This week's author is writer Kristin Hannah. Her newest book, Firefly Lane, recently hit shelves.
For more on Hannah, check out her website.
WN: What inspired you to write Firefly Lane?
HANNAH: My first thought--years ago, when I was trying to figure out where to go next in my work--was that I wanted to write the big women's friendship book. Many of these books have been written before, but I felt there hadn't been one for my generation, and I wanted to try and be our voice. To write about the issues that face our lives these days, the way we balance motherhood with being wives and friends and individuals. It's a tricky act we women set out to accomplish, and the older I get, the more I see how much it rests on our female friendships. It's really my girlfriends who keep me--relatively--sane. I don't know what I'd do without them. And that was really the point of Firefly Lane. It's my valentine to girlfriends.Once I got into the novel, and delved into the decades of my life, I found myself immersed in the old songs, the old feelings, everything from that first crush on David Cassidy (my girlfriend Megan liked Davy Jones--to each our own) to that first sip of Boone's Farm. It was a blast to relive all of that without having to sit through high school again or worry about my complexion.
WN: What was your writing process like for this novel and was it any different than how you approached your past works?
HANNAH: Over the course of my career, my process has changed several times. I have come to accept that it's a fluid thing, process. When I first began writing, I was very analytical, very lawyerly. I researched for a set amount of time, wrote out note cards and organized them in file boxes, and outlined the entire novel scene by scene. I wrote methodically, polishing each scene before I moved onto the next. This way worked for several years, but as my novels became more complex, this way began to hinder me. I understood that it was useless to perfect each scene, since many of them would be lost in revision. There have been a few morphs along the way, but now I write in a very unstructured way. I still do the research first, still come up with a detailed synopsis that outlines the three acts of the novel, and then I write until the characters reveal themselves to me. I don't know how else to say it. I know exactly what I want to say in a novel, but now necessarily how I want to say it. For example, at one point, Firefly Lane featured several viewpoint characters, but I finally realized that this was supposed to be the story of Kate and Tully, so I cut all the other character's viewpoints and story lines and told it all through the women's eyes.
WN: Were you a reader as a kid? What turned you on to the idea of being a writer?
HANNAH: Like most writers, I was--and am--a voracious reader. As a child, my favorites were Roald Dahl, Tolkein, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Victoria Holt. Many of my favorite current authors are listed on my website, but I'm always finding new books and new writers. It's part of the fun of reading. Initially, of course, I did not want to be a writer. I was a lawyer and really saw my life going in that direction, but when my mother was in the hospital with breast cancer, she said, "That law's all very well and good, but you're going to be a writer." Honestly, I was stunned. We spent the final months of her life collaborating on a bad historical romance, but it brought us together. She really handed the dream to me, fully wrapped. It took me a few years to open it, but once I did I never looked back. I like to think she's watching me from Heaven. Probably with a red editing pen...
WN: What's the most influential book you've read and why?
HANNAH: To Kill a Mockingbird. To me, it's the perfect novel--a great story, a beautiful voice, an iconic character, a powerful message. Next, I'd list The Prince of Tides and Lonesome Dove as examples of big commercial fiction that gets under your skin, changes the way you see the world, and never lets go. I still remember reading all of those novels for the first time.
WN: What's the best advice you received as a writer?
HANNAH: I've received a lot of advice over the years and a lot of it has turned out to be good, even if I didn't know it at the time. However, I'm going to give the top spot to Linda Lael Miller, who wrapped up everything I believe about how to survive in this business in three words: keep showing up. In the end, that's what it's about. Writers write. We keep writing when things in our life are tough, when our careers are in trouble, when the business is dangerous. We believe in what we do and we keep doing it. One book after another, preferably on time, whether someone is paying you or not.
WN: What's next for you as a writer?
HANNAH: I have just turned in my next book. Phew! What a lovely feeling it is to get the manuscript off your desk. Of course, it comes right back, and the editing begins. Anyway, I don't have a title yet, but it's a novel that's very different from Firefly. I'm not going to say much yet, because I have a lot of work left to do, and I don't know how it wil end up, but I will say this: for the first time in my career, I've focused on a plot, and this is a page turner.