Hannah Brown’s Next Chapter? Romance Novelist

In 2019 Hannah Brown was in the middle of her very own fairy tale. At just 24, she had been chosen to embark on a journey to find her soulmate—full of fancy dates, exotic locales, and lots of romance—as the star of ABC’s The Bachelorette.

But five years later, the almost 30-year-old says that her idea of a fairy-tale romance is one in which both people have gone to therapy—and, she says, are willing to put in the work to grow together into the people they are meant to be.

“All the beautiful dates and the passion and the excitement—that only lasts for so long,” she tells me. “You have to put in the work to figure out how to be able to have the true happily ever after.”

These are just some of the things that Brown has learned since she first graced our TV screens as a contestant on Colton Underwood’s Bachelor season. Her bubbly, Southern-girl charm made her an instant fan favorite, leading to her own Bachelorette season and then a winning turn on Dancing With the Stars, not to mention nearly 3 million followers on Instagram and a New York Times best-selling memoir, God Bless This Mess.

Now Brown is charting a new path. She’s happily engaged to fiancé Adam Woolard, who works in sales, and is reflecting on her time on the show and in the public eye, which encompassed a large part of her 20s.

“When I look back, I have a lot of grace for myself,” she says. “I’ve gone on a journey of being able to heal limiting beliefs about myself and knowing that I’m actually worth it…. I’m really proud of the journey that I’ve gone on, but it has reminded me just how young I was, having to learn so much about love and life at a rapid pace in front of millions of people.”

She’s also working toward building a new career: as a romance writer. Her first novel, Mistakes We Never Made, is a story about a somewhat uptight young woman named Emma who embarks on a road trip with her ex-flame Finn to track down their mutual friend Sybil, who has pulled a runaway bride just a few days before her wedding. Along the way, Emma confronts some of the bad patterns she has fallen into because of her past and learns new things about herself. There are high jinks and romance too, of course. It’s the Crossroads-meets-Bridesmaids-meets–The Hangover story you never knew you needed, and Brown says it was important to her that Emma didn’t find just love but self-acceptance.

“Maybe it comes from my experience, but the only way to really be open to love is to love yourself first and to be able to have grace for yourself and the things that you’ve been through,” she says.

Ahead of the release, Brown chatted with Glamour about her inspiration for the book, what she’s learned about love, and whether she’d go back on The Bachelor today.

“Mistakes We Never Made” by Hannah Brown

Glamour: When you appeared on The Bachelor in the late 2010s you were right in the middle of this “star maker” period for the franchise. So many contestants from that era got huge followings and launched careers in content creation. What was it like to be suddenly so well known?

Hannah Brown: The type of instant response I would get back to what people thought about things that I said on the show was wild. I started to realize just how much this was going to change my life. It was weird. An episode would come on, and you’re watching your following count go up by tens of thousands at one time. I didn’t even think about the possibility of it being a career after. I was a purist about going on the show. But obviously, I reaped the benefits of going on the show at that time and being able to have a lot of wonderful opportunities from that experience.

There were a lot of people on your season, like Tyler Cameron and Peter Weber, who are still very famous and appearing on reality television even five years later. How do you feel about your Bachelorette experience now?

I’ve been working on understanding that experience for me and how it made me who I am today very recently. [The show] was the first time somebody genuinely asked me what my thoughts were and who I was. I wouldn’t say it’s the safest place to start questioning who you are as a person and what you want in love, but I think everybody needs that. That was the first place I was able to do that, and it made me grow as a person and honestly become more of who I truly was, instead of some mold I thought I had to be from what was around me in my environment.

In therapy, I’ve started to say I feel like I was a baby deer, just learning how to walk on its legs. The Bachelor put me on display, and it looks like I’m walking okay, but I was still having to mentally tell myself, “Okay, right, left, right, left.” I wasn’t fully in my own just yet as the Bachelorette.

Well, who is at 24?

I thought I was so ready, but now at almost 30, I’m like, “Oh my gosh, you were a baby.” So when I reflect on that time, I’m super proud of the moments where it was starting to become more innate to walk and to be in that confidence. But I also can have grace for those moments that I feel like I fell short of myself. As I’ve gotten older, I realized there were limiting beliefs that I had about myself that really interfered with how I viewed the relationships that I was in.

Like what?

In the back of my mind, even when I was having those epic moments of standing up for myself, one of the thoughts that was always in my head was: Are these men really here for me? I was having to prove myself as strong or confident and not really caring what these men think, but that voice was always there. Even when it came to who I ended up choosing at the end, he proved me right…. I think when somebody said, “Oh, I actually didn’t go on the show for you at the beginning, but I ended up falling for you,” that proved my story.

Do you think that’s why you made the choice you did in the end?

I do. I don’t think my person was there. I think I knew actually from the very first night. I said, “I don’t think my guy’s here really.” But the whole thing of that show is to open yourself up. And at 24 years old, I didn’t fully know how to trust my gut yet.

Would you go on the show today if you were single?

Even six months ago I would have said I’d never do that show again, that it doesn’t set you up for a successful relationship. I do think it makes it extremely hard. There are people who have been really successful, but it’s a really hard place to start a relationship and create safety and security because it’s not a safe and secure environment. But in the confidence in who I am now and exploring that, I think I could trust myself a little more. I would be looking for different things in men and looking for men who I really thought would want to work with me to create a safe and secure relationship.

Since so much of your adult identity and career was formed while you were on the show, was it hard to transition into the next chapter of your life? Do you want to break out of the “Bachelor Nation” label?

I’m never going to be ashamed of that and not talk about it because that is how I’ve gotten to do all the things that I’ve gotten to do. I’m so appreciative of that. But it has been really cool to have people come up and be like, “Oh my gosh, I read your book and I love it so much.” It’s exciting to see how people are going on this journey with me. It can be kind of scary when you rise to some level of fame; it’s like, what am I going to do with this? It can all be fleeting, so I’ve got to figure out what fulfills me and go on that trajectory with my career and make something of this that has a lifespan for myself, but also that just creates a true alignment and purpose.

This really does. I love telling stories. People started following me for my own love story. So I’m still letting people into my life, but also creating other love stories for people to engage in and be invested in. It’s cool to be able to have the opportunity to do that. I’m paying homage to where I came from.

How is Mistakes We Never Made different from other romance novels?

I really wanted it to be something that people got invested in and not only just the love story, but also in Emma…. That’s really important for me as a reader. I want to feel the depth of a character, the humanity. Sometimes the character can not always be lovable. There’s something that’s lovable about them, but there’s always a reason why we are the way that we are. It was important for me to balance that fun, epic summer read with also Emma going on her own hero journey for herself of being able to release that need to be in control, being able to release and heal from things in her past too.

It’s not your story, but that element seems especially inspired by your own experiences.

I’ve had a few people say things about my past with love, like it has been hard or rocky or whatever. And I’m like, true, valid. But why I’m so confident in where I’m at now is because I’ve been able to take some time to see the patterns in my own life and be able to get to the root of them. The only way out of a pattern or out of a belief or you finding yourself in the same position is through it and really face it head-on in life. So yeah, I guess that’s like art imitating life.

Stephanie McNeal is a senior editor at Glamour and the author of Swipe Up for More! Inside the Unfiltered Lives of Influencers.

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