Hannah McKinnon, The Lake Season
When did I decide to become a writer?
I knew that writing was for me when I was in kindergarten. I remember making my first book jacket out of yellow wallpaper scraps for a story I’d written about a turtle. By third grade I went to my first young author’s conference and debuted my book, “Rodents on the Range”- a hamster western. When I heard the other kids laugh in all the right places, I was smitten.
In college I took writing courses, but the older I got the less I wrote. Instead I majored in literature and education. It was during a reading lesson with my fourth grade students when I looked up and saw a boy crying over a passage from Kate di Camillo’s book, Because of Winn Dixie, that I remembered that childhood feeling of connecting literature with readers. I couldn’t put it off any longer. That year I began working on my first children’s books.
Why Lake Season?
The Lake Season came about after I’d published two young adult titles. Somewhere deep inside I’d always wanted to write adult fiction, but I was too afraid. Luckily (believe it or not) a nonfiction project I’d been working on for over a year fell apart and I had to walk away from it. Instead of allowing myself to wallow, I realized I had nothing else to lose. I wrote The Lake Season in small snippets while my daughters were in nursery school. It took eighteen months, but I did it.
Iris was important to me. There are so many books about young women coming of age, but to me thirty and forty year old characters are fascinating! They’ve climbed so far in life- they have careers, homes, families. They’ve experience triumphs and losses. And even though they’re still climbing, I feel that they’re high enough to have a great view. Now is the time to ask themselves, ‘Is this where I expected to be?’ Or ‘Have I achieved what I’d hoped to by this age?’ And if not- ‘What am I going to do about it?’ It’s empowering.
I love contemporary fiction. Women’s fiction, in particular, is my favorite because I find the characters and plots so relatable. The authors whose work causes me to chomp at the bit for their next release are:
What do I want readers to take away from The Lake Season?
My hope is that when readers meet Iris and Leah they connect at a level where they can empathize with both women, despite their vast differences. Even the characters who are hard to like must pull on a reader’s empathy.
Life is messy. No matter the rosy picture we portray – especially these days on social media – behind even the tidiest picket fence lies weeds. Whether it be career, relationship, or family – all of us are making our way down roads whose destination we cannot see. And sometimes we have had to step off that road to catch our breath. There’s beauty in the journey, but there’s such richness in pulling over and reassessing. Or better yet – pulling over to offer assistance to someone in need. We all need to slow down more and appreciate the path.
Social Media’s Role:
Initially social media intimidated me. As a young mother, my writing time is already so limited and valuable. The thought of spending even more time to devote to social media seemed daunting. But I’ve been proven delightfully wrong. Social media has made both The Lake Season and myself available to readers. It’s immediate, it’s free, and it’s far reaching. It’s been such fun to receive messages and posts from readers; I’ve been able to follow my book around the world. And I can’t say enough about the reviewers and bloggers; they’re an integral (and appreciated!) part of the publicity process.
Advice for Writers:
- No matter what you do, make time to write daily. Not only do you need to practice the craft, but you need to produce. Jodi Picoult once said ‘You can’t edit a blank page.’ Even if you think it’s crap- keep writing. It will get better.
- Don’t stop. Whether you are penning first pages or pushing a freshly completed manuscript around publishing houses, don’t stop doing it.
It took me several years to publish. Learn the craft of querying books (it is a craft!) to agents and editors. Become an avid reader of whatever genre you want to write. Find out which agents best match your work. And when rejections come – keep submitting! You only have to find one agent/editor who believes in you.
- Keep your work close to you. Writer’s groups are great. A trusted literary friend is a gem. But don’t share your work too soon. Other’s opinions can interrupt your confidence or alter your story. You’re the author. Stay true to your unique voice.
- Always have a next project. When my first (picture books) didn’t sell, I tried my hand at young adult novels. Within months I had a two-book deal, for Franny Parker and The Properties of Water. Years later, when a subsequent nonfiction contract fell through, I decided to jump into writing my first adult fiction novel, which became The Lake Season.
There will be rejections. There will be setbacks. But keep working on something. It keeps the writing flowing. It keeps your confidence buoyant. It distracts you from quitting. And who knows? That ‘next project’ may very well end up being ‘the one!’.
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