{Writing in Canada} Author Interview with Allie Brennan

It’s been a long while since I’ve done an interview on the blog — I feel like it’s finally time to start doing more of them! And since I’m trying to incorporate more Canadian books and authors on the blog, why not have some interviews with Canadian authors? I hope to meet many more Canadian authors in the future, so here is hopefully the first of many!

Allie Brennan had sent me a super cute email months ago. I was still in that stage of childrearing where I had no time for much, let alone responding to emails, so I left the email alone. Finally, a few weeks ago, I reread the email (with a smile on my face!) and looked up Allie’s books on Goodreads and bought all the books she had available. TOTALLY fell in love with her writing and knew I had another favourite author on my hands.

About halfway through, I decided to contact Allie for an interview and she agreed … so, without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to Canadian author, Allie Brennan!

allie brennan1. Why did you become a writer? What (or who) inspired you to do what you do?

There are lots of stories of authors who had a dream, or were hit with an idea, or who read a famous book and said I want that. I’m not one of those authors. I’ve always written. Sporadically when I was young and then gave it up completely in my late teens/early twenties because I was supposed to “act like an adult” and not live in these fantasies anymore. Well, that didn’t last either.

I wrote and illustrated my first story at the age of ten as a Christmas present for my young cousin. At age thirteen I was forced into counseling at my school for the disturbing nature of my stories and my imagination. At 19 I wrote my first novel but quit about 2/3 of the way through. At 24 I completed my first novel and spent two years revising it obsessively before admitting it just wasn’t a great story. At 27 I published TIGHT KNIT.

Writing and I have had a love/hate relationship my whole life, but I didn’t get into for any specific reason other than it just wouldn’t leave me alone. I’ve gathered many inspirations since then, in other authors, friends, experiences and landscapes. I study the people I admire and spend lots of time in places I love.

2. What is the atmosphere like when you write – completely silent, or do you listen to music?

It depends on the project. When I wrote TIGHT KNIT, I listened to The National and Wintersleep on repeat the entire time exclusively. I couldn’t listen to anything else at all. When I write fantasy I tend to listen to classical or movie scores. When I wrote the TRUTH ABOUT US (Written as TJ Hannah) I had a playlist of random songs that reminded me of the characters. It changes for every project. I love writing with music playing, but when I edit I need silence. I need more of my brain and less distraction.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00031]3. Tight Knit made me want to pick up my knitting needles, even though I’m a terrible knitter! Are you a knitter? Who or what inspired that book? Can readers expect more of Talia and Lachlan in the future?

My mom taught me to knit when I quit smoking, but I never got any good at it. My Nana knit but I remember her crocheting more than knitting. It’s a great and useful skill to have! I wish I spent more time learning it!

TIGHT KNIT was inspired by my Nana. Each character has a specific character trait of Nana. The endless love of Nan. The severe anxiety disorder of Talia. The medaling nature of Georgina. The gruff pessimism of Mary Beth. The sternness of Greta. The only character that has NONE of Nana is Lachlan. Lachlan actually surprised me. He was never supposed to exist the way he does.

I get a lot of notes and reviews saying that the ending was unsatisfying and that I should write more of them. I would never say never. But as of right now, I think that these two have been through enough together and apart. I’m just going to let them be for now. But if ever a great idea for them came up, I would write it for sure.

4. What book(s) are you reading right now? Any favourite authors you might like to mention?

I’m like a four year old when it comes to books. Every day I have a new favourite author. Every book I read is my new favourite book. I will mention my new found love for Courtney Summers (who is also Canadian) after reading THIS IS NOT A TEST. The sequel comes out in January and I’m very much looking forward to it! Currently I’m reading the SHATTER ME series and my current feelings on it are lukewarm but this has happened to me before. I tend to reserve judgment for when I start actually understanding what’s going on. By the end it will probably be my new favourite series!

Some of my all time favourites over the years include: Brave New World, The Collector, 1984, Harry Potter, Junky, Oryx and Crake… a million others!

5. I love being a Canadian, especially getting to travel and see the beauty of the country. I know you live in one of the prettiest parts of the country, but are there any other Canadian places you love, or would love to visit?

I absolutely fell head over heels in love with Yukon Territory. I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. But that said I also love Saskatchewan (where I grew up) and I really miss the huge thunder storms. My partner and I would love to do a cross Canada trip to hike/bike/paddle all the amazing places across this country. If I had to be specific about one place I’d love to go it’s the Maritimes.

Girl and way6. When you’re not writing, what do you do in your spare time?

Well, reading is a big one. But most of my non-writing time is spent outdoors. I ended up with a Mountain Man and he’s always planning our next adventure even before the current one is over. We hike a lot. It’s also winter for most of the year here so snowshoeing is a big hobby. I’ve just gotten back into cross country skiing a bit since abandoning it as a child, but being pregnant it won’t be long before I’m too heavy for my skis and will have to stick to the snowshoes.

7. What has been the most challenging part of writing and publishing? Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

The most challenging part of writing is doing it when I don’t feel inspired. But I just keep telling myself that 500 words is better than no words… Everyone writes in a different way. I write differently depending on the project I’m working on. I wrote TIGHT KNIT in 5 weeks, I wrote another book of mine in 10 days… Both those books needed heavy and devoted editing. I wrote one book over six months and another over a year, one needed barely any editing, the other needed to be totally rewritten.

So when it comes to advice for writers I say do what is necessary to get your book down and get it right. You don’t need to be a certain “kind” of writer. You need to tell your story the way it needs to be told, and that will change from project to project. Allow yourself to grow and evolve.

Publishing in general is challenging for me. If you’re the type of person who takes things personally, publishing will crush you or make you lose total sight of who you are as a person. That sounds harsh but I really wish someone had told me that when I started. Maybe they did and I just didn’t listen…

Publishing and writing are VERY fundamentally different things. That’s the biggest bit of advice I have really: know the difference and always keep track of your goals. Ignore the trends and write what’s true to you exactly the way it needs to be written.

I try to sit down every few months and get my goals/priorities in order. It helps me remember who I am and why I write in the first place. It also helps me evolve as a writer. My goals are always changing.

8. Can you share any details on what you might be working on next? Any exciting projects in the works?

I’m all over the place at the moment. Like I mentioned above, I often sit down and assess my career. After the epic failure of my second book (not hitting the right audience), I decided that self publishing wasn’t the ideal place to publish YA for me. I have an agent now that deals with my Young Adult titles. I have a book on submission with her, one in the editing phase, and one half written. My New Adult titles are self-published (and always will be unless a publishing house come knocking at my door) under the name TJ Hannah, but those have been on hold for while as well due to life readjustment things. I also write YA paranormal with Jolene Perry under the name AJ Brooks. Our first book is on submission with editors at the moment.

Right now I’m working on a project for NaNoWriMo to boost my confidence and rekindle my love of stories. I need to relearn how write the stories of my heart without letting business get in the way! After this month who knows where I’ll be… and what I’ll decide to finish up next!

Connect With Allie: 
Twitter | Web | Goodreads

Have you guys read any of Allie’s books? If you haven’t, stay tuned tomorrow … I might have a special treat for you all! 



Review (and Q&A): Hidden by Catherine McKenzie


Thank you to Savvy Reader for including Reading In Winter on the Hidden Blog Tour! Catherine McKenzie is one of my favourite Canadian authors and one who I recommend to everyone I meet! You can start reading the story on Catherine’s Facebook page — the more likes she gets, the more she reveals of the story! Check that out here!

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hiddenTitle: Hidden
Catherine McKenzie
Date(s) read
: November 10, 2012
Genre: Contemporary
Source: HarperCollins Canada & Savvy Reader / Book Tour (ARC)


When a married man suffers a sudden fatal accident, two women are shattered—his wife and someone else’s—and past secrets, desires and regrets are brought to light.

While walking home from work one evening, Jeff Manning is struck by a car and killed. Not one but two women fall to pieces at the news: his wife, Claire, and his co-worker Tish. Reeling from her loss, Claire must comfort her grieving son and contend with funeral arrangements, well-meaning family members and the arrival of Jeff’s estranged brother—her ex-boyfriend—Tim.

With Tish’s co-workers in the dark about her connection to Jeff outside the workplace, she volunteers to attend the funeral on the company’s behalf, but only she knows the true risk of inserting herself into the wreckage of Jeff’s life. Told through the three voices of Jeff, Tish and Claire, Hidden explores the complexity of relationships, our personal choices and the responsibilities we have to the ones we love.

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Thank you to Savvy Reader and HarperCollins Canada for sending me an ARC of this book! 

Being a Canadian, I am always on the lookout for my next favourite Canadian author. When I first found out about Catherine McKenzie, I was thrilled. Her books had the perfect blend of seriousness and chick lit that I just ate up — it was nice to find something that was a light, easy read, but something that still had some substance to it.

Hidden is very much a departure from her previous works. Bordering more on the serious and not so much on the lighter fare of chick lit, it’s a story about grief and how different people deal with it. It’s the aftermath of losing someone you love, whether you were that person’s family … or someone else.

I really liked how even though this was a different kind of work from Catherine’s other offerings, it was still easy to get into and still very much Catherine McKenzie. Her characters are such real characters, going through real emotions that the reader can relate to. It’s heartbreaking at times, but completely worth the whirlwind of emotions you might feel reading the story.

The only slightly jarring thing for me was the inclusion of Jeff’s voice. At the beginning, I thought it was strange to hear the story from the guy who died (not a spoiler … It’s on the back of the book), but by the end of the story, I understood why his voice was there. While it’s a story about the aftermath of his death, there are so many things that went on prior to his death, those hidden things, that needed to be told. It was crucial that his voice was heard.

If you’re a huge fan of Catherine’s previous offerings, you’ll really like this one, but it is quite different from her other stories. Still, Catherine is a great storyteller and a Canadian author I’ll be recommending for a long time!


Saturday, August 8, 2009.   Photo/Robert J. Galbraith).Q&A with Catherine McKenzie

1. Why did you become a writer? What (or who) inspired you to do what you do?

I don’t think I made a choice to become a writer, I’ve always just written. As to writing novels, finally buckling down and do it, I had an idea in my head that I couldn’t get rid of. So I guess it was whatever put the idea in my head.

2. What is the atmosphere like when you write – completely silent, or do you listen to music?

It depends on where I am in the writing process but for writing I need music or the TV on and for editing generally silence, particularly copy-editing.

3. I’m a musician and I feel most inspired to write in the springtime. Is there a certain season when you feel most compelled to put pen to paper?

Not a certain season, but definitely certain weather. Sitting in a sunbeam at my dining room table (or anywhere else) is great for me.

4. What book are you reading right now?

Meg Wait Clayton’s The Wednesday Sisters (as part of my 52 books in 52 weeks project). But also: check out The Banks of Certain Rivers by Jon Harrison; it’s awesome.

5. I love being a Canadian, especially getting to travel and see the beauty of the country. Do you have any favourite Canadian spots?

I love being Canadian too! Favourite spots include my home town, Montreal, anywhere on the water, the Rockies and Victoria, B.C.

6. When you’re not writing, what do you do in your spare time?

I watch a lot of TV. A lot.

7. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Write. Write. Write. Just write.

8. Can you share any details on what you might be working on next? Any exciting projects in the works?

Unfortunately, I’m too early in the process on anything to share it, but I’ll let you know!

About the Author

Catherine McKenzie was born and raised in Montreal, Canada. A graduate of McGill University and McGill Law School, Catherine practices law in Montreal. An avid runner and skier, she’s the author of the international bestsellers SPIN, ARRANGED and FORGOTTEN. Her fourth novel, HIDDEN, will be published in June, 2013



Review (and Q&A): Things I Can’t Forget (Hundred Oaks, #3) by Miranda Kenneally


Thank you to Xpresso Book Tours for including Reading In Winter on the Things I Can’t Forget Tour! To read an excerpt of the book and to see what other blogs are participating, visit the tour page HERE.

Click on the Rafflecopter link below to be entered in the GRAND PRIZE giveaway!

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things I can't forgetTitle: Things I Can’t Forget
Miranda Kenneally
Hundred Oaks, #3
Date(s) read
: November 10, 2012
Genre: YA Contemporary
Source: Publisher / Book Tour (ARC)


Companion to Catching Jordan and Stealing Parker.

Kate has always been the good girl. Too good, according to some people at school—although they have no idea the guilty secret she carries. But this summer, everything is different…

This summer she’s a counselor at Cumberland Creek summer camp, and she wants to put the past behind her. This summer Matt is back as a counselor too. He’s the first guy she ever kissed, and he’s gone from a geeky songwriter who loved The Hardy Boys to a buff lifeguard who loves to flirt…with her.

Kate used to think the world was black and white, right and wrong. Turns out, life isn’t that easy…

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Thank you to Sourcebooks & Xpresso Book Tours for sending me an ARC of this book! 

Things I Can’t Forget, a companion novel to the Hundred Oaks series, was a very difficult book to read. While the tone is set quite differently from the first two books in the series, we get some of the same characters, and are introduced to a few new characters. The whole story is still very much Miranda Kenneally, but if you have aversion to religion or abortion, you may want to tread lightly.

I think one of the things I liked best about this story was the relationship between Parker and Kate. Not only was it great to see Parker so much in this story, but her and Kate had a different kind of friendship. I could see where Parker (as well as Kate’s friend, Emily) was coming from when she told Kate she was too judgmental, and I think that Kate really needed to realize that for herself, too — that it’s okay to live by the word of God, but sometimes when it comes to friends, you can’t just preach at them that their sinning, you must be compassionate as well.

Just like seeing so much of Parker was a treat, it was great to see other characters from the first two books, like Jordan, Sam Henry, Will, and Drew. It felt like a reunion from the other books and since I knew their stories, I was interested to see how Kate fit in with all of them.  Continue reading