INTERVIEW WITH IRENE HANNON
BY AGNES A. ROSE
Irene Hannon is a bestselling and award-winning author. She has written more than fifty romantic suspense and contemporary romance/women’s fiction novels. Irene holds a B.A. in psychology and M.A. in journalism. She juggled two careers for many years until she gave up her executive corporate communications position with a Fortune 500 company to write full time. All of her novels are written from a Christian worldview. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, gardening and singing. As a trained vocalist, she has sung the leading role in numerous musicals. She is also a soloist at her church. When not otherwise occupied, Irene and her husband enjoy traveling, Saturday mornings at their favorite coffee shop and spending time with family. They make their home in Missouri. In Poland we can read three of her books: THAT CERTAIN SUMMER, ONE PERFECT SPRING and HOPE HARBOR.
Agnes Anne Rose: A very warm welcome to you, Irene, and can I thank you, for taking time to talk to me today. Have you always considered yourself to be a writer? Can you share a bit about your journey to publication?
Irene Hannon: I’m happy to be here! Yes, I’ve always considered myself a writer. I think writers are born, not made – and that writing, like any other talent, is a gift. However, in my younger years I never considered writing novels as a realistic career choice. Everyone knows how hard it is to make a living in any creative field, and I didn’t want to have to worry about having enough money to live. So after I got my journalism degree, I took a job in the business world, where I wrote everyday – and I began writing books at night. It took a long time to sell my first book, and there were plenty of setbacks along the way. But I kept writing and eventually reached a level of success that allowed me to leave the corporate world behind and write full time.
AAR: Who have been the people who’ve encouraged you and seen the potential in your writing?
IH: My parents were my greatest supporters in the early years. They believed in me, which gave me the confidence to keep trying. My dad continues to encourage me, and I know my mom is watching over me from heaven. The first person who convinced me I had serious potential was a high school English teacher. She was also passionate about the power of language, and she passed that passion on to me.
AAR: As I mentioned above, your stories are told from a Christian worldview. What made you decide to create Christian fiction?
IH: Two things. First, I’ve always believed that you can tell compelling stories without including vulgarity, explicit violence, or bedroom scenes. Christian fiction is a perfect home for those kinds of stories. I also like the genre because it’s hope-filled and centers on the things that really matter. That said, the faith element in my books tends to be low-key. Usually I show the characters living their faith rather than talking about it, but it’s clear that their beliefs affect all their choices.
AAR: How do you make a story believable, particularly if you haven’t had personal experience of the difficulties your protagonists endured?
IH: My degree in psychology is helpful. So is my stage work, which requires me to take on various roles and become another person. Bottom line, empathy is the key. You have to put yourself into the character’s shoes and do your best to imagine what they’re feeling. Reading extensively helps with this, because there are many wonderful authors out there who’ve created characters that help us better understand a huge variety of experiences and challenges.
|This is the Polish edition of |
THAT CERTAIN SUMMER
Published by REPLIKA
Translated by Piotr Kuś
AAR: Now let’s talk about the books that were published in Poland. The first one is THAT CERTAIN SUMMER. It was released in 2013. According to some Polish reviewers, this is a beautiful story about the power of faith and interpersonal relationships, as well as the amazing combination of events that come together the fate of several people one summer. Could you tell us what inspire you to write this book?
IH: I wanted to write a book about healing in a sibling relationship. So I created a story in which two very different sisters who’ve been somewhat estranged for quite a long time are brought together one summer to deal with a family crisis. There’s resentment and rivalry and past hurts to overcome. The message I wanted to send is that it’s never too late to make amends and start over – and that forgiveness for past transgressions is often the key to a better future.
AAR: Your next book, called ONE PERFECT SPRING, was published in Poland in 2014. Some of the Polish readers say that it is a very pleasant novel about the power of prayer and faith in the fact that our lives are saved by some higher power and everything that happens to people leads them to what is intended for them. Could you tell us how you remember your work on this book?
IH: ONE PERFECT SPRING begins with a letter from a little girl, in which she asks a philanthropic businessman to help her plan a birthday surprise for her older neighbor. That simple gesture of kindness ends up touching countless lives and reaping a host of blessings. One of the messages in this book is that everything we do can have a ripple effect, and that grace can enter our lives in the most unexpected ways. It’s a beautiful, uplifting story about second chances and starting over.
AAR: A few weeks ago I read HOPE HARBOR that was released in Poland last year. I am very impressed with this novel. I can’t forget about it. Let me ask you how did the idea of telling the story of Tracy and Michael appear?
IH: I’d always wanted to write a book set on the beautiful Oregon coast, so several years ago I made a trip there to research the setting. One of the crops grown in Oregon is cranberries. So I decided to have a heroine who owns a family cranberry farm that’s having financial difficulties. She also has a deep sadness in her background. Michael comes to Hope Harbor in search of answers… and redemption. He has a painful secret too – and deep regrets. I wanted to take readers on a journey with these two wounded souls as they find healing, hope and love. There’s also a secondary storyline about an older woman who’s holding a grudge that has isolated her for many years. Watching her transformation as she begins to interact with Michael is a key part of the story.
|This is the Polish edition of|
ONE PERFECT SPRING
Published by REPLIKA
Translated by Monika Orłowska
AAR: Apart from these three books we discussed above, you have written many more. Could you choose one of them and recommend it to your Polish readers? Tell us why this one.
IH: I would recommend any of the books in my Hope Harbor series. In addition to the first title – HOPE HARBOR – there are four more… and at least three to come. I’m thrilled that readers worldwide have embraced this little Oregon seaside town. DRIFTWOOD BAY, the most recent Hope Harbor novel, has been especially popular. Each story stands alone, but there are a few secondary characters that appear in all the books – Floyd and Gladys, my seagull couple; the bantering clerics from the two churches in town; and Charley Lopez, an artist who runs a taco stand on the wharf. I invite everyone reading this blog to drop in on Hope Harbor and get acquainted!
AAR: What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing your book/books?
IH: That writing never gets easier. People who aren’t writers don’t always understand that. But the truth is, the longer I do it, the harder it get. That’s because I want every book to be better than the last one, so I’m always trying to improve. And I learn something new with each book I write.
AAR: Do you have a favourite character that you have written? If so, who? And what makes them so special.
IH: I love all my characters, but the reader favorite is Charley Lopez, the character I mentioned above from Hope Harbor. He always has words of wisdom to offer and seems to know a great deal about everyone. I’ve received more reader comments about him than all of the characters in all of my other books combined.
AAR: Your latest book DARK AMBITIONS was released in October. This is the third part of CODE OF HONOR SERIES. Could you tell us something more about this novel and the whole series?
IH: I write in two genres – contemporary romance and romantic suspense. DARK AMBITIONS is a suspense novel. The Code of Honor series features three childhood friends from difficult backgrounds whose bond has been strengthened by time… and danger. As children, they vowed to make the world a better place, and that’s the code they live by – hence the series title. DARK AMBITIONS is the third book in the series and features an ex-military pilot who now runs a camp for foster children. The story begins when he finds a trail of blood in the snow at his camp. He hires a female private investigator to help him solve the riddle his visitor left. But the deeper they dig, the more danger they’re in – because someone doesn’t want the truth to be told. It’s an edge-of-the-seat story with a climax that most readers didn’t see coming. And as with all my series, every book is a standalone. There are no plot threads that carry over from book to book.
|This is the Polish edition of|
Published by DREAMS
Translated by Emilia Niedzieska
AAR: Could you give us a window into your writing style? Are you a planner or a seat of your pants plot follower?
IH: A little bit of both. I spend quite a while getting to know my characters and my basic plot before I start writing. I also do a lot of research at that early stage. Once I start writing, I let the story take over. I don’t have an outline or even a scene-by-scene plan.
AAR: You’ve written more than fifty books. Do you ever experience self doubt?
IH: Often – especially when I’m trying to figure out where to go with my next book. That stage feels very unproductive to me, because no words are appearing on the page. I’m in thinking mode. I know it’s a part of my process, but at that point I sometimes think the threads of the story will never come together or that I won’t find a really compelling idea. My husband could tell you about the self-doubt, because he has to listen to it!
AAR: As I mentioned above, you are an award-winning author. For example you are a seven-time finalist for and three-time winner of the RITA award. This award is considered to be the “Oscar” of romance fiction. But you have won many more of the awards. Could you tell us something more about them? Do you have the one that is most important to you?
IH: I’ve been very fortunate to have my work recognized with multiple awards, including National Readers’ Choice, Daphne du Maurier, Retailers’ Choice, Booksellers’ Best, Carol, and Reviewers’ Choice from RT Book Reviews magazine. My lifetime achievement award from RT Book Reviews, which recognized my entire body of work, was special. But the one that means the most to me is being inducted into Romance Writers of America’s elite Hall of Fame. That happens after you win three RITA awards in one category, and only 16 authors have done that in the almost 40-year history of the organization.
AAR: What does literary success look like to you? How has your life changed?
IH: Being able to make a living with my fiction writing has been an immense blessing. I work long hours, but my schedule is far more flexible than it was during my corporate days. So now and then my husband and I can sneak away for lunch to a lovely spot in the country on the spur of the moment. Other than that, my life hasn’t changed all that much because my priorities are the same… faith, family and fiction. My husband and I live in the same house we bought when we got married, long before I’d achieved much literary success. I do more interviews and make more appearances than I used to, but when I’m home (my favorite place to be), I’m the same Irene I’ve always been. I’ve never need material things to make me happy, and while I enjoy the occasional moments of glamor my success has brought, I’m happy that most of my days are quiet and low-key.
AAR: Finally, I would like to ask you if you are working on anything at the present. Could you share with your readers about it?
IH: I always have a book in the works! Next April, Book 6 in the Hope Harbor series will release. It’s called STARFISH PIER. And next fall, I’ll start a new suspense series featuring three sisters involved in truth-seeking professions. The series is called Triple Threat, and Book 1 is called POINT OF DANGER. So lots of novels are ahead!
AAR: Irene, thank you so much for this nice conversation. It was a great pleasure for me to be able to talk to you. Is there anything you would like to add or tell your Polish readers?
IH: I’m delighted that several of my books have been translated into Polish and hope more will be translated in the future. Thank you to all who’ve read or bought my books in Polish. For those who read English, I invite you to visit my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/Irene-Hannon-426433004084567/), where I chat with readers almost every day. And my website (www.irenehannon.com) has more information on all my books and my background. Thank you, Agnes Anne, for inviting me to visit. I’ve enjoyed it!
If you want to read this interview in Polish, please click here.