Saturday, January 07, 2017

Guest Blogger: The Return of Hannah Dennison!

As Hannah is in no need of introductory help, I’m not going to provide it. I will say this, though: Welcome back! It has been too long indeed, Hannah.

When Rick invited me to return to Type M as a weekend guest, I was delighted. Apart from the fact that a few years ago I had been a member of this stellar group of authors, Type M hosted my very first blog post and has a special place in my heart. I even remember the date—July 13, 2008. It was after I’d met Donis at my all-time favorite bookstore, The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, whilst promoting my debut cozy mystery, A Vicky Hill Exclusive! Donis asked if I’d like to be a guest on Type M. At last I was a “real” author! I had made the cut! Frankly, that date still feels like yesterday although the starry-eyed newbie that I was then has long been replaced by a much more sober attitude to the realities of what it means to be a published author. Basically, writing is hard work—but would I swap it for any other profession? Of course not!

Since I wrote that first book, I’ve discovered quite a few things about my writing process. I’ve learned that each book is just as difficult to write. The only difference is that I have come to expect—and dread—the month-long panic and despair that follows reading the “shitty first draft” (to quote Anne Lamott’s well-known phrase). This panic gives way to a zombie-like numbness that accompanies the delete button as I cut about 70% of the shitty first draft and practically start again from scratch. I know that the key to finding the story is somewhere in that mess and that I just have to sit there and keep on going until it eventually materializes. It’s part of the so-called magic of the creative process. But trust me it sucks. HOWEVER … by about the fourth draft I start feeling excited as slowly, everything starts to come together. And yet with each new book I always fear that this will be the time it just won’t gel.

I’ve learned that the self-doubt monster will always be hovering over my shoulder and that the only way to ignore it is to focus on the writing and not the outcome. Even so, the monster lurks in the corner of the room and rears its ugly head from time to time, usually—and irrationally—when I’ve been given a lovely review or received a nice note from a reader which makes me question their intelligence and/or sanity. But at least I no longer beat myself up about negative reviews or spend hours obsessively Googling said negative reviewer to see how many stars they awarded other authors in the mystery genre. A word of warning—don’t go there.

I’ve also learned that it’s important not to put all your eggs in the proverbial one basket and always have a few elevator pitches up your sleeve. Sure, the term sounds corny but actually, it’s exactly how I sold my second series. It was a long elevator ride. This was at Malice Domestic (never under-estimate the importance of conferences) when I pitched an idea to an editor for a Hollywood nanny series that I’d been working on for ages. She pulled a face and said, “What else have you got?”

For some reason my widowed mother’s rash decision to purchase a highly impractical wing of a country house—without telling anyone—came into my head. She was 73 at the time and is now a spry 87. As you can imagine, my sister and I were really worried. It wasn’t so much the isolated location with a mile-long drive, no local shop and no public transport. The house was a money drain, with a roof in need of mending, heating and plumbing breaking down constantly and generally, the whole estate was falling apart. The editor loved it and asked for just a two-page proposal—which was just as well as I had nothing fleshed out at all! And so The Honeychurch Hall Mysteries were born

In a nutshell, my protagonist Kat Stanford stars in a hit road show called Fakes & Treasures. Weary of being permanently in the public eye, Kat switches careers initially to set up an antique business with her newly widowed mother, Iris. Kat’s mother, however, has other ideas. Kat is horrified to learn that not only has Iris secretly purchased a dilapidated carriage house on a crumbling country estate several hundred miles away from London, she’s actually an internationally best-selling author of erotica, writing under the pseudonym of Krystalle Storm. Kat sets off to make her mother “see sense” and ends up staying herself.

Yet, murder and romance aside, at the core of the Honeychurch Hall Mysteries is the relationship between a mother and daughter facing new and uncertain beginnings. I’m fascinated by the notion that it’s those who are nearest and dearest to us who are often the most duplicitous of all and so far, my fabulous readers are too! Happily, Minotaur will publish the fourth adventure in the series called Murderous Mayhem at Honeychurch Hall, in May 2017. If you’d like more info and a sneak peak at Chapter One, please sign up for my newsletter.

Thank you so much for inviting me today. Happy New Year everyone!  


Sybil Johnson said...

Hi Hannah! Nice to see you here again! I do love your books.

Hannah L Dennison said...

AW ... thanks Sybil. I love yours too!

Donis Casey said...

And that meeting at Poisoned Pen led to a beautiful friendship. BTW, it's so nice to know that other authors suffer with their art as much as I do, because, you know, misery loves company.

Hannah L Dennison said...

Yes it did!! And yes, it always helps to know we are all in the same boat!!

Aline Templeton said...

Hannah, good to see you here again. Lots of luck with the new book. And yes, I too go through the cycles of hell with each one!