Indie Support Sunday: Hannah Bird
The cover for Hannah’s debut The End and Then is what got my attention first, followed by the other pictures on her feed and it was an instant follow. And then I got to read her book and let me tell you that it’s the kind of beautiful I knew it would be based on the absolutely gorgeous cover. It’s a story about grief and overcoming the hard things in life, it’s about moving forward and moving on, but not losing yourself in the process. It’s a powerful story and as Hannah has said many times, it’s inspired by her own life. And you can feel it in every corner of Eden’s story.
The second book, following Eden’s best friend Zoey, comes out this June and is currently available for preorder—What’s Left Of Me. And after meeting Zoey in this first book, seeing that beautiful friendship firsthand and having it remind me of my own friendships, I can’t wait to see the kind of magic Hannah weaves into that story as well.
Newly engaged to her partner (congrats again!) Hannah is also working on her third book. Hannah and I have bonded over Pedro Pascal and The Last of Us, as well as talking about the importance of rest and focusing on ourselves in the middle of the grind that is being an indie author. I am so excited for Hannah’s journey and I can’t wait to keep following her down this fantastic path!
Make sure you pick up The End and Then, I promise you won’t regret it.
1. BEING AN AUTHOR
Who or what inspired you to write?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer, so that part was easy enough. I think deciding what to write, as far as genre or subject matter, was a bigger battle. I ultimately decided on writing stories for people who have been hurt in a larger than life way, and create a story where that kind of beginning has a happy ending. Or at least, as I like to call it, a bittersweet ending. So my stories are inspired by the things people I love have gone through, or people I know, and then I decide what the redemptive storyline for that person will be.
What’s the best and worst part about being an indie author?
Best part is by far having creative control. Choosing your cover, title, content, etc. You don’t have to write to a trend or a trope if you don’t want to. You can be more daring. Worst part is a toss up between the expenses and the time you spend doing anything BUT writing.
Why did you choose to self-publish instead of going the traditional route?
Time, mostly. I did not want to wait six months with my manuscript in an agent’s inbox just to receive a generic rejection when they didn’t get around to reading it. I didn’t want to wait two years for a traditional publishing house to get around to publishing it. And I didn’t want the core of my story to be changed to fit a publishing house’s idea of popular demand.
When you’re not writing, what do you do to get the creative juices flowing?
I read a lot to learn from authors around me. To see the many ways a story can be told. I like to go on walks to brainstorm, it helps me work through plotlines. I love to travel and meet new people. The more people and places you introduce yourself to the more rich and diverse your writing becomes.
If you were to recommend books to me (in any genre), what would they be?
I love any Jodi Picoult novel. I love to have my heart ripped open, to look at life differently when I finish a novel, and hers always do that for me. The Pact is a personal favorite, alongside The Tenth Circle.
What are your top 5 tips or pieces of advice for aspiring authors?
Write. You can’t do anything with nothing. A bad manuscript is better than no manuscript.
Tell the story you would want to read. It doesn’t matter if it fits into a popular box. If it’s told well, it will wow them all the more for being unexpected.
Surround yourself with people who support your journey, whether online or in real life. It helps to feel less alone.
Ask questions. I learned so much about this process by sliding into the DMs of other authors. Everyone is SO NICE.
Especially for self-publishers, invest in a professional editor and cover designer. It makes all the difference.
2. ROMANCE AS A GENRE
Why did you choose romance as the genre to write in? What is your favorite thing about the genre?
I write women’s fiction romance, and I chose it because love is such an integral part of our lives and almost always deeply tied into how we deal with trauma and difficulties. I wanted to write about love and all of its beauty (and its darkness) to show people that it can be good, when it’s right. And that if it isn’t, there is hope for better.
If not romance/subgenres of romance, what genre would you like to write in?
I wish I were talented enough to write a really riveting suspense, but I think I’ll leave it to the experts. (Like Lucy Foley, love her books!)
What are your most and least favorite tropes?
LOVE forced proximity, enemies to lovers, and second chance. Not a fan of miscommunication when it makes no sense. But I’m also of the firm belief that every trope can be done well when handled by the right writer.
What are some tropes you want to write in the future?
I have a second chance that I’m working on next and I’m so excited for it. There’s something about that tender feeling of nostalgia and getting to know someone all over again that you thought you had memorized.
What are some topics (sensitive and otherwise) that you think should exist more in romance?
I specifically wanted to write about a woman who was a victim of childhood sexual abuse because 1 in 4 women are, but you never really see it in books. I want women to feel seen, and to know that the struggles they face as a result of it can be overcome. They aren’t damaged. As someone who has OCD, it would be nice to see it accurately portrayed in novels at the same level anxiety and PTSD get represented.
If you write open door romance, why did you choose that and what inspires your sex scenes?
I just think open door reflects the reality of being an adult. (Not that closed door is childish, to each their own of course!) As a reader, it just feels more realistic to me and more satisfying to experience the fruition of the characters’ flirtations, ya know? And I’ll just say personal experience and leave it at that for the inspiration part.
3. YOUR BOOKS
What inspired your published stories? How and when did you come up with these stories and plots?
The bravery and openness of It Ends With Us definitely made me feel like I could tell the story of Eden in a way that made the reader understand her pain and also set an example for people that it’s okay to put boundaries up between yourself and those who have hurt you. Jodi Picoult’s talent for discussing sensitive and bold topics has been an endless inspiration in my writing journey as well. I came up with the plot for The End and Then in 2020, but didn’t start writing it until the summer of 2022. I meant for it to be a standalone, but when I finished in September I realized I wanted to tell Zoey’s story, and thus What’s Left of Me was born. It will be out in June.
Can you briefly tell me about your books?
The End and Then is about Eden Ross, a woman who has suffered an unimaginable tragedy and moves to the town where her best friend lives to try and begin her healing process. Throughout the book, she goes to therapy sessions where she works through what’s called a Trauma Narrative, a therapy device where you tell the story of what happened to you as a way to process it. In between these sessions, she is navigating falling in love after tragedy and learning that a found family is sometimes better than the one you were born into, and that’s okay.
What’s Left of Me continues with Zoey, Eden’s best friend, as she navigates her struggles with intimacy that result from the domestic violence she suffered a decade prior. She is learning to trust good love when she has it, and that being a victim is not a reflection of anyone’s character but the man who committed the crime. It’s a story of healing from wounds you didn’t want to admit you had, and finding a way forward even when you still carry the marks of the past.
Do you already have a favorite character from the stories you’ve written?
I think Gary would have to be my favorite, simply because he loves the group of twenty- and thirty-somethings that hang around his bar and he is so wonderful to them while also riling them up. His scenes are some of my favorites to write.
If you were to cast your book for a movie/television show, who would you cast in the lead roles?
Oh my gosh, this is so difficult. For Chase, I always picture Doctor Mike (internet personality) but he isn’t an actor so I don’t know if that counts! For Eden, maybe Karen Gillan? Something about her face just feels so perfect.
How much of yourself do you put into these characters?
The End and Then is based loosely on my own trauma narrative, so a lot of myself leaked into those parts of the story. However, Eden’s character acts very differently than I do and responds to trauma in a way that I do not. For What’s Left of Me, pieces of so many women that I’ve loved who have gone through the same situation have woven themselves into the pages.
What is a story/stories that you really want to tell?
My third book deals with stillbirth/pregnancy loss. It’s a really important but painful story. It’s something I’ve thought a lot about, because it is something that has affected my family and friends so intimately, and I want to make sure I write a story in honor of the children lost. There is another story in my heart that I’ve yet to flesh out that deals with forbidden love, and doesn’t have a happy ending. I’m not in the place to write it yet, but I hope to one day.
Is there one common element that readers can find in all your stories?
I would say heavier topics are always going to permeate my stories, because to me that is real life. It’s the life I’ve led and the life so many of my friends and family have as well, and I want to paint those pictures honestly. But you will also always find sweetness and depth in my stories, as well as a whole lot of healing and mental illness rep.
What’s next on the bookshelf for you? Anything you can tell us about a future project?
What’s Left of Me, the sequel to The End and Then, will come out June 6th! It’s written and in the final stages of editing and I’m so excited for Zoey and Aaron’s story to be out in the world. I’ll be starting on my third novel, a standalone, next month, which is a second chance romance set in Ireland. I’m so in love with these characters already, and I can’t wait to tell their story. Oh, and it’s dual POV!!!!
When you write these stories, what are you hoping your readers will feel?
I want them to feel hope, more than anything. Hope for a future and hope for healing. And I want them to know they are not alone in their pain. That life doesn’t have to look perfect to turn out beautiful.
4. AUTHOR’S CHOICE
Paperbacks, hardbacks, ebooks or audiobooks
Contemporary, fantasy, historical or romantic suspense
Single or Dual POV
Standalones, series or standalones in a series
Open door, ajar door or closed door romances
Music or silence when writing
Plotter, pantser or plantser
Water, tea, coffee or….wine?
Cold or warm weather (but really fall weather lol so in between)
Write better in the morning, afternoon or night?
Illustrated or photo cover?