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The Long and Winding Road: An Interview with Irene Hannon


Today's guest is best-selling and award-winning author Irene Hannon. We're talking about the latest book in her Hope Harbor series, Blackberry Beach, which releases April 6, 2021, with more books in the series coming.

Irene shares about standing at the fork in the road when she had to decide between pursuing psychology and something in writing. Later, she had to decide at another fork if she would continue with her amazing corporate writing job or pursue writing fiction full-time.

Along the way, she learned a lot about both writing better books and balancing all the pieces of the writer's life. She is full of encouragement and advice for listeners, no matter what you write.

Find out more about Irene and her books at her website, https://www.irenehannon.com/, and follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Irene-Hannon-426433004084567.


[00:00:07.620] - Kitty

Welcome to Write Now Workshop Podcast, where you can write a book and change the world, I'm your host, Kitty Bucholtz. And this is episode 242, The Long and Winding Road. An interview with Irene Hannon coming to you on Thursday, April 1st, 2021. So I've had a couple of ideas the last couple of weeks and I wanted to get your feedback. You know that I have changed the podcast to be for 10 episode seasons.

[00:00:36.210] - Kitty

So every quarter, the first three weeks, there's no episodes and then 10 episodes in a row. And that gets us to the end of the quarter and then three weeks off again, 10 episodes in a row again. And then in addition to that, there's still always going to be the encouraging words episode the first Sunday of every month. So I had an idea. Would you be interested in listening to me doing a live coaching session? When I say live, it would be live with a person that was recorded for then for you to hear coaching them through finishing their book or publishing their book, which are the two coaching programs that I have. So the people listening to the podcast would be able to get some idea of different tips and things that they can do to help themselves. And the person who is actually getting the coaching gets a free hour with me of giving all sorts of ideas for what specifically they're trying to get done and the blocks that they're having and getting that done, like it could be something like I just don't know how to get started writing a book.

[00:01:45.030] - Kitty

I have all of these ideas. I might even have an outline or a chapter, but I'm not really sure what to do. Or I've been working on the same book for a few years and I can't get past like the middle or the three quarters point or the ending just never works. Or I wrote what I thought was what I wanted to say. And it turns out that's not really what I wanted to say. We all have so many things that could be the problem that keeps us from finishing a book.

[00:02:12.240] - Kitty

And so I thought it would be interesting to you possibly. So this is my question. Would it be interesting to you if you were listening to an episode of me coaching someone? And if so, then would you be interested in being one of the people? Coach, I would probably do this once, possibly twice, kind of depends per season. And we would just see like, was it helpful for you and were you interested in it? So let me know.

[00:02:40.620] - Kitty

You can reach out to me, [email protected] or Kitty Bucholtz on Facebook or Twitter and just let me know if this sounds like the kind of episode that you would be interested in listening to and also if you would be interested in being one of the people who is coached. So that's one of the things that I wanted to ask you. The other idea that I had, and this is actually based on some feedback that I've already gotten, you probably know I've been writing a book that is an encouragement for writers book.

[00:03:09.900] - Kitty

It'll be my first nonfiction book. Finally, I've had so many nonfiction ideas and so many things that, you know, when you're a writer, there's so many ideas you have to write, but you're like, well, I have to do them in this order because I already have started something. So finally, writing this book gotten some great feedback from the first round of beta readers up, even though it's very first draft. So it's almost more of an alpha reader test.

[00:03:35.670] - Kitty

And what I have decided to do based on some feedback is add in some other published authors, little stories about different pieces that are in the book. And for some of these people, for some of these pieces, it might actually work well for unpublished authors to give a little story. So, for instance, the first chapter is about the blank page. So would it be interesting to you to be reading about a book that was written by one person but also had stories about other people and the hard times that they faced sometimes with a blank page, whether they're published or unpublished and how they've gotten through it and how they've managed to get past it and get to the point where they're finishing their book.

[00:04:19.710] - Kitty

So if you are interested in giving a little paragraph or two of your experience on some of the chapters that are in this encouragement for writers book, again, let let me know. Reach out to me [email protected] or Kitty Bucholtz on Facebook or Twitter. If you don't hear back from me in a week or so, it means that I haven't gotten it or I haven't read it. So definitely just send me another email or message because I don't want to lose anybody. I will reply to everybody. If you haven't gotten a reply, just reach out again. So those are a couple of my new ideas for the year. I thought I'd run them by you and see if you're interested. And in the meantime, remember that because we're doing these seasons. This is the last official episode of the season them will still have the encouraging words episode on Sunday, then we're off for three weeks, then we'll start a new season with 10 more episodes.

[00:05:15.390] - Kitty

So keep that in mind. If you're running through your podcast app going, why don't I have any more episodes from Kitty and Write Now Workshop Podcast? In the meantime, we are done with announcements and new ideas and now we are going to talk to Irene. Irene has so much experience and that means that she has a ton of tips for you. So regardless of where you are in your career and what kinds of books you write, I think you're going to be able to find several great tips for helping you in writing and finishing your book and feeling like it's really getting better.

[00:05:52.560] - Kitty

She's got more than 60 books out herself and she loves to teach and help other writers. So I think you're going to love this episode. So here we go with Irene Hanon. Today's guest is Irene Hannon, Irene is the best selling author of more than 60 novels, including the new BlackBerry Beach book Seven in her Home Harbor series, as well as Point of Danger and the Code of Honor, Private Justice and Manavalan suspense series. Her books have been honored with three coveted Readers Awards from Romance Writers of America, and she is a member of that organization's elite Hall of Fame.

[00:06:30.540] - Kitty

Her many other awards include National Reader's Choice, Daphne du Maurier, Retailer's Choice, Booksellers Best Carroll and Reviewers Choice from Art Book Reviews magazine, which also honored her with a career achievement award for her entire body of work. Plus, she is a two time Christie award finalist. Welcome, Irene.

[00:06:52.140] - Irene

Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here.

[00:06:53.820] - Kitty

Oh, it's so good to see you here. You and I have been well, you probably don't know this passing ships in the night for about a year and a half because your publicist has often said, oh, Irene's got a new book out, but, oh, maybe not right now because of computer issues or whatever. So I'm super excited that I finally got to have you on the show.

[00:07:13.560] - Irene

Yeah, yeah. I'm really happy to be here. It's been a learning experience in this covid era, especially with how to do interviews and get all the right equipment in place. So I think I'm sort of halfway there at this point. Well, working on it, but I'm getting closer.

[00:07:29.430] - Kitty

Yeah. And your audio and video actually look really good to me, especially if you're new to it. I'm like, all right, you have a very nice clean background and your audio's good.

[00:07:38.850] - Irene

Yes, well, that's good. I'm glad to hear that the clean background is kind of misleading because I sort of move things around for the interview. But if you could see what I'm seeing, you would see what usually is behind me. So a little bit misleading.

[00:07:54.240] - Kitty

You know, people don't always realize how much just paperwork and normal work looking stuff is on a writer's desk. I think sometimes people think it's just typing and that's it. But that's not it.

[00:08:06.840] - Irene

Oh, no. I have stacks of folders and notes and I tend to when I think of an idea, I'll write it on this little little piece of paper and I'll stick it somewhere on my desk. And before the week's over, I've got all these little pieces of paper and then I have to try to decipher my own handwriting, which is a real challenge often. So, yeah, my that's how my desk is a mess usually.

[00:08:27.990] - Kitty

Yeah. I think I'm going to have some vacation coming up here. I think the thing that I'm going to do and this is terrifying because I know where everything is right the second, but I'm going to take everything off my desk and try to put it back neatly and have my I also have a huge stack of little sticky notes, medium sized ones back of an envelope. Oh, so many notes.

[00:08:49.650] - Irene

So we we writers, you know, we use whatever is available at the time. If we have an idea so that you don't lose the idea, you never want to lose the idea. So whatever is handy, I have used all kinds of weird things to write on. Trust me, I've been.

[00:09:05.010] - Kitty

Oh, well, listen, since you're new to this show and listeners may not know you very well, depending on where they're coming from, why don't you give us some background. Who's Irene Hannon?

[00:09:17.530] - Irene

Oh, gee, that could take us like three hours. We'll try to condense that. So and I'll try to focus more on Irene Hannon, the writer. The writer. Yeah. I think of more interest to your to your viewers. So I've been a writer a few times, people ask me, when did you when did you decide to be a writer? And I always love that question because I didn't decide to be a writer. I was born a writer.

[00:09:44.430] - Irene

And I think that's probably true for most writers. You know, to me, writing is it's a gift, especially the fiction part of it, the storytelling part of it. You know, I think that you can teach anyone the mechanics of writing. That's a skill that you can learn. But the storytelling piece of it, the more the older I get, the more books I write, the more I began to realize that that's that's kind of a gift.

[00:10:10.260] - Irene

It's like any other talent. My husband, for example, he's a wonderful artist and he can with just a few strokes of a pen, he can capture a person or a place. It's just amazing. I am in awe, I watch him and I am in awe, and I think I could take art lessons until I was one hundred. And every person I draw with look like a stick figure. I just I just cannot see with the eyes of an artist.

[00:10:34.050] - Irene

And that's that's a gift. It's a talent. And I think this whole storytelling notion kind of falls into that category. So when people ask me that question, I say I was born a writer. So what does that translate into reality? I tell people I made my my official fiction writing debut when I was ten and I was one of the honorees and a complete the story contest that was conducted by a national children's magazine. So that was really my debut in writing.

[00:11:04.480] - Irene

But there was a long gap between that and my first novel, because I was I always been a very practical person and I used to look at the whole art thing and writing and think, you know, it's really hard to make a living as a writer. And I was not one of these people who wanted to be a starving artist or live in a garret or suffer for my art. So I thought it never even crossed my mind that I could be a writer and make a living at that.

[00:11:37.270] - Irene

So it wasn't even on my radar. So I went to college and I got very interested in psychology and ended up majoring in that, very interested in that subject, which of course, ended up being very helpful later as a writer. But I majored in psychology and then I got to be I think I was about a junior and I realized, you know, a psychology degree undergraduate is pretty useless. So if I wanted to be practical about this, what I would have to do to work in the field was to get a master's degree, and I was fine with that.

[00:12:10.420] - Irene

But along the way in college, I also couldn't give up the writing totally. So I joined the newspaper and I wrote I wrote on the newspaper and in college. And so when I hit this realization that I needed to get a master's degree, it suddenly occurred to me that maybe I could switch direction. And instead of getting a master's degree in psychology, get a master's degree in journalism. So it really was a crossroads, a sort of fork in the road moment, because whatever I decided was going to dramatically change my life and in the end, the writing won out and I ended up going and getting a master's degree in journalism and went right from even before I graduated, I got a job with a Fortune 500 company here in the United States in corporate communications where I stayed for many years. I wrote every day not fiction, but lots of great stuff that I was able to write and that was a great job. So once I was established there and I had my security, I had my regular paycheck, I had my benefits, I had things that I thought, OK, I can pay the rent, I can eat.

[00:13:18.960] - Kitty


[00:13:20.070] - Irene

Then my thoughts started to turn back to, OK, I still really want to write stories. So I decided I'm going to give this a try because I've always been an avid reader. I loved romances, I've always been a romance reader. So naturally that's where I gravitate. It was a story with romantic elements. And so I went ahead and I wrote a story. It was more of a novella. It was not a full length book and it was really, really bad.

[00:13:51.930] - Irene

Yeah, it was so bad. I don't even think I let my mother read it. I mean, that's how bad it was. She she was always my big fan, but I don't even think she read that. And I still have that first attempt. It's in the deepest, darkest corner of my closet where it shall forever remain. It never see the light of day. And I just didn't have the skills at that point to to really produce a polished manuscript.

[00:14:17.100] - Irene

But writing that piece did make me realize that I could take an idea and carry it through a whole book length. And I learned a lot writing that. So I put that one aside and I went ahead and I wrote a a straight romance, full length book and it was so funny. I think it's a common experience among writers. I finished that book and I thought I did it. The world is just waiting for this book. I it's I'm so excited.

[00:14:47.400] - Irene

So I started looking for a publisher and I kept looking and looking and looking and I was accumulating this huge stack of rejection letters and they just kept coming in and I thought, OK, well, I'll just write another one. So I wrote a second book and it was the same process, same thing, you know, sent it out rejection letter, sent it out, rejection letter. At some point, I think some people would just say, OK, I just don't have it, I'm going to give up.

[00:15:14.460] - Irene

But no, I just said, OK, I'm writing a third one. Good, good. OK, a third manuscript and started to have kind of a similar experience with that one. And then I connected with my first publisher who was starting a new line of books, that was this was exactly what they wanted. And I should explain here that when I started writing my romances, my romances are what what's a general market would call probably sweet romance is which is kind of a misnomer because I deal with a lot of pretty heavy subjects in my book. So sweet doesn't quite fit, but it does capture the fact that there's no vulgarity, there's no gratuitous violence, there are no explicit bedroom scenes. So that's what I was writing. That's what I liked reading. That's what I was writing. And one of the reasons I think I was running into roadblocks so much at the beginning was this was in the stage of the romance market in the US where things were starting to shift from the sweet romance, what I'm calling sweet to pretty graphic, explicit love scenes and all of that.

[00:16:21.360] - Irene

And I was hitting the market at the wrong time with the kind of books I was writing. But I did end up connecting with a publisher finally, and they bought all three books that I had written. So they were not a wasted effort at all. Wow. And they were starting a new line at the time and two books in the line folded. So then there I was back out in the in the cold, cruel world looking for another publisher and still keeping along with my corporate job.

[00:16:52.740] - Irene

So I did finally connect with I think it took me I have to look at it's four or six years. It was a big gap. To five, six years to find another publisher, and this was a publisher out of New York that produced hardcover, hardcover books of the clean, not clean of the sweet I hate clean. It was kind of a common term years ago, but that's got connotations now that some people don't like. So sweet.

[00:17:20.830] - Irene

That's what they published. And so they they they did hardcover books for the library market. So they bought six of my books. It was it was great, except they didn't pay anything, it was pathetic. It was like a good thing I had my day job because this was not going to ever result in anything that I could make a living at it. And the other thing was because they were hardcover designed for the library market, their limit, their very limited distribution, and the average reader couldn't access them easily.

[00:17:54.730] - Irene

So six books in with them. I thought they wanted more. And I thought, you know, this isn't taking me where I really want to go. So I just stepped away from that publisher and began the search again for somebody else to publish my books and about I think it was another four or five years, I was able to connect with a division of Harlequin that was publishing the kind of books that I was writing. I ended up being one of their launch authors and ended up writing, I think twenty six or seven books for them.

[00:18:33.400] - Kitty


[00:18:34.360] - Irene

And so while all this is happening, so much so that so that career started to pick up. Now at the same time, I'm in the corporate world, that career is really picking up. And I eventually got to the point about, let's see how many years ago is it now like 15 years ago or so that I was trying to juggle both careers. But on the corporate side, I was now in an executive position. I'm managing a lot of people, several groups. I was the speechwriter for the chairman of the board and president, I manage the end report, I was the managing editor of our global magazine. It was it was a fantastic job. I mean, it was fantastic, but it was 24/7 basically. It was leaving no time for writing. So I sort of hit another crossroads in my life. I realized that I was either going to have to stay in the corporate world and just put the writing aside until I retired, which was many years down the road. Or, I was going to have to walk away from this corporate job with all of its benefits and all of its security and focus on my writing. And that was a hard decision because my I write I write romantic suspense and I write contemporary romance and I tell people I hit the kind of job in the corporate world that one of my villains would kill for was that it was it was a fantastic job. You know, I flew around all over the place on the corporate jet. I mean, it was just it was an amazing job. But I knew I would have to stop writing. And and I had some momentum going with my writing at that point. So it was a really, really hard decision. But three things happened sort of back to back that gave me exactly the guidance that I, I needed. It was almost like if it's close to writing in the sky, as you could ever ask for, because my publisher Harlequin at that point offered me another three book contract.

[00:20:41.400] - Irene

I won my first Rita Award, which is the author of Romance Fiction. Yeah. And another big change was that we had new management come into my division at work and they had a completely different employee relations philosophy than I did. Yeah. And it was a really not great environment anymore. The job was still wonderful, but the environment just shifted significantly. And and I thought, you know, I think this is my answer. I think I'm going to leave this corporate job.

[00:21:12.210] - Irene

So I did. I just walked away from that, hardest decision I ever made. And it could have gone either way because, you know, the writing business, it's like any of the arts businesses. You're kind of only as good as your last book or your last movie or whatever when you're in the arts field. So there's no guarantee. And even now, at this stage of my career, I still never feel like there's any guarantee because the market can shift, the audience can shift. I mean, you just don't know. Yeah, so I so I, I took I decided I would take the risk and leave and I did. And in hindsight it was absolutely the best choice that I ever made because that is when I first of all, I didn't miss the corporate politics. I didn't miss the rush hour commute. I didnt miss my phone, that was twenty four hours a day, I could be called at any point, I didn't miss any of that. And what happened was now that I was away from that environment, the high pressure and very intense environment, I had more time to focus on my writing. And that's when I broadened my I went into a second genre. I started writing romantic suspense much longer books at that point. And I would never have had the time or the energy to do that if I'd stayed in the corporate world, at least not until I retired. And those are the books that got me noticed, really noticed. It took my career from this level to like this level almost overnight. The first suspense book was a bestseller. Every one since has been a bestseller and there's been a shift, I also started stopped writing for Harlequin and began to write longer contemporary romances. Those became bestsellers. It was just it was it was an incredible journey. And I still look at back at it sometimes and think, you know, I'm so glad I made the decision. I did. But it was risky.

[00:23:16.350] - Irene

I mean, it was definitely risky. And I'm thrilled with how it turned out. But so now I write ever since then, I write full time. I do two books a year. It is my full time job. I make a living at writing, which is just in itself astonishing because it's pretty rare. Most most novelists, I think, typically have a day job as well to supplement. But I'm able to do this for a living and I'm just so grateful and so happy with how everything turned out. And it's kind of interesting because my journey to this point where I like starting back in college, where I had to decide between two paths and changing directions from psychology to writing is kind of there's a theme like that that's in my upcoming book that we're going to talk about. It's this idea of pursuing a dream and then changing direction. So it worked out great for me and I'm thrilled where I ended up. And, you know, it's it's one of those I've had marvelous success, but it was not an overnight. Yeah. You know, you hear about people having overnight success and it's like, no, that's so rare. It is so rare. It's a lot of years of work and hard work and taking chances and just keeping your nose to the grindstone. And I got the first, you know, my first bestseller and people heard of me and many people heard for the first time, where did she come from, it's an overnight success and it's like, no, I was not an overnight success by any means, but it did work out well. So that's kind of very quick a capsule of my writing journey.

[00:24:56.770] - Kitty

Yeah. And, you know, I already I'm seeing tips in here for people who are listening. When you come to a fork in the road, like take time and ask the question and see what sorts of things come up that seem to be answering it for you and with you.

[00:25:10.270] - Irene

Yes, absolutely. You know, I didn't make a rash decision, and I think it's being a full time writer is is a wonderful dream to have. But I am not the type to rush into anything like that. And I did have I think by the time I made the switch, I'm trying to think how many books I'd written, but it was probably 12 or 15 published novels before I did that and had had I not branched into suspense, had I not had some bestsellers, I might not have been able to survive on my writing, the kind of writing I was doing for Harlequin, because those are those are series romance.

[00:25:52.720] - Irene

You know, they come out of romance, they are shorter books have a limited lifespan. And even though I was writing quite a few of them, it's not we don't live in the age anymore where anyone can make a real great living doing that. So I could have ended up having to go back into a corporate job, but the stars aligned and I hit the market at exactly the right time with my first suspense novel. There was a gap in that particular part of the genre, and I had an endorsement from a well-known figure in the genre, which I think was gold, it was just gold for me.

[00:26:30.280] - Irene

So a lot of things aligned to make that first book get noticed. And once you sort of crack that barrier, it's not as hard to get noticed after that. So perseverence in this business is it's it's so important, you know, and it's also important to be practical and to say, OK, I'm going to persevere, but I'm going to make sure that my basic needs are taken care of as well, whatever that means. Unless you're willing to live in a garret, be a starving artist, which I was not willing to do.

[00:27:00.620] - Kitty

That's right. Right. But, you know, the other thing that's important that people hear is that you worked just as hard on your books as you did at your day job. Yes. And that's that was while you had the day job. You were working really hard at night and weekends. And after you made the switch, you were working really hard. It's not something that you see in a movie with, you know, somebody with stars in their eyes staring at the ceiling and then just typing something. It's a lot of work.

[00:27:29.680] - Irene

It is a lot of work. And in fact, I honestly think I work well. I know in my writing I work way more hours in the day now than I ever expected to. I honestly, I thought when I left the corporate world to write full time that I would have a little bit more moderate schedule. But then I but it didn't happen that way maybe for the first year. But once I expanded into romantic suspense and started to write more books, it it became very intense. And I was always this person who believed in great balance in life, trying to keep balance in life. Even when I was juggling the corporate job and the writing, I still was trying to build in time for avocations and family and all that. And what happened with the success of the writing, after I became a full time writer, I didn't quite expect this. The success brought a lot more demands and a lot more time constraints on on my free time, because there's a lot more to writing than than the book the book is,It's the big thing. But but there are all kinds of other obligations, including publicity, marketing, promotion. I spend a lot of time on all of those, even though my publisher is great and handles a lot of it. I still spend a lot of time to filling the obligations they signed me up for and those in those areas. And then there's the whole business side to writing. You're running a business. So there's that there's that bookkeeping piece and all this other stuff.

[00:29:06.610] - Irene

So what I found happening as my success began to grow is that I was working pretty much all the time. From morning to night. I still come into my office at eight thirty, work all day till dinner, fix dinner. If I still had more to do or I hadn't met my page count for the day. I was back at my desk at night working a lot of weekends. And I'm trying finally to regain a little bit of the balance that I think is so important, and I'm trying to work a little less on weekends now, but I'm not complaining because it's because of the success that I'm having these these demands on my time. But it's it's kind of strange because I didn't really ever expect that to be so all consuming once I did this. But, you know, success begets other obligations. And, you know, you just have to do what you have to do.

[00:30:01.250] - Kitty

Yeah. And, you know, honestly, Irene, this is a great segway into talking about your new book, BlackBerry Beach, because it sounds like the character in the book. I mean, not it sounds like it is the character in the book is having this exact same struggle. I think I might have everything that I've dreamed for, but it's costing me more than I thought it would. And. Right. What am I going to do about it? So why don't you tell us a little bit about the book and feel free to share any of the the plot points and how they parallel the writer's life, if you like.

[00:30:32.980] - Irene

Sure. And I should probably also talk a little bit about the background for this story and this and the series, because this book is I think you mentioned at the beginning, it's book seven in my Hope Harbor series. And what happened was about five, six years ago now, I guess I had this idea for this book set on the Oregon coast in this just idyllic, charming little seaside town called Hope Harbor, and with my current publisher, who was at that time mostly doing suspense books for me.

[00:31:03.700] - Irene

So I broached this idea and my editor and Kevin said, you know, I think that that sounds like a great concept. So let's go ahead and do this whole harbor book. Now, in my own mind, and I think probably in hers was the thought that if this goes well, we will have additional books set in Hope Harbor. But the first book was called Hope Harbor. And so I had great hopes that it would be well-received by readers and that there would be a demand for more books. So but we didn't know it was the first book, so we got that book out there. Well, readers loved it, they just loved this little seaside town. They loved some of the secondary characters as well as the main characters. And so, of course, there were more books. And so we've kind of done contracts in two or three book segments at a time. This is book seven. Book eight is already scheduled. We'll see beyond that, book eight is the last contracted book.

[00:32:04.150] - Irene

But so but every book's been a bestseller. So I'm thinking that there probably will be more books and the the books are all standalone novels so you can pick up any book and read it and not have to worry about oh wait, there's a plot point I'm missing, because the stories begin and end in each book. The common element is the town and there are some little cameos from previous people. And then there are, as I said, there's a handful of secondary characters who are in every book. And I couldn't write a book now without these people because they have become so beloved. I've got the one character who has generated more mail than all of the characters in all of my other books combined is Charlie Lopez.

[00:32:53.680] - Kitty

I was going to ask you about Charlie and I'm like, Oh, I love Charlie.

[00:32:57.580] - Irene

Yes, readers love him. He's a he's he's a taco making artist. He has a taco stand on the wharf. And he's also a renowned artist. And he's kind of the town's sage, I guess, and the go to person when people just need some advice or something. He's a beloved character in the town. Readers just love Charlie Lopez. I get letters all the time. Are you ever going to write Charlie's story because he's got this little air of mystery about him? And and I said, you know, I don't know if I'll ever do that because I don't want to diminish the charisma that he has. But he's in every book. And I have these two clerics, one, they're at churches on opposite sides of town, and they have this really great, like, friendly rivalry and camaraderie. And they're always kidding each other. The readers love them. And then I have a seagull couple, Floyd and Gladys, who are always in the books.

[00:33:54.850] - Irene

They they sort of joined up together in the first book and now they're they're always in the books. So I have those secondary characters. But every book, as I said, does stand alone. Stories are completely different. And the other thing I should say, and then I'll talk specifically about BlackBerry Beach, but the books are classified as contemporary romance and they are. But they also have a lot of women's fiction elements. There are other storylines going on in the book besides the main couple romance. So there's a lot of there's a lot more dimension to the books and what people think of sometimes when they hear romance. There's more going on than that. And I tackled some pretty interesting subjects in some of the past books and some interesting relationships. So in BlackBerry Beach, we do that with Katherine Parker and she is she's come to Hope Harbor. She has been there before in a different time and she's come to Hope Harbor because she is she has spent her whole life aiming for one goal.

[00:34:56.850] - Irene

She's invested blood, sweat and tears. It has been her sole focus her whole life. And she's on the cusp of achieving this dream right on the edge of achieving this dream. But some things have happened along the way. It's particularly one that is what has been the catalyst for her to come to help harbor that have sort of made her wonder if maybe that isn't really what she wants after all. And she's in this position of having to figure out after all these years of working and being dedicated for this goal. What if what if that's the wrong goal for me? What if that's not really what I want after all? So she's got to make, she's got to figure that out. And she also has to figure out what if it's not, what do I do next? Because my whole life has been focused on this. So she comes to Hope Harbor to think all of this through. And of course, our hero enters the picture and he is Zach.And he owns the local coffee shop. And he has a very interesting history, too. He has come to that job from a different life. He has he has already made a huge change in his life. And it's a good change. He is glad that he made it, but it has caused some issues with other people in his life that are not resolved. So their paths cross and together as they begin to get to know each other, she realizes that he's been through a lot of what she's going through. He begins to fall for her because she's rented the house next door. But of course, there are barriers because she's not from Hope Harbor. There's no guarantee she's going to stay and Hope Harbor. He's not leaving. So they have a lot of issues to work through personally and also as a couple. How do we make this work? Do we even try to make this work? And then there is a secondary story in this book that follows the same theme of following your dream and changing directions and starting over, because Zach has an aunt who comes to visit and she's been in a corporate job her whole life, high level corporate job, never married, but always totally focused on her career.

[00:37:12.740] - Irene

She has just taken an early retirement deal. So she comes to visit Zach. And Zach has a barista and older retired man who worked for the Postal Service all of his life. And those two meet and they're really from different worlds, totally, totally different worlds. You would never expect anything to happen, but they click and that's a similar problem for them. She has all these plans for her retirement and he is pretty happy where he is. And again, they have divergent backgrounds. But how how is how can they maybe rethink what they plan to do with the rest of their life with this unexpected opportunity that comes along for both of them? So we've got those kind of two story lines which are interwoven going on at the same time. So it really is it has a lot of parallels to kind of the situation I was in of you know, I've got I've got to make a decision of where do I go with my life?

[00:38:11.420] - Irene

Am I going to change directions? Which fork in the road will I take? And so I was able to pull on some of that when I was writing this book. And I think that I think it will resonate with readers because I think everybody has been at some point in their life where they're on, where they're at a crossroads. And you know that the direction you go, you don't know which is the right one, but you know that whatever way you go will forever change your life. And it's a hard place to be. And I think so. I think readers will will, it will resonate with readers. And I think they be able to relate to what these characters are going through.

[00:38:46.970] - Kitty

Yeah. And the thing that you do so nicely is that while on the one hand, what what am I trying to say? You you balance a lightheartedness and a this book makes me feel good kind of feel to the writing with a real feeling in the conflicts. Like I've read, you know, some romance novels where I swear the entire only thing happening in the entire short book is just the romance. And for me, it's just it's not enough to keep my attention generally. But you've got several characters who have really interesting things that we're finding out as we go along that they're struggling with or have dealt with in the past and are now, you know, living, living that choice now and then. You've also got this really interesting volunteer thing going on in the town. So tell us, is this something that you I'll let you explain it, but I was really wondering if this is something that you add into a lot of your books to just add another level of of life and something that maybe you find to be important in life. I'm just curious.

[00:40:00.140] - Irene

Yes, I always try to put in something that's not just focused on the characters, because I'll never forget my very first editor. I guess it was when I was writing for Harlequin. So it was early in my career and she said something that I never forgot. She said, When you're writing romance, remember, it doesn't happen in a vacuum. You can't just write about the romance. You have to write about what else is going on in people's lives. And I never forgot that advice because I thought that is so valuable. So what you can do, though, is take the other things that are happening in a person's life and weave it into the story in such a way that it enhances the development of the relationship. And so that's what I try to do. And in this book, there is a project going on with an organization in town that's been mentioned in a lot of the books called Helping Hands.

[00:40:55.230] - Irene

And it's basically a community effort to get involved in various activities that provide assistance to people in need. And in this case, we have they're getting ready to buy a house. It's going to house foster foster family, foster children kept in the same household by with foster parents. And that's going to be uptown project. So they're in the process of acquiring the house and renovating the house. And it's pretty much a volunteer effort. So all of the characters that are in my book get pulled into that. The barista named Frank, he's actually on the board of Helping Hands, and the hero is a volunteer for the organization. Both of the women in the story get pulled into helping with the house. So it allows me to show this other dimension of the characters, this other dimension of the town, and still see the people interacting. But I do you know, I think what you said earlier is true, that books that focus only on the romance there's for me, there's just something else that is missing with that.

[00:42:04.140] - Irene

I like books that have a little bit deeper dive into characters and not just the romantic couple, because in some of my books I'm thinking, see, Roselane is a good example. I have an older woman who's has some issues with mobility as she's getting older. She's also in many of the books and has become a beloved character. And there's a story in that book also about a Cuban immigrant who has literally lost everything coming to this country and is kind of at loose ends.

[00:42:38.310] - Irene

And so in the course of that story, these two very unlikely people end up connecting and helping each other in ways that are just so heartwarming. And I have to do that in my books. You know, I want people I want to deal with some heavier issues, but I want to leave people at the end feeling uplifted and encouraged. And so I can't just focus on a romance and I have to have some other elements going on as well.

[00:43:08.700] - Kitty

Yeah. And to be clear, for listeners who are like, well, that's great, but I don't write romance. I always feel like everything that we discuss on the show, there is something in it that you could be like, oh, I see how that would work in my book because I've read some police procedurals. I actually can if I if I can think of the the author or the title, I would mention the one I like so much, but I just can't think of what it was.

[00:43:32.310] - Kitty

But I remember reading the first book in a police procedural series where it was all about the crime entirely, about the crime, a little bit about his relationship with his partner and his ex-wife. But just pretty much and it was good. But then I read a different author and the same kind of same kind of story, police procedural. It's all about a crime. But there was like this aspect of his life and that aspect and how that was interrupting his job and his job is interrupting another thing and how he was trying to balance everything. And it was making him a little nuts. And I was like, this is way more interesting.

[00:44:08.800] - Irene

Yeah, I totally agree with you. And so so that's why I kind of prefaces it at the beginning with saying that these books are classified as contemporary romance, but they're really they're really much broader than that. And they're the relationships that are discussed and examined are broader than the relationships just between the hero and heroine. There's a lot more meat and depth to these books. And as I mentioned earlier, too, I also write romantic suspense. I do one of those a year and then I write one one contemporary romance.And even in my romantic suspense books, there's some compelling suspense plot. Certainly that's front and center, but it's the same thing there. I do try to do a really deep character dive not only into the hero and heroine, usually into the villain, almost always into the villains head, as well as secondary characters into their heads to see what's making them tick and to keep the audience engaged. The reader engaged in all of these different lives and how do they intertwine and all of the challenges that they're facing because you know, in the end, and it's probably comes from my psychology background, what really interests me when I write a book, the plot is important, but it's the people, it's the people who interest me the most. And so my plots are simply a device to examine people and relationships. And so you'll find, even in my romantic suspense, that there's a heavy emphasis on this character development and plot and character development and among multiple characters, not just the hero and heroine.

[00:45:43.400] - Irene

So that's kind of my trademark. I think there are a lot of very popular suspense writers who write very heavy action oriented action sort of action adventure. There's, you know, there's shootings and people falling off cliffs and people being locked into rooms in every every scene you've got is high adrenaline thing. And I don't write that. And so people who come to my books expecting that are usually not the kind of reader that I'm after because my books are more psychologically driven, I guess. And I guess it's kind of like the difference between a James Bond movie and the Alfred Hitchcock movie. And so that's what I write. So that's just that's where my interest is. What makes people tick?

[00:46:30.450] - Kitty

Yeah. Now, your your book before BlackBerry Beach is Point of Danger, and that's book one in a new series.

[00:46:37.130] - Irene

Yes, I've got that right here.

[00:46:39.260] - Kitty

Right there. If you're watching on the you tube series..

[00:46:40.820] - Irene

If you're watching. Yeah. This is Point of Danger. And I think it's showing up backwards, isn't it.

[00:46:47.660] - Kitty

Only on your screen. On our screen it shows up. Oh, perfect.

[00:46:51.260] - Irene

So yes, that's point of danger. Put that back. And that is the first book in a new series. It's the new series there is called Triple Threat. And it features three sisters who were involved in truth seeking professions that put them in the line of fire. And so I as with all of my series, these can be read as standalone. This one sister is featured in each book. The story begins and ends at the end of the book. You do see the other two sisters in secondary roles, but they're completely standalone books. So The Point of danger. And then the next book in the series, I just saw the cover, I'm so excited its Collaborate of lies. And that'll be out next October. OK, I've got two series going at once here in different genres and it's like I said, very busy job.

[00:47:38.150] - Kitty

Yeah. Yeah. Well, listen, you and I talked about so many things that we could be talking about on the show, and I know that we're going to have to wrap it up in a little bit. But so long as we're kind of on this trajectory, maybe you could give us some ideas. Obviously has worked well for you. It doesn't mean it'll work well for everybody. But but for people who feel like, yeah, I really do kind of have two loves it as far as genre.

[00:48:04.850] - Kitty

Can you give us some tips? Like how do you manage two genres? Obviously, since you're working full time, you're able to do one book a year of each. But what other kinds of tips can you offer people? I don't know if one of the tips is, well, start at one genre for a while until you're well developed or you hear that a lot. But maybe that isn't necessarily your tip. What are your thoughts on this?

[00:48:30.460] - Irene

Well, I can only speak to that from my perspective, because I was already sort of established in the series romance category when I left my corporate job and decided I wanted to expand into trade link books. And so what I discovered when I wanted to do that is that trade lenghts publishers don't really give a lot of credence to series books because because I thought I was starting from a standpoint of, OK, you're a published author, you've got a track record, you've got a following. But that's not how series books are viewed by trade publishers, which was kind of eye-opening to me. What I realized is that they look at those books and say, well, what's selling those books isn't your name, it's the line. Readers know what to expect from that line. So that's why they're buying the books. So. So when I wanted to expand into trade lenghts, I realized I was starting from scratch. It was,yeah. It was kind of just eye opening. So I was able to do that. But I went from the series romance. The first thing I sold trade length was suspense. And that was like starting from ground zero. Right. And I it took a while to find the publisher that I'm still with, never left them, they are the wonderful publisher that was willing to essentially take a chance on me as an unknown writer in suspense. And it worked out well, very well. And then once I was established in suspense, trade length, and they they were willing to take a chance on me with trade length contemporary romance, which also worked out well because I did bring some of my readers.

[00:50:17.320] - Irene

By that time, I was pretty well known in romantic suspense. I did bring a lot of those readers with me to the Contemporary Romance series. So for somebody that's starting out whether to stick with one genre or not, I don't know if it makes a huge difference, because unless you've already got a track record in a genre, it doesn't much matter to a publisher. If you're trying to come in with a track record in one genre and totally switch like go from, say, historical romance to fantasy, that could be difficult because you're an unproven quality. And I experienced that firsthand when I tried to switch from the series romance to romantic suspense trade length. That doesn't mean it can't happen. So I would say if you're if you're in a genre where either you're not very successful yet or even if you are and you want to switch to try a new one, I think you can do it. But I think you have to be aware that it's like starting over for most publishers. They will regard you as a new author. Some of them, they want you even to take a different pseudonym to do that because they don't want readers to be confused. So it's there are challenges to doing that. And I wouldn't discourage anyone from trying it if they felt like that's what they wanted to do. You just have to be aware when you go in that you will face some different challenges.

[00:51:51.410] - Kitty

Yeah, you know, it's funny because I have no idea how long I've known your name, but I know that it is in the form of multiples of 10 years. I mean, a long time. So it's funny because even though I totally get why publishers sometimes feel like a new name is is the best bet for them and the way they do business, like as a reader though, I see your name and I'm like, oh yeah, I've seen her name lots.I know I've read some of her books. I can't remember which ones because there's a lot of books, you know, there's a new one. Let me try it. I don't know what it's going to be about, but I remember that I liked her. So if it had been a different name, it would have been brand new for me as a reader as well.

[00:52:32.980] - Irene

So I could write. And the other thing is, even though I write in these two genres, my writing style is kind of similar, again, because I I my my focus is on the people and the character development. So I have many crossover readers and I do have some that prefer one over the other. Some people who read my contemporary romance say the suspense and the deep dives into some of these really scary villains heads. It's just too intense for them.

[00:53:04.070] - Irene

And I get that. And then I have suspense readers who say. They like that adrenaline rush of the scariness and they don't get it as much in the Harbor or the contemporary romance books, but I still have a lot of people that read both and cross back and forth. So I think unless you're going from, like I said, some like really changing your voice almost and going from radically different approaches and different genres, I think you can take readers with you.

[00:53:33.720] - Irene

There will be definite crossover. There will be some who won't, but you'll get a lot of crossover. But if you're if you're in the beginning stages, it doesn't hurt to build a readership in one. But I would never discourage somebody from trying. There can be a disadvantage to genre hopping in the sense that you're writing and you're a new writer, you haven't ever been published or haven't any had any books published,it's a different word nowadays with with the self publishing arm. A lot of people are published, but haven't had a lot of large sales in any particular genre. So you say you're writing and fantasy and science fiction and contemporary romance and historical could just because you're moving around because you're just like them all, that can be confusing to a reader. I don't think I would encourage anybody to do more than two genres unless you're super well established. And then you might if you're going into such a radically different genre, maybe change the name in some way so that readers aren't confused.

[00:54:38.470] - Irene

Because the last thing you want to do is disappoint a reader who says, oh, there's I know that offer, I'm going to get that book. And then it's something totally different that they're not expecting. That's not that's a reader turn off. And so you have to be careful about that. So, you know, a couple of genres I think are OK beyond like that, if like I said, if you start to spread yourself out over a lot of genres, that can be a little a little bit confusing for readers.

[00:55:03.440] - Kitty

Yeah, yeah. That's really great advice. And I like the way that you that you talked about for you. It was about the characters and and and your very first spark, you know, between psychology and writing and how that all kind of works together to create the career that you have, which is a lot about characters with such depth to them that readers are just wanting to know more all the time and wanting to read more of the books.

[00:55:31.240] - Irene

Yes, the psychology background actually turned out I didn't go into psychology because I was thinking about using it for writing, but it ended up being a great asset. So that was it's funny how all these things I've done in my life have dovetailed to to help me be a better writer.

[00:55:47.290] - Kitty

Yeah, yeah. And so that's another great tip for anybody listening that you've done more than one thing in your life and in the 21st century, that's probably mostly everybody. Look and see where where things are overlapping and intersecting in ways that maybe you didn't realize before. Maybe it'll help you to really focus your storytelling skills in a way that you hadn't quite considered before.

[00:56:10.450] - Irene

Yes, absolutely.

[00:56:13.090] - Kitty

This has been so much fun. I, I there's so many things that we didn't even begin to touch on. But but this has been great talking about the things that we have I think are really great tips, especially, you know, it'll be near the beginning of a new year and people are thinking, you know, what am I going to do this year? So I think that you giving people a lot of food for thought. Thanks for that.

[00:56:36.010] - Irene

Oh, my pleasure. It's you know, I was always so grateful during my career when I could learn from other writers. And I just I just absorbed everything that I that I heard and tried to apply it to my own writing. And I still do. I tell people I learn with every book I write and there's always something new to learn in this business. I touched on the fact that self publishing has become such a huge business. Now, there's always some new development in in the world of publishing. And so I'm it's a constant learning process. And I expect I will learn something the rest of my life with every book I write. And I think as a writer, you have to be open to that and always realise there's more you can learn.

[00:57:19.720] - Kitty

Yeah, definitely. I oh, I'm so glad that you said that. I mean, there's so many things within the industry and then little pieces of technology, like some new kind of social media that your publisher will want you to work on or some new way that you can reach readers that wasn't there five years ago or something.

[00:57:38.110] - Irene

That's right. Exactly.

[00:57:39.820] - Kitty

Well, speaking of readers, if people are listening going, OK, I need to know more about Irene and her books, where can people find you?

[00:57:47.950] - Irene

Well, of course, my website is irenehannon.com. And that's a great place to go if you just want to get a general history, my basic bio. You can read a synopsis of all my books. It's got all that kind of basic information. The place that I and I get on social media, I'm on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, but the place that I hang out the most and I love to interact with readers is Facebook. I'm on there way more than I am any of the other social media. And I try to post every couple days and I try to respond to every single comment in some way and have had just a great experience with a lot of regular followers through the years on Facebook. So I would say for basic information, the website. And then if you want to interact with me and get the latest, my latest news, I would say Facebook is the best place.

[00:58:38.620] - Kitty

Excellent. Great. That's awesome. Well, thank you so much for giving us your time. I know you spend most of your time writing, so we really appreciate that you gave us an hour of your day and we really appreciate you being here.

[00:58:51.400] - Irene

It was my pleasure. I love I love to talk about. Writing, I love to talk to other writers, so this has been a joy.


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