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"Writing was a way to pour out my thoughts and observations without have to look my audience in the eye. I am far more honest on the page than I could ever be in real life."
The world of country music is no stranger to two things: big love and big drama. Annie is the daughter of country music royalty, but has been hiding her talents from the world after the death of her parents and staying cooped up on her grandparents' farm. Clay Coolidge is already famous for his songs (and lifestyle) reflecting women and drinking, but is in need of a reality check. When the two collide on a summer tour together, the possibilities for love are endless in Erin Hahn's debut book.
Erin discussed the inspiration for the book with us, as well as some of the other authors she loves to read and what her next project will be!
How did you become interested in writing?
I’ve always loved telling stories and making people laugh or cry–whatever the situation warranted–particularly at my own expense. Somehow sharing a humiliating story and making my audience laugh so hard felt like taking control of a terrible situation. I could be embarrassed or I could be funny. When I was in fourth grade, my teacher read a short story of mine aloud to the class and everyone was in stitches by the end. I wanted to bottle that feeling. The only problem was in the delivery. I’m way too self-conscious to share my stories publicly. Writing was a way to pour out my thoughts and observations without have to look my audience in the eye. I am far more honest on the page than I could ever be in real life.
In addition to writing, you work with kindergartners. How do you handle a day job and writing
Very carefully. Ha. I treat writing as my second job (or first, for that matter) and therefore give it the time and attention I hope to give my students, when needed. The nice thing about writing books is that you’re never in the same place for long. You’re either plotting, drafting, revising, editing, or marketing. Each of those requires something different from me. I try to do my plotting and the bulk of my drafting during summer break… for now, it’s working out. I imagine it will get more difficult, the more books I write and the more “plates” I’m spinning. I am super fortunate to have an incredibly supportive spouse and kids who are old enough to understand what I am working to achieve.
I read that writing books stemmed out of a discussion with your sister about country-themed Twilight fan fiction. Can you elaborate a bit on this?
Oh gosh. That story will follow me till the end of time, I think. :) First, I have to say that my sister, Cassie, is my biggest fan. She’s been reading my words since we were teens and my favorite thing about her is how brilliant and blunt she is. So I was reading a whole lot of Twilight fan fiction while I was waiting for Breaking Dawn to release, like a lot of people. It was this incredibly exciting time for wannabe authors because YA was taking off and Stephanie Meyers was just this regular mom who dreamt about Vampires and sold millions!! And a movie deal!! With great music!! Anyway, I would obsessively read fan fiction while I was at my day job and had written in college a little and thought, “I could totally do this.” I loved the alternative universe fanfic best because writing vampires felt like cheating the original author (I’m not saying it is… just it felt like it to me at the time). So I wrote a country music themed Twilight fanfic called “Badass and Beautiful”. I’m not kidding. That was the real, actual title. I only wrote maybe one or two chapters before I sent it to my sister, fully expecting she would love it since she loved Twilight as much as I did. She did not, in fact, love it. She wrote me back almost immediately and said, “This is great. Now write your own damn book.” The files were lost two computers ago and I can’t say I’ve tried real hard to find it.
You'd Be Mine is your first book. What was the process of writing, editing, and shopping it like for you?
I wrote You'd Be Mine from November 2016 to March 2017. I say that because I tried to write it during Nanowrimo but after the 2016 election, I was too depressed to produce anything creatively. It was put on hold until after the New Year when I finally felt like writing something of a love story again. I’d written and queried multiple books prior to YBM and racked up a LOT of rejections. I’d finally decided to write what I wanted, whether anyone else would want it or not (and to be frank, with it being about country music, I really didn’t expect anyone to want it). After I finished, I tentatively pitched it in a Twitter contest to a pretty solid reception. I sent out my queries and the agents were biting but three wanted me to revise and resubmit to their visions and… I didn’t want to change it, so I decided to dive fully into querying and within two months, I had something like 15 full requests. At the time of my agent offer, I had 10 still outstanding and a few of those turned into competing offers, but I accepted my first, Kate McKean. We revised and touched up the book for a few more weeks and then I went out on sub. It was terrifying and very fast. Too fast for me to overthink, which was maybe good. Wednesday Books was a brand new Macmillan imprint at the time that featured “coming of age” stories. Since there’s not much of a market for New Adult stories, this was super encouraging. I loved where they wanted to take my book and accepted their offer at the end of July, 2017.
The book dips into the country music world. Why were you interested in writing about this?
Good question! I have a soft spot for country. I grew up in a fairly rural area in Illinois and while I think people associate country with the south, it’s really far more widespread than that. Country is played and loved in rural areas all over the US. My mom and dad split up when I was pretty young and my mom would play a lot of very strong female country artists around the house or in the car as she was doing her thing. We grew up on Reba and the Judds and Martina McBride. There’s an authenticity to country artists that’s unlike any other genre. They tend to go through some shit, but always come back. I adore it. But, as any casual country listener would say, there is a growing movement of pop country that really irks the classic listeners. I wanted to explore that a little. Annie Mathers is the daughter of legends and is straight up classic. Clay is a product of his record label when we first meet him and he’s playing whatever brings the crowds. There’s also the Johnny and June angle. I certainly drew inspiration from the famous couple and their even more famous performance style.
Do you have any advice for writing a romance novel? Were there any writers you particularly liked?
I think the most important thing for me, particularly in writing a YA (young adult) romance novel is to keep it real. Or as real as it could be when writing about celebrities. Love doesn’t fix anything. You can’t love someone into feeling better or healing. Love isn’t magic. I felt a huge responsibility to my teen readers to make this clear. As any romance author, I deal in Happily Ever Afters, but I’m gonna make them work for it just like we do in real life. I don’t read a whole lot of straight up romance, but I loved the relationship between Levi and Cath in Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. Super understated and perfect. The Hating Game by Sally Thorne is obviously incredible. The paint color! Gah!
What are your plans after the book publishes? Will you be speaking at any book stores?
I am fielding invites to speak right now for after YBM launches. The initial launch party will be March 28th in Ann Arbor, Michigan at a local indie bookstore. My good friend Karen McManus (One of Us Is Lying and Two Can Keep A Secret) will be joining me in conversation. I have a couple other planned engagements this fall so far… but no details are locked down yet. As far what’s next, my plan is to keep writing! I have a second standalone YA romance called More Than Maybe coming out in 2020 that has a far more punk rock vibe.
Rachel A.G. Gilman is the Creator/Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Creature.