensburg.

Ann McMan:

Oh, okay.

Brad Shreve:

So anyway, you know what people don't listen to this show to hear about me. I think they'd rather hear about you. So let me tell you what my concern one is my concern wise. I knew there was this romance between Evan and Julia. I was concerned. Okay. We've got another romance here where a mystery is kind of shoved in to give it a little story. but then I thought, you know, Michael referred her to me. That wouldn't be the case. So when I read the book, I learned very quickly, their relationship is very important, but hands down without a doubt, this is a well-skilled political thriller.

Ann McMan:

Oh, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

Brad Shreve:

Welcome to the show. You check the boxes. We're mainly going to talk about Galileo, which is the second novel in the Evan Reed series. Now I know Evan is short for Evan, Evan Giulia. Evangela. Thank you. I knew I wasn't going to get the right. Is it. pronounced Evan?

Ann McMan:

It's still pronounced Devin. You don't remember having to read Evangeline and like in middle school, that horrible love that poem, that epic poem.

Brad Shreve:

It doesn't ring a bell

Ann McMan:

Oh, well you probably blocked it out.

Brad Shreve:

And I actually know of Angela and it's just, sometimes those things don't come out. Right. Well, the first in the series was Dust. So this is the second in the series. And first thing, when I asked you, before we get into the title, or before we get into the book, what is the meaning of the title?

Ann McMan:

Uh, the meaning of Galileo well, Galileo, the meaning actually is part of the mystery that Evan has to solve while she's working this case. And it ends up being the name of a very, very exclusive. Um, it's, I'll say gentleman's club for lack of better description, but not gentleman's club in, the sense of the kind of skeevy bar with naked dancers, but one of the really big old money society clubs, like, you know, the Harvard Club, or I forget the name of the other one. That's really huge in DC. But, um, you know what I'm talking about, where your, where you have to pay a fortune to belong. And generally there are, really strict requirements for family lineage and, and the memberships are kind of passed down through generations. So Galileo actually is the name of this terribly exclusive club that, um, becomes bound up in the mystery that Evan is hired to unravel.

Brad Shreve:

think it's funny you brought up gentleman's club when it comes to strip clubs because my husband and I drive past one pretty frequently, and we laugh at the fact they call it a gentleman's

Ann McMan:

it a gentleman's club.

Brad Shreve:

but I'll tell you the gentlemen at Galileo, I don't really consider gentlemen either. No, Not so much. for sure. So let let's talk about Evan.

Ann McMan:

Yeah.

Brad Shreve:

tell us who she is.

Ann McMan:

Evan Reed is a kind of 40 something cranky, foul mouth ex Catholic, who is a Dustbuster by trade. She is a. paid political operative, who is hired by either side of the aisle to mostly to vet candidates for national office. So if a party is looking at running somebody for president, for example, which was the case in the first book Dust, they will hire a person like Evan. To dig into that person's background so they can find out every possible thing they might need to know. And don't want to be surprised about down the road. So that's what she does. And she's very good at it. And in the course of her work, very often, she uncovers things that the. People who hire her would prefer not to know and would prefer to put in a drawer and forget about. So when Galileo opens, Evan is hired by an opposition, the president of the United States is going to nominate. An ultra conservative justice for a vacancy on the Supreme court. And Evan is hired at literally the 11th hour to look into the background of this man. Who's already been widely vetted over the course of his career in a last ditch effort to find anything they can get their hands on that might derail this nomination. So that's what her job is, and that leads her into this coterie of. Kind of very dark and seemy activity going on inside this exclusive club called Galileo and it, and it's also bound up with a ritualized sexual abuse of children in the Roman Catholic church.

Brad Shreve:

I got to tell you this whole thing with the Republicans trying to push a Supreme court justice quickly into a seat, reminded me of a certain somebody a few years ago. Did that happen to be an inspiration?

Ann McMan:

It was actually, uh, a really kind of quirky coincidence.

Brad Shreve:

Oh, really? So it had nothing to do with Kavanaugh?

Ann McMan:

Yeah, Kavanaugh, because I had already been working on this book and what actually got me interested in writing this one was when the grand jury report in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania about abuse in the Roman Catholic church was released publicly. And it was, it was on, it's such an epic scale in all of these dioceses across the state that, that no one could really take it in. You know, how widespread the, uh, The cases were. So that was what led me into the whole idea of writing the story. And I had decided to pick someone like a Supreme court justice, and then all the Kavanaugh stuff just happened.

Brad Shreve:

So you were a soothsayer.

Ann McMan:

Apparently you should be very afraid.

Brad Shreve:

Well, I got to tell you Evan's job sounds wonderful. I'm nosy as hell. So I would absolutely love that job.

Ann McMan:

Yeah. It's like, it's kind of like getting to be the ultimate voyuer in a way. Right? She and her little, um, quirky, extras, you know, the kind of skeevy private eye with all the ex-wives. and The, woman named Ping who can crack into any computer system anywhere and actually does it from her kitchen table while she's baking, you know, um, I just, I just love the dynamic between the three of them. And I think there's a, one of the really funny scenes in the book is when the three of them break into the, the accounting office to, try to go through all of those records.

Brad Shreve:

Well, I love that Ping was not the stereotype hacker that anyone would imagine.

Ann McMan:

Yeah. Yeah. She's what like a 72 year old grandmother from Georgia?

Brad Shreve:

not another Team Geek.

Ann McMan:

No, no, not at all.

Brad Shreve:

No stereotypes there.

Ann McMan:

No, no.

Brad Shreve:

I have a question about Evan. She's sarcastic. She's wisecracking she's smart ass.

Ann McMan:

Hm.

Brad Shreve:

Yet, she's lovable. I'm going to bring up my own book again, the protagonist in my book is Mitch and he's very similar. he's a smart ass, uh, wise cracking and I get reviews or people that say the protagonist is a jerk. Why would I care or read about him? I, don't understand why anybody would read this book and then I'll get another comment that says he is a wisecracking smart ass yet. you understand why, and that makes him lovable. I'm curious as you're far more skilled than I am, but I'm curious if you've gotten the same kind of conflicting comments.

Ann McMan:

I, you know, it's amazing. I got many more of those kinds of comments after the first book Dust. Um, I don't know if by the second book, the people who just hated the character peeled off, or, or whether, you know, whether I developed her character enough, that they began to kind of, you know, look inside her a little bit more because I think Evan has a pretty rich interior life Particularly in Galileo, we learn a whole lot more about her childhood and, and the fact that her mother basically abandoned her, her when she was a teenager and her best friend, Tim is a Roman Catholic priest and the two of them grew up, you know? So, I mean, I feel like, oh, also the fact that Evan is the mother of a teenage girl and I think is actually a very good mother. Um, so, so what I try to do, which I'm sure is the same thing you did is she has this really brash exterior, but she also has a whole lot of redeeming qualities that you kind of get to see in how she lives her life and the things that really matter deeply her.

Brad Shreve:

Yeah. I definitely definitely saw that. And I'm glad you brought up, Tim, her childhood friend, Father, Tim Donovan. and the reason I brought it up or wanted to bring it up. Evan is an ex Catholic, but she's kind of, I call her next Catholic, but she's very conflicted. And I know quite a few people like that. It's kind of hard when you're in the Catholic church to break away from that. Um, I go to a very liberal church and the ex Catholics that we have called themselves. recovering Catholics.

Ann McMan:

I've heard that before. That's true.

Brad Shreve:

What's interesting is the only other mystery or crime novelists that I, can think of that has a religion involved with their main characters. Lev Rafael. his Nick Hoffman is Jewish. Now his character does continue with his faith and, practices, Jewish traditions still. But why was it important to have the, the Catholic background with Evan and her conflict with him? that?

Ann McMan:

I, I, you know, religious themes are really pretty paramount in most of my books, even if they're subterranean. And I generally write characters who have. conflicted relationships with God. And I know that's kind of a, a manifestation of my own struggle and the reason that I picked the Catholic church, I'm not, I wasn't raised Catholic. I'm not Catholic, but, um, I like it. There are many things about the faith that appeal to me, particularly as a writer. I like the fact that in Catholicism, the concept of God is a kind of distant.

Brad Shreve:

Mm.

Ann McMan:

It's not really personal. And there are a whole series of intercessors between us and him. So all of these different filters we have to go through even to reach him. I like the fact that, historically the church has been kind of dark and brooding and, you know, not always welcoming and, and, and the, you know, a lot of the ways they do sacraments, particularly things like confession. or kind of medieval So I like all the entrapments that go with that. So I feel like Catholicism works very well for me as a vehicle. When I want to write about people who are really struggling with working out their relationships with God. You know, whatever that means. And, and Evan is a perfect example of that because she's actually a person of really deep, personal faith, but she's aware of the conflict that presents, you know, for her as a, as a lesbian for one thing, um, being raised as a Catholic and the fact that her closest relationship was with a priest, but very often, the only time that she'll go to see him is at night in the confessional. And of course, he always knows who she is when she comes in, I just really liked that. I liked the way that little dichotomy plays out for her.

Brad Shreve:

When you were describing the Catholic church's way of distancing people from God. it reminds me of Roslyn Carter years ago when she was being interviewed. I don't know why in the world. I remember this. Uh, but she said that she talks to Jesus because God is just too big of a deal for her to comprehend.

Ann McMan:

Well, that's a good question.

Brad Shreve:

And, I'm not, even though I go to church, I like it. I said, my church is very liberal. Probably about half of congregants are atheists. I'll explain that someday, but it is still a church.

Ann McMan:

Cover dish suppers must be a blast.

Brad Shreve:

If anybody wants to look it up, I'm a Unitarian, Universalist, go look it up online and you'll know what I'm talking about.

Ann McMan:

Yeah, I know what that is.

Brad Shreve:

Okay, so there you go. We pretty much let everybody believe what they want to believe, and we just have common core beliefs. What is right and wrong.

Ann McMan:

Yeah. I remember that, you know, the comedian Kate Clinton in, in one of her comedy retreats, I always remembered this. She talked about being a Unitarian and she said, I'm a Unitarian. I pray to the units, so what.

Brad Shreve:

Well, actually I can give good explanation of what a Unitarian is. Thomas Jefferson was a Unitarian and he rewrote the Bible and he took all the miracles out.

Ann McMan:

There you go.

Brad Shreve:

There's a good explanation. And well, how do you take all the miracles out? Well, you don't, you're left with just stories.

Ann McMan:

Well, you know, and it gave me like the particular plot of Galileo since it concerns, um, the sexual abuse of, of boys sort of ritualized through the church and, and Tim Donovan's, unwitting involvement in that The book is as much about Tim's conflict coming to terms with what he knew and stayed silent about as it does with Evan's job, trying to unravel this horrible backstory that may or may not be related to this judge. And then the way they're two narratives come together toward the end is, you know, kind of what the book is all about.

Brad Shreve:

Yeah. And I'm glad you brought Tim up again because I really enjoyed the character. Tell us more about Father Tim.

Ann McMan:

Well Father Tim, um, and Evan grew up as best friends in Southwest Philly in a terrible neighborhood. And, took very different paths in life. Tim always knew that he was bound for a life in the church and was at peace with that and happy with it. And Evan of course went a different way. Um, Tim basically became a priest in the parish where he grew up and has been very happy there. And then when the grand jury report came out and a lot of the abuses were exposed, it triggered memories of his, that he had repressed from his own childhood and things that he recalled as a young man participating in events at the parish school involving the priests and how he. Understood in a different way that you know what he was actually witnessing, but he never told anyone about it. And of course, you know, when the book takes place, he's dealing with a tremendous amount of guilt. And it's actually through conversations with Tim that Evan ends up getting some of the clues that begin to unravel the whole puzzle for her of how the Galileo Club was actually involved with the church and with some of the priests. In all of these things that had taken place years ago?

Brad Shreve:

child abuse. And I would say, especially child sexual abuse is a difficult subject.

Ann McMan:

Yes, it is.

Brad Shreve:

Is there anything that you wouldn't touch in any of your novels?

Ann McMan:

you know, I don't think so. Really. Um, one of the re it was interesting because I worked with a wonderful editor on this book. Um, a woman named Elizabeth Sims. I don't know if you're familiar with her. She's a Lammy winner in mystery too, and she's fabulous writer and a sensational editor. And I always joke that. And I say this with love that if you work with her, you need to invest in a good hemorrhoid cushion, you know, because she's, she's very direct. And, you know, if she sees something that, you know, she'll call you out and tell you what's too precious, but it was, it was interesting because, without giving away what actually happens in the book, The character of Julia makes a really shocking and difficult discovery that, that affects her very personal, very deeply personally. And it's tied into this investigation of Evans and there's a kind of a climactic scene where she flies to Paris and has a confrontation with her mother. And, and there's, uh, there's like an envelope full of photographs that she finds that, that end up kind of being the clue that. Evan needs to crack all this stuff wide open. And, um, when Elizabeth finished reading through the book, she approached me very, very carefully and, and asked me if there was any reason why I chose to never tell the reader what was in the photo. You know, and Elizabeth knows me well enough to understand that I'm a survivor of child sexual violence, and very open about that. I talk about it. I, I don't conceal it. and she wanted to be real cautious about approaching me because I think she feared that maybe it was just too close or, or too difficult for me to write about. And that was why I decided not to include that scene. And, and I said, oh no, you know, it wasn't that at all. Um, I actually decided not to write it and I'm kind of embarrassed to admit this because I was afraid it would be offensive to readers, I thought maybe that would be like a bridge too far, and I didn't want to make the book really graphic. I wanted to talk about the violence, but not kind of have it in your face. So once I shared that with her, she kind of said, no, no, no, no, you have to write it. That that scene has to be in there. There has to be a scene where Julia sits down and looks at those pictures that has to happen. So I wrote it, so it's in there. I mean, I know that's a, long-winded answer to your question, but at least where it concerns, topics like that, you know, things that I myself has experience, you know? No, there, there aren't things that, that I wouldn't write.

Brad Shreve:

I wouldn't say it's a long-winded answer because it was an important answer. And I know it must be difficult to be so open about your experience. at the same time, I think it's wonderful. Thank you. people need to hear it.

Ann McMan:

I agree with you. And I know that it's, um, not only particularly, like I started out writing in the lesbian romance genre, and that would have been talk about a short career, you know, um, done that then, but, you know, I feel like I've, I've had a really. Sort of a, a kind of thoughtful and intentional journey as a writer. And as I've kind of gone along, you know, like I wrote like a series of books and I'm, actually pretty well known for writing humor. This is not a funny topic, but, as I go along, I find more and more ways that I can try to carry my, you know, the readers I've managed to accumulate that I can carry them along with me and that together we can look at topics. That are a little more difficult and hopefully they'll trust me to take, you know, to make that journey with them.

Brad Shreve:

I'm going to speak just from my own experience. I have bipolar disorder and Carrie Fisher was very open and. She is my idol because she is the person that said, you know what? It's okay. It's what you got, you know, so I'm sure you are somebody's Carrie Fisher.

Ann McMan:

I don't know. I mean, that would be wonderful. You know, like if, if I can accomplish anything with my. Whatever the word is, you know, my collection of works, whatever that ends up being, if I can, if I can do that, if I can help anyone who reads the books, find the voice to be able to say, yeah, you know what? That happened to me too. And I'm not alone. And it's really okay to talk about it. You know then I've done my job.

Brad Shreve:

Yeah. if you can do it in an entertaining way, that's fantastic.

Ann McMan:

And you know, and I've talked about this before that for me, a lot of times, writing, when you're trying to tell a story like that on several tracks, you know, because there are parts of Galileo that are. That are fun and amusing. You know, the, the kind of family dynamics between Evan and Tim and Julia and their real family dinners and all that kind of craziness. Oh. And her relationship with Dan who's the biological father of her daughter and his like little 20 something trophy wife. so I put all those little things in there and I've often talked about the process of writing is like being a box. You know, where you're kind of dancing around ring and you're sort of you jab, jab, jab, jab, and then you nail one. You know, and then you just lay one on him and then you step back again and you dance a little more and you make these little jabs and then you hit them again. So for me, that's kind of the rhythm that you need to go for when you're trying to tell a really difficult story like this one, like you cannot just pummel somebody. Endlessly, you know, you've got to give them some breathing space. You've got to, you've got to go in, you've got to make your point. And then you've got to back off a little and you've got to make it a little easier and then you can go back in again. So that's kind of what I try to do with storytelling. And that's what I particularly try and do in these Evan read books because they're generally, well I say generally there are two of them, um, much more. Um, they have, they have much heavier content.

Brad Shreve:

I felt like this was going to be a really dark novel. That's what I was prepared for based on what I had read. And it was a parts for sure, but nothing to the degree that I expected. There, there were times I laughed.

Ann McMan:

Yeah.

Brad Shreve:

You had, you had quite a few touches of humor and I find that common in thriller. really most crime fiction. And for those that let's say you don't, read thriller novels. I'll use the Avengers. As an example, if you watch the, Avengers during the tenseness moments of the movies, there'll be a joke in there as either somebody does something funny or said something funny. Yeah. And Oh, another example that comes to mind is Steel Magnolias.

Ann McMan:

Oh, yeah. Perfect.

Brad Shreve:

funniest laugh in the entire movie is that scene where we have distraught Sally Fields in the, cemetery grieving about her daughter. And then, boom. I don't remember who said it Olympia Dukakas. Yes. It's a huge laugh. Describe more. why that's important? You said it gives people breather, but why is that important to, to have that in there?

Ann McMan:

Well, I think for that reason, I mean, you, I don't know, maybe it's because I grew up as the child of an alcoholic and I was the middle child. You know, so I always understood my role in the family, to be the comedian. You know, I was the person who could walk into a middle of a brutal knock-down drag-out fight between my parents and distract them, you know, by doing something hilarious. it didn't always work, but you know, when it worked, it worked really great and it calmed stuff down and it gave people a chance to sort of back away from the drama, you know? So, I mean, I think that's an important tool in literature. You have to do that. otherwise people aren't going to trust you. and I want them to trust me. I want them to, like, there's a part in Galileo. I think where at the beginning of the book where Evan and Tim are out in the snow and they're waiting for the Aurora Borealis and she can tell that he's really upset about something. And she says, you look you look just like you used to look when we were kids and I would drag you out of the neighborhood into a really scary part of town and you were always afraid I was going to drop your hand and leave you there, and Tim says, but you never did. You always brought me back home. and that's what I think my responsibility is an author is. I have to keep, I've got to hang on to the reader's hand and I have to make sure they know that I'm not going to leave them in an awful place

Brad Shreve:

That explains it very well. That takes skill

Ann McMan:

or a lot of damage.

Brad Shreve:

maybe a little of both. I want to go back to Julia. is there less than pronounced Donne?.

Ann McMan:

Done. like John Dunn.

Brad Shreve:

Okay. Julia Donne who is the other half of the romance between Evan and Julia? Tell us about her.

Ann McMan:

Well, Julia, and then Evan meets Julia in Dust. In the first book, she's actually working on a case vetting, um, a Senator from a junior Senator from Delaware who the DNC is thinking of running for president. So she has hired to vet him and while digging and Julia, Donne is his wife and they have a, like a bicameral relationship. He lives in Washington. She lives in New York city and runs this publishing house. They have no children. Um, and, and Evan begins to uncover some very unsavory things. And the husband and Andy, um, Andy Townson is his name and his background. And then in the process of doing her research, she meets Julia because she has to go to New York and interview her. And the two of them have this kind of. automatic chemistry. And there's a clear attraction there and becomes a profound conflict of interest for Evan. But Julia is a very, kind of patrician, uh, more reserved. More sort of emotionally closed off kind of person. So she and Evan are quite different, but their relationship kind of uncomfortably develops throughout the course of, Dust, which ends in a real kind of calamitous event at the end. And then their relationship continues in Galileo. Um, Julia is the heir to a very prestige. Publishing house, one of the oldest ones in the, in the country, that had been run for generations by men, in her family. And she's the only child. Her parents only had one child, a daughter. So she accedes to that position that has taken the company over. So that's kind of who she is. And she has had. Off and on, a difficult relationship with this third person who kind of dips in and out of all of their lives, this woman named Mia Gendle. And we're not really sure what in the hell is going on with her. Um, we just know that she's kind of a. For hire, probably into kind of black ops and is often hired by people to come in and clean up bad situations. So there's this sort of triangulation between these three women who all have overlapping and, odd, relationship connections. So we learn a little bit more about Galileo.

Brad Shreve:

And let's get into that a little bit. I want to tell you, I am normally not a fan of switching point of views. it's one thing that drives me crazy, but I got to tell you in Galileo it works.

Ann McMan:

Oh, thanks.

Brad Shreve:

What did you have? Was it four different points of view?

Ann McMan:

Four. four, which for me. Almost none. I'm not kidding.

Brad Shreve:

really.

Ann McMan:

Yeah. Most of my books are like, you would think that I have, I know we don't use that term anymore, but a dissociative disorder because generally my books I'll have 10, 8, 10 different points of view. I have written books only in the first person also, but, but generally I'll have, you know, 6, 8 different narrators, who, trade off telling different parts of the story. And I find that that really pushes me. No, and I hope that, um, I'm glad to hear you say that it worked in Galileo, you know? Cause I, I certainly wouldn't want that to be cumbersome

Brad Shreve:

Describing those other novels. Normally that would like, I would be like, oh no, no, no.

Ann McMan:

that. Yeah.

Brad Shreve:

but I trust you based on what I've read

Ann McMan:

Oh, well, thank you very much.

Brad Shreve:

how difficult is It to do those different points?

Ann McMan:

It is difficult because you have to, you, I mean, you have to really know the characters. You have to understand, how they think, how they talk, how they're going to view events and which ones of them are reliable and which ones really aren't, you know, and of course the most important voice in Galileo is Evans, of course. But I think that we learn things about her that we can't know from her through these other pieces. Yeah. What we learned about Evan through Tim, for example, is unimpeachable.

Brad Shreve:

Having to know these characters and to be able to write them from there each of their point of views, are you one of those authors that for yourself, writes about. each character and goes deep into their background.

Ann McMan:

Yeah, I am, uh, an outliner, I do map everything out pretty carefully. So that when I sit down, to write I have a very clear idea. Like I know how many chapters of book is going to have, I know how many scenes are going to be in a chapter. And I know who the narrators of the scenes will be. and I track that as I go along so that I can follow the individual narratives, you know, as they move through the story. And hopefully make sense. And then if I'm really lucky and I've done my work, right. All of those narratives come together at the end in a way that makes sense.

Brad Shreve:

Beyond the, book itself. Do you lay out their lifestyle for your own purpose, so that you understand what makes them tick

Ann McMan:

Yeah, I do. I try to, and you know, the interesting thing about that is, um, you know, I always like scoff at, at, I don't even know what I'm saying. you know, at people who talk about, you know, their muse and, you know, how they'll, they don't really know what's going to happen in their book until they're in the middle of writing it. And then it comes to them, you know, that kind of thing. but having said that and, and having tried to be real intentional about it, Plotting things out and knowing on the front, what I'm going to be writing, you know, the day I sit down at the computer, you do have to allow for those things that just come to you, don't you like things that you could not have anticipated until you put somebody into a situation and then they, they do something, you know, that you didn't count on or you didn't script, but it suddenly makes sense. You know, and you're, you're a writer. I mean, you know, that happens. And, and when it does happen, it's usually really great. And it's not something that you ever could have come up with the abstract, like until you get them in that moment. And then they do what they do.

Brad Shreve:

And it's a wonderful feeling.

Ann McMan:

It is a wonderful feeling like that scene in the parking garage where Maya just caps that guy. Cause he broke the heel of her shoe. No, I didn't plan that, you know, but I'm like, yeah, this is exactly what she would, it would piss her off. She would do this.

Brad Shreve:

Yeah. In, my first novel, I put it on pre-order and then I, all of a sudden wrote five new chapters. And my editor was beside herself, but when all was said and done, she said those were the best chapters in the novel.

Ann McMan:

Well, what did that teach?

Brad Shreve:

just let it speak to you.

Ann McMan:

Yeah.

Brad Shreve:

Don't try to control it.

Ann McMan:

Right, right. And you know, I mean, I still think that, that you have a responsibility going into it, you know, to know, you know, Salem and I talk about this all the time and what we, we refer to, like our definition of storytelling is like putting up a tent. You know, when you, you know, you go, you go camping and you try to put a tent up and you know, what a cluster that always is. But a tent basically is a big piece of canvas draped over a series of metal poles. Right? So storytelling is like that. And you have these poles that support the story. And your job is to write from pole to pole to pole, because those are the things that prop the book up. Now, anything can happen while you're going from this pole to this pole, but you have to know where you're going to end up and where the story is when you get to that place. So for me, as long as I go into it, knowing what all the tall poles are, I have the latitude while I'm going between one and the next. You to kind of stop and look at something else that I might not have on long as I end up where I'm supposed to be.

Brad Shreve:

And because of those, let's say epiphanies, I have the background story written for my main character right down to. where he was born, what city he grew up in. I actually know the exact neighborhood and address where he grew up, and zoomed in on it and Google maps. I have not shared any of that with the readers, because it hasn't been important to the story. And I, think someday may become important and that place that's in my head will not be the place that is important.

Ann McMan:

Right. I know exactly what you're talking about, but you know what, the fact that you do know that the fact that you had that, you know, all that granular detail, I know that comes out in the way you write those characters. It has to, I mean, it has to,

Brad Shreve:

Yeah. I definitely think it does,

Ann McMan:

it might even come out in ways, like the kind of food day, like, what kind of music do they listen to? You know, where do they like to go on vacation? All of those things, what's their favorite color, or how do they dress?

Brad Shreve:

Yeah, exactly. but I keep it to myself because there could become a story where all of a sudden, for some reason my character to fit the story, I need to say grew up in Bora. Bora.

Ann McMan:

Oh, I see what you're saying. So you have to change your mind down. You can't.

Brad Shreve:

Uh, because like you, I outline, but what I end up with at the end is sometimes not very close to what was in the beginning.

Ann McMan:

I've had some really, um, some really, oh my God. Um, you know, where I've been writing a book that I'd planned and outlined and you know, three quarters of the way through it. And then, and then something, well, I'll give you a perfect example. I was writing this novel called Beowulf For Cretins. That's about a woman who teaches freshmen, English in a small college in the Northeast. And, she's writing a dissertation, you know, she's, she's like. Trying to get tenure and she's writing a novel. She's she's got like this little novel for great American novel, you know, that she works on and all this kind of stuff. And the subject of her novel is all based on the theft of this, um, this painting, this Willem de Kooning painting. That was real painting that was stolen from the Arizona museum of art, like 25 years ago and never found. So her, the novel that she's writing is based on an imagined life of the character in this painting. It was all great. Perfectly worked out all scripted. I was three quarters of the way through with book and they found the damn painting. I'm like, you have got to be, I could not believe it was like the whole part of the book just exploded. And suddenly I had to figure that crap, what am I going to do about it? You know? So yeah, you're wise, you're wise to be able to change stuff.

Brad Shreve:

when we were talking, as we were trying to get the, uh, the sound system here to work, you mentioned that one thing you really like on this show is awkward questions, authors get

Ann McMan:

That didn't mean I wanted one.

Brad Shreve:

it means you're getting well.

Ann McMan:

Um, no, I hope it's about fashion

Brad Shreve:

I'm I'll have to think about it. I don't know if I have anything about fashion in there. So hang on and we'll spin the wheel. Here we go. Okay. Are you ready for your question?

Ann McMan:

Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. I've got something to bite. Okay.

Brad Shreve:

Okay. I don't know where you'll go this way.

Ann McMan:

Okay.

Brad Shreve:

The question is when are you going to write a story set in Philadelphia?

Ann McMan:

Didn't I just do that. I'm in Galileo is set in Philadelphia.

Brad Shreve:

know. Isn't that funny?

Ann McMan:

Yeah, that's right. Is that really a question?

Brad Shreve:

Yeah. So somebody was asked that

Ann McMan:

Oh my goodness.

Brad Shreve:

how

Ann McMan:

Well, actually, okay, I'll answer it. maybe when are you going to write another book set in Philadelphia?

Brad Shreve:

or why do you choose Philadelphia?

Ann McMan:

You know, because I grew up in Pennsylvania, so I know. You know, um, I, I, for many years I lived in Northwestern, Pennsylvania, but then later in life, I lived for 10 years and in Northern Delaware, which is right there near Philly. So, I mean, I spent a lot of time in Philly. My favorite aunt lived in Philly. I used to go up on the bus all the time. Right now, my best friend lives in Philadelphia. So I know the city and I love. You know, I love everything about it. I love how old it is. I love how beat up it is. I love how dirty it is. I, I just love it. I think it's an incredibly textured and rich and a great place to set, a story.

Brad Shreve:

Well, before I let you go, I've got a couple questions. you said there's another, Evan novel coming. And you also told me that you are working on or you completed a cozy,

Ann McMan:

I did I did. I actually just did.

Brad Shreve:

when can we expect those?

Ann McMan:

well, um, the cozy is with my editor right now, and I think the earliest, that one we'll see the light of day, probably be maybe the fall of 2022. I think that's right. That would be the earliest that one's fun. It's called Dead Letters From Paradise. So, um, I'm very excited about it. It's very different book for me. And then

Brad Shreve:

a change.

Ann McMan:

yeah, quite a change, quite a change. And it's also historical it's set in 1960. So, um, that was different too, but you know what, and boy did that piss me off to have to confront the fact that 1960 is considered historic. Um, so there was that. And then the next, the next book I'm going to work on is the third Evan Reed book.

Brad Shreve:

Somebody pointed out one day. if Happy Days came on the air today and they went back in the past, like they did on the original series. You Probably would be looking at a show taking place in the 1990s.

Ann McMan:

Probably

Brad Shreve:

And it puts, puts things into perspective, like,

Ann McMan:

does.

Brad Shreve:

makes me feel old as what it does.

Ann McMan:

Yeah. It makes me feel like a fossil.

Brad Shreve:

Okay. Well, this has been Ann McMan and who I've had a delightful conversation with and she has two novels in her Evan Reed series of thrillers and the latest which we discussed mostly with Galileo. And Thank you, Ann. It has been a pleasure to have you on this.

Ann McMan:

Thank you, Brad. You've just been delightful and I still want that shirt.

Brad Shreve:

She, she can see a picture of for my shirt. and maybe I'll send it to you.

Ann McMan:

Thank you. I'd love it.