RITA Finalist Q&A
Irene Hannon—Rainbow’s End
Irene Hannon, who writes both romance and romantic suspense, is the author of more than 25 novels. Her books have been honored with a RITA Award, the Holt Medallion and a Reviewer’s Choice Award from Romantic Times BOOKreviews magazine. More than 1 million copies of her novels have been sold worldwide. A former corporate communications executive with a Fortune 500 company, she now writes full-time for both Steeple Hill and Revell. She and her husband live in Missouri.
1. Describe your RITA phone call. I got the call early in the morning, not long after I sat down at my computer to write. Needless to say, it was VERY difficult to concentrate after that! I did manage to stick with my work in progress all day—after calling a few friends and family members to share the news, of course. But the next morning I took a couple of hours off and treated myself to Starbucks!
2. Tell us about the RITA book and why you think it stood out in the crowd. There is a lyrical quality to Rainbow’s End that may have appealed to the judges. The beautiful but remote setting was also an integral element of the story, with the physical isolation acting as a metaphor for the emotional isolation of the three main characters. That may have helped make the book stand out, too. But bottom line, I think the deeply emotional story is what vaulted this book to the finalist list. The book is about two lonely people—a shattered man and a disfigured woman—who join forces to help a traumatized little boy. Along they way, they reconnect with life and find healing, hope and love. It’s a very uplifting, inspiring story, and based on the incredible reader response, it touched a lot of hearts.
3. How many books have you written? My 25th book was published in May 2008, and I’m under contract for eight more with two different publishers.
4. Do you have a favorite? That’s like asking a mother to pick her favorite child! I like all my books. I honestly can’t single any one out; they’re all special in their own way. I do have to say, though, that I’m extremely excited about my upcoming suspense debut, and I do think the three books in my suspense series are among the best I’ve written.
5. Describe your writing process. I’ve been very blessed for the past 4½ years to be able to write full-time after a long career in the corporate world, where I juggled my day job with my writing. Now, I spend every weekday (and some weekends) writing. I’m generally at my desk by eight or eight-thirty and I begin by polishing the pages I wrote the day before. Then it’s on to new writing. I aim for 10 good, new pages a day. I do work from an outline, though these have become less specific through the years. If I’m in the plotting stage of a book, I may spend a lot of time researching or simply sitting around in my office or garden staring into space. It’s sometimes hard during those phases to convince people I’m actually working!
6. When did you decide to become a writer and why Christian fiction? I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write. In fact, I was one of the winners in a complete-the-story-contest for a national children’s magazine when I was 10, so I’ve been in print for a long time! My first novel was published in 1985 with Thomas Nelson, which had just started a line of inspirational romances. However, they were about 10 years ahead of their time and the line folded. I then wrote six books for Avalon before I connected with Steeple Hill. Avalon isn’t a Christian publisher, but it does focus on books with very wholesome, traditional values. I write Christian fiction because it fits my world view and because I sincerely believe it’s possible to tell a compelling, entertaining story without explicit sex, profanity or gratuitous violence.
7. Tell us about your next or upcoming projects. I have a number of exciting projects in the works. First, I have a three-book FBI-based suspense series debuting with Revell in February 2009 called “Heroes of Quantico.” I have just received an absolutely glowing endorsement for the first book, AGAINST ALL ODDS, from the master of inspirational romantic suspense, Dee Henderson, so I’m VERY excited about this new venture. The first book revolves around a member of the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team, who is assigned to protect the daughter of a diplomat engaged in a sensitive hostage situation in the Middle East. It’s very fast-paced and exciting! I also have a new book coming out from Steeple Love Inspired in February 2008. (That will be a first for me—two new books in one month!) APPRENTICE FATHER is about a man wary of commitments who finds himself responsible for two emotionally fragile children when his sister dies in a domestic violence incident. Help comes in the form of a physically handicapped woman whose deep, abiding faith turns off the anti-religion hero, but whose kind and loving ways begin to melt the ice around his heart.. Then, in May 2009, I’ll launch a new series with Steeple Hill called “Lighthouse Lane.” The books are all set on Nantucket, and I’m deep into writing those at the moment. You can find out more about my upcoming books at http://www.irenehannon.com/
8. Do you have any advice for unpublished writers? Read a lot. Learn the basics. Write, write, write. Join a group like Romance Writers of America. Submit to contests and read the feedback with an open mind. Attend conferences. Network. And never, ever give up! I had written three books before I sold my first novel. I’m glad I persisted!