SHERMAN, Conn. -- Fans of beach reads and young adult novels have Fairfield County students to thank for inspiring Sherman author Hannah McKinnon.
The longtime elementary school teacher first published her young adult novels after 10 years of teaching in Fairfield and Ridgefield. She said it was one afternoon during a read-aloud in her fourth grade class that she looked up to see the vivid expressions on her kids’ faces and realized the impact of good literature.
"The lunch bell had rung and yet they all cried, 'Don’t stop. Keep reading!'" she said. "It was a push for me, personally, to get writing."
Fast forward 10 years and the mom of two little girls -- and longtime avid reader -- now has four books under her belt: two young adult books ("Fanny Parker" and "The Properties Of Water') and two adult novels, "The Lake House" and "Mystic Summer," the latter of which was released in June. She is now releasing a new book each year.
McKinnon made the transition to more mature stories two summers ago. Though it was intimidating at first, she said there are a lot of commonalities that apply to any genre: a good story, likable characters that readers can relate to, and believable dialogue. "You can tease out an adult novel more slowly, but you still have to keep your readers," she said.
Being "a New Englander through and through" means many of her stories largely take place in the area. "There is a richness in history and charm that is unique from other parts of the country, and my settings are inspired by the places I grew up: the lake regions, the foothills, the forests," she said.
Indeed, in "The Lake Season," the organic New Hampshire lakeside farm is a character in and of itself and in "Mystic Summer," McKinnon pays homage to the history and culture of Mystic, which includes local venues and vacation destinations.
The inspiration for her latest release, a coming of age story, came from her post-graduate days as a student at Connecticut College, a time, she said "for all 20- and 30-somethings that is fraught with the pressures and joys of those hard-earned 'firsts.'"
"I wanted to pluck a successful, independent young woman, who seems to have it all together, from her Boston apartment and send her home for the summer to her family -- and see what happened," McKinnon told Daily Voice.
"The novel centers around a summer wedding, but it’s really the story of Maggie Griffin, a 28- year-old woman whose carefully constructed life begins to unravel when she returns to her childhood home to her well-meaning but meddlesome family, and runs into her first love whose own life has taken a much deeper and darker turn than her own.
"I like the idea of juxtaposing our past with our present; I think it raises legitimate questions, like who are we, really, compared to who we think we are? And how much do our pasts shape our futures?"
As for what's next, McKinnon just signed another two-book deal with Emily Bestler Books, of Atria/Simon & Schuster, and is already hard at work on her third novel. Like her other books, it’s an exploration of relationships.
Said McKinnon: "We meet the Merrill family, who gather at the family summer home in Westerly, R.I., for their father’s 75th birthday party. As always, each member arrives with luggage in tow; and it’s not just suitcases!"
Go to www.hannahmckinnon.com/ for more information on her books.