Annie Hansen says she’s been invited to see the offices located behind the second floor windows of Graham’s Fine Chocolates & Ice Cream on Third Street in downtown Geneva.
But the Batavia resident doubts she’ll ever take them up on the offer.
After all, if Hansen were to see what’s actually there, it may just upend the vision of the upper floor apartment she sees in her mind’s eye when she looks up at the windows, flanked by red shutters – a setting that serves as the heart of Hansen’s popular and growing series of Kelly Clark Mystery novels.
“It all started with Graham’s, as one day I thought, ‘What if there was an apartment up there?’” Hansen says. “Everything built from there.”
Since 2009, Hansen has dedicated herself to fleshing out the idea. In 2013, she published her first novel, “Give Me Chocolate,” which was followed by “Bean in Love” in 2015.
Both novels focus on the life of main character Kelly Clark, who lives in an apartment above her sister’s chocolate shop in Geneva. The story begins in the third year following her return from California where her marriage had ended in a bizarre series of events, ultimately resulting in the imprisonment of her husband for plotting to kill his pregnant mistress, with whom he secretly had an affair.
Each novel focuses on a separate mystery Clark and her sisters must solve, beginning with the death of a man found on the floor of the chocolate shop.
“But the bigger mystery, through all of the stories, is her past,” Hansen says.
The novels were not Hansen’s first stab at writing. Originally from Lombard, Hansen, a University of Illinois graduate, has written whenever she “had the chance,” even as she worked as a recruiter and she and her husband built a staffing company – Hansen Search Group – as well as when the couple started a family.
In 2000, Hansen authored a mystery manuscript called “Frozen” but it was never published.
The writer never abandoned her dream, and now she plans to release the third Kelly Clark Mystery novel, “Take the Donuts,” later this year.
Hansen, 40, now a mother of three children, ages 1, 10 and 20, says she has always enjoyed strong support from her husband and others around her for her literary endeavors. She credited authors like J.K. Rowling with blazing a path for other female fiction authors to follow. And she says she’s found further support, inspiration and aid from Sisters in Crime – a group of fellow female mystery authors.
Hansen says the biggest challenges she has overcome are those faced by most female writers – and many writers, in general: The battle to maintain balance in life, and to fight isolation, while beating back the internal voice that attempts to limit a writer’s vision.
“It’s the voice that says, ‘Whoa, what are you doing? This story is too ‘out there,’ too scandalous,’” Hansen says. “But the key, I’ve found, is you have to keep going. Never hold yourself back.”
It also never hurts to have a great location to serve as the backdrop for the story, such as a popular chocolate shop, which demands repeat research visits, she says.
“I’m sure I’ve given them a lot of business just from me and my out-of-town guests,” Hansen says with a laugh. “And I hope my novels give them a ton more business. But I can never visit upstairs.”
Hansen’s books are available at amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com. For more information, visit kellyclarkmystery.com.