Irene Hannon is a bestselling, award-winning author of more than fifty contemporary romance and romantic suspense novels. A seven-time finalist and three-time winner of the RITA award—the “Oscar” of romance fiction—from Romance Writers of America, she is also a member of that organization’s elite Hall of Fame. Her books have been honored with a National Readers’ Choice award, three HOLT medallions, a Daphne du Maurier award, a Retailers’ Choice award, two Booksellers’ Best awards, two Carol awards, and two Reviewers’ Choice awards from RT Book Reviews magazine. That magazine has also honored her with a Career Achievement award for her entire body of work. In addition, she is a two-time Christy award finalist.
Connect with Irene...
Purchase: Sea Rose Lane
Get to know Irene...
You and Writing
Tell us a little bit about you...
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, but I like to tell people I made my “professional” debut at the age of 10 when I was one of the honorees in a complete-the-story contest sponsored by a national children’s magazine. I truly believe storytelling is a gift, like any other talent. I’ve always wanted to be able to paint, but if I took art lessons until I was 95, every person I tried to draw would still look like a stick figure. I don’t see with the eyes of an artist. So I paint with words.
Let's talk about your book...
Why did you write it?
Sea Rose Lane is the second book set in my fictional seaside village of Hope Harbor on the Oregon coast. I knew when I was writing the first one that this little town held many captivating stories, and thankfully my publisher agreed. I mean, how can you not love a town where hearts heal—and love blooms? I should point out, too, that each Hope Harbor book stands completely alone. Stories don’t carry over from book to book.
I love all my main characters—but I also love a few of the secondary characters who appear in every book: Charley, the ageless taco-making artist who seems to be able to see into everyone’s heart; the two town clergymen, with their friendly rivalry and deep friendship; even Floyd and Gladys, my seagull couple. This is a town filled with fascinating people who are easy to love and hard to forget.
What is one take-away from your book that you hope readers identify with?
I hope readers close the last page uplifted—and with a renewed belief that no matter how tough life might get, there’s always the possibility of a happy ending. I also hope they have a better appreciation for the tremendous power of love to transform lives.
What’s the theme? How did you come up with it?
Hope is the theme that resonates in Sea Rose Lane—and in every book set in Hope Harbor, as the name of the town suggests. In this story, my hero and heroine find love and a new beginning, but the theme of hope is front and center in my subplot, too. The two secondary characters in this story touched my heart in a special way.
Did you get to do any fun research for the book?
Yes! I visited the spectacular Oregon coast to research the setting. For many years, I’ve wanted to set a book…or two…or three…or ??? in this beautiful part of the country. I was convinced it would provide the perfect locale for the town I’d already named Hope Harbor. That research trip exceeded all my expectations. In Florence, I found charming storefronts and to-die-for cinnamon rolls. In Bandon, I learned about seagull romance. In Cape Perpetua, I got up close and personal with amazing starfish. In Brookings, I watched the sun set in a secluded cove with a silver-white harbor seal for company. And everywhere I went, I savored the endless, sandy beaches and sea stacks. When I got home, I took all those bits and pieces of real-life coastal Oregon and created Hope Harbor!
Emilie here: You're talking about the places I grew up going on vacation to! In fact, I was JUST in Brookings last week :) I've long decided I would set a series on the Oregon coast because it has fed my imagination since I was a child camping there. Love that you have seen the same beauty there!
Let's talk about your writing...
How many rejection letters did you get before being accepted by a publisher?
I’ve lost count. Lots and lots, though! And that can be very discouraging—enough to make some people quit. But I’m not the kind of person who likes to admit defeat, and I believed in my stories. So through rejection after rejection, I kept writing. By the time I sold, I had three finished manuscripts…and my first publisher bought them all. Perseverance does pay—as does the willingness to continually learn and grow as a writer. I learn something new with every book I write.
Are you a Panster or Plotter?
I’m a hybrid. I spend a lot of time getting to know my characters before I begin a book, and I have a general story concept, but the action develops chapter by chapter…sometimes line by line!
Emilie here: I feel like I too am a hybrid - I like the "not knowing" part of creating a plot, but I get to a point where I just need to now how it's all going to work out *hehe*.
What does your writing process look like?
I start every day by reviewing the words I wrote the previous day or two. Once I finish a chapter, I review and revise it until I deem it ready to go into my master document. After I finish my revisions for the day, I write new words. Because of this polish-as-I-go process, I have a final draft at the end. I’ll let the manuscript sit for a few days, then do a full read over a day or two to make any final polishes or tweaks. So I’m not one of those writers who throws the story down as fast as possible and then does a major rewrite. That process does work for a lot of people, though!
Emilie here: Ohhh, that's not something I've heard of before - the polish as you go. I like it!
What is your favorite and least favorite part of the writing process?
The upfront thinking phase, where I’m trying to get a handle on the general plot and scope of the book, is my least favorite part. Even though it’s critical to my process, it feels unproductive because no new words are appearing every day. My favorite part is the polishing process—the stuff I do first thing every morning with the words that haven’t yet been moved into my master document. I love playing with words that are already on the page. That’s when the magic happens for me.
How do you balance your writing life with “real” life? Any tips or tricks to share?
This is a constant challenge. Writing can easily take over if you let it—and I did earlier in my career, after I left my day job to write full-time. But that’s a recipe for burnout. So now I try to take weekends off from writing. I might still do some business-related chores, or work on promotional items, but I don’t write unless I’ve gotten seriously behind on my page count for the week.
What is one thing you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing?
I love to sing, and one of my favorite non-writing activities is performing in community musical theater productions. I’ve been fortunate to play the leading role in many classic musicals, including Brigadoon, South Pacific, The King and I, Oklahoma, Anything Goes, and numerous others. When I’m not singing on stage, I’m a soloist at my church.
Emilie here: How fun! I love musicals! And I sing as well. I think having those extra hobbies are the best - they can be relaxing and fun.
Thinking of Fathers Day, is there a story you’d like to share with the readers about your father?
My dad was born in rural Ireland, where he lived until his late twenties in a small cottage without electricity or running water. After he came to America and married, he worked hard to support his family, at one point holding three jobs. Through the years, he’s always been in my corner—and he’s a shining example of what a father should be. In recent years, he’s devoted himself to caring for my mom, who’s had health issues and needs a lot of help. I think the dedication in the third book in Men of Valor suspense book (Tangled Webs, 10/16) says it all:
To my father, James Hannon—
he most unselfish man I’ve ever met.
As I conclude my Men of Valor series,
thank you for reminding me by example
that valor isn’t found only in grand, sweeping gestures,
but in quietly doing—day after day, with
kindness, grace, humility and love—
what needs to be done.
You will always be my hero.
What are you currently reading?
Becky Wade’s Her One and Only.
Emilie here: What a great interview Irene! Thank you so much for being my guest and for sharing your sweet dedication to your father. My heart melted! Love it :)
Readers - make sure you pick up her novel Sea Rose Lane!