Between the lines with Hannah McKinnon (Q&A w/ event details)

Local author Hannah McKinnon has several regional events scheduled to promote the publication of her new novel, The Summer House. Details below:

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

R.J. Julia Booksellers / Madison

7:00 p.m.

With author Jeanne Blasberg


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Byrd’s Books / Bethel

7:00 p.m.


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Burgundy Books / Westbrook

2:00 p.m.


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Savoy Bookshop & Café / Westerly, RI

7:00 p.m.

*July events are also being scheduled at New Canaan’s Elm Street Books and Chatham, MA’s Where the Sidewalk Ends; check the author’s website for details.*


Today, I’m joined by Connecticut’s own Hannah McKinnon.

Hannah is the author of the newly released novel The Summer House (Atria/Emily Bestler Books). Her previous adult titles include The Lake Season (2015) and Mystic Summer (2016); she also wrote two YA books earlier in her career: Franny Parker and The Properties of Water. The daughter of two teachers, Hannah attended Skidmore College and Connecticut College before traveling overseas to Australia, where she earned her MA and Sixth year degree in Education. She taught elementary school for ten years before making the decision to write full-time. Hannah and her family make their home in Fairfield County.

Hannah McKinnon
Hannah McKinnon.

Praise for The Summer House:

“Set in a quaint historic Rhode Island town, McKinnon’s latest is both funny and poignant. Her steady paced, expressive dialogue intensifies the genuine family dynamics. A crisis, unforgettable characters and dramatic secrets make this book resonate long after the last page is turned.”—RT Book Reviews

From the publisher:

When Flossy Merrill summons her children to the beloved family beach house to celebrate their father’s eightieth birthday, both cherished memories and long-kept secrets come to light in this charming and lyrical novel from the author of The Lake Season and Mystic Summer. 

Flossy Merrill has managed to—somewhat begrudgingly—gather her three ungrateful grown children from their dysfunctional lives for a summer reunion at the family’s Rhode Island beach house. Clementine, her youngest child and a young mother of two small children, has caused Flossy the most worry after enduring a tragically life-altering year. But Samuel and his partner Evan are not far behind in their ability to alarm: their prospective adoption search has just taken a heart-wrenching turn. Only Paige, the eldest of the headstrong Merrill clan, is her usual self: arriving precisely on time with her well-adapted teens. Little does her family know that she, too, is facing personal struggles of her own.

No matter. With her family finally congregated under one seaside roof, Flossy is determined to steer her family back on course even as she prepares to reveal the fate of the summer house that everyone has thus far taken for granted: she’s selling it. The Merrill children are both shocked and outraged and each returns to memories of their childhoods at their once beloved summer house—the house where they have not only grown up, but from which they have grown away. With each lost in their respective heartaches, Clementine, Samuel, and Paige will be forced to reconsider what really matters before they all say goodbye to a house that not only defined their summers, but, ultimately, the ways in which they define themselves. Featuring McKinnon’s “sharp and evocative” (Kirkus Reviews) voice, this warm-hearted novel is perfect for fans of Elin Hilderbrand and Mary Alice Monroe.

The Summer House

Now, Hannah reveals a few pages from the book of her life …

John Valeri: As a child, did you wear your literary lust loud and proud or were you a closet bibliophile?

Hannah McKinnon: I was a complete literary lust wearer! I kept a book with me on the school bus, on my desk, and littered my room with them. My parents were both teachers and avid readers, so my brothers and I were surrounded by books. We also spent a lot of time perusing titles in our town library. It’s funny because my older daughter is just like that now! Every time I try to talk to her, her face is hidden behind a book.

JV: What book(s) were you likely to be caught keeping company with under the covers?

HM: I was a horse crazy little girl, (still am!), so I was big into the Misty of Chincotegue series by Margaret Henry. And of course the Black Stallion series by Walter Farley. But I also went through a sci-fi phase that introduced me to Madeleine L’Engle and A Wrinkle in Time.

JV: What are you reading currently & what is your initial impression?

HM: I just finished Anita Shreve’s The Stars are Fire, and I was blown away. It was an interesting commentary on the domestic post War housewife in relation to both the era and the role women played in it. There was a good deal of bravery splashed across those pages. I found it both haunting and inspiring.

JV: What one book do you always recommend when asked?

HM: My favorite book: A Separate Peace, by John Knowles. I read it in high school and again in college as an English major. It’s a classic.  I love his insights in to human relationships, both the ones we keep with others as well as with ourselves. We like to think that the strength of those relationships help define us, and yet the fragility and limitations of those bonds do, too.

JV: Which of your own books would you suggest to readers & why?

HM: Well, you’re not supposed to have a favorite book, just as a parent isn’t supposed to have a favorite child. But—I love both of my earlier YA books dearly. They’re coming of age novels with strong female protagonists. But my newest book, The Summer House, is my favorite. I put a lot of heart in that novel, and I explored characters and struggles that I think everyone can relate to: family, parenthood, marriage, child raising, loss, new love.

Evan and Sam are trying to adopt a baby. Clem is healing from a personal tragedy. Paige is navigating raising teenagers and a growing estrangement from her husband. And their mother, Flossy, is just trying to gather all her grown kids under one roof for a week at their once beloved and since forgotten beach house to celebrate their father’s birthday.  And when everyone comes home, they return to their childhood selves and old habits the second they cross that sandy threshold. We see Flossy boiling up a pot of lobsters in the kitchen, while just over head, her daughter is lying in bed reeling from loss. It’s about family and forgiveness, love and letting go, told from each character’s view point. And as heavy as some of those themes may be, there is lightness and laughter surrounding them.

JV: Is there a book or author that readers would be surprised to know you’ve read and liked?

HM: Yes! Stephen King. His genre chills me to the bone, but it’s his book On Writing that marked me both personally and professionally.

JV: Who is the one author that would, or did, make you weak in the knees upon meeting?

HM: I would be weak in the knees to meet J.K. Rowling. Yes, she’s accomplished as a writer and bestseller worldwide. But she’s also a strong voice for women and equality who isn’t afraid to say what she thinks, and that’s a page we can all benefit from taking.

JV: Has there been an “I’ve made it” moment in your career?

HM: I don’t know that any author every feels that “I’ve made it!” moment in terms of longevity or security. If so, I’m still chasing it. That said, the moment I’ll never forget was coming home one spring afternoon to listen to a message on my answering machine from my then agent in Los Angeles. She shouted, “Congratulations! You did it!”, and went on to say that we’d landed a two book deal with FSG for my children’s novels, The Properties of Water and Franny Parker. My family was there and there was quite a scramble for the nearest tissue box. As a writer, your desire is to write the book. But your dream is to get it published. It’s an acknowledgement, to some degree, that your work is worthy. That you can do it. And that you did.

JV: What is your greatest literary ambition?

HM: My literary ambitions have evolved. First, it was to write meaningful work that would resonate with readers. Then it was to get that work published. Now, my biggest ambition is to keep at it.  A lot of writers talk about the fear of the next book. What if the last book was indeed your last? What if you ran out of stories to tell? Those things don’t worry me as much. My greatest ambition is simply to write for the rest of my days, no matter how old I am or where I find myself. To keep growing my readership and keep producing, so that I can continue to carry myself and my family and still be able to do what I love. How lucky I would be!

JV: Fill in the blank: John B. Valeri / Hartford Books Examiner is _____.

HM: … A literary sprite! John connects readers to books- delivering reviews of new titles, introducing authors to audiences, and curating a love of literature. The tooth fairy of the bookish among us!


With thanks to Hannah McKinnon for her generosity of time and thought and to Yona Deshommes, Associate Director of Publicity at Atria Books, for facilitating this interview.


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