Wisdom of the Ages With New York Times Bestselling Author Kristin Hannah

Photo: Kevin Lynch

Former lawyer and New York Times bestselling author Kristin Hannah, tells us about the inspiration for her new novel, The Great Alone. 

The latest novel from former lawyer Kristin Hannah, 57, a New York Times bestselling author of more than 20 novels including The Nightingale and Home Front, is set in 1974 Alaska. The Great Alone tells the story of Leni, a 13-year-old girl, whose volatile father, a former PoW, loses his job and moves his wife and daughter to Alaska to “live off the land.” Naturally, things don’t go well and, when winter comes and Leni’s father’s mental state deteriorates, the remote landscape of Alaska and its inherent dangers pale in comparison to the threat within the family’s plot of land.

“I come from a long line of adventurers and dreamers. My grandfather left Wales at 14 with only a few dollars to his name. He travelled to Canada and became a cowboy in Saskatchewan,” explains Hannah, about the inspiration behind The Great Alone. “My father, likewise, set out for Alaska in the late ’70s, and it changed all of our lives. Three generations of my family have worked at the adventure lodge he founded with a homesteader family. I have been waiting a long time for the right story to find me, one that I could set in Alaska and use to showcase my love for that harsh, beautiful, wild landscape.”

The book cover for The Great Alone featuring a winding road with forest on each side.
A Q&A with author Kristin Hannah.

What advice do you wish you had given your 25-year-old self?

Hmmm. I think I’d say relax more, travel more and worry less.

What advice would you give your 80-year-old self?

Keep exercising and spend as much time as possible with your family and friends.

What do you know for sure?

That love, friends and family are what matters in life.

What have you learned?

To care less about what other people think and follow my own lead more often.

What will you never learn?

To let things go.

Best piece of advice?

Came from my mom when I was a third-year law student. She told me that I could be a writer.

Did it work?

Yes! I started writing not long after that and haven’t ever stopped.

What inspires you?

People who fight for what they believe in, whatever that is, in whatever form it takes.

The moment that changed everything?

Well, clearly the moment that most changed my life was motherhood. Following that, I guess it was when I won my very first writing contest, a lot of years ago. That’s when I really believed I could make my passion for writing into a career.

Happiness is …

A beautiful beach, a perfect mai tai and my friends and family gathered close.

A version of this article appeared in the April 2018 issue with the headline, “Wisdom of The Ages,” p. 96.