Hannah Mary McKinnon is a UK-born author living in Ontario, Canada. She’s published eight novels to date, with more to come! My book club recently read her book, Never Coming Home, a gripping thriller about a man who takes out a hit on his rich wife. Of course, things backfire and spiral out of control fast! Buckle up — this is one suspenseful, nail-biting ride.

Here’s a deeper look at the inspiration behind Never Coming Home and McKinnon’s writing life.

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What was the inspiration for Never Coming Home?

Instead of a news article or a radio segment, which is typically where the inspiration for my books comes from, for Never Coming Home the character appeared first. I wanted to write about someone who was evil, despicable, but also relatable on some levels, and definitely funny—and whose enemies were even worse. Cue Lucas and Bobby Boyle.

The story evolved from there, so it was very much character driven, and writing from the antagonist’s point of view was an entirely new experience. I had so much fun, and thoroughly enjoyed crafting another novel entirely from a man’s perspective.

While I probably shouldn’t admit to this, despite his many flaws, I enjoyed spending time with Lucas because I found him hilarious. I wrote the book during the second half of 2020, so this was very much a pandemic project. My lovely mum passed away that summer, so I needed a place to escape to when everything felt so bleak. I think that’s why this book is my funniest thriller. I needed something to make me laugh.

What kind of research did you do for this book?

This novel took me to some very strange places. First, I needed to understand the dark web, and I listened to several podcasts about it, which were both fascinating and disturbing. I had to spend a lot of time thinking like a criminal, all the way from pickpocket to murderer. I also spoke to the former commander of Ontario’s Emergency Medical Assistance Team and an emergency physician to get the medical details right. As always, my go-to policing and crime scene advice came from retired Detective Sergeant and fellow author Bruce Robert Coffin, and Forensic Detective Ed Adach. I swear they keep helping me get away with fictional murder and we have a blast doing so.

Book cover for Never Coming Home

I don’t do a lot of research before I start writing but tend to put placeholders for areas that need fleshing out and go back to them after I’ve finished my first draft. That way I’m not spending hours on facts that don’t make the cut, or getting sidetracked by facts which are
interesting, but potentially irrelevant to the story.

Were any characters loosely based on real people?

Not real people, no, however, Bobby Boyle was inspired by Christopher Eccleston’s character Raymond Calitri in the movie Gone in 60 Seconds. There’s an exchange between him and Nicholas Cage, who plays Memphis Raines, that always makes me laugh. I could see Lucas and Bobby having this kind of banter.

I love how you made Lucas, the bad guy, still likeable. Please share your process in doing this.

I knew it would be a big ask to request readers to follow Lucas, who we know is a villain right from the start, for the entire duration of a novel. I therefore had to come up with reasons for people to want to stick with him until the end.

First, I thought about Lucas’ history—why, how, and when he became the way he is. Understanding him, his emotions, and his reasoning were key, also for myself so I could write a more rounded character. People may not like him, but hopefully they understand him.

Next, I didn’t make him all bad, because arguably nobody is. For example, he’s very loyal to his dog Roger, and to his father, and cares for both deeply. I also gave Lucas a sense of humor to keep readers entertained, and, with Bobby, an opponent who’s much worse than him.

Of all the books you’ve written so far, which is your favorite and why?

I don’t have a favorite and like them all for different reasons.

My 2023 and 2024 rom-coms because they gave me the warm and fuzzies. My 2024 thriller
because it’s my most ambitious yet. See? I can’t possibly pick one.

What are you currently working on right now?

There’s so much going on in the next year or so! First up is my holiday romantic comedy, The Christmas Wager, which publishes as Holly Cassidy in September 2023. It’s about real-estate hot-shot Bella, who’s tasked with purchasing an old, failing Christmas store in the quaint little town of Maple Falls, which is nestled in the Colorado mountains. She thinks it’ll be easy…until she meets the owner’s stubborn but hunky grandson, electrician Jesse. Bella wants the store for next to nothing, Jesse refuses, and they end up competing in the town’s quirky annual Holiday Games. Sparks fly — as do snowballs — but will these rivals find love together? I’m excited to take you on a trip to Maple Falls this autumn!

Another thriller will release in the spring of 2024 and I’m unbelievably excited already. We don’t have a title finalized yet but it’s about the rise and violent demise of the all-female pop-rock group The Bittersweet. After a fatal car accident, one of the members decides the band may now well be worth more dead than alive. It’s Daisy Jones & The Six meets Ruth Ware’s One by One. I can’t wait to introduce you to my brand-new protagonist, drummer Vienna.

My second Holly Cassidy rom-com will follow in the fall of 2024, and I’m now working on my next thriller.

Any advice for an aspiring author?

Read as much and often as you can and listen to audio books. I wrote an article about how the latter makes you a better author. Write, even if you think it’s rubbish, because an empty page is impossible to edit.

Another tip someone once suggested was to skip ahead if I couldn’t get a grasp on a chapter or scene, that I should focus on another part of the manuscript and trust myself enough to backfill later. It was revolutionary to me, and it beats the heck out of staring at a blank page or shoving my hand in the cookie jar.

Also, I was advised to read my manuscript out loud. Every. Single. Word. Doing so helps avoid repetition, improves cadence, and zaps stilted dialogue.

And, finally, share your work. It can be scary, but it’s the only way you’ll get feedback and improve your craft. Speaking of feedback: try not to take it personally. It’s unlikely lip service will get you where you want to be.

Read more about Hannah Mary McKinnon and sign up for her newsletter here.

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. This means if you use one of my links to make a purchase, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I use these earnings to help fund this blog.