I met Hannah Alexander last May when she was giving away some books on her website. Of course, I’m all for free books, so I commented that I would love a book. She then emailed me telling me that she would send a book my way and I started telling her about our blog and our new monthly Featured Author & Book Giveaway post we were starting in June. I asked if she would be interested and she said “yes!”. She had a new book coming out in September and would love to be our October featured author and giveaway an autographed copy of her latest book, Keeping Faith. I was so thrilled!!! So now it’s finally October and time for our interview and giveaway. You’ll need to make a comment at the end of this post between October 1st – 8th, to be entered in the giveaway. I have all the “Rules” listed at the bottom, but for now let’s get to the good stuff!!
Let’s meet “Hannah Alexander”:
When Mel and Cheryl were first married, he would come home from work as an ER doc and talk about his day—without ever betraying a patient confidence. She was so inspired by his stories that she decided to write a novel with an ER flavor. With Mel’s medical input, encouragement and help with plotting, and Cheryl’s writing skills, they developed their first novel together, and called it Sacred Trust. Bethany House published it in 1999. Eight months later came the sequel, Solemn Oath. To end the three-book series, Silent Pledge was published in December 0f 2000. They wrote another ER series afterward: Second Opinion, Necessary Measures, and Urgent Care.
Afterward, they signed a new contract with a new editor, Joan Marlow Golan, with Steeple Hill Women’s Fiction, and for the next ten years they worked with Joan, their champion and friend, giving priority to women’s fiction, including contemporary suspense, historical suspense and medical suspense. Their novels have served as launch books for four new lines of fiction, including Steeple Hill Women’s Fiction, Love Inspired Suspense, Love Inspired Historical and Summerside’s American Tapestry. They have won multiple awards, including the Christy Award for Excellence in Fiction, Holt Medallions, Readers Choice, Library Journal Yearly Top Five, and as a writer, Hannah Alexander was finalist for Romantic Times Lifetime Achievement Award.
Now for the interview:
Tell us about yourselves and how you came up with the pen name “Hannah Alexander”?
We chose the name “Hannah Alexander” to incorporate our two names into one. We have read that Hannah means “her hope is in the Lord”, and Alexander means, “servant of mankind”. We live in the Missouri Ozarks where we like to set the majority of our books.
I read a funny story about your first date with Mel, will you share it with our readers?
- “YOU’RE A DOCTOR?” I leaned toward Mel and raised my voice to be heard over the din of Mazzio diners on the night of our first surprise blind date set up by my pastor and church staff. “You could help me paralyze someone, then, couldn’t you?”
- Mel stared at me with some trepidation, and I could read his mind: This was the “nice young lady” Brother Ron wanted him to meet? “Um…well…what, exactly, did you–“
- “I’d better explain myself.” I smiled at him, trying hard to put him at ease. “I write novels. I’m doing research on book number thirteen, and I need one of my characters to be paralyzed through part of the story. Any idea how I could do that without damaging him permanently?”
- With relief and sudden interest, Mel gave me all the information I needed. Actually, I received more than I needed, in detail. I only ate half a slice of pizza the whole evening.
- Thus was my introduction into the world of an emergency room physician. It was Mel’s introduction into fiction. We were both fascinated. A year and a half later, we were married.
How did y’all come up with the idea of co-writing your books? And how exactly do you do it…brainstorm ideas, one writes, one researches, both write?
Mel was telling me one evening how he felt about his calling to medicine. He said he felt it was a sacred trust. Being a novelist, I honed in on those two words. Hmmm. Sacred Trust. Good name for a title. If I recall correctly, that was when I suggested we work on a novel together. I’d always been interested in medicine, and to Mel’s surprise I was able to pick up on some of the diagnoses he made in the ER. I’m the writer in the family, though Mel wrote his share of poetry when he was a boy. I would sit and listen to him tell about cases he’d had in the past, and some of them caught on. I discovered the hard way that it was difficult to wait for Mel to come home to help me work out medical cases that would fall into place in the manuscript. He had to teach me how to do CPR—we started closing the curtains when we feared someone might think he was beating me.
Mel doesn’t pick up on what I’m writing or how I’m writing it in the beginning of the book, because I don’t really know, myself, so I was pretty much on my own until I’d fleshed out the story and he could grasp what I had in mind. Then he would help me write the medical scenes. We did six fast-paced ER novels, and by then I was worn out. I needed to slow down and focus on something less taxing to my brain, and Mel discovered he couldn’t keep up the pace. That was when I began to write women’s fiction. I still have medical characters, but I don’t have nearly as many medical scenes, so Mel’s off the hook. He can edit for me, and he’ll answer any questions I have about medicine that I don’t already know, but now our novels aren’t filled with medical scenes on every page, and I’ve sort of slid into the Hannah Alexander persona while Mel involves himself more and more with medicine.
So Mel is a doctor and he works in the ER and his own clinic, is that right? Sounds like he’s busy, is that why he’s not helping out as much with the books now?
We’re actually both busy with the clinic, so these are busy days for us. Mel works at a local hospital ER on the weekends and at our clinic during the week. I handle the business side of things with the able help of our office manager, while Mel focuses on the patients. He’s loving it, but we’ll be glad when we get the patient load we need to support the clinic and us.
I’m always interested in how authors come up with their stories. How do you get your ideas for your books?
I begin with characters that interest me, so my stories, even the fast-paced suspense, are always character-based. I also love to place those characters in difficult situations such as bad home lives, obsessive-compulsive disorder, dyslexia, and of course medical situations in which my hero has to fight for the life of my heroine, and sometimes vice versa. In my historical novels, my characters are typically herbalists who have learned medicine passed down from their parents or from local Indian tribes. Mel helps me with that research, as well. For those, since I love the idea of living in the past in what we sometimes imagine is a simpler time in life, I place myself in the heroine’s shoes and have her doing what I hope I might do in their situations. For instance, in The Wedding Kiss, my heroine is left homeless, and she has to ask the husband of her deceased best friend to marry her. My favorite heroine so far is Victoria in Keeping Faith, whose determination to save lives sends her into horrible danger when she leaves the wagon train, and yet she doesn’t give up, even after she steps between an attacking panther and her young, rebellious assistant. I love strong heroines, but I also love stronger heroes.
As soon as I married Mel, I began to rewrite my unpublished novels to make the heroes reflect the depth and kindness of my husband. I’d like to think that’s why my work began to sell—I knew a real hero, and could reflect him well on the written page. Mel has actually saved my life, risking his own in the process. We were hiking along a steep embankment of slick-rock in Utah and I began to slide backward. Thirty feet below was rocky ground. Mel jumped behind me just in time and pushed me back against the rock wall, nearly sliding down, himself. He’s my true hero.
That’s so sweet! A real-life “husband” hero is better than a fictional one anytime!
How many books have y’all written? And do you have a favorite?
I’m presently doing rewrites on number 27, which is due to be released in June of 2014. The tentative title for it is Reign of Fire.
Every time I complete a novel, it becomes my favorite, but I’d have to say that, over all, the novel titled Hideaway, which was the first in a ten-book Hideaway series with Steeple Hill, remains my favorite, and not because it won the Christy. I think the reason I care so much for those characters, Cheyenne, Dane and Blaze, is because they all experience great trauma in their lives and learn to overcome it, coming together as strangers, and forming a bond that is unbreakable.
Do you ever plan on writing a contemporary medical suspense novel again?
I’m working on a series entitled Hallowed Halls, which will involve medical suspense, but not nearly as detailed as our first six ER novels. I don’t know if we could write books like that again, as busy as we are with real medical situations in our lives. Maybe when we retire…
In looking through your website, I found your posts that you write on the blog GirlsWriteOut, and you really have a great sense of humor. How often do you write on this blog? Have you ever thought about writing a funny, romantic, sleuthing novel?
I used to blog on GirlsWriteOut every week, but situations change so quickly that the service stopped going out to many of our readers who had signed up for it. The girls on the blog are still beloved friends, and we keep in touch weekly. I miss the interaction we had when one of us was always blogging daily. I’m now blogging every other Tuesday on www.Christiansread.com and am presently writing about the trials and joys of romance. I always try to insert humor in my novels to keep them from being so heavy, but comedy is such a difficult note to hit and stay with, I’m afraid I’d be a flop if I had to do a whole comedic novel.
Now that Keeping Faith is out, do you already have plans for another novel? Can you share anything about it?
Reign of Fire—don’t depend on the title being the same when it comes out next year—is set in the same fictitious village of Jolly Mill where Eye of the Storm and Keeping Faith are set. Though Reign of Fire and Eye of the Storm are both contemporary romantic suspense novels, and Keeping Faith is historical, all contain suspense—how much you find of that is in the eye of the reader. Jolly Mill, my setting, is a local, privately owned historical park. The owners of the park gave me special permission to fictionalize my series there, to use the map of the town created by an artist depicting the actual mill and Village of Jollification over 150 years ago.
Wow, that sounds fascinating! I did a search for Jolly Mill and I found a good bit of info. Click HERE to be directed to Wikipedia’s information about Jolly Mill.
The next series I hope to publish will be set along the scenic Missouri River in a fictitious college and med school town by the name of Juliet, set between the real towns of Hermann and Frankenstein. Look them up on the map—they’re just east of Jefferson City.
What do you like to do in your “free” time?
One can dream. I was once an avid hiker, and hiked extensively in several states. For true hikers, logging 1,500 miles on my favorite trails wouldn’t seem like much, but I’m afraid I’ll have to wait until heaven to reach my goal of hiking every trail on the earth. These days I’m blessed if I can make the thirty minute drive to a wilderness preserve for an hour of soaking up the beauty of prairie, forests, birds, deer and rooting armadillos. I think I wore Mel out years ago, and he took up model airplanes. Unfortunately, it’s been almost a year since he’s been out to fly.
Do you have any favorite TV shows or movies?
We have a lot of favorite shows and movies, particularly television shows, where I seek inspiration for fresh suspense or intriguing story lines in NCIS, Criminal Minds (gives me nightmares) Bones (which, strangely, doesn’t give me nightmares) and anything else we can find on Netflix that doesn’t depress us or gross us out too much—remember, Mel’s an ER doc, so nothing grosses him out. I close my eyes during a lot of scenes. We haven’t watched regular television in years, so we’re spoiled when we travel and turn on the TV to discover fifteen minutes of commercials interspersed between ten minutes of actual show.
I haven’t yet found a favorite movie to top Lord of the Rings, though Mel and I are Trekkies, so we watch a lot of reruns. (I’m with you on those…I can’t count the times my husband and I have watched Lord of the Rings and we love Star Trek too!)
Do you have a favorite author? If you’re like me you have a bunch of favorites!
I have a lot of favorite authors in the Christian community, and it seems that my closest friends are some of my favorite authors. These include, but are not limited to, Nancy Moser, Stephanie Grace Whitson, Carol Cox, Colleen Coble, Diann Hunt, Kristin Billerbeck, Denise Hunter, James Scott Bell, Angela Hunt, Judy Miller, Doris Elaine Fell, Rene Gutteridge, Harry Kraus, Lissa Halls Johnson, Alton Gansky, Francine Rivers, Terri Blackstock, Bill Myers, Kathy Herman, Wanda Dyson, Jerry Jenkins, R.J. Larson, Deborah Raney, Vicki Hinze, Miralee Ferrell…and forgive me, but the list just keeps on going. I have, however, read practically every novel written by Dean Koontz, not because I like horror, but because I like to study the flow of his words. It was once said that he writes in iambic pentameter . He also writes with a strong delineation between right and wrong, and sometimes he’s managed to slip his faith into his stories, even passages of scripture. Not many can get by with that in secular fiction these days, so I applaud him for it.
What are you reading now?
I’m presently reading an upcoming Harry Kraus novel, as well as a Miralee Ferrell novel, both for endorsement. I’d better not give anything more away about those, since they won’t be out for a few months, but I can tell you they’re both good.
Do you have a favorite Bible verse?
Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about you and Mel?
I was a wild child who strayed for about five years, made hideous choices in my life, and paid for it through many more years of suffering, but when I came back to the cross and waited on Christ, He placed Mel in my life. Now when I write about romance, I know what the real thing is. Don’t make determinations about a person based on attractiveness or personality or sex appeal. Make determinations based on that person’s faith in Christ, and on the character that lies beneath all the outward trappings. I had to learn that the hard way. It’s a wise person who learns from the trials and experience of others, and especially the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit.
Cheryl, thank you so much for this wonderful interview and personal insight into your life with Mel. I don’t know about other people, but knowing personal information about the author of a book makes it so much more personal to me! I feel like I’ve made a new friend now! Can I email you with some of my symptoms and you run them by Mel? HA!!! I hope you know I’m just kidding! My friends know not to take me too seriously.
Here’s where you can find Hannah (Cheryl) on-line:
Now for the autographed book giveaway:
- You must be 18 years or older and be a U.S. resident.
- Leave a comment in the comment section at the end of THIS post. One entry per person.
- We will randomly compile a list of everyone who made a comment and will draw a name. We will then notify you by email giving you further instructions on collecting your free book. DO NOT include your personal mailing address in your comment for security reasons.
- If we do not hear back from you in 5 days, we will draw another winner.
- Please allow 2-3 weeks for book delivery.
- If you win the book it would be really great if you could come back to this post after you have read it and tell us what you thought about the book.
Next Month – November 2013 – Our Featured Author from June, Ann Gabhart, will be returning to giveaway an autographed copy of her latest book, Christmas at Harmony Hill. Since we got to know her pretty well back in June, we are going to do a different kind of interview, it will be fun and full of holiday traditions and ideas!