Hannah Roberts McKinnon ’94 captures the New England summer in her latest novel
Summer has begun—it's time to put on some sunscreen, grab a good book and set up a chair on the beach.
And if you're searching for a good book, look no further than "Mystic Summer," the latest novel from Hannah Roberts McKinnon '94. The book tells the tale of a Boston teacher who returns home to Mystic, Connecticut, as her life is unraveling. In Mystic, she finds comfort in family and runs into people from her past who put her struggles into perspective.
A veteran of children's books and young adult novels, McKinnon releases "Mystic Summer" on the heels of last summer's "The Lake Season," a story of an idyllic New England wedding that turns out to be anything but. The two major release novels have garnered McKinnon acclaim from best-selling authors like Elin Hilderbrand and Nan Rossiter.
McKinnon recently discussed how she approaches writing a novel and what inspires her writing.
Where do you find inspiration for your writing?
Inspiration is a slippery entity—it's so individual and personal, there can never be one true answer. For me, inspiration comes from the nuances of everyday life: a remnant conversation overheard in a coffee shop, the expression on a young mother's face waiting in line at a grocery store, a question that arises from a segment on the news. From there, whatever seed takes root morphs through several drafts as characters begin to acquire dimension and develop their own voice. It's not something I can force; it's something I have to be open to receiving and then crafting.
When the idea is ready, how do you start?
My process is never plot-driven—although I wish it were! I haven't had success sitting down in a quiet room with a laptop or on a crowded train with a notepad, mapping out my storyline. My ideas for stories tend to find me in places as random as the time in which they arrive. It can be at the store, when your youngest child has reached their limit and the oldest is begging for candy, and you just have to hope you’ve had enough sleep or caffeine to grasp that new idea until the car is loaded up and you have a fully-charged laptop at home. So, sometimes, it takes a minor miracle.
This is your second foray into "commercial fiction." What has that experience been like?
People often ask about the balance between the creative process and the business of books. It's certainly market-driven and the market will attempt to narrow your title to genre, audience and any given sub-category: commercial fiction, women's fiction, "chick lit." But if you have any hope of sharing your stories with the world, you need to familiarize yourself with the market and wade in as much as possible, especially during publication. Social media helps in that aspect. It used to be me in the corner of a bookstore with a stack of books and a plate of cookies; now, there's me, my publicist, the world of readers, and friends who share everything on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. There's no denying the immediacy and range of the audience, right at your fingertips.
What's the most important part of the writing process?
It all comes down to your work. What message or experience are your trying to convey? Is what you have to say relevant? Releasing your book is akin to sending your children off into the world—but without their shoes tied. You know their strengths and their scars. You just want them to succeed. You hold your breath, imagining a reviewer lurking in the literary bushes. If you're lucky, the book is widely embraced and sold.
It's all very personal. Regardless of what happens, it's your book. It's a little piece of you.
Hannah’s picks for the summer
When you’re done reading “Mystic Summer,” try out these novels.