How’s that for a teaser headline to introduce a recently (traditionally) published author?
Hannah McKinnon actually finished that statement with less provocation: “…without being able to cope with critique”. As someone who wrote a book, found an agent to represent her and then scored a deal with a publishing house, she should know. Whether you’re an indie or traditionally-published author, critique is unavoidable–and perhaps entirely necessary, not only for being in this business, but also for success.
Some of you might recognize Hannah McKinnon’s name from her #WhatIf blog tour in June: Living in Cyn hosted a chapter from her debut novel, Time After Time. Now, we get to hear a little bit about who she is and her experiences becoming an author!
As usual, our questions are in grey and Hannah’s responses are in regular, black type. Read on!
Name/ Age/ Website… Hannah McKinnon, age 45, www.hannahmckinnonwriter.com
Where do you currently reside? I’ve lived in Oakville, Ontario (Canada) since mid-2010.
What’s your hometown/origin? There’s no short answer to that ☺
I was born in Stockport, near Manchester in the UK. When I was one, my parents moved the family to Switzerland (where my dad was born) and we lived in Interlaken for a number of years. When I was eight we moved to the Lake District in the UK, then back to Interlaken when I was eleven, where I stayed until I finished school. After that I lived in Geneva and Neuchâtel before moving to Canada in 2010.
So am I British, Swiss or Canadian? Well, my sense of humour is definitely British. I’m as timely as a Swiss train (oh, I love cheese too). And I like to think I’m as open and friendly as the Canadians. So that makes me all three!
You mention on your website that you “decided to follow [your] oldest passion” and started writing at some point in your forties. Can you remember when you first re-discovered this passion? How did that happen? How did you know? I’d thought about writing a book for a number of years and had a couple of one-page drafts and outlines, but never found the time to do anything with them. The idea for Time After Time literally popped into my head one summer. The concept was so clear, I wrote the entire outline in under three hours. And that was it – I was hooked and knew I had to finish the novel.
Your debut novel, Time After Time, was just recently published (June 2016). Congrats! Can you share a synopsis? Thank you! It’s such an exciting time.
Time After Time (Amazon US, UK) is all about choices and the paths not taken. The protagonist, Hayley Cooper fantasizes about what her life would be like if only if she’d made different choices. It’s understandable; the past two years have been hell. She barely sees her kids, her boss is trying to sabotage her, and her marriage is falling apart. Burnt out, Hayley goes to sleep wishing for a different life. When she wakes up married to her first boyfriend, one she has not seen in over twenty years, she realizes there might be some truth in the saying “be careful what you wish for”.
So, over a single weekend, and just like Ebenezer Scrooge, Hayley gets to see her life on other side of the white picket fence – not just with her first ex, but with each of her past loves. The question is, is the grass always greener? And will she ever want to go home?
Many of my readers are writers. Some of them are self-publishing their works, while others are going the traditional route to publishing. It appears you have lucked out with the latter. Do you have any secrets to your success in landing a publisher/ agent? My writing course teacher, Brian Henry, once said, “There are three keys to getting published traditionally. You need a great manuscript, a healthy dose of luck, and buckets of perseverance. The good news is that, most of the time, two out of those three will suffice.”
Personally, I’d add a fourth item to the list; dealing with feedback. It’s almost impossible to be in this business without being able to cope with critique. At times it can be incredibly difficult to hear and accept, but when you do, it will make your writing stronger.
So what worked for me? I think my perseverance definitely paid off. I was absolutely determined to get an agent, and just as unwavering about getting a publishing deal. It was tough, I can’t deny it – the rejections, the waiting, the seemingly endless rounds of edits … But I didn’t give up because so many people had said the concept of Time After Time was a great one. Their encouragement kept me going.
So what about the other key, ‘a great manuscript’? I’d like the readers to be the judge of that.
Looking back on the process of getting representation, could you say there was one thing you would do differently if you had known then what you now know? I wish I’d taken some writing courses earlier, and that I’d had my manuscript assessed by an independent editor before I submitted it to agents the first time around. To be honest, I was pretty arrogant in my “I read therefore I can write” attitude. Looking back, I’m not surprised in the least by the rejections I received. Actually, I cringe a little when I read the first draft of my manuscript.
On the other hand, ignorance can be bliss. If I’d known how long it would take to get this far, how many rounds of rejection – revision – rejection I’d go through, maybe I wouldn’t have had quite as much drive to persevere.
My readers and community are also very much interested in the writing process. How do you go about getting words on a page? Do you take a freestyle approach, just sit down and write–or are you methodical? A little bit of both. With the exception of Time After Time, I seem to come up with the beginnings and endings of stories, but am not entirely sure what will happen in the middle (and sometimes the endings change too).
I like to write a short outline, maybe a page or two, then jump right in. I’m not the most patient of people, so writing pages of detailed outlines really isn’t for me. If I get stuck with the story once I’ve started, then I’ll go back to the outline and work on it some more until I find the right direction to move in. And sometimes the characters take over, and lead me to plot points that hadn’t occurred to me, which is so much fun.
Some writers say they already know the story they want to tell before they’ve even written the first word. Others say writing the first draft of fiction is a process of discovery every time they sit down to write. How did Time After Time come about? The idea for Time After Time was crystal clear. I knew exactly what I wanted Hayley’s journey to be, and how the story should end. Having said that, if I compare the first draft to the final version, the essence of the story is still the same, but I added more layers, depth and complexity to the story and Hayley’s situation. I also interwove the past and present chapters far more for better pacing,
All of this wasn’t done alone, far from it. I had input first from family and friends, then my writing group, beta-readers, an independent editor and my agent. Everybody’s feedback shaped the story in one way or another, and I’m so grateful to work with such amazing people who share my passion for this book.
Could you describe a typical day for you? … And when in that day to you squeeze in writing time? I’m fortunate in that I work from home, and therefore have a lot of flexibility. During the week I’m up around 6am, preparing lunches for our three sons. Once they’ve left for school I’ll sort out pending correspondence, anything administrative, whether it’s for my husband’s electrical company the kids’ schools, personal finances, etc. I like to get all of that out of the way before I write – which sometimes means I don’t get to write anything!
I’ll stop writing when the boys come home in the afternoon, and will often continue once they’re in bed. I like to keep the weekends free for family time.
Do you ever experience writer’s block? What do you recommend to aspiring authors dealing with writer’s block? Oh, I’ve definitely been stuck a number of times. Various things have helped, such as going to the gym or out for a walk, skipping the chapter that’s proving to be difficult and working on the next, writing something completely different (a short story, for example), setting a timer for thirty minutes and writing without editing – even sleeping on it can help sometimes. It’s amazing what your subconscious will do for you if you simply let it be.
Do you have any new projects brewing at the moment? My second novel, working title THE SECRETS THAT MAKE US is with my agent and will be submitted to publishers within the coming weeks. I’ve also finished the first in a series of children’s early-grade chapter books (ages 6-9). Right now I’m working on two things – a middle-grade book (ages 9-12) and the outline of my next adult fiction novel.
Coffee or Tea? Tea with milk and 1 ¼ teaspoons of sugar (the ¼ is what makes it perfect!). Although a frothy, decaf cappuccino or an iced coffee are very welcome too.
Any questions you wish I’d ask you? I think you covered a lot of ground. Thank you! ☺
Connect With Hannah McKinnon!
You can connect with Hannah through the following links, or you can say Hi to her in the comments!
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