Irene Hannon interview

» Posted on Oct 24, 2007 in Blog | Comments Off on Irene Hannon interview

Don’t forget to email me at if you want to enter Irene’s drawing for FROM THIS DAY FORWARD. The drawing ends Sunday evening.

1. What made you start writing?
That’s sort of like asking what made me start breathing! Writing is just as natural—and life-sustaining—for me as inhaling and exhaling.

2. How long have you been writing? When did you sell your first book?
I honestly can’t remember a time when I didn’t write. I can recall penning scripts for backyard shows decades ago! But I guess you could say I made my “official” debut at ten, when I was one of the winners in a complete-the-story contest conducted by a national children’s magazine.

In terms of novels, Thomas Nelson published my first book in 1985 as part of a new inspirational romance line. I sold three books to them in rapid succession, but unfortunately they were ahead of their time. Inspirational romance wouldn’t really take off for another ten years, so before my third book was even published, they discontinued the line. It took me six years to connect with another publisher.

3. How do you handle rejections?
Even after 30 books and 20+ years as a published novelist, rejections still happen—and they can still chip away at confidence. But I’ve learned that rejections aren’t always a reflection of your work. Perhaps it was just bad timing; the publisher may have had an author submit an idea similar to yours the day before. Or you might have caught your editor at a bad time. This has happened to me on at least one occasion. I had the same book rejected twice, but eventually sold it as part of a three-book series to the same editor who’d rejected it. In fact, I think it ended up being her favorite of the three! So the original rejection had nothing to do with the quality of the writing. It must just have been bad timing. Every time I get a rejection, I try to remember that experience.

At the same time, I also try to learn from a rejection—or from a request for changes (which often feels like a rejection!). Maybe the editor is offering me insights I missed the first time around. So I try to approach those things with an open mind.

4. Why do you write?
Because I can’t NOT write. It’s in my blood, I guess. In fact, at times it can become almost an obsession. Just ask my husband!

5. What would you be doing with your free time if you weren’t writing?
For the past four years, I’ve been blessed to be able to write full time, so I have more free time than when I was juggling a demanding corporate job with my writing. However, since I work out of a home office, my writing still tends to encroach on my free time, especially as I near the end of a book and the story accelerates. I try to limit my desk time to eight hours a day, but I’ve put in more than a few fourteen-hour days. (Again, just ask my husband!)

6. What are you working on right now?
A VERY exciting project! I’m finishing up the third novel in three-book romantic suspense series that will debut next fall from Revell in trade paperback (those are hardcover-sized books with paper covers.) Based on the FBI and its Hostage Rescue Team, these are the longest and most challenging books I’ve ever written. The project was a bit intimidating initially, since I have zero background in law enforcement, but somehow I connected with all the right people—FBI agents, detectives, medical professionals, professors, police officers…a whole cast of experts who generously shared their time and expertise with me. I couldn’t have pulled it off without them. I’m really excited about branching out into suspense. The first book will be released in fall 2008.

In addition to that, I’m preparing for the launch of my three-book Heartland Homecoming series from Steeple Hill Love Inspired. More about that a bit later in the interview!

And I’ve just returned from a research trip to Nantucket—the setting for my next romance.

7. Do you put yourself into your books/characters?
Not consciously. But I do think an author’s books and characters spring from experience and often reflect his or her values and worldview.

8. Tell us about the book you have out right now.
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD, the first book in my Steeple Hill Love Inspired Heartland Homecoming series, will be in stores at the end of October. It’s set in a fictional small town in Missouri and is a very emotional reunion story. Here’s a quick synopsis: After a violent attack ended his surgical career and his marriage shattered, Dr. Sam Martin left Philadelphia for a new life in Oak Hill. Determined to win back the love of his wife, he invites her to his home to recover after she’s involved in a robbery/murder at the restaurant where she works as a chef. Cara accepts, desperate to find a way to conquer the panic attacks that are paralyzing her. But she wants to no part of the husband who betrayed her. Yet deep in America’s heartland, she discovers a changed man. With God’s help, can Cara and Sam find a way to let go of the past and build a new future from the ashes of their past?

If readers would like to read an excerpt, I encourage them to check out my Web site at

9. Do you have any advice for other writers?
Read as much as possible, especially in the genre in which you want to write or are writing. Master the basics—grammar, punctuation, spelling. Those are the mark of a professional, and editors will notice immediately if they’re not up to par. Write as much as possible. The old adage, “practice makes perfect” is really true. And never give up. I’d completed three full novels before I sold my first one. Perseverance is essential in this business. As is a thick skin!

10. How important is faith in your books?
I write romance and romantic suspense, so those elements are front-and-center in my books. I don’t write these books to proselytize, but to tell a good story. However, the characters’ faith journey is always essential to the story. Sometimes it’s a key factor, other times it’s lower key. But it’s always at least an underlying story thread. Also, I show my characters living their faith rather than talking a lot about it. I think action speaks more loudly than words when it comes to faith.

11. What themes do you like to write about?
Reconciliation, forgiveness, trust and learning to let go are themes often found in my books. All of my novels also focus on the tremendous power of love to transform lives.

12. What is your favorite book you’ve written and why?
That’s like asking a mother which child is her favorite! I like all my books, for different reasons. That said, I do think I continue to develop as a writer with each book, so I think—I hope—each one is better than the last.

If pressed, however, I’ll admit that NEVER SAY GOODBYE, which won a prestigious RITA award from Romance Writers of America, has a special place in my heart. I also think RAINBOW’S END, which came out last January, is a very special book. It has generated more mail than all of my other books combined, and I’ve been overwhelmed by the number of readers who’ve told me that book changed their life.

13. What aspect of a book do you enjoy writing the most?
I particularly like dialogue. For me, writing dialogue is like listening to a conversation and simply recording it. I also love the polishing phase, when I can take the words I’ve already written and buff them until they sparkle. I least like the plotting stage, and tend to do less advance plotting with each book. Early in my career, I wrote a very detailed synopsis for every book. Now, while I know the major plot points and how the book will end, I’m a bit more spontaneous with my writing.

14. What is your writing schedule like?
Four years ago I left a demanding corporate job to write full time. It was a huge step—and very scary—but I’m happy to say I have no regrets. Prior to that, I squeezed my writing in whenever I could.

Now, on a typical writing day I’m at my computer by about eight-thirty, hot chocolate at hand. If I’m into the actual writing of a book, I’ll polish what I wrote the previous day and then start writing new copy. My minimum output per day is ten good pages, and I stay at the computer until I have that. Could take four hours; could take ten.

When I’m in the process of developing the storyline of a new book, I’ll spend the day researching and thinking. But I usually only let myself do that for a couple of weeks before I dive into the first chapter.

Once I’ve hit my page count for the day, I take care of business matters…updating my Web site, checking e-mail, answering reader mail, reviewing galleys or line edits for upcoming books, working on publicity for my next book, preparing for speaking engagements, etc. The business part of writing is actually quite time intensive.

I always try to wrap things up by five…but I can often be found back at my computer tying up loose ends after dinner—especially if my husband is out of town.

However, I do believe balance is essential. That’s one of the reasons I left my corporate job, which had become all-consuming, requiring every ounce of my time and energy. Not only did it deprive me of writing time, my family life suffered as well. I vowed to regain balance in my life when I left, and I have. I do write a lot, but I also make time for family, gardening, cooking and my other passion—singing. In fact, I sing with a six-person performing group, I’m a church soloist, and when time permits I perform in community theater musical productions. I’ve had lots of fun playing roles like Anna in “The King and I,” Fiona in “Brigadoon,” Nellie in “South Pacific,” Reno Sweeney in “Anything Goes” and many others. My grandfather, who sang in amateur vaudeville productions, would be proud!