Hannah McKinnon: It’s almost impossible to be in this business… (e-Interview)

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!

Hannah McKinnon, Pinterest 1

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!

Movie = bookYou 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.

I was also very lucky that Brian introduced me to The Rights Factory during one of his workshops, and that Cassandra Rodgers took a chance on a debut author.

So what about the other key, ‘a great manuscript’? I’d like the readers to be the judge of that.

Hannah McKinnon Pinterest 2

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!

Hannah McKinnon Writer #whatif book tour
Connect with Hannah McKinnon! Chat with us hashtag #WhatIf

You can connect with Hannah through the following links, or you can say Hi to her in the comments!

Time After Time is available for purchase at Amazon US, UK and other Amazon sites.

WANT TO BE A PART OF LIVINGINCYN’S E-INTERVIEW SERIES FOR ASPIRING AUTHORS?

e-interview with Starrene Rhett Rocque LivinginCyn.com / Cynthia T. LunaIf you’re a new or aspiring author — that is, you are actively working on your debut book, you plan on publishing, or you recently published your debut work — you qualify for an e-interview! Enter a comment below or send an email to cynthia [at] livingincyn [dot] com if you wish to participate in an e-interview. This series is slated for the 3rd Wednesday of each month.

NoteThere are links on this page that will lead you to Amazon.com. If you decide to make a purchase on Amazon as a result of clicking the link, I receive a small commission from your purchase. Find out more about affiliate links here. Thanks for your support. 

#Whatif you lived “A Blast from the Past”? (Time After Time, by Hannah McKinnon) — #whatif Blog Tour Sample Pages

Time After Time, by Hannah McKinnon #whatif #booktour
Available on Amazon (US ¦ UK)

How many times have you had a “What if…” moment in your life? There are smaller what ifs–the kind you can hashtag for Twitter, like, “#WhatIf I hadn’t put cream in my coffee…?” (okay, maybe that’s not so small!) or “#WhatIf I didn’t work a day job…?“—and then, there are bigger what ifs, like the one Hannah McKinnon explores in her newly released debut novel, Time After Time:

#WhatIf I could turn back the clock and do things differently?

Hannah McKinnon Writer #whatif #timeaftertime
Hannah McKinnon, author or Time After Time

Time after Time (US ¦ UK), Hannah McKinnon’s debut novel, recently released on June 2, 2016, explores just that question–and I am thrilled to share with you the novel’s first chapter. So, get your cup of coffee (hold back on the cream, your jeans will thank me for that…) and enjoy.

CHAPTER 1 – A Blast from the Past

It was the odd silence that woke her.

Where are the kids?

Hayley tried to burrow back into Sleepland. Fat chance. She’d become too much aware of her tongue that was stuck to the roof of her mouth. It felt like she’d been chewing on a ball of fuzzy felt rolled in a slice of Gouda.

‘Ugh,’ Hayley groaned, her eyes still tightly shut.

She remembered getting a taxi back from Ellen’s but her throbbing head didn’t make sense. They hadn’t had that much wine, surely?  Hayley briefly wondered if her best friend felt equally queasy. Then her stomach rumbled, a sure indication of how late it might be.

Breakfast is going to be fun. Serves me right for getting back so late.

Hayley squinted, barely able to make anything out in the dimly lit room. She looked at her old-fashioned Mickey Mouse alarm clock that ticked loudly. Her parents had bought it for her fifteenth birthday as a joke because nothing short of a sledgehammer ever seemed to wake her. She’d used it ever since.

Mickey’s glow-in-the dark gloves showed five minutes to nine.

Where are the kids?

She couldn’t believe they weren’t up yet. It was total bliss that she’d got an extra hour and a half of much-needed sleep. As she rubbed her head again she heard Rick’s gentle breathing next to her. Her husband had always been a quiet sleeper. She was the snorer – he’d even recorded it once on his phone and played a frighteningly realistic warthog impression back to her with a grin on his face.

It’s not like him to be in bed this late on a Saturday morning.

He usually went out for a run and did push-ups at the park while she got the kids up and made breakfast. He reckoned it was the reason he could still eat Fish and Chips and not turn into a lard-arse.

Hayley thought about Rick’s firm legs and trim waist. She briefly considered slipping her hand down his boxer shorts – they hadn’t had morning sex in months, probably years, even – but that pint of water she’d downed just before she left Ellen’s had turned her bladder into a bouncy castle. She was busting for a pee and wanted to move her legs but they felt like lead-filled sausages. Slowly she started to drift off to sleep again.

‘Yougonnagedup? Gedsumbrukfast?’

God, he sounds rough. I bet he’s coming down with a cold. Oh joy. Man-flu alert.

‘In a minute,’ she mumbled, then remembered their row from the night before. At least an eight and a half on the Richter scale of arguments. Maybe even a nine. Bad enough for her to walk out, fleeing to Ellen’s for wine and moral support. It wasn’t the first time she’d speculated if Rick had found someone else. Wondered if he wanted to leave, then wondered if she wanted him to.

She sighed and decided she should take a few steps towards reconciliation. Besides, she had a brief to finish. Washing to do. Costumes to pick up. Parents to see. And with all of that on her list, it was hardly a practical day to put a bullet in her marriage.

Hayley crawled out of bed, eyes barely open, headed for the door and walked straight into a chest of drawers.

‘Ouch.’ She rubbed her leg.

‘What the bloody hell are you doing?’ Rick’s voice really was rough.

Hayley opened her eyes properly to take in her surroundings.

Hang on a second.

The bedroom seemed smaller than usual. The window was in the wrong place, surely, and she felt carpet under her feet, not hardwood floor. Instead of the door being straight ahead she could make it out to her left. Pictures hung above the chest of drawers. She squinted at them, but couldn’t see them properly in the dark room.

It all had a certain familiarity about it that she couldn’t quite place.

God, we must have got completely trolleyed. But why can’t I remember?

Hayley grabbed hold of the chest of drawers to steady herself and knocked over a vase.

‘I’m trying to sleep, keep it down.’

An alarm bell went off in Hayley’s throbbing head. She spun round faster than she intended, lost her balance and landed on the floor on her bum.

‘Ow. Fuck it,’ she said loudly.

‘What are you doing?’

Hayley popped her head up, quickly brushed her brown hair away from her face, and gasped. The person she’d thought was Rick now sat up in bed, staring down at her. She shook her head and quickly rubbed her eyes. Despite the dim light there was no mistaking him.

No … No way … It can’t be.

‘What are you playing at?’ he said. ‘I didn’t get to sleep until four.’

With wide blue eyes and her mouth forming a perfect ‘O’ of surprise, Hayley stared at the man for so long, she could practically feel the seasons change.

‘Chris?’

Hayley blinked three times thinking that she’d never, ever, cheat on Rick. Never.

And she hadn’t seen Chris – her first boyfriend, her very first love – in over twenty years.

So when … no, how had she ended up in bed with him?


Did that get you thinking about #whatif?

I don’t know how I’d react if I woke up next to my first boyfriend. I shudder to think… I’ll be hanging around Twitter intermittently today (because I’m traveling) tweeting #whatif hashtags, and I’ll be checking into comments if you have a #whatif or #timeaftertime tweet to share.

#WhatIf you could connect with Hannah McKinnon through the interwebs and find out more?

Hannah McKinnon Writer #whatif book tour
Connect with Hannah McKinnon! Chat with us: #WhatIf

Here are some of her details…

Note: There are links on this page that will lead you to Amazon.com. If you decide to make a purchase on Amazon as a result of clicking the link, I receive a small commission from your purchase. Find out more about affiliate links here. Thanks for your support.

11 Awesome Book Tour Blog-Hop Destinations for the #WhatIf Book Tour

#WhatIf HannahMcKinnon Blog Tour / LIvinginCyn / Living in Cyn / Cynthia T. LunaThere’s nothing like good chick lit to get you in the right mood for summer. Make sure to visit these blogs to find out more about the imminent release of Time After Time, join in the #whatif virtual book tour fun, and also to meet author Hannah McKinnon!

Check out these blogs right away, and subscribe to them, so you don’t miss out on any of the fun!

#Writers! How about making Hannah’s website the first stop on your book tour?

Here, on Living in Cyn, when we’re not gabbing about my own book and writing, we like to talk about the writing process and the decisions we take towards publication–specifically, whether to self publish or get representation (through an agent and/or a publisher).

Hannah McKinnon wrote a gem of a blog post regarding her own experience “going trad”. (<==Check out her website here!)

Best of #chicklit #timeaftertime Hannah McKinnon