It gives me great pleasure to bring you an interview with Henriette Gyland, thank you very much to Holly at Choclit for this opportunity. But, first a bit about herself and her latest novel.
About the book...
I wrote my first book when I was ten, a tale of two orphan sisters running away to Egypt fortunately to be adopted by a perfect family they meet on the Orient Express. I suspect I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but was too in awe of the Great Names on my parents’ bookshelves to think that this was a career I could possibly pursue. Growing up in Northern Denmark, among intensely practical people, this was far too “flighty” anyway, and it’s not like I ever enjoyed writing essays.
Instead I did the sensible thing and studied Modern Languages at University of Copenhagen and Copenhagen Business School. Later I moved to London where I did an MA in Applied Linguistics, and then set myself up as a freelance translator.
Has all that education helped me become a writer? Not really. It made me a better translator and linguist, certainly, and it wasn’t wasted either because learning stuff can never be a bad thing. While I was a student, I had several jobs – supermarket cashier, bartender, waitress, cleaner – and afterwards I worked for the Danish civil service, a travel agent, a consultancy company, in banking, hospital administration, and for a county court. In that time I discovered that life was all around me, in all its splendid messiness, and that I simply had to commit my thoughts and observations to paper.
So, while I was expecting my first child, I picked up my pen again (or rather pencil because that’s what I prefer, and I write all my first drafts in long-hand), and when a writer friend suggested I join the Romantic Novelists’ Association, I began to write in earnest. I’m also a member of the Society of Authors and the Historical Novel Society (because I enjoy reading historical fiction as well as contemporary).
I love writing about complex characters who carry the burden of dark secrets, and giving them the happy ending which is so often denied troubled individuals in real life.
This could be a long story, so I’ll be brief. Here’s a bit more about me, in keywords.
Things I like:- Autumn, blue, broccoli, bunting, costume dramas, cycling, Earl Grey tea, handbags, HB pencils, knitting, Latin, lavender, Lidl, Mozart, my friends and family, my pets, olive oil, pasta, peas straight from the pod, reading, salsa, Shakespeare, shoes, sleeping, steak, sun flowers, the V&A, thoughtfulness, University Challenge, wine, yellow Minis.
Things I don’t like:- Arrogance, breaking a finger nail, bullying, dog poo on the pavement, fanaticism, filing, hydrogenated vegetable oil, jealousy, jogging, laziness, pâté, people who have long, private conversations on their mobiles in public (I may be invisible to you, but I can hear you…), reggae, spiders, tax evasion, uncooked cheese, untidiness, urban foxes, wastefulness.
My Interview with Henrietta
You had many jobs before becoming a writer - which if any did you think would be a job for life?
I never saw any of these jobs as a job for life. They were mainly clerical/secretarial positions, and although I had great colleagues and the work was sometimes be very exciting, my heart just wasn’t in it. I was always searching for… something. When I began to write, I knew I’d found “my calling”, as it were, but even after that it took me 15 years to achieve publication.
Danish is your first language yet you write in English. Was this a conscious decision and if so why?
When I started writing, I was living in England and most of the books I read were in the English language. Although I have sometimes been referred to as bilingual, I think in reality very few people are 100% bilingual, because there will always be certain subjects which you “deal” with better in one language than in another. For me English is my “writing language," and Danish is my “translation language”.
Have you used any part of the story you wrote at ten years old in any of your published novels?
Not yet, but there’s always tomorrow!
Where did you get your inspiration for the story line in your latest novel The Highwayman’s Daughter - is it part fact or all complete fiction?
The Highwayman’s Daughter is pure fiction, but the presence of highwaymen on Hounslow Heath is very much based on historical fact. The Heath was notorious for the number of hold-ups taking place there.
How do you conduct research for your novels?
It varies depending on the type of novel I’m writing, but for The Highwayman’s Daughter I spent a lot of time in the reference library, poring over old maps and reading first-hand contemporary accounts of what it was like to live in the area of Hounslow in 1768.
Why do you do your first draft in pencil and not on a computer?
I find it easier to transfer my thoughts using pencil and paper rather than sitting in front of the computer. It focuses my mind, and there's also less temptation to polish every sentence to within an inch of its life. If I can’t think of the exact phrase for a particular description emotion, etc., I write “rephrase” in square brackets, and by the time I type it up (after each scene/chapter), I’ve usually thought of a better way to say it.
What do you hope for when your readers have finished reading your novels?
Obviously I hope for the readers to like my books enough to buy the next one, or perhaps one of my back list if they haven’t read it already. That’s what I do as a reader myself: anticipate the author’s next book ;-)
Describe a typical day for you writing for you.
My day is rarely typical because I also work as a freelance translator and have to take the work when it comes in, but if I’m able to plan anything, I write in the morning and translate/do my admin in the afternoon.
Do all of your friends expect free copies of your books?
My friends are all lovely and would never presume anything! Having said that, I always give my parents, my sister, and my writing buddy a free copy.
Do you read and write in the same genre and who is your favourite author?
I read all kinds of things. At the moment I’ve got Game of Thrones and We Need to Talk About Kevin on my bedside table, but my all-time favourite author is Connie Willis who writes sci-fi.
If you were to be granted one writing wish what would that be?
To hit the best-seller lists…?
What do you do to relax when you are not writing?
I read a lot, but I also knit and sew. I like nothing better than to stretch out on the sofa with a good book, a cat, and a cup of tea. Sadly my life is quite hectic so this is a rare luxury ☹