When Josh’s longtime partner, Grace, dies in a tragic accident, he is left with a mess of grief—and full custody of her seven-year-old son, Logan. While not his biological father, Josh has been a dad to Logan in every way that counts, and with Grace gone, Logan needs him more than ever.
Wanting to do right by Logan, Josh begins the process of becoming his legal guardian—something that seems suddenly urgent, though Grace always brushed it off as an unnecessary formality. But now, as Josh struggles to find the paperwork associated with Logan’s birth, he begins to wonder whether there were more troubling reasons for Grace’s reluctance to make their family official.
As he digs deeper into the past of the woman he loved, Josh soon finds that there are many dark secrets to uncover, and that the truth about where Logan came from is much more sinister than he could have imagined…
Author Hannah Mary McKinnon spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest thriller, HER SECRET SON:
What authors or books have influenced your career as a writer, and why?
Lisa Jewell is my long-term favorite author and I’ve followed her journey from feel-good romcoms to family dramas to domestic suspense, and I’m in awe of her talent, career, and reinvention.
David Nicholls is a master at snappy, witty dialogue, something I try to emulate because his work is fantastic.
Jennifer Hillier’s book CREEP had a profound effect on my writing. I picked it up from the library because the back cover intrigued me, and it made me fall back in love with the crime genre, which I hadn’t read much of for years. I will be forever grateful to her (and have told her so in person over coffee!).
Was there anything new you discovered, or that surprised you, as you wrote this book?
I think I discovered my writing is getting darker with each book—and that I’m okay with it!
I also realized the importance of plotting. I didn’t plot HER SECRET SON nearly enough and the last third of the novel almost killed me twice as I couldn’t figure out the relationship between two of the characters, or who I needed to bump off, and how.
Something else I didn’t newly discover, per se, but which was reaffirmed: the generosity of people while I was doing research. I’m continually astounded by how much time and wisdom people are happy to share with me. It’s an absolutely amazing privilege.
What was the biggest challenge this book presented? What about the biggest opportunity?
The biggest challenge with HER SECRET SON was writing an entire novel from a man’s perspective. My second novel, The Neighbors, had chapters from a male perspective, but writing a whole book that way was initially daunting. Would I be able to pull off the voice throughout, and make it believable? I was very conscious of this as I wrote, and it stretched me as an author.
The biggest opportunity was to set the book in the US. My two previous novels were UK-based, and I wanted to write a story that took place closer to home (I live near Toronto, Canada). Ultimately I settled on upstate New York and Maine because I could visit the area to get a better understanding of the setting, a trip I thoroughly enjoyed last summer.
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I hope HER SECRET SON makes readers think about telling the truth—are lies always a no-no? Are they always bad? Or is there wriggle room depending on circumstances? I’d like them to ponder what would they have done in Josh’s or Grace’s shoes.
What’s the one question you wish someone would ask you about this book, or your work in general?
Why do you keep writing unlikable characters?
Because it makes them more interesting in my opinion. Nobody is perfect or likable 100 percent of the time. People are way more nuanced than that. I like to explore what makes people tick, what gives them layers and depth—and also because I don’t expect to like every character in a book, although I do want to understand them.
Hannah Mary McKinnon was born in the UK, grew up in Switzerland, and moved to Canada in 2010. After a successful career in recruitment, she quit the corporate world in favor of writing. She now lives in Oakville, Ontario, with her husband and three sons, and is delighted by her 20-second commute.
Connect with her on Facebook, on Twitter (@HannahMMcKinnon), and on Instagram (@HannahMaryMcKinnon). For more, visit her website.