Interview with Hannah Mary McKinnon

3 min read

Hannah Mary was born in the UK, grew up in Switzerland and moved to Canada in 2010. After a successful career in recruitment, she quit the corporate world in favor of writing. She now lives in Oakville, Ontario, with her husband and three sons, and is delighted by her twenty-second commute. Visit her at or on Instagram @HannahMaryMcKinnon

We’re going to admit, we have got a bit of a soft spot for author Hannah Mary McKinnon. She was one of our three amazing author speakers at our first #StrongWomenRead event in Toronto, Canada in April 2019 and we’re thrilled that her latest release Her Secret Son is finally out in the world for readers to enjoy as much as we did. We caught up with Hannah to get to know a little more about her and both her writing and reading experiences.

Girly Book Club: How did you get into writing and what inspired you to write your first book?

Hannah Mary McKinnon: My first novel, rom-com Time After Time (2016) was born out of frustration. I’d quit a high-flying corporate career in recruitment and moved to Canada, where I’d started my own company, which had failed miserably—and I mean crashed and burned; a total flop. I felt lost and unhappy, and wondered how my life might have turned out had I made different choices in the past. That became the theme of the book (Time After Time is the lovechild of the movies Groundhog Day and Sliding Doors); a woman getting a glimpse of her alternate realities to figure out where she really belongs. Ironically, as I found my way back to happiness in my personal life, I crossed over to the dark side of domestic suspense with my next three novels, The Neighbors (2018), Her Secret Son (2019), and Sister Dear (May 2020). Strange, but true!

GBC: What makes a book great, in your opinion? What elements does a great story possess?

HMM: Characters who feel real, which, to me, means they’re flawed because nobody’s perfect. I don’t need to like the characters to enjoy a book, in fact, I’ve read and loved many books where I didn’t like the protagonist, or their choices, but the authors wrote them in such a way that I understood why they made those choices, how they had become who they were, what had shaped them. All that makes them interesting, and of course it’s always fun to love to hate a “bad” character and hope they’ll get their comeuppance. Pacing is another important element to me – I like the feeling of not being able to put a book down, of saying “just another chapter” when it’s way past my bedtime—I like to be surprised. Humour, too, is critical for me. Even darker books need at least a few funny lines to lighten the mood.

GBC: What are you doing if you’re not writing?

HMM: Reading! Going to the gym (although not as often as I should), baking (probably more than I should), watching movies, and spending time with my husband and our three sons. All of that keeps me pretty busy and content.

GBC: Physical book, e-book, or audiobook? – and why.

HMM: All three! Physical books because I love the feel, smell and touch of them. There’s something so satisfying about opening the cover for the first time. Ebooks because they’re so convenient (I recently bought a Kindle and love it) plus you get access right away, which is brilliant for people like me who have a finite amount of patience. Audiobooks because narrators are genius actors who bring an entirely new element to a story – their interpretation. I love popping on my headphones and taking my audiobook for a walk! And I truly believe they’ve made me a better author, too, which I wrote about here.

GBC: We’re always on the hunt for our next great read. Recommend us a book to add to our TBR pile!

HMM: May I give you three? The Kill Club by Wendy Heard is a twisty thriller with a unique premise. He Started It by Samantha Downing. If you thought her debut, My Lovely Wife, was dark and twisted, then buckle up. And finally, Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls. He’s a long-term favourite author of mine, and he writes about love with such humour and poignancy, I’m drawn in from the first to the last page, and long after that, too.

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