Annie Hansen might be the most mysterious woman in the Tri-Cities. That’s because this wife, mother, and small business owner from Batavia spends her limited free time hatching plots and devising schemes for her soon-to-be published novel series, the Kelly Clark Mystery Series.
The lives of the characters she’s conjured, from local and national headlines, come to settle in a fictional Geneva, but readers may likely recognize the shops of Third Street, the eclectic mix of boutiques and baristas, and the homey, walkable avenues.
Her book, “Give Me Chocolate,” is her first published novel, and will be released in May.
Give Me Chocolate will be sold on www.barnesandnoble.com, www.amazon.com and www.weavingdreamspublishing.com. It will also be sold at Townhouse Books in St. Charles and by request at local bookstores.
A book launch party is free and open to the public at 1 p.m. May 11 at the Geneva History Center, 113 S. Third St., Geneva. Hansen will be reading from “Give Me Chocolate” and signing copies of the book.
Already at work on the second story in the series, Hansen took a few minutes to chat with a Shaw Media editor, Sherri Dauskurdas, about the book, it’s familiar setting, and the hobby that’s grown into something more.
Sherri Dauskurdas: Why mysteries?
Annie Hansen: I’ve always loved reading mysteries. Growing up, I read all of the Nancy Drew books and watched “Murder She Wrote.” Reading and writing are my two favorite passions. My specialty is “cozy mystery.”
It’s a sub-genre of crime fiction where the violence and sex are downplayed. The draw of the mystery is still there, but the focus is more on the community and the characters. This is not like a “CSI” story where you will see lots of blood and gore.
There are murders, but you will only get a quick snapshot of the violence.
SD: Why Geneva for this first book? What did the city lend to the story, as a setting?
AH: For me when I’m writing a story, location always comes first. It’s the driving force that forms the story.
When I moved here, I visited Third Street, and The Kelly Clark Mystery Series began to take shape in my mind. In the series, Kelly is trying to start her life over after husband goes to jail for attempting to murder his pregnant mistress.
This series was influenced by the Laci Peterson/Scott Peterson/Amber Frey case from 2001. That particular story has always haunted me. I’ve always wondered, if Laci had survived those horrific events, where would she go? How would she move on with her life? Could she ever trust again? Could she ever love again? And what if she could reunite with her extended family who so obviously loved and adored her?
I saw Kelly living on Third Street back in her hometown of Geneva after she was able to escape her marriage. Kelly will have to live forever with the stigma of once being married to a violent man who is now incarcerated and due for release at some point in the future. Kelly’s sister is the owner of a specialty dessert store, Chocolate Love, in downtown Geneva and allows Kelly to live in the apartment above the store rent free while she’s trying to get back on her feet.
I thought Third Street would be a great place for Kelly to try and blend in, yet also be constantly exposed to the community.
SD: Will local readers be able to find local references in the text?
AH: Readers will definitely be able to spot local venues. The book is a combination of real life locations mixed with ones I’ve created for the story.
Though, even the imaginary locations still may be influenced by actual stores on Third Street. [Characters] will be doing lots of activities together such as going out to dinner, running on the Fox, taking yoga classes.
I plan to make the reoccurring characters and the Tri-Cities the focus of the storyline. When I moved to this area, I fell in love with the community, The Fox River, Geneva’s Third Street, and The Historic Districts of Batavia, Geneva and St. Charles. I’m hoping the readers will too.
SD: Is it a mystery series in which the lead characters are the same but each book is separate and complete, as is the case of Nancy Drew? Or does the story, itself, continue through the books?
AH: Each book will have a definite wrap up for the murder mystery at hand. Kelly and her sister, Nikki, fall into becoming somewhat of an investigative team to help the police try and solve the murder in each book.
So, for the smaller mystery, it’ll wrap up at the end of each book. However, Kelly’s back story, what I like to call the “big mystery,” and clues about how her past will affect her future, will be woven into each book.
I’ll be dropping little breadcrumbs in each book to wind you through the whole story of who Kelly Clark really is. By the end of the series, you’ll have the whole picture.
SD: What’s the most challenging part of the creative process for you?
AH: The most challenging part is finding the time! I’m a mother and run my own staffing firm, Hansen Search Group, with my husband and business partner, Brent Hansen. My family is my first priority. I try not to take a lot of time away from them, so I get up early in the morning to write or when my son goes to bed.
It’s always a tough balance, but my husband, who is a musician, is incredibly supportive and understands my need to find time to allow the creative juices to flow.
SD: What is most exciting for you about the book?
AH: The most exciting thing is to be able to watch all of this come together into a tangible product.
To have it all take shape and be able to share is thrilling. A lot of people ask me how many books will be in the series. I’ve not decided that yet. I have a rough idea, but Kelly’s going to be the one that makes that final decision.
I think if you’re really checked into your storyline and your characters, they’ll tell you when they’ve had enough.