Interview with Hannah Mary McKinnon, Author of the Thriller, Sister Dear

What is your novel about?

Sister Dear (MIRA: Harlequin/HarperCollins) is a story about half-sisters who don’t know the other exists…until one of them finds out and realizes her glamorous sibling has, and is, everything she could only ever dream of. And so, she decides to infiltrate her half-sister’s life without telling her they’re related.

What were your book launch plans pre-Covid? 

I’d planned a local launch party at a restaurant and was in the process of putting the guest list, invitations, and menu together. I also had several in-person book signings and library appearances scheduled. This year was also going to be my first time heading to ThrillerFest in July, and in October I’d have attended my fourth Bouchercon conference, but both have unfortunately been cancelled. 

Where were you when you heard your book tour/ launch was cancelled? 

At home in my office, where I seem to be living at the moment, although some days are more productive than others. When I heard the news about everything being cancelled, I didn’t get a lot done but after about 10 days a switch flipped in my head and I got back to work. Watching the news less often helped, too.

Are you and your publisher doing anything special/ different to promote your novel? 

Absolutely! Everything has shifted online. For example, I participated in the #CanadaPerforms series organized by the National Arts Centre, and I’m taking over a number of Facebook Group pages and Instagram Story accounts to interact with readers, and participating in either Facebook or Instagram chats with other authors and bloggers. I’ve done these before but not quite as many.

My virtual launch party takes place today, so May 26, at 8.00pm ET and will be on my Author Facebook Page. Please stop by if you can.

With the disruption caused by Covid-19 it was important for me to give back to the writing community as well, and not only promote my own work. I contacted other authors and their publishers, and on March 17 I launched my First Chapter Fun initiative. For 53 days in a row, I read the first chapter of a different author’s book simultaneously on my Author Facebook Page and Instagram Live @hannahmarymckinnon.

On of May 14 I joined forces with powerhouse-author Hank Phillippi Ryan. First Chapter Fun now broadcasts twice a week, every Tuesday and Thursday at 11.30am ET on Facebook and Instagram (@firstchapterfun).

All videos are saved on both platforms and viewers can leave comments and questions for the authors. It’s a lot of fun and we already have books lined up until September. 

Can you tell us bit about the path to writing and selling your book?

My writing journey began in 2011 after I moved to Canada and started an HR company, which failed miserably within its first year of inception. I’d thought about writing for a while, and now had the time, so I took a chance. Instead of working on short pieces to develop my skills, I wrote an entire novel, rom-com Time After Time. While the premise caught people’s interest, the execution was flawed. I stuck with it, had the novel professionally critiqued (eye-opening!) and took different writing courses before securing agent representation and getting my first book deal. Time After Time published in 2016. Even before it had sold, I found myself being pulled over to the dark side of suspense while writing The Neighbors. That book published in 2018, Her Secret Son followed in 2019. This year’s novel is Sister Dear and I have another two lined up, one each for 2021 and 2022.

Do you have any quirky writing rituals? 

More of an obsession than a quirk, I think, but I must have a tidy desk. I find it exceedingly difficult to work in a cluttered environment. There’s something about having a clear workspace that allows me better focus. It was the same when I worked in IT recruitment. For me, tidiness leads to being more productive and yes, that’s exactly as boring as it sounds. Haha!

What was the hardest cut you made from your new book, your favorite Dead Darling?

In Sister Dear I had a scene where the protagonist, Eleanor, visits her mother, and they have an argument. The animosity between the two was palpable, and I’d included some great zingers in the dialogue. However, it added nothing new to the relationship between the characters. The reader already knew they hated each other, and so it got deleted.

Similarly, in The Neighbors (MIRA, 2018), I had a lovely scene with one of the main characters, Nate, and his grandfather. My editor said it was “beautifully written and highly emotional” but that it did nothing to push the story forward, and so, again, that got the chop. Secretly I’ve saved those scenes in a Word document so I can re-read them but shh! Don’t tell my editor.

Where can we buy your novel?

Thanks for asking! You’ll find all the links on my website: Happy reading!

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