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When the paperback release of one of my favorite books of all time, The Great Alone, came out, I was delighted to have the opportunity to interview the lovely Kristin Hannah. She’s an author I’ve long admired, and I loved being able to pick her brain! I hope you enjoy the interview, and if you haven’t picked up The Great Alone yet, trust me: You’re going to want to add it to your TBR.
The Great Alone is so atmospheric; Alaska is really like a character of its own. Can you tell me a little about where you drew your inspiration while writing this book?
Kristin: Alaska is very much a part of my history and my family. In the late seventies, my parents ventured north to Alaska and fell in love with the people and the land. They founded The Great Alaska Adventure Lodge on the banks of the beautiful Kenai River. Now, all these years later, it is still our family business; three generations of my family have worked there. It’s taken me years to find a story to match my view of Alaska. I am thrilled to be able to offer my love of Alaska to readers.
You’ve written so many different kinds of historical fiction. What would you say makes historical fiction worth reading? Do you have any advice for aspiring historical fiction authors?
Kristin: Historical fiction is absolutely critical, in my opinion. It expands minds and brings people together, and perhaps most importantly, it reminds us that if we do not learn from the past, we are in danger of repeating previous mistakes. My advice for aspiring historical fiction writers—or for any fiction writers—is to read, learn, study, write, and don’t give up.
You’re known for writing stories about remarkable, strong women (shout-out to the sisters from The Nightingale!). Why do you love writing about strong female characters, and who are some of your real-life female role models?
Kristin: I love writing about ordinary women who find the strength and courage to survive in extraordinarily dangerous and difficult times. Women are tough and strong and too much of women’s’ history has been ignored for too long. I have so many real life female role models. First and foremost, Ruth Bader Ginsberg comes to mind. I am consistently and constantly amazed and inspired by her courage, her strength, and her intellect. Other role models include women that I’ve read about in my research—the women of the French Resistance, the women who chose the danger of hiding Jewish children during the war; women who boldly led the charge on the vote, on rights, on any number of issues.
What is your writing process like?
Kristin: My writing process is rather cumbersome and slow. I begin by research, always. This usually lasts for many months, sometimes up to a year. Once I have a good sense of the themes I intend to explore, and a strong sense of character and plot, I begin writing. About every one hundred pages, I reassess what I’ve written and begin again. I usually rewrite several drafts before I send off to my editor and begin the process again.
What book are you reading right now?
Kristin: I recently read American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins and thought it was great.
Thank you so much, Kristin, for taking the time to answer these questions!