There are few things more important in life than finding
one’s voice. It’s the way we express who we are, and it’s
inextricably linked with the way we see the world. For a writer, it’s
doubly important because it is the wellspring of our vision, and it is
our vision that informs and creates our writing. If you’ve found
a writer that you love, whose books you repeatedly buy, chances are it
is because that writer’s “voice” and vision match your
For me, there have been a number of key ingredients to finding the voice
of my imagination. First and foremost was definitely coming to the Pacific
Northwest. My journey home began in a very different time and place —
Southern California in 1968. Yes, I’m “one of those”
— a former Californian, although honestly, since I moved up here
in third grade, I consider myself a local. I will never forget the night
my father — an adventurer then and now — declared that California
was “filling up” and getting too busy and it was time for
us to hit the road. He and my obviously intrepid mother loaded their three
children — a two-year-old, a four-year-old and a seven-year-old
— into a flower-decaled VW bus. But wait, there’s more: My
brother and I each got to bring a friend along. And then there was a dog.
We all loaded into our VW bus and set off on a genuine adventure. We were
going to drive around the United States until we found the place that
“spoke to us.” As a kid, I had no idea what that meant, of
course. What I remember about that six-week vacation was a lot of hot,
dry places and a cacophony of children’s voices in a confined space.
Now I see the entire adventure as proof that my mother truly was a saint.
Somehow we all not only survived, we thrived.
And then we drove into Washington State. I’ll never
forget my first sight of the towering evergreens and the rugged snowcapped
mountains and the sparkling blue Sound. Everything about this blue and
green corner of the world — misty as it often is — spoke to
each and every one of us. We had found our home.
I don’t think I realized how deeply this geography had settled into
me until I began writing fiction. In my early novels, I was doing what
most inexperienced writers do — learning the craft. There are so
many moving parts to master when you’re trying to wrangle thoughts
and ideas and plots into an actual story. It’s easy to become overwhelmed;
there are so many things you have to learn all at once. But as with most
pursuits, if you gut it out and keep trying and keep believing in yourself,
you glimpse moments of grace, and those moments change you. You begin
to believe that you can do it. You see the possibility and it fuels you.
Once I learned how to tell a story, I began to realize that what mattered
most to me was what I had to say. In a way, for me at least, writing is
the deepest expression of my own world view. I write about the places
I’ve lived, the men and women that I see around me, and the issues
that impact all of our lives.
And the Northwest is a huge part of all of that. It’s no surprise
that all of my best books are set here. It’s the ground beneath
my feet, literally and figuratively. I used to complain that my parents
moved us around a lot, but it became one of the great gifts of my life.
I have lived so many beautiful places in this area. Issaquah, Bellevue,
Seattle, Port Angeles, Sequim, Snohomish, Bainbridge Island. Each of these
places imprinted on me, became a part of me. Here, in this place where
I often complain about the weather and continually lose sunglasses, I
discovered who I am and what I have to say.
Kristin Hannah is the New
York Times best-selling author of nineteen novels, including the blockbusters
Night Road, Firefly Lane, True Colors and Winter Garden.
Her most recent novel, Home Front, will be released in January.
©Copyright 2012, Caliope Publishing Company