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Monday, October 3, 2022

Irene Hannon Interview with Suite T



Irene Hannon


When did you start writing?

I’ve been writing since I was old enough to pick up a pen and put words together. I’ve always believed that storytelling, like any other talent, is a gift. So if you’re a writer, you write. And most of us never stop.


Who were/are two of your favorite authors?

Carolyn Keene (actually multiple authors) and Emilie Loring, who began publishing in the
1920s.


Do you feel they influenced you? In what way?

Absolutely! That’s why they’re among my favorites. The Nancy Drew mystery books whetted my appetite for strong, independent heroines who have staunch values and are courageous, loyal and smart. Nancy was a great role model for a young girl. The Emilie Loring books also featured strong women involved in intrigue, with the addition of a romance element. I read the latter books as a teen, when they were already quite old, but I loved how the author wove the romance and mystery together. The books by these authors laid the foundation for my interest in a writing career.


What point in your writing career did you feel like you had gone from amateur to pro?

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment. In hindsight, though, I’d say that I consider my first eight published books for two different publishers to be my apprenticeship. When I signed with my third publisher, I began to feel like a pro. But it wasn’t until I connected with my current publisher, Baker Publishing Group’s Revell, that I really hit my stride. Still, while I’ve been at this a long time, I continue to learn something new with every book and to grow as a writer. I’ll always be a work in progress!


What do you look for in choosing a setting for your book?

With the contemporary romances, I’m looking for romantic ambiance. For me, that tends to be small towns, or smaller communities within larger town. Coastal settings are among my favorite for these books, which is why I set my long-running Hope Harbor series in a small town on the Oregon coast. Since my romantic suspense novels are heavy on psychological suspense, the setting is less important. For that reason, I’ve set all but one in Missouri, a place I’m very familiar with. There’s a practical reason for this, too. With all the technical research my suspense books entail, using a familiar setting is a time saver because less research is needed.


What steps if any are involved in research for your book?

All of my books require some level of research, but the suspense books are particularly research heavy because even though the stories are fiction, the law enforcement organizations, protocols and professions are real—and I’m a stickler for accuracy. I rely heavily on the internet, but also have a large and growing cadre of trusted sources who are willing to answer questions and even read scenes for accuracy. These include an FBI agent, police detective, police chief, U.S. marshal, sheriff, forensic pathologist, firefighter, PI, judge, and a host of others.


In writing your new book, what do you feel makes it stand out?

Body of Evidence features a forensic pathologist and a sheriff. I wasn’t familiar with either of these professions when I started this book, but thankfully I was able to connect with two professionals in these fields who went above and beyond in their assistance. The forensic pathologist was especially helpful. Actually…maybe too helpful. He may have sent me a few too many autopsy photos. J But the end result was a book that is very, very authentic, which helps it stand out. Also, I think readers will be surprised by some of the twists in this story and the intriguing mystery not only of who dunnit, but how was it done.


In your new book, what would you like the reader to feel and walk away with?

My goal with every book is the same—so entertain and uplift. If I can help readers escape from their everyday lives and put aside their cares and worries for a few hours, and if they finish the book satisfied and smiling, I’ve done my job. With a suspense novel like Body of Evidence, I also want to intrigue them and get their adrenaline flowing.


What is the best writing advice you have received so far?

No one will ever care as much about your career as you do, so learn the business aspect as well as the creative side of writing. And never, ever stop learning and growing.


What is the worst?

I can’t recall being given any particularly piece of bad advice. I’ve made some mistakes along the way, but those were my own fault.


Between plotting, character development, dialogue, scenes which is easiest for you, and which takes a lot of effort?

Dialogue is the easiest. When I’m writing it, I usually feel as if I’m just listening to a conversation and writing it down. Plot and character development are the hardest. This is the upfront part of the process, before I ever put a word on the page, and it tends to be slow and painful. I always feel as if I’m wasting time during this phase, because at the end of the day I have nothing obvious to show for all my work. But it’s a necessary step for me.


What is your schedule for writing?

I write full time, so I’m at my desk every day from about eight-thirty until I reach my word count and finish all my tasks on the business-related side of writing. Sometimes I’m done by dinner, sometimes not.


W
hat do you do if you get stumped?

I might pause for a few minutes to think a plot point through, but generally I just keep writing. As Nora Roberts once said, you can fix a bad page. You can’t fix a blank page.

Did you or do you make any sacrifices to be a writer?

For me it’s a matter of priorities versus sacrifice. I do devote long hours to my work, which leaves less time for other pursuits—but I choose to do that. And I enjoy the flexibility of this career after spending years in an executive-level corporate position, where I had to squeeze writing in when I could. These days, if I want to take a day off, I can. Yes, I’ll have to make up the hours in order to keep up with word count and make contractual deadlines, but my time is my own and I can schedule it how I choose.


Did you choose your genre, or did it choose you?

I’ve gravitated toward romance and romantic suspense since my youngest days (as evidenced by my response to an earlier question), so I think I had a predisposition toward these genres. I’m not sure if that means I chose them or they chose me! J


What is the best way you found to market your book?

Fortunately, my publisher has an outstanding marketing and promotion staff and they do the heavy lifting for me on this score. My contribution is to cooperate with all their requests and to be active on social media. That’s mostly Facebook for me. I interact there with readers every day.

Did you actively build a network of readers and if so, how?

Yes, mostly through Facebook. And honestly, I think about it more as building relationships and chatting with friends than networking.


Are you on the Social Media Highway and if so, do you schedule times to post?

Yes, I make it a point to post often, especially on Facebook. In general, I read every comment and like or respond to each one.


What advice would you like to give new authors that would help them?

I would pass on the counsel I offered above in response to the best advice I’ve ever received. I’d also add that this is a long game, and persistence pays. Don’t expect success right out of the gate (though kudos to you if that happens). Most writers write a number of books before they sell their first manuscript. And don’t be too eager to self publish if that first or second manuscript gets rejected. As most of us realize in hindsight, good as our first books might have seemed at the time, when viewed from the perspective of distance and experience they don’t usually fare as well. It’s best to look upon unpublished work not as a waste of time but as a learning experience.



Irene Hannon is the bestselling and award-winning author of more than 60 contemporary romance and romantic suspense novels. In addition to her many other honors, she is a three-time winner of the prestigious RITA Award from Romance Writers of America. She is
also a member of RWA’s elite Hall of Fame and has received a Career Achievement Award from RT Book Reviews for her entire body of work. Learn more at www.irenehannon.com.

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