Recently I read & reviewed Hannah Bonam-Young Next of Kin & I loved it. I wanted to chat with her about her writing process, her strong and memorable characters as well as her decision to self-publish.
Hannah writes stories featuring a cast of diverse, disabled, marginalized, and LGBTQIA+ folks wherein complex and swoon-worthy storylines coexist and blend with the beautiful realities of life, in all its messy glory. You can purchase your copy of Next of Kin here.
Here is the synopsis:
When people-pleasing Chloe learns that her birth mother has unexpectedly had another baby, she doesn’t hesitate to become a next-of-kin guardian. But when she fails to pass Child Protective Services’ financial evaluation, she is faced with a choice: see her baby sister placed in foster care or participate in CPS’ new initiative, TeamUp.
Enter Warren, a surly mechanic’s apprentice attempting to get custody of his deaf fifteen-year-old brother after failing CPS’ housing evaluation. The two strangers immediately clash but agree to live together until Warren can find housing elsewhere and Chloe can further grow her freelance career.
As their lives intertwine, Chloe and Warren both realise that they’re far more similar than they could have imagined. What started as forced begins to feel natural—and far less lonely. Chemistry soon intensifies beyond what either of them can stand, but they must each decide if what burns between them is worth risking their arrangement.
Author Interview: Hannah Bonam-Young
Hi Hannah! I just finished your book Next of Kin and I loved it so much! Can you tell us more about your book?
Hannah: Hi Sarah! Thank you so much for having me! My book, Next of Kin, is a contemporary romance about a young woman named Chloe who finds herself thrust into parenthood when her birth mother asks her to take in her newborn sister. Though she is willing to do so, she fails to pass Child Protective Services’ (CPS) financial requirements and fears all hope is lost. That is when the social worker suggests Chloe teams up with another guardian, Warren, who was hoping to adopt his teenage brother but failed CPS’ housing requirements. Chloe agrees to meet with Warren and immediately the two butt heads. Still, they agree to live together for the sake of their siblings. Eventually, as we all love and expect from forced proximity romance novels, they begin feeling differently about each other. Chemistry intensifies after a late-night-kitchen-run-in but they both have to decide if they trust one another enough to enter into something more or if it’s too much of a risk to their sibling’s placements.
I love forced proximity so much. Are there any other tropes present in Next of Kin?
Hannah: Me too! Well there’s definitely an opposites attract / grumpy vs sunshine trope present. Though sunshine-y Chloe often feels much more doom and gloom then she’s initially willing to admit. I wouldn’t call it enemies to lovers but they definitely do not like each other for the first little while.
Your book cover states Next of Kin is a Foster Guardian’s Romance. Does this mean readers can expect more books with a similar storyline from you?
Hannah: The tagline is more of an identifier than grouping at this stage but I’m definitely not opposed to writing more foster/guardianship romances! What I really want to write going forward are more books about imperfect people finding love—for themselves and their person. Mostly, I want to continue writing with themes explored in Next of Kin like found family, history of trauma, inner-child healing, etcetera. What is most important to me is creating more romance novels that feature marginalized or underrepresented folks as leads.
I love that- found family are some of my favorite stories. Can you tell us about the inspiration behind Next of Kin? I cannot recall reading a romance featuring a foster guardian, but I’m so glad I did.
Hannah: So the initial idea of Next of Kin was entitled Fostering Love (Yeah, I know…) and it was a fake dating situation that leaned heavily towards a romantic comedy. Essentially, Warren was going to ask his colleague to be in a fake relationship with him so he could qualify for guardianship of his brother. This came from a bunch of different inspirations melded together (some from real life, others from television) but really because I just love the fake-dating trope as a reader. Once I began writing I knew that Chloe and Warren needed to come from the same background to really understand each other on the level necessary to pull them both out of their comfort zones.
Author Interview: Hannah Bonam-Young – Character Love Languages & More
It’s incredible how our initial ideas evolve as we write them. Chloe and Warren coming from the same background made the stakes even higher for me. No spoilers but Warren, the male lead, seems to offer acts of service and once he did, I was putty in his hands! What is your favorite thing about Warren?
Hannah: Warren’s love language is definitely acts of service! My favorite thing about Warren is that he is incredibly authentic. He’s an all or nothing, honest-to-a-fault, heart-on-his-sleeve type of guy. So though he’s not one to mince words when he perhaps should, he’s also not one to hold back compliments or insight that often proves helpful. Chloe needed someone who wasn’t at all passive aggressive, as she’d become so used to in her adoptive home. You always know where you stand with Warren, and exactly what he’s thinking.
I love that about Warren. One thing I loved about your writing was the vulnerability both in the situations and between the characters. All of the characters are going through deeply personal issues and are somewhat dependent on one another for the time being. I especially loved how Warren was able to meet Chloe’s needs and that Chloe finally opened up to her friends about her past. Do you have any favorite moments in your book? Any parts you loved writing or that stuck with you in particular?
Hannah: I’m so glad you love Warren for Chloe as much as I do. I absolutely adore Chloe’s friends and the way they rallied around her when she finally allowed herself to ask for help. (Well, actually, the best part is that she didn’t even have to ask— she just had to be honest with where she was at and they stepped up.) It was important to me that the book featured strong female friendships. So often we think we’re lonelier than we truly are, when ultimately we just need to be vulnerable enough to let people in. As far as favorite moments, *spoilers* The scene where Chloe reunites with her birth mother later in the story has really stuck with me. I love writing messy, difficult emotions and that scene was chock full of them. Forgiveness mixed with anger, grief and pride, acceptance of faults that only comes from unconditional love.
Author Interview: Hannah Bonam-Young – Digging in Deep with Characters
I’m so glad you mentioned that scene and it got me thinking of another emotional part of Next of Kin. *slight spoiler here* Chloe is having a heated discussion with her adoptive parents when Chloe‘s mom stops signing. This disregards Chloe’s adoptive father‘s need for communication. It happens very quickly and it’s very small but that really kind of told me a lot about that character.
Hannah: You know, it’s so funny because though responses to characters have varied every single reader has commented on their dislike of Martina. (Chloe’s adoptive mother.) Chloe’s adoptive father is hard of hearing, so she learned ASL (American Sign Language) as a child. This is also partially why Chloe was so easily able to bond with Luke, who is Deaf. Chloe and Warren use ASL whenever Luke is present, even if he’s not entirely involved in the conversation, and do not expect him to lip read. But Martina often forgoes signing and expects her husband to lip read. This is really indicative of the person she is. The lack of respect she offers to her family.
We see some similarities *slight spoiler* when Luke, Warren’s younger brother, reconnects with their father. We learn Luke’s father still doesn’t know ASL. It’s clear he hasn’t put in the time or the effort to communicate with his son.
Hannah: I think out of all the characters I’ve written, Warren and Luke’s father may be the most complicated, though only briefly appearing in the book. I do believe he truly cares for his kids, but is hurting and blinded by his own perceived suffering. While he has chosen to come in and out of his son’s lives at will, Warren had no choice but to step up and look after Luke. He’s sacrificed so much, as readers will eventually learn, to be able to have Luke live with him and yet their father can’t even learn the only language of his youngest kid. It’s just sad. Sad to see Luke grapple with accepting that. Sad to think of Warren having to watch his brother be disappointed by their dad’s lack of effort.
Enjoying this Author Interview with Hannah Bonam-Young? Let’s be friends on Goodreads!
What are you hoping readers grab from the interactions with Luke?
Hannah: Well, I really hope more people might consider learning sign-language. Even just learning the alphabet means you can —at the very least— finger-spell in a pinch. I think it’s important to also remember that many d/Deaf folks do not perceive their lack of hearing as a disability, but identify with Deafness as a culture. Deafness is just as varied as the human experience— some folks have complete hearing loss while others don’t, some people choose to lip read while others do not. I wrote Luke one particular way, but by no means does he represent an entire community. Neither does Chloe’s adoptive father. I was so lucky to have beta-readers from the Deaf community who were able to point out my blind spots, and I would suggest every reader who loves Luke as much as I do makes a point to educate themselves further from d/Deaf creators.
Let’s Chat About Writing – Author Interview: Hannah Bonam-Young
While we’re on the subject of writing, do you have any favorite snacks, music or rituals for your writing?
Hannah: I really struggle to write without music playing! I have a spotify playlist for the current book I’m writing, then usually one for each main character (so I can get into their head a little easier). I always have an iced coffee nearby and usually the snacks are whatever my toddler is willing to share with me that day. He’s not a very good co-worker.
I would love to know if you’re a plotter or a pantser. What seems to work best for you?
Hannah: So if you had asked me this a few months ago I’d have said pantser. With Next of Kin, I knew how I wanted it to end, and that’s about it. But with my current project I felt inclined to plan out each chapter, and so far that seems to be working! I think it will depend on the story and the characters moving forward.
Let’s Chat About Publishing – Author Interview: Hannah Bonam-Young
You’re self publishing, which is amazing! Can you expand on how and why that was the best choice for you and your manuscript?
Hannah: Yes! I LOVE talking about publishing. I decided almost immediately after finishing Next of Kin that I would pursue traditional publishing while continuing to work as if I was going to self-publish. So, I’d query and research editors. I’d send manuscript requests to agents and begin designing my cover. I found that while it was a stressful, busy period—it meant that when it came down to making a decision, I could go with my gut without worrying about ‘wasted time.’ Admittedly I can be a bit of a control-freak, and though I’m working on releasing some of that, I knew self-publishing was going to take less of a toll on my mental health.
The waiting game is so tough and I can completely relate to not wanting to waste any time. Any advice or words of wisdom for fellow writers?
Hannah: Write the first draft to tell yourself the story, the second draft for readers and then your last one for yourself again. Get all of the beta readers you can but make sure you return the favor if they’re a writer too
What books are on your TBR? Any favorite authors or series? Do you prefer print, e-book or audio?
Hannah: My TBR is truly never ending. I’ve promised to read my husband’s favorite book, Count of Monte Cristo, for the 100th month in a row— so I should probably start there. I love paperbacks, but my kindle is filled with not-so-guilty pleasures. I adore Colleen Hoover— the career she’s built for herself and her books. Sajni Patel, Helen Hoang, Abby Jimenez and Talia Hibbert are my insta-buy romance authors.
What are you hoping readers get / understand or feel when they read Next of Kin?
Hannah: I hope they feel the humanness of it. I hope readers understand that the characters are all flawed, wonderful people deserving of love and that they’re trying to make the most out of the shitty hand they were dealt. I hope they see a part of themself in Chloe and/or Warren, and feel empowered by their story.
Connect with Hannah
Is there anything about Next of Kin you want to make sure we know?
Hannah: Hmm… this is a good one. I really want everyone to know that though this book deals with a lot of heavier topics, there’s hopefulness to it. Joy and silliness mixed in. Particularly with Luke, Warren’s younger brother. His commentary is one of a classic brotherly, shit-disturbing, sarcastic teen. He might be my favorite.
Luke is such an incredible character. You nailed the ‘aloof, but still longing for the love and connection’ vibe I get from some of the teenagers in my life. What are you working on next and how can readers best connect with you?
Hannah: I post about my current projects often on instagram @hannahby_writes. For any folks that are reading this, please feel free to message me on there! I love connecting with other readers and writers. You can also sign up for my newsletter at hannahbywrites.com.