Author Irene Hannon has what she calls a “practical gene.” After studying psychology and journalism in college, she worked in corporate communications at a Fortune 500 company for more than 20 years, writing fiction on the side. Only after publishing a dozen novels and attaining an executive-level position did Hannon finally leave her day job behind to write full time. “It was a leap of faith—but one that has paid off,” she says—to the tune of almost 60 published novels.
Hannon, a three-time RITA Award winner and an inductee into the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame, hit another major career milestone this year. Her novels with Revell, her publisher for the past 10 years, have sold more than one million copies around the world.
Hannon’s earlier experiences, from her days in corporate America, continue to play a role in her writing. “My journalism background was invaluable in teaching me the mechanics of writing and of distilling a story down to its essential elements,” she says. “Psychology enhanced my understanding of human nature. As a result, I love diving deep into my characters and taking readers along on that journey.”
Hannon’s romance novels include bestsellers One Perfect Spring, Sandpiper Cove, and Sea Rose Lane, the popular Private Justice and Men of Valor series, and, most recently, the Code of Honor series. In her contemporary romances, Hannon focuses on “interpersonal conflicts and the challenges all of us deal with in our everyday lives,” she says. “I think readers who like contemporary romance are looking for a feel-good story that won’t give them high blood pressure, while romantic suspense readers enjoy the adrenaline rush of the dangerous situations.”
Her latest contemporary romance, Driftwood Bay, is the fifth book in the Hope Harbor series, which is set in a small town on the Oregon coast. Each book can be read as a standalone novel, and the series, Hannon says, emphasizes “the tremendous power of love—in all its forms, not just the romantic variety—to transform lives.”
In Driftwood Bay, three new characters are in the midst of very different hardships: Jeannette Mason is a newcomer to Hope Harbor. She is healing from a personal tragedy. Logan West is suddenly the new steward of his late brother’s child, and Mariam, the matriarch of a Christian family fleeing persecution in war-torn Syria, struggles to make a new home in the U.S.
Emotional obstacles as well as attempts to isolate themselves make it challenging for the characters to recognize one another’s suffering, but faith shows them a way forward. “I wanted to illustrate our interconnectedness and the blessings that can grace our lives when we put our own needs and concerns aside to help others,” Hannon says. “I hope that by reading these different experiences of grief, readers will come to appreciate that all who have experienced loss have much in common.”
Driftwood Bay was also inspired in part by Hannon’s own grief. The tearoom and lavender farm Jeanette owns is based on a place Hannon visited with her mother, who passed away in 2016. “My mom and I loved to go to tea, which is one of the reasons this book is dedicated to her,” she says.
When it comes to writing romantic suspense, Hannon leans more toward Hitchcockian psychological thriller than James Bond action/adventure, she says. “I much prefer character-driven novels to nonstop action books, where the emphasis is on physical danger sequences rather than the people in the story,” Hannon says. “I like to feature ordinary people who find themselves thrust into a dangerous situation far beyond their scope of experience.”
While Hannon tackles different subject matter in each of her books, one theme is constant. “Romance is my favorite genre,” she says, “because it sends the message that no matter the obstacles we face, a happy ending is always possible.”
Next up from Hannon is Dark Ambitions (Oct.), the final installment in the Code of Honor series, to be followed in October 2020 by a brand-new series featuring three sisters involved in professions that focus on finding the truth. Starfish Pier, the next book in Hannon’s Hope Harbor series, goes on sale in April 2020. With her many books and legion of fans, Hannon is well on her way to selling her next million.