An Irish tale of love, loss, and redemption


Sally Hanan was born in Dublin, Ireland, and raised in the ’70s and ’80s, which is the setting for most of her fiction. She has always loved to write, graduating from her Irish national school’s standard fairy tales and poems to humorous essays for the benefit of her English and history teachers in secondary school.

Everything inspires Sally — nature, facial expressions, emotions, choices. Every setting is something that can be jumped into and imagined as if she were there too. This is what also inspired her to study nursing, counseling, and life coaching, as she felt that her years of attempting to understand and help could be put to good use.

Sally has been editing people’s books since the late 2000s, along with writing articles, web copy, marketing copy, and blog posts for businesses. She’s also been writing and publishing her own fiction and nonfiction, winning awards along the way for her flash fiction and poetry. So far she has a series of self-help workbooks out called the Pick Your Life series (one of which won a Readers’ Favorite gold medal), a book of flash fiction stories, and a memoir she cowrote.

The season of her life as part of helped her develop her craft the most, back in the days when forums were a bigger deal than the social media sites of today. It was a fabulous community of authors who wrote to a writing prompt every week and then reviewed the entries and encouraged each other once posted. They remain lifelong friends.


Ireland AM

Author Q&A about My Heart Went Walking

  1. Where did you get the idea for the book? A picture of an old woman staring out the window on O’Connell Street. I thought about how she might see a young girl getting off a country bus alone and what that might prompt her to do.
  2. What traits and tidbits do you share with your main character? I’m just as stubborn as her, and I have the same can-do attitude about everything.
  3. Did any of your inspiration for this book originate in your real life experiences? Yes, I was a nurse for many years, and one of the characters goes through some hard medical issues.
  4. What made you decide to self-publish? The book was too quiet of a story for agents to sell, and I was given some money, so I bit the bullet.
  5. Are there any specific authors whose writing styles or subject matter inspired your book? I love Lisa Samson’s writing (The Passion of Mary-Margaret), and Diana Gabaldon’s (Outlander). I think both have influenced me a lot.
  6. Do you have another project in the works? Yes, I’m working on a historical fiction novel about Father Coughlin, the man who made political radio shows popular in the 1930s in America.  I’m also playing around with an alternative, gender-swapped retelling of Tale of Two Cities, set in Dublin and London in the ’80s.
  7. When you self publish, do you do it all yourself? Most of it, as I run and editing and self-publishing business. Vanessa Mendozzi did the cover though, and she nailed it. I also had an editor do a final proof — something that should be done for every book but is sadly skipped far too often.

Press Release

Book about

My Heart Went Walking is set in Ireland in the ’80s and follows a sixteen-year-old runaway from her small Irish town of Donegal to the “big smoke” of Dublin City. Out of anger, fear, and a misguided sense of acting in love, she is convinced she has no other choice if she is to protect her family’s reputation and the boy she loves.

She soon regrets her decision, but by then it’s too late. Kept apart by their love for one man, she and her sister embark on their own paths towards survival, love, and understanding, until they finally meet again in the worst of circumstances. And the reality might break them all.

Writing background

Sally has been editing people’s books since the late 2000s, along with writing articles, web copy, marketing copy, and blog posts for businesses. She’s also been writing and publishing her own fiction and nonfiction, winning awards along the way for her flash fiction and poetry.

Why read this?

My Heart Went Walking is the perfect read for those who love books set in Ireland, books that are filled with hope in sorrowful times and humor, books that have a satisfying ending. Those raised in the ’80s will enjoy the nostalgia it brings.

Who will like this book?

Some reviewers have compared the overall feel of the story to Maeve Binchy’s writing. BookList says the emotional scenes remined them of Jojo Moyes’s books. I’m very flattered by that. Those who enjoy reading authors like Ellen Feldman and Sonja Yoerg, and women’s fiction, new adult, and literary fiction readers, will probably like it.

Where can the book be bought?

Universal Book Link:

  • My e-book is available in stores such as Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Smashwords.
  • It is available in paperback, hardback, and as an audiobook in the US, Canada, and Europe from, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Chirp, and Audible, along with select bookshops.
  • It is available to borrow in select libraries across the US, UK, Canada, and Ireland.

Identifiers: LCCN 2021911369 | ISBN 978-1-7333330-3-0 (hardback) | ISBN 978-1-7333330-4-7 (paperback) | ISBN 978-1-7333330-5-4 (e-book) | ISBN 978-1-7333330-9-2 (audiobook)

This writing experience

Writing this book has been a long journey for me. I started in in 2016 during National Novel Writing Month, and entered it in PitchWars 2017 writing contest, where it was shortlisted but ultimately passed over. It never felt quite done, so I would do a rewrite, have a developmental editor do a readthrough and give me feedback, and rewrite again. It wasn’t until my beta readers could finally find nothing else wrong with it that I knew it was ready, but no agent would sign me on because they said it was too quiet of a story for them to be able to sell it to a publisher. About 150 queries later, I was given a financial gift that I used to publish it myself.

This book took five years to write and get right, and it’s only this gorgeous because of the global team of readers, editors, and writers who cheered me on and added their talent and skills to the mix.

More about me

Quotes from the book

I have a lot of favorite quotes from the book that still make me laugh or get emotional. Here’s a handful.

The noise of the telly thumps through the walls. Dad’s probably in his chair watching the football, with his hand moving back and forth from his mouth to the tin of biscuits, using his belly as a table, the boys watching every stir of the hand to see if he’ll pass the tin over.

“God, what have you done to your hair, Una?” She reaches up and pats a bit against my ear. “You never could get it straight. Someone should invent something for that.”

I can see it all through her eyes as she stands in the living room—a mustard-colored sofa that’s probably from the early ’70s, a telly on the floor, and an old table and chairs at the back of the room. It was good enough for us, but I’m suddenly embarrassed I didn’t try harder.

We sit like two nutters there in the middle of the Bewley’s tables with our babies for another bit, the smell of rashers and beans long since crept into our jackets.


Booklist: Starred reviewThis is a moving novel about family and love coupled with regret, heartache, and hope. Readers of Maeve Binchy will appreciate the Irish backdrop, and Jojo Moyes fans will love the emotions within these pages. 

IndieReader: 5/5MY HEART WENT WALKING is an absolute gem of a novel, taking readers on a compelling, entertaining, sometimes heart-breaking, but ultimately uplifting journey.

Readers’ Favorite: 5/5 x 3A beautifully crafted tale. … superb characterizations. … wonderful story. … pulls at your heartstrings every step of the way. … The story [was] both realistic and emotionally charged. I laughed a great deal, too. 

Goodreads: 4.16/206 rating and 110 reviews – Is Sally Hanan the next Maeve Binchy? I think she could be. … This book blew me away; gripped me with both hands; had me from the start, hook, line and sinker. … The storytelling is superb, and the writing is superior. … Hanan draws you in immediately and paints her characters so well you can’t help but become invested. … Absolutely brilliant book. … I love how the the author has written this story.

Book’s relevancy

Specific regions

Ireland – Donegal, Dublin, and Enniskerry

  • I lived in Dublin for four years during my nurse training.
  • I was up in Donegal a lot as I went out with a boy from there when I was about 20, and later on I married a man whose parents lived there. George Hanan, his dad, was a well-known local painter, and his model trains and railway are on display at the Donegal Railway Museum. He made them from scratch.
  • I grew up near Enniskerry.

Relatable topics

  • Mother forcing daughter to give baby to the nuns for adoption.
  • Family shame and female shame of pregnancy out of wedlock in the ’80s. My husband was adopted for this reason. Lots to talk about here – he now has five DNA-matched half siblings from different mothers.
  • My dad owned a business that finally folded in the early ’80s. – leather shop the main character works in has to close.
  • The main character is found with a plea on the Gerry Ryan Show – a famous Irish radio morning show.
  • One of the characters is seen in various hospitals. I trained in the Adelaide Hospital and was a nurse in St. Luke’s cancer treatment hospital.
  • I’m one of six children.
  • We won the green card lottery in the mid-nineties and moved to Texas, where we’ve been ever since. We were so poor in Ireland, and the move opened up loads of doors for a good life.