Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Happy Hannah Day!


HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Well hey, couple of things today! First, breaking news! HER PERFECT LIFE is on sale today, for $1.99! And you can snap it right up for Kindle, Nook, Kobo or Apple. it’s s 80 percent off! (Isn’t that right?) Reds and readers, I really hope you will click and get a copy for yourself or a pal.. Every book makes a difference, and it really matters. Here’s a link. Tell your pals. End of sales pitch.

 

Also today, Happy Happy Birthday to one of my dearest best friends in the world, the incomparable Hannah Mary McKinnon.  Of course you know the two of us are partners in fictional crime on First Chapter Fun every Tuesday and Thursday at 12:30 PM ET live on facebook and Insta, and some of you Reds and Readers are beloved members of the Funster family, and we are incredibly grateful. Today is episode 262! 

 


Hannah is rockstar brilliant, and her new book Never Coming Home is out in two weeks.  It’s darkly hilarious, completely sinister, and incredibly original. And you are all invited to the launch party!

 

She has a fascinating past, and now she’s realized that past gave her a secret weapon for her current work! 

 

(And see if you can get some clues about the riveting NEVER COMING HOME from this piece she wrote just for us.)

  

Embracing Research

   By Hannah Mary McKinnon

 

Many years ago, when I worked in IT recruitment as a Chief Operating Officer, I sat in a meeting during which we decided to open a subsidiary in Frankfurt. I lived and worked in Switzerland, and while I’d frequently traveled to Germany, I had zero knowledge of setting up a company there. My boss asked if I’d take on the project. “Absolutely!” I said, which I meant wholeheartedly, and I couldn’t wait to get started. After all, during a recent performance appraisal we’d chatted about how much I loved being thrown into new situations and figuring stuff out.

 

It seems the thrill of cannonballing into the deep end has stuck around and translated into my being more than a little willing to shove my characters in unknown territory, too. This involves them doing dark deeds, getting the ultimate revenge, and committing murder, mind you, not working on administrative logistics like I did, but the approach remains the same: I need to do research.

 

As a crime writer, this takes me down some pretty dodgy cyber rabbit holes, and I get to have some, uh, interesting conversations I’ll bet have resulted in my being flagged by security agencies. For my third novel, Her Secret Son, I called a school board in Syracuse, asking if I could register a kid without a birth certificate. “Who did you say you were?” the woman asked, her voice going up a few notches. “And why are you asking?” She hung up shortly afterward despite my reassurances of, “Honest, ma’am, I’m an author, I promise.” 

 

Then there was the time when an employee at poison control swiftly pointed out that, no, she couldn’t tell me if a particular concoction would kill someone…but she did ask which of my books I recommended, so I hope the chat broadened my audience.

 


My most devilish research was for my latest novel,
Never Coming Home, which is written exclusively from the antagonist’s point of view. At the start of the book, Lucas Forester is about to inherit a lot of money. His wealthy mother-in-law is dying, and his wife, Michelle, is missing—presumed dead. Lucas already knows Michelle’s never coming home because he hired a hitman on the dark web to get rid of her. All he needs to do is play the desperate, grieving husband and wait for the cash to roll in…until someone thwarts his plans, and all hell breaks loose, of course.

 

Writing from the antagonist’s perspective was unique in many ways. In particular, it made me think like a criminal for the entire duration of the novel, slipping into the shoes of someone who wants to get away with murder while pretending to care about the victim. Oh, and I should mention that tricky hitman business. Like most, I’d heard about the dark web, but didn’t know the details, so I listened to various podcasts about its history and current state, which I found both fascinating and disturbing in equal measure. I also spoke to crime author Drew Murray, who shared more details. I didn’t venture on the dark web though. That was a step too far, even for me.

 

I did however have a few conversations with crime writer Bruce Robert Coffin, a retired police detective sergeant and bestselling author of the Detective Byron Mysteries. He’s always my go-to when I’m thinking about (fictional!) murder and has helped make many of my plots even more cunning. After I’d described Lucas’s plans, and how he’d always stay three steps ahead of the cops, I’ll admit to feeling pretty chuffed when Bruce paused, chuckled, and said, “If I didn’t know you’re an author I’d worry because you’ve thought of almost everything”—and then he gave me another few tips.

 

Some may find research is a solitary experience, but for me this isn’t the case. It probably helps that I’m not shy. For example, when I needed input from a family lawyer, I filled in a contact form for a firm I’d found online and got a call from the senior partner ten minutes later, a charming man who was delighted to give me the skinny on adoption laws. 

 

Then there was the funeral director I contacted via Facebook, and who gave me ideas about hiding a body at a cemetery (I haven’t used the info yet, but I hope to in a future book). A friend connected me with an ER physician with whom I spent an hour on the phone and who thought it was a lovely break to discuss my musings because nobody real got hurt. More recently, I corresponded with a pediatrician, who said she’d jokingly entered a sweepstakes with her family about my including her in the acknowledgments. I told her I’d go one better, and named, and styled my family doctor character after her, ensuring she’d win the bet.

 

When I conduct my research, it’s often so much fun I have to force myself to stop and refocus on my manuscript. People always surprise me with their generosity and willingness to help, it’s truly extraordinary. So, if you’re ever wondering if you should try to connect with someone when you’re attempting to figure something out for your books, don’t hesitate. You’re not making a sales call, you’re not asking them to part with their money—you’re requesting their assistance, knowledge, and expertise, something many individuals are more than willing to do, and they’re often flattered you asked.

 

As I sat in that corporate meeting all those years ago and agreed to figure out how to open an office in Frankfurt, I’d never have considered it training ground for my career as an author. But looking back, there’s no doubt that it was, so thanks again, Boss!

 

HANK:  How about you? Got a fun research experience you want to share? And did you notice--Hannah wrote this book from the antagonist's point of view! Wow! What do you think about hat?


Tell us in the comments! 

 

 

Hannah Mary McKinnon 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. While her debut, TIME AFTER TIME, was a rom com, she transitioned to the dark side thereafter. Her suspense novels include THE NEIGHBORS, and bestsellers HER SECRET SON, SISTER DEAR, YOU WILL REMEMBER ME, and NEVER COMING HOME. Hannah Mary lives in Oakville, Ontario, with her husband and three sons. Connect on Facebook and Instagram @hannahmarymckinnon, and on Twitter @HannahMMcKinnon. For more, visit www.hannahmarymckinnon.com

 


NEVER COMING HOME

 

First comes love. Then comes murder.

Lucas Forester didn't hate his wife. Michelle was brilliant, sophisticated and beautiful. Sure, she had extravagant spending habits and that petty attitude, a total disregard for anyone below her status. But she also had a lot to offer. Most notably, wealth that only the one percent could comprehend.

 

For years, Lucas had been honing a flawless plan to inherit Michelle’s fortune. Unfortunately, it involved taking a hit out on her.

 

Every track was covered, no trace left behind, and now Lucas plays the grieving husband so well he deserves an award. But when a shocking photo and cryptic note show up on his doorstep, Lucas goes from hunter to prey.

 

Someone is onto him. And they’re closing in.

 

Told with dark wit and a sharply feminist sensibility, Never Coming Home is a terrifying tale of duplicity that will have you side-eyeing your spouse as you dash to the breathtaking end.

 

 

 

Website:                      www.HannahMaryMcKinnon.com

Facebook:                   www.facebook.com/HannahMaryMcKinnon (@hannahmarymckinnon)

Instagram:                   www.instagram.com/HannahMaryMcKinnon/ (@hannahmarymckinnon)

Twitter:                       www.twitter.com/HannahMMcKinnon (@hannahmmckinnon)

Goodreads:                  www.goodreads.com/author/show/15144570.Hannah_Mary_McKinnon

BookBub:                    www.bookbub.com/authors/hannah-mary-mckinnon

Contactin.bio:             https://HannahMaryMcKinnon.contactin.bio

First Chapter Fun        www.firstchapterfun.com

69 comments:

  1. Happy Birthday, Hannah!

    “Never Coming Home” sounds quite captivating and I’m looking forward to reading it [and finding out just how Lucas’s plan worked out for him] . . . .

    May I ask, what was the most difficult thing about writing solely from the antagonist's point of view?

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    1. Thank you so much, Joan :-) I think the most difficult aspect was figuring out how to get the reader to like Lucas enough to go along for the ride. I gave him a sense of humor, a dog, and a hopefully relatable backstory so the reader understood how he became who he is. Sometimes we love to hate villains, but I hope the reader will hate to love him instead.

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  2. Hank Phillippi RyanMay 10, 2022 at 1:16 AM

    It will be very exciting when Hannah begins to comment! At this very moment, she is flying across the Atlantic to Switzerland! And she will let us know when she arrives. Happy birthday, darling Hannah— we are all here waiting for you!

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    1. Yay! I'm here. I'll make sure I reply to everyone over the next few days. Thank you so much for this post Hank. I love it!

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  3. This book sounds wonderful. I'm intrigued to see the book from a the villain's point of view completely. Congrats! And Happy birthday, too.

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  4. Happy birthday and congratulations! It's a great premise. I've written short stories of murderdous revenge from the guilty person's point of view but never an entire novel. Did you struggle with wanting to see justice done, thereby dooming your narrator, or did you look for a way for him to be redeemed? (Not looking for spoilers, just your thought process.)

    I also love research, and Bruce is the best. Beside having him on speed dial, I also have a Massachusetts police detective in my town, an Indiana county sheriff, and a PI. I've consulted with a forensic anthropologist about what a ninety-year-old corpse (behind a wall) would look like, with DP Lyons about whether poison would be detectable in a body ten years dead, and more.

    And then there's finding history nuts for my mysteries set in the past. The train guys are so excited to share their information! Such fun stuff.

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    1. Great question about the thought process--the book is darkly hilarious, too, another huge juggle!

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    2. Aren't people incredible? You have such brilliant contacts. I knew exactly how the story would end and what would happen to Lucas right from the start, and for me the ending is fitting. It's really hard to say more without giving anything away, but I didn't struggle with justice/redemption.

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  5. HANNAH: Happiest of birthdays to you, and I'm clapping in joy that you are travelling to Switzerland!!

    Looking forward to reading NEVER COMING HOME! It's great that you have been able to find and tap so many useful resources for your (book) research.

    It was often the opposite for me. I started doing climate change research at Environment Canada in the 1980s. For many years, I encountered plenty of climate change deniers in provincial/federal government, municipalities and private industry who scoffed at the idea of water shortages, heat waves and more intense extreme events in the Great Lakes Region. It took me, and my climate change colleagues awhile to figure out how to find and partner with climate change "champions" to do our collaborative multidisciplinary research.

    Many of these same groups are now clamoring for data and ideas on how to tackle climate change in Canada, and there's a void of knowledge and action at the federal and international levels.

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    1. You are so fascinating, Grace. I am constantly in awe.

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    2. Thank you so much, Grace. It feels amazing to be here. Three years is way too long.
      I'm so sorry you encountered such resistance. You truly have a fascinating background!

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  6. Happy Birthday, dear Hannah! Enjoy your visit with your mom.

    People think that writers lead solitary lives, but you sure make the most interesting friends! Do you keep in touch with any of your sources to consult again for future books? Or, have you actually become friends with any of the experts you have consulted?

    I must confess that I bristle if the bad guys win. My sense of justice extends to the books I read. Especially, since there is no way to ensure that justice be truly served in the real world, I insist on it in the books I read. Never Coming Home sounds very twisty. I know that you have created an appealing antagonist and a very interesting POV for the reader. How do you balance this when you decide on the endings?

    One more thing, you began with rom coms and you have one coming out at Christmas (yay), how did you switch genres? Which is more fun to write?

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    1. Oh, Great question...we will definitely get Hannah back to talk about her rom com--and I fear the time zones (and her birthday with family) are interfering with her commenting!

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    2. Great questions! And thank you for your birthday wishes. Yes, I do keep in touch with my sources and have used a few of them on multiple occasions, and some indeed have become friends.

      I knew the ending for Never Coming Home before I'd even plotted it, and I believe it's balanced but I can't say more or I'll give too much away.

      As for rom coms or thrillers, I'm enjoying them equally. The rom coms are sweet and make me laugh, and thrillers have me cackling with glee.

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  7. Hannah, I hope you get to celebrate your birthday with no jet lag! Happy birthday.

    Love the idea of a murderous husband getting his, and what a brilliant idea to tell the story from his viewpoint. Sounds like a villian we will love to hate!

    I'm a nonfiction writer, and the two main books I wrote depended heavily on personal interviews, more than 120 of them. So many were thrilled just to be asked to tell their stories, and everyone gave so generously of their time. More than 500 hours of interviews, plus about two dozen in-person tours of workrooms and studios across the US made their way into the books. This was in the sewing industry, which is where I wrote, lectured, and taught for more than 20 years. I was able to also go to big industry shows with commercial equipment, and enough supplies to recreate a harem of sumptuousness: lavish fabrics, trims, beads, feathers, etc. Fun times!

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    1. No jet lag! I wonder! We will get a full report when she's back in the swing..xooxo Oh, your research sounds so gorgeous!

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    2. No jet lag last night but the second night is always the worse. Crossing fingers I'll be okay. Your research sounds absolutely incredible. Wow! So many interviews and details. Very impressive. Tell us more about the books?

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  8. Happy birthday Hannah! And congrats on the new book--it sounds amazing. I loved hearing about all your research. I had my most fun research while writing the golf lovers' mysteries, but Key West has been wonderful too. Retired policeman Steve Torrence is my go-to guy, but the chief will answer questions too. The great thing about getting out of your own head is you get fresh ideas.

    I also cannot wait to hear about the women's fiction novel that's coming later...

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    1. Lucy, it is SUCH a departure! Fascinating..and I know it's been a journey for Hannah too--when she's back in our time zone, she will tell us all about it!

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    2. Thank you so much. Totally agree. My conversations with Bruce always spark different avenues and more details.
      Yes, my holiday romance - oooh, I'm having such fun writing it. Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells!

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  9. Congratulations, Hannah! I once wrote a short story from the antagonist's POV, but a whole novel would definitely be intriguing.

    I can second the recommendation to call someone if you need expert details and don't be shy. I've had some of the most wonderful conversations with law enforcement officials and lawyers that all started with, "I'm a mystery author; I'm writing a book and I was wondering..." People love to share their knowledge.

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    1. You are SO right! They truly do.

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    2. 100% agree, and it's so much fun chatting with people about their expertise.

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  10. Congratulations, Hannah! And I really enjoyed hearing about all the sources you have tapped into in your research over the years.

    Most of the times when I have encountered significant portions of a novel from the antagonist's point of view they have been truly evil antagonists -- serial killers, mostly -- and I did not enjoy spending time inside their heads. But I can see that this character is different from that, so perhaps the whole experience would be different.

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    1. Yes, somehow Hannah made him funny, and even, dare I say, endearing! Wait til you read it!

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    2. It can be such hard work being in the killer's mind for an entire novel, which is why I gave him a sense of humor (and a dog). I needed him to make me laugh, and hopefully he'll amuse readers, too.

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  11. Congratulations! I look forward to reading your latest. I have a cordial relationship with the local police department where I completed the citizen's police academy (though, one officer told me "we know your car"). And the county coroner has a public information office I've used.

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    1. That's hilarious! My favorite citizens academy experience was when I volunteered to --as he B+FBI agent put it--"beat the lie detector." Which--I kind of did. And they were so mad. They were SO MAD! And I'm like--you TOLD me to do it! But the didn't like me at all after that. And I'm told, they still discuss it. :-)

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    2. "We know your car" - what did you DO??? Lol. And Hank - come on, tell us more!

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  12. Happy Birthday, Hannah! Research I’d one of the most rewarding aspects of writing. Hope your trip to Switzerland is a blast. My ancestors came from there and I’ve always wanted to visit. Safe travels.

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    1. Oh, we all cannot wait to hear about it! xxxI'm sure she'll come comment when she knows what day it is! xx

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    2. I *think* it's Wednesday, lol. Do you know which part of Switzerland your ancestors are from?

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  13. Happy Birthday Hannah! Never Coming Home sounds FANTASTIC! Can't wait to read it. I am very shy and hesitate to approach people for my research - this is something I am working on getting over. I love to hear people talk about what they do or share interesting things they have done or know, so I don't know what holds me back. As you said, you are not asking for money or a favor - thanks for this small push!

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    1. Yes, we all agree most people LOVE to help! Let us know if you want to chat. xooxo ANd GO for it!

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    2. Thank you, Christine, I'm so glad you found it helpful. Maybe you could start with a warm introduction, i.e. an author friend who connects you with an expert so you're not calling them out of the blue? That might help :-)

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  14. Just downloaded Her Perfect Life onto my Kindle! And Happy Birthday Hannah.

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    1. And I downloaded it for my Nook app! Thanks, Hank.

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    2. And I got it on my Kindle, too!

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    3. HANK: i also downloaded your ebook on my Kindle app as soon as I got your newsletter yesterday.

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    4. YAAYYY!! You are all amazing. Thank you! This is incredibly kind of you. I am touched, and honored and delighted. Thank you, all of you!!

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  15. Happy birthday, Hannah, and happy book birthday, too!

    I love research, but sometimes it can have unintended consequences. I researched a way to kill using a common, available, over-the-counter item. A year after the book was released, a woman in Oregon used the same method to kill her husband. Fortunately my first ever, indy released book did not have sufficient sales for me to suspect I'd been her research source!

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    1. YIKES. Even THAT is a good plot, right??

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    2. Oh blimey! That would be scary. Thank you for the lovely wishes.

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  16. Safe flight and happy birthday Hannah. I'm in awe of all you writers who can call strangers and convince them you are writers and just looking for information, especially when you were just starting your careers.

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    1. CONVINCE them! Ha! xxoo Oh, true, early on, you mean. :-) xxx

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  17. Happy birthday, Hannah! Enjoy your time in Europe.

    Thanks, Hank for the book sale.

    I was 18, a freshman in University and writing a bit for a class in public speaking. I'd just read Jessica Mitford's The American Way of Death and decided I need to convince people of the social value of cremation. I made an appointment with a local funeral director, got dressed up in my best clothes and went in. I pretended that my grandfather was near death and I had been tasked by the family to get the scoop on what it was going to cost. The guy treated me with great respect and answered all my questions. I don't remember any thing beyond the horror that I had made up this story and the terror that I'd be discovered. No more undercover work for me!

    For some reason, my professor found all of this very strange and my speech unpersuasive. Oh well.

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    1. That is a GREAT story. A wonderful story in intention, and consequences. I love it. xoo

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    2. Thank you so much. What a fantastic story. I love it! And boo to your professor!

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  18. Happy Birthday to Hannah! I am so looking forward to Hannah’s latest book!

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  19. HANNAH MARY: Happy Birthday! I often get lost in the rabbit hole when researching for my novel in progress. When you mentioned the antagonist's point of view, I was reminded of Agatha Christie's MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD. And congratulations on your latest novel!

    Diana

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    1. Yes--exactly! A real juggling act, right? But the books are completely different!

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  20. Happy Birthday, Hannah Mary! I enjoy joining with others to watch you on First Chapter Fun!

    A few years before I retired, I had to start using a computer program for which there was no handbook. It was a program that listed registered voters in our state and their addresses, which party, if any, they were registered with, and when they had last voted. I worked for my city and I needed the program to determine the legal addresses of people applying for certain types of benefits from the city. I was told to “practice” by looking up people I knew. I was shocked to find out how many people I knew had never bothered to register to vote, or were registered voters who hardly ever voted. And I got carried away with the research and started looking up almost everyone I had ever known!

    DebRo

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    1. We LOVE seeing you on First Chapter Fun! ANd wow, that is a FASCINATING story. And kinda weird instructions, I think. :-)

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    2. Thank you for your wishes, and your unwavering FCF support!
      And what an incredible story!

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  21. Happy birthday, Hannah! And, wow, Never Coming Home sounds amazing. Was it weird to spend so much time in the antagonist's head? I love doing research, too, but while I'm not shy generally, I'm not nearly as confident as you when it comes to asking questions of experts. I'm going to take a page from your book:-)

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    1. Be careful of taking pages from Hannah :-) --she's adorable in real life, but SO devious in her novels! xxxxx

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  22. Happy Birthday, Hannah! Interesting essay about the joys of researching -- and you are so right: people love to share their expertise. And we lose nothing by asking them to share it.

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    1. Thank you! Yes, I agree. I don't think I've had anyone ever say "no, I won't help you." Most are incredibly flattered to be asked.

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  23. Hannah, how brilliant!!! The antagonists point of view. What an endeavor. I can't wait to read Never Coming Home and also - happy birthday!!!

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    1. Jenn, you will totally love it! SO darkly funny!

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  24. You all, I fear Hannah is tangled in time zones from her spur of the moment trip--I know she'll come chat with us as soon as she can!

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  25. I am so late today, but good reasons involving going to see granddaughter. Hannah, your new book sounds so interesting. Being told from the antagonist's viewpoint is intriguing. I'm looking forward to reading Never Coming Home.

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    1. How lovely, Kathy. I hope you had a lovely trip.
      I'm so pleased Never Coming Home has intrigued you. I hope you enjoy Lucas and his antics!

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  26. Looking forward to Never Coming Home!

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