To call novelist Kristin Hannah simply a women’s fiction writer is an understatement. She is the author of New York Times bestsellers such as True Colors, Firefly Lane, and, most recently Winter Garden. However, to dismiss Hannah’s writing as “women’s fiction” or “book club” fiction – and let’s face it, thanks to gender politics, this is not improbable — is to underestimate her personal mission. In her own words: “The hallmark of my books is the relationships that define women’s lives…I find our lives endlessly interesting and endlessly entertaining. We women as glue for the family lead lives that are important and conflicted. What we women choose to give up for our families is important and valid.”
Kristin Hannah knows something of family relationships, of loss, sacrifice, and perseverance. Once a practicing attorney, Hannah faced the terminal illness of her mother during her final year of law school. At the time, Hannah all but dismissed her mother’s assertion that Kristin was “going to be a writer.” However, the two did begin working on a novel together; a novel that took second place to Hannah’s legal career until she was forced into bed rest during pregnancy. Desperate for something to while away the hours, she unearthed the manuscript and began to write.
The act of writing morphed from a hobby to a career and into an obsession. When asked about her habit of writing longhand rather than on a computer, Kristin Hannah had a response both practical and idyllic. “I can be a little OCD when it comes to my writing. I love to write. I discovered early on that my body couldn’t take sitting at the desk for the house that I wanted to write…So, A) It was better on my body. B) It was more convenient. C) It was more immediate in terms of tapping into my creative mind. Writing longhand made me a faster, braver, better writer. And, also, it allows me to sit on the beach, which is important. I do a lot of beach sitting.”
Kristin Hannah’s writing is shaped by her geography. When asked about living in Washington State, she enthused. “I am such a Pacific Northwest girl. When I was young, my dad was kind of an adventurer…he liked to move a lot. I was born in California, but by the time I was in third grade, the state was filling too fast. It was a long trip in a VW bus; we kept moving place to place. Most places that I write about are places that I have lived.”