Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Interview with Hannah Alexander and a Giveaway!

Update Monday, 9/1/14 WINNER!

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Timestamp: 2014-09-01 19:38:38 UTC

Congrats to Beth! Email me your address, Beth, and I'll send the book your way!
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I'm happy today to introduce you to Hannah Alexander. I was thrilled to meet her in Atlanta at ICRS back in June, as I have enjoyed her books for years, long before I ever heard of blogging or dreamed I'd ever get to review books! Hannah Alexander is actually a pen name of a husband and wife team, as you will learn in the interview below. Their most recent release is Hallowed Halls, which I reviewed here. I have an autographed copy of this book to give away at the end of the interview!

I'm so excited to meet you. I discovered your books in the library and read them long before I started blogging and reviewing books. I enjoyed the Girls Write Out blog when you blogged with Colleen Coble, Diann Hunt, Denise Hunter, and Kristen Billerbeck, but y'all aren't doing that anymore..

No but I'm blogging at Christians Read. I blog every other Tuesday there. Vicki Hinze started that, and it's really growing. There are 16,000 people on it now.

Wow! How have I not known about that? I'll definitely check that out. Hannah Alexander is your pen name and you do all your writing and correspondence as that, correct?

Yes. We even have a mailing address, a post office box, that is in another town because people have come to my front door and knocked on the door!

I've noticed that recently you've been more upfront about saying "Hannah Alexander is the pen name of Cheryl and Mel Hodde."

We did and now I'm not doing it as much, but everyone knows anyway so why even bother? I tried it with this book that just came out, Hallowed Halls, and just said "husband and wife writing team." But part of what people like about us is that we tell our love story. Our pastor introduced us. I'd been through a horrible time. My husband divorced me for another woman – the whole bit. I'm very open about that. Then our pastor introduced us. The first time we met, we started talking on this arranged date, and I asked him how to paralyze somebody! He looked rather shocked and stammered a bit and I said, "Oh, just temporarily." I finally realized I had scared the guy to death, that he didn't know I'm a novelist. Once I explained that and that I wanted to do it just temporarily in a book, we started talking and he got really involved in it. That's when we started collaborating. He gives me all the medical information. He doesn't do the writing. He can't even figure out what I'm doing until I'm done. Then he reads it and helps me with the medical scenes, which I'm not doing as much now because I can't keep up with him and he's working too hard.

I've loved that because it drives me nuts when a book has inaccurate information. It's like watching a TV show and there's an IV hanging but it's not connected to the patient or it's not dripping.

That's why Mel can't watch medical shows on TV. He'll say, "you just killed that patient!" You have to have the realism because there are so many medical people that read. I've had so many people tell me, "Your books are really realistic." They're right! That's because my husband's a doctor. He'll make me get it right.

That's why I love your books and Harry Kraus's. He's still on my bucket list to meet in person, although we've connected by email and on FB.

Harry, yes! And now he's writing more about some of his experiences in Africa and I'm loving that. He was my favorite author long before I was ever published, when Mel and I first got married. We were at a marriage retreat and I met this woman and as we talked I mentioned he was my favorite author and she said "He's my cousin!" I told her I loved his writing because I love medicine. This was way back when during his early years of publishing They were third cousins and she went home and told him. Then we met him and his wife through writer's conferences and just loved them.

Your recent release is a new venture with the Jerry Jenkins Select. Is this potentially how you will do your books in the future? What publishing house have you previously worked with?

We were with Bethany House and then we did a couple of books with Barbour. When Steeple Hill Women's Fiction line began, we helped launch that. Our editor came in when we did and she retired last year. We had worked together ten years and I thought, "That's it. I can't work without Joan." So everything has changed. They've discontinued that line, which was long Women's Fiction, so the first book in the new series –I had ten books published in the Hideaway series, and one book was orphaned and just fell through the cracks. I had one book with Summerside, and it fell through the cracks because they lost their marketer and sold to Guideposts. I'm doing a few of the shorter ones, but there are so many restrictions. I have one set in 1855 and I can't use whisky, which was medicinal. The Jerry Jenkins Select was a great opportunity.

So will you do it like this again or go out on your own?

He [Jenkins] has so many different choices that you can make. I think I will probably do my e-books myself. But Jerry Jenkins is only going to be doing fiction once a year. From what I understand, he's doing fiction in the spring and non-fiction in the fall. And these are people who have been published forever, not new authors. I would like to continue, I think. It's been a rough learning experience for everyone and we're working out all the kinks, but I'm thinking it will be a good option and it looks like it's going to continue. I would like to work with him again. I'm already working on the next book in the series with Hallowed Halls. I'm all excited about it and I'm going to put it out as an e-book long before they get any hard copies out.

That was going to be my next question, what you are working on next!

I've had the title that I've wanted to write forever, A Class Act or A Very Class Act or something along those lines because it's a class of medical students.

This is the follow-up to Hallowed Halls.

Yes, and one of the secondary characters becomes the main character. When the book opens, she's in a fugue state and doesn't know why. Throughout the book we find out what horrible things have happened to her. She's a psychiatrist and gets too involved with her patients. Joy – the main character in the first book – is her best friend, so they work through it and find out what happened. I'm really excited about it and about the third book. It's women's fiction with some medical aspects and there will always be some mystery to it, but it won't be a murder mystery.

Do you plot or are you a pantser or both?

I do both. I used to sit down and think about exactly what I wanted, and write a scene out on a Post-it notes. I have a long dining room table, and I would write my scenes and then put them on the table and move them around and write from that. That would be my outline. Now, I just sit down and start writing. I go from character. I have to have my characters first, so I write a character sheet for each person. Then I write their stories and intermingle them. So it's character-driven but their plots are involved and I can weave them together. I usually have three vocal people that we are in their minds, three points of view.

Do you have the voices in your head that authors talk about?

No, but I have seen some of my characters on the street. Went running after one! (Laughs) And Mel went right along behind me. I said, "Mel, that's Lauren!" Lauren McCaffrey, from one of our old medical books. I said, "It's Lauren, it's really her!" Then I said, "Wait a minute! I can't go up and talk to her. She's going to freak out!"

Do you stay in control of your characters or do they sometimes surprise you?

I'm not surprised because I've been making up stories since before I could write. The creativity is just a part of me, and I just follow it along wherever it goes. Then I come back and I can edit because both sides of my brain work. My biggest problem is not to edit while I'm writing. I let my characters just lead me along. I have cried with them. And I found myself praying for one of them.

Oh, yes, I've read books where I think, "This is ridiculous. These people aren't even real and I feel like I need to pray for them!"

I know. It's really creepy when you think about it!

What do you like to do when you aren't writing?

Read! But I used to hike all the time. Then I developed fibromyalgia and my mother got sick, and I started taking care of her. She passed away and I kept getting sicker because of the emotional impact. I'm an only child and I have no children of my own, so the realization that I'm the only one left was hard. It's been a very difficult couple of years. I used to hike every week, and now I hike maybe twice a year. When Mel gets home from work we're both so tired from trying to get his new clinic started and so many things we're working on, we just sit down and watch television, shows like NCIS that will make me think about something I want to write. I'm just tired right now.

I've been wondering about your pen name. I read something that said you combined your names, and I can't figure out how you get Hannah Alexander from Cheryl and Mel!

We chose our names, and I chose the first name since I'm the one who does the writing. I chose Hannah because six months after we got married, I went through early menopause at 40. We wanted to have children. He was the man who would have been a wonderful father. So I identified with Hannah in the Bible before Samuel was born. Her hope was in the Lord, so I used Hannah because I identified so strongly with her. Then Mel liked Alexander because it means servant of mankind, and he feels that, as a doctor, he serves mankind. A plus is that it puts us up with Randy Alcorn on the A shelves in the bookstore and people can see us easily.

Thanks for sharing that. That makes your name so special. And thank you for taking the time to talk to me. It's been wonderful to get to know you!

Learn more about Hannah Alexander and her books at her website www.hannahalexander.com and connect with her on Facebook.


I have an autographed copy of Hallowed Halls to give to one of you! To enter, leave a comment on this post by 11:59 pm Sunday (8/31/14) and I will draw a winner. Continental US residents only, please. You must include an email address. Void where prohibited. Winner will have 48 hours to respond when notified or another winner will be chosen.


View blog reactions


karenk said...

a wonderful posting/interview, linda...thanks for the chance to read this novel.

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Beth said...

Loved this interview! I found out some things I didn't know about them! I just read this book. A great read!

R Merr said...

So enjoyed the interview...very informative. I didn't know about the pen name as well as lots of other great info. I love authors who do their research! ewe_r_merritt(at)yahoo(dot)com

Amy C said...

What a lovely interview. I learned a bit about who Hannah Alexander really is.
campbellamyd at gmail dot com

Anonymous said...

Great interview Linda. I love reading about new authors and would love to read this book.
marypopmom (at) yahoo (dot) com

Michelle said...

That's pretty cool that the husband and wife work together on books.
He with the medical info, her on the script. I've have not read any of their works, but would love to.

Andrea said...

Thanks for the great interview. I've read many of her books, but knew little about her.


Beth said...

Thanks Linda! I just sent you an email.