Hannah Mary McKinnon
Hannah Mary McKinnon is a prolific thriller author and has even released romance novels under the name Holly Cassidy. Some of my favorite books by Hannah Mary McKinnon include You Will Remember Me, Never Coming Home, and her latest, The Revenge List (Revenge List review linked). Today, I have the distinct pleasure of posting my interview with Ms. McKinnon before The Revenge List releases on May 16th.
Where did the idea and development of The Revenge List come from?
I can usually pinpoint exactly where the inspiration for my novels came from. Sometimes, it’s a news article (You Will Remember Me and Her Secret Son) or a radio segment (Sister Dear), maybe some daydreaming (The Neighbors), or a specific character (Never Coming Home).
Ok. I completely want to know what inspired the main character in Never Coming Home because he is SOMETHING
With The Revenge List, it was after batting various plot ideas around with my agent Carolyn and former editor Emily that a random idea popped into my head: What if an anger management group therapy exercise went terribly wrong? That was it—we all needed to know what the rest of the story was, and so I got to work on building Frankie’s journey.
I read where you noted how audiobooks made you a better writer. How do the two connect with you as a writer and push you to be better?
I’ve adored audiobooks ever since I was a kid when I listened to cassette tapes, and I’m thrilled audiobooks have become far more accessible through modern technology. I love listening to stories when I go for walks and being entertained by the narrators who bring the characters to life.
I feel this in my bones.
I’m always listening to how authors structure sentences, work clues and twists into their manuscripts, and handle dialogue, for example. When I listen to my own work, I might pick up on overused expressions, for example, which is been very helpful in improving my future work
You have an entire page dedicated to book clubs and libraries on your site. I have never seen that before. What has inspired such an integrated, proactive approach to working with both?
Thank you, that’s very kind of you to say.
As a former English Language Arts Curriculum Coordinator and Literacy Coach, I’m all about it!
The answer is simple: it’s the shared love of books. Book clubs are awesome, and it’s a thrill when a group of people chooses one of my novels to read and discuss. It’s hugely flattering, and I sometimes have the opportunity to join them online to speak about the idea for the book, my writing process, and the author’s journey, which is fun.
As for libraries, they’re such an essential part of our communities, not only for the books but as a local hub people can go to for information, assistance, activities, and general human connection. Some people have told me they feel bad when they borrow one of my books from the library instead of buying it. There’s nothing to apologize for. I love my local library branch and borrow books whenever I need to. By borrowing books from our libraries, we support our communities—and authors!
Thank you to Hannah Mary McKinnon for participating in this interview.
When writing, what are the hardest parts for you to write?
Although I plot extensively, opening a new Word document and knowing I have 300+ pages to fill is both thrilling and daunting at the same time. I like to get the first rough draft out of the way as quickly as possible so I can focus on building the story from those bare bones. For me, the editing process is far more enjoyable.
You used to provide editing services. However, it is always hard to edit our own work. When editing, what is the hardest part for you to rewrite and/or cut?
I tend to write up, meaning I’ll write about 60,000 words as my rough draft, and as I edit and build the story, it grows to 90-95,000. I don’t tend to cut a lot in my thrillers, but I do rewrite. How much and how difficult that is depends on the book. I also love working with my publisher’s editors because I know they’ll have input and ideas I hadn’t thought of, and which will make the story so much better.
You also write holiday romantic comedies under the pen name Holly Cassidy. Can you tell us more about that?
My holiday romantic comedy, The Christmas Wager, will publish as Holly Cassidy on September 26, 2023. It’s about real-estate hot-shot Bella, who’s tasked with purchasing an old, failing Christmas store in the quaint little town of Maple Falls, which is nestled in the Colorado mountains. She thinks it’ll be easy…until she meets the owner’s stubborn but hunky grandson, electrician Jesse. Bella wants the store for next to nothing, Jesse refuses, and they end up competing in the town’s quirky annual Holiday Games. Sparks fly—as do snowballs—but will these rivals find love together?
I’m excited to take readers on a trip to Maple Falls. It was such fun to go back to my rom-com roots (my first novel, Time After Time, was a rom-com), and I’m hoping to continue doing this in conjunction with my thrillers. You can find out more about my Holly books at www.HollyCassidyAuthor.com
What books are on your nightstand right now?
Wonderland by Jennifer Hillier – she’s one of my closest friends, and I love her work. Code Name Sapphire by Pam Jenoff – her historical fiction is amazing. And I’m listening to Nick and Noel’s Christmas Playlist by Codi Hall—it’s hilarious.
OH! I have Wonderland on my TBR, too! Now I must get to it faster!
The Revenge List will release on May 16th. Thank you to Harper Collins for an Advanced Audio Copy of The Revenge List.
You and Hank Phillippi Ryan (who I ADORE) work a lot together and are great friends. Can you talk about your relationship and projects?
Back in March 2020, when Canada was first hit by Covid lockdowns, I was in a Messenger chat with a group of authors, discussing how we could help promote one another and give our books a boost. I half-jokingly offered to read the first chapter of their novels on Facebook and Instagram, and within a few days, I had over 40 daily readings lined up and launched First Chapter Fun. I read for 53 days in a row (didn’t think the “must do hair and make-up” thing through very well), introducing viewers to a new novel and author each day.
In May 2020, I teamed up with my partner-in-fictional-crime, powerhouse crime author Hank Phillippi Ryan. We created a new Facebook group, www.facebook.com/groups/firstchapterfun and www.instagram.com/firstchapterfun.
If you are on these platforms, go follow!
We now read once a week, every Tuesday on both platforms simultaneously at 12.30 pm ET, and often have giveaways. All the previously aired episodes are saved and can be viewed at leisure. It’s a wonderful community where we share the love of books and introduce new and/or new-to-you authors twice a week. Our goal is to keep your “to be read” pile completely out of control, and, or so we’ve been told, we’re succeeding.
I think I can safely say that all of us readers and reviewers resemble this remark!
Hank and I have also become great friends and talk all the time, something for which I’ll be eternally grateful.
What was it like when you moved to Canada? Did you become a hockey fan?
I’d been to Canada a number of times as my husband is Canadian, and we’d visited the Toronto area before, so I knew what to expect in that sense. However, we have no family here so that was difficult, especially with three young children at the time. A few months after our arrival, I started an HR company, which failed spectacularly within its first year. That was hard, but if it had gone well, I’d never have become an author!
As for the hockey, I’ve lived here for over a decade now and I can’t say I’m a fan, although I’ve attended a couple of games.
Have you written an antagonist where you thought it might be fun to step into their shoes?
Lucas from Never Coming Home made me laugh so much as I wrote his story, so it might be interesting to be in his shoes for a while, but with the things he did, I’d venture ten minutes would probably be enough.
Is there ever a time when you scare yourself while writing?
Not really, after all, I can always step away from my keyboard and take a break. As the author, I’m the one in control, so while I might feel unsettled at times, especially with the research I do, I’m never scared.
Hannah Mary McKinnon Information
Taken from her website, which is linked below
I was born in Manchester, UK to British & Swiss parents. A year later, they moved my older sister and me to Switzerland. Rather unsurprisingly, I love mountains, chocolate, and cheese…or mountains of chocolate and cheese, and my sister, of course.
After completing commercial studies in Geneva, I worked as a PA for DuPont. A year later, I moved to Neuchâtel and became the Purchasing Manager for a high-tech company that made motors for industrial and space applications. While working, I returned to university, studying part-time for a Bachelor of Science. And then a friend of a friend introduced me to another friend who’d started up an IT recruitment business. I joined the company in late 1995 and, over the next fifteen years, rose through the ranks to become CEO.
Things outside of work were hardly boring, either. A chance encounter back in the dark ages of the Internet in 1999 led me down the aisle with Rob, my Canadian rock, five months later. Actually, it was exactly ten weeks after we met face-to-face at the Saint John airport in New Brunswick, Canada – and we’re still married. True story. Our first son was born in 2003, followed by identical twin boys just sixteen months later, so I’m heavily outnumbered (and at 5ft8, officially the shortest of the family).
My writing career began after we moved to Oakville in Ontario, Canada, in 2010. Maybe it was the failed attempt at a start-up company or an early mid-life crisis, but one morning I decided to follow my oldest passion, started writing, and never wanted to look back. My first book was a romantic comedy, but then I switched to the dark side of suspense (say it with me: muahahaha).
In 2023, I returned to the softer side. I now write holiday romantic comedies as Holly Cassidy. First up is The Christmas Wager. I can’t wait for you to discover Bella and Jesse’s story. If rom-coms aren’t your jam, fear not. More annual thrillers are to follow.
“Maybe it was the failed attempt at a start-up company, or an early mid-life crisis, but one morning I decided to follow my oldest passion, started writing, and never want to look back.” -Hannah Mary McKinnon