We're so excited to have Irene Hannon with us today. Welcome Irene!
She is the bestselling author of more than 40 novels. Her books have been honored with two RITA awards, a National Readers’ Choice Award, a Carol Award, a HOLT Medallion, a Retailers Choice Award, a Daphne du Maurier Award and two Reviewers’ Choice Awards from RT Book Reviews magazine. Booklist also named one of her novels a “Top 10 Inspirational Fiction” title for 2011. Her January suspense book, Vanished, debuted on numerous bestseller lists, including Publishers Weekly. Her first long contemporary romance, That Certain Summer, will be released in June.
SS:How long have you been writing?
For as long as I can remember! But I like to tell people I made my professional debut at the age of 10, when I was one of the honorees in a complete-the-story contest sponsored by a national children’s magazine.
SS: Do you write full time? If you are a full time author, what other jobs did you have in the past?
For the past 9 years, I’ve been a full-time novelist. Prior to that, I worked in corporate communications for a Fortune 500 company. When I left, I was a senior group director, managing three different communications-related departments. It was an amazing career! That’s the only other job I’ve had, except for working part-time in a library during my high school and college years. What a perfect job for someone who loves to read!
SS: Tell us about the moment you finally felt like a “real author”?
I’m still waiting for it! Seriously, it’s hard to feel as if you’ve ever “arrived,” because there’s always so much still to learn. But I guess selling my first book and winning my first RITA award came as close as anything to convincing me that maybe I do have some writing talent.
SS: Who has been your greatest supporter as an author?
Prior to my marriage, my parents. Now my husband is part of that cheering section, too. Of course, I was already published when I met him, so I’d have to say I owe my parents an extra debt of gratitude because they believed in me long before I ever sold. Their support went a long way toward keeping discouragement at bay in those early days of rejection after rejection.
SS: Why suspense? Do you write in any other genres? If so, what?
I write both romantic suspense and contemporary romance. I’ve been a huge fan of romantic suspense since my Nancy Drew days, and to be honest, the first book I wrote was a romantic suspense novella. However, it was really, really, really bad! I consigned it to the deepest, darkest corner of my closet where it shall forever remain. Aside from the fact my writing needed time to mature, I just didn’t have the kind of sources a suspense writer needs to create a credible story. This was in the pre-internet dark ages, mind you. So I switched to contemporary romance, which typically requires less intense technical research. When I left my corporate career and had more time to write, though, I got the urge to try suspense again. This time I had the internet, plus a great contact in law enforcement who hooked me up with other amazing sources. The rest is history!
SS: How does your faith play into your writing?
I write from a Christian worldview, so it colors all of my writing in an organic way. But typically it’s lived more than spoken about—which is how I live my own life. Readers see characters making decisions and choices based on the principles of their faith.
SS: If you couldn’t write, what else would you want to do?
Loaf? Okay, not really…although there are days…
I do love to sing and perform, so I’d do more of that if I wasn’t writing. I also love to travel. And I’ve always been tempted by the idea of operating a tea room or running a B&B. All that said, I’d surely find something to do if I wasn’t writing, but I honestly can’t imagine word craft not being part of my life.
SS: Tell us about your current release.
Vanished is Book 1 in my new Private Justice series, which features three ex-law enforcement operatives (police detective, undercover ATF agent and Secret Service agent) who join forces to form a private investigation company. In Vanished, reporter Moira Harrison is new on the job in St. Louis, but she’s no rookie to investigative reporting. She knows how to dig for answers and get results. But when she hits a pedestrian on a rainy night in a wooded area—only to have both the victim and the good Samaritan who stopped to assist disappear—she turns to P.I. Cal Burke, an ex-homicide detective, to help her sort out the puzzle. Cal is more than a little skeptical of her story, especially since the police have dismissed it. But as clues begin to surface, bringing them closer to answers, the danger mounts. Because someone doesn’t want this mystery solved—and will stop at nothing to protect a shocking secret that will destroy a life built on lies.
I’m very excited about the trailer for this (my first one!). You can find it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJHvK8RDAGU
SS: Where did you get your inspiration for this book?
For this one, I remember the exact moment inspiration struck—which is unusual. I was driving home from church one night, when all at once a bicyclist appeared in my headlights. I swerved to avoid him—then started what-iffing. What if a woman was driving on a country road at night in a rainstorm, and her headlights picked up a figure with terrified eyes standing in the middle of the road? What if she tried to avoid the figure, spun out of control—but heard a solid thump that told her she’d hit this person? What if, while dazed, a hooded figure appeared at her window, said he’d seen the accident, and told her to stay in her car while he checked on the person she’d hit and called 911? What if she zoned out, then came to an hour later to find no Good Samaritan…no 911…no sign of the person she’d hit? What if the police dismissed her claims for lack of evidence and she was forced to turn to a PI for help? That incident with the bicyclist, which lasted mere seconds, inspired not only Vanished, but the whole Private Justice series.
SS: What is the main thing you hope readers remember from your story?
That the ends don’t necessarily justify the means, no matter how well intentioned. I also hope readers come away with a better understanding of the tremendous power of love—both human and divine—to transform lives.
SS: Who is your favorite character in this book and why?
That’s like asking a mother to pick her favorite child! I love all my characters, from my strong hero and spunky heroine and quirky office manager to my hero’s two interesting (and swoon-worthy) PI partners. I also really like my villain who is very, very complex. Truly a study in contradictions. He was fascinating to write.
SS: Who is your least favorite character in this book?
No least favorite character. I loved getting to know all of them.
SS: What are you working on now?
Book 2 in the Private Justice series—Trapped—is in editing right now, so I’ll be seeing a mark-up copy soon. And I just finished proofing the final galleys for my first long contemporary romance, That Certain Summer, which will be out in June. There’s no life-and-death suspense in that one, but plenty of drama! It’s a story about two estranged sisters, an unexpected homecoming and a grace-filled summer of hope and healing. Readers of Karen Kingsbury and Debbie Macomber will enjoy it, I think.
SS: A tough question: Where do you want to be career-wise in five years? Ten years?
The New York Times bestseller list would be nice—at any point! But down the road, I just hope I’m still writing stories readers love
SS: Now let’s get a little personal. Name two things on your “bucket list” that you haven’t done yet.
I have been very, very blessed to do most of the things on my bucket list, from riding a camel in Egypt and hot-air ballooning over the Grand Tetons to singing the leading role in community musical theater productions. But my greatest joy is spending time with the people I love.
SS: What is the silliest thing you have ever done?
The silly gene passed me by. Seriously. I’m the oldest child—the responsible, focused, high-achiever. I have lots of fun, but silly never appealed to me.
SS: What is the hardest thing you have ever done?
Auditioning for the first musical I was in as an adult. I’d always loved theater and took dance lessons for years, but my secret goal was to sing. So in college I signed up for voice lessons. After a year, I worked up the courage to audition for a community theater musical. I was in the chorus of that show—and many subsequent shows—until I paid my dues and inched my way up to leading roles. I still do theater when time permits. But taking the plunge at that first audition…wow. That was hard—and scary.
SS.: Where can readers find you on the internet?
On my website (www.irenehannon.com), Twitter and Facebook, (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Irene-Hannon/426433004084567). I’m new on Facebook, but loving the interaction with readers. Please visit me at any of these places—I always respond!
SS.: Anything else you’d like to tell or share with us?
First, I’d like to say thank you to all the readers who’ve given my books a try. Without you, I’d never have reached this stage of my career. Second, I’m excited to share that Vanished was named one of the best new books in January—and a top-ten romance release—by Amazon. In addition, it’s currently on numerous bestseller lists, including Publishers Weekly. Can you tell I’m excited!
What a GREAT interview, Irene! Thank you so much for joining us. I enjoyed learning more about you, and look forward to reading Vanished as well as your new contemporary romance.