What It Takes to Be an Author: Irene Hannon, Author of "Driftwood Bay"


While the subject of this post could merit an entire book, I think renowned author Leon Uris captured many of the necessary qualities in one (albeit long) sentence. The ideal novelist, he said, “would own the concentration of a Trappist monk, the organizational ability of a Prussian field marshal, the insight into human relations of a Viennese psychologist, the discipline of a man who prints the Lord’s Prayer on the head of a pin, the exquisite sense of timing of an Olympic gymnast, and by the way, a natural instinct and flair for exception use of language.”

That’s a tall order.

Sadly, few authors (this one included) measure up to such lofty standards.

Besides the qualities Uris mentions, I could throw in a few more—a hide as tough as an elephant’s, an ego as strong as a politician’s, and the perseverance—and faith—of Thomas Edison. For those who don’t know, Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts to invent the lightbulb. Yet he didn’t characterize them that way. As he said, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The lightbulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”

I like that attitude—and it applies to inventing stories and characters as much as it applies to the lightbulb. The truth is, very few writers write their best book—or sell their first book—straight out of the gate. Becoming a successful writer is a matter of trial and error—and mistakes aren’t wasted time or effort. They’re just steps along the way.

Like Edison, a person who wants to succeed in this business has to forge ahead despite the dead ends and detours and naysayers, always keeping the goal in sight.

I’ve been published by traditional publishers for many years, and my 56th novel will release in April. It’s been an amazing ride—but not one without potholes and rough stretches. And while we all aspire to be the perfect writer Uris describes, none of us will ever achieve that goal—because it’s a lifelong journey, with the destination always still ahead. That’s because no matter how good we are, we can always get better.

It’s also important to remember that while there’s much we can’t control in the publishing industry, we can control our attitude, our work ethic, and our commitment to continually improve.

So whether you’ve sold one book, ten books, fifty books—or are still waiting for that first sale—my best advice is to work hard to make every books better than the last, never stop learning, and never give up.

That’s what it takes to be an author.


Irene Hannon is the best-selling author of more than 35 novels. Her books have been honored with the coveted RITA Award from Romance Writers of America, the HOLT Medallion, the Reviewer's Choice Award from Romantic Times BOOKreviews magazine and the Daphne du Maurier Award for mystery/suspense. Irene and her husband make their home in Missouri, USA. Irene invites you to visit her at her website, www.irenehannon.com