Q&A With Hannah Mary McKinnon

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Q&A With Hannah Mary McKinnon 

Today I have the pleasure of doing a Q&A with author Hannah Mary McKinnon. Hannah is the author of Time After Time, You Will Remember Me, Sister Dear, Her Secret Son, The Neighbors, Never Coming Home, and The Revenge List (May 23, 2023). She has also written a holiday romantic comedy The Christmas Wager under the pseudonym Holly Cassidy, which will be published in fall of 2023.

Q: Where does your inspiration come from when writing your novels Hannah Mary?

So far, I can pinpoint exactly how each book started. Time After Time is a story about a woman who’s unhappy with her life, which was me when we moved to Canada and my HR company crashed and burned, although the rest of the novel is fictional. The idea for The Neighbors came from two houses on our courtyard going up for sale, and me wondering who might move in. Her Secret Son stemmed from a news segment I saw while I was at the gym (probably wishing I were eating cake instead). 

Sister Dear was a radio segment about a woman who’d found a wedding ring at a playground and was trying to locate the owner through social media. You Will Remember Me was inspired by the true story of a firefighter who vanished from a ski hill in Lake Placid and showed up with amnesia six days later in Sacramento. 

Never Coming Home was different – this one was character driven. I wanted to write a story from a male antagonist’s point-of-view, and Lucas literally popped into my head and said, “Ta-daa! Okay, I’m here, get writing!”

The Revenge List was a little trickier. I’d bounced ideas around with my agent and editor but none of them stuck. Out of the blue I thought, “what if an anger management group therapy exercise went terribly wrong?” That was it – I needed to know what would happen next.

With my romantic comedy, The Christmas Wager, it was like a lightning bolt. While eating dinner and mulling ideas over, I looked at my husband and said, “Christmas games! That’s it!” and dashed off to write the plot. It’s so odd how inspiration can strike, particularly when your mind is relaxed and you’re not trying to force ideas.

Q: At what point in your life did you realize that you were called to be a writer?

Not until my 40s when we came to Canada and my start-up company failed. I had a decision to make – keep working corporate or try something else. I plumped for the latter and I’m so glad I did. I love my second career so much and can’t imagine doing anything else.

Q: What advice do you give to those who want to write? What advice do you give to those who struggle with writers block?

Advice for those who want to write: Read as much and often as you can and listen to audio books. I wrote an article about how the latter make you a better author here. Write, even if you think it’s rubbish, because an empty page is impossible to edit. Another tip someone once suggested was to skip ahead if I couldn’t get a grasp on a chapter or scene, that I should focus on another part of the manuscript and trust myself enough to backfill later. It was revolutionary to me, and it beats the heck out of staring at a blank page or shoving my hand in the cookie jar. Also, I was advised to read my manuscript out loud. Every. Single. Word. Doing so helps avoid repetition, improves cadence, and zaps stilted dialogue. And, finally, share your work. It can be scary, but it’s the only way you’ll get feedback and improve your craft. Speaking of feedback: try not to take it personally. It’s unlikely lip service will get you where you want to be.

Advice for those with writer’s block: You can use the skipping ahead tip above. You can also set a timer for e.g., 20 minutes and just write whatever comes into your head. Alternatively, write your character’s backstory. Sometimes it’s not knowing who they really are that stops us from moving them forward.

Q: If you were to collaborate with an author, who would it be and why?

It would be interesting to work with another author on project, however, and while I don’t have anyone specific in mind, it would have to be someone who plots their stories. I have a lot of trouble writing without an outline, and not knowing where I’m headed. I’d get very antsy, and I think it would compromise things.

Q: Does Hollywood have the rights to your novels?

I have a film agent who works closely with my literary agent, and we’re hoping one day something will happen with my books going to screen. Right now I’m focused on my novels so I don’t get distracted by daydreaming too much.

Q: Are you writing a new novel now? If so can you spoil a little bit about it?

The Revenge List publishes on May 23, 2023 – that’s my anger management group therapy exercise gone wrong story. My protagonist, Frankie, ends up in a group session after an altercation at work, and is tasked with writing a forgiveness list – the list of people she feels have wronged her, and whom she could work to forgive. Frankie thinks nothing of it when the list goes missing in an Uber, but one by one the people on her list have increasingly serious accidents. The other problem? She wrote her own name on the list, as her past self is the one person she can never forgive…

The Christmas Wager publishes as Holly Cassidy in the fall of 2023. It’s about real-estate hot-shot Bella, who’s tasked with purchasing an old, failing Christmas store in the quaint little town of Maple Falls, which is nestled in the Colorado mountains. She thinks it’ll be easy…until she meets the owner’s stubborn but hunky grandson, electrician Jesse. Bella wants the store for next to nothing, Jesse refuses, and they end up competing in the town’s quirky annual Holiday Games. Sparks fly – as do snowballs – but will these rivals find love together? I’m excited to take you on a trip to Maple Falls this autumn!

Another thriller will release in 2024 and I’m unbelievably excited already. We don’t have a title yet but it’s about the rise and demise of an all-female pop rock group called The Bittersweet, and the lengths some of the members go to boost their fame. After all, aren’t rock bands potentially worth more dead than alive? I can’t wait to introduce you to my brand-new protagonist, drummer Vienna.