Hi Henri, so lovely to have you here at Romaniac HQ. We hope you are well? The place is actually looking rather tidy right now, but that was because it was my turn on the rota and I do have some ‘Monica’ tendencies about my person.
So, you are welcome to indulge in the cake that Celia made for you but please, any crumbs must be tidied up at once. Not that there will be crumbs, it is Celia’s baking after all, there’s never any crumbs…
A huge congratulation’s is in order. Up Close, your début novel with Choc Lit publishing, is due for paperback release on the 7th December. What an amazing achievement, you must be so proud – I know we all are!
Where did the idea for Up Close come from and what inspired you to choose Norfolk for its setting?
The idea was born out of several different strands – visiting the North Norfolk coast, reading about soldiers returning from the Gulf, and imagining Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Ophelia in a slightly different set-up.
How long, from concept to final edit, did it take you to write it?
I wrote the first draft quite a few years ago, and it then “did the rounds” with agents and editors, but with no takers. So I put it to one side because I didn’t know what else to do with it, and wrote other books in the meantime. When I later heard of Choc Lit, I thought, “Aha!” because it sounded like my novel might be suitable for them. I dug it out again, sent it off, and got the verdict that, yes, they liked it, but there were various elements I needed to work on in order for it to fit in with their remit. I did what they asked, sent it again, with my fingers (and everything else) crossed, and in 2011 they accepted me. I realise this is a very long answer to a short question, but what I’m trying to say is that, with perhaps 4 rewrites over the years, in total it probably took me 3½ years to write it. So a lengthy process.
You were the 2011 winner of the Festival of Romance New Talent Award, with the opening chapter of Up Close, I believe? What effect did that have on your career?
I was already in communication with Choc Lit at the time, but perhaps winning the New Talent Award tipped the scales towards an acceptance…? What I can say, with absolute certainty, is that it gave my confidence a massive boost. There’s nothing quite like winning a prize which comes with the seal of approval from the industry.
The cover for Up Close, as with all Choc Lit novels, is amazing. Did you have a lot of input into it? Can you explain the contents of the cover to us and its relevance with the story?
We’re very lucky at Choc Lit that the cover artists read the books and listen to input from the authors. The cover for Up Close started out as four very different concepts, and I commented on each of them, explaining why one particular concept worked better for me than another, and also gave my input to colours, fonts, etc., until we found something everyone were happy with. The picture on the cover is of a sea defence, a so-called groyne, which disappears into the mist, and the lone seagull represents how desolate and wild the North Norfolk coast can be in winter. The main character Lia is lonely and isolated, and I feel that this is reflected beautifully in the artwork.
The Elephant Girl is your next book out with Choc Lit, can you tell us a little about it?
My next book is the story of a woman who, as a young child, witnesses the murder of her mother. 20 years later she begins to question what she actually saw and whether she might have been an unreliable witness…. Oh, and there’s lovely hero in it too!
How have you found juggling writing a new book and promoting your current one? Is it much harder/easier than you imagined?
Much harder than I imagined! At the moment I’m juggling two jobs besides writing, as well as promoting my book, and my To-Do list is as long as my arm. Not kidding.
What’s the biggest challenge you have come across when writing?
Being told that something isn’t “quite right” and needs changing, but without any clear indication on how to tackle it. That’s really difficult, but I guess it comes with the territory.
On your website you explain how you wrote your first book aged ten. Do you still have it? Will you ever do anything with it?
Er, no, except perhaps pass it around among my friends so we can all have a jolly good laugh!
Do you like to listen to music as you write? Who are your favourite artists to listen to?
Actually, I tend not to listen to music when I work. I know some writers do and swear it makes them more productive. They even have CD compilations for tender scenes or fight scenes, or what-not, and I’m in total awe. I’m a fairly organised person, but there’s no way I could ever be that organised.
Quick Fire round:
If you could choose anywhere in the world to live, where would it be? By the sea.
What would you put in room 101? Spiders.
Red Wine or White Wine? White when I party, but red is great with food (except fish).
Chocolate or Sweets? I love licorice. The stronger, the better.
Birthday or Christmas? Birthdays are less stressful.
Strictly or X Factor? Neither, but give me programmes like “Who Do You Think You Are?” or “Time Team”, and I’m hooked.
Shoes or Handbags? Am I allowed both? Pretty, please! Oh, all right… shoes, then.
Early Bird or Night Owl? Somewhere in between.
Left hand or Right hand? I’m right-handed.
Thank you so much for dropping in, Henri, it’s been an absolute pleasure to have you.
The pleasure is all mine. I love what you’ve done with the place, it’s so neat and tidy!
Aw, thanks! My inner ‘Monica’ is glowing with pride!
Now, all that is left to do is for everyone to raise a glass of bubbly – help yourself there’s plenty – and join me in congratulating Henri on the release of her début novel, Up Close.
Well done, Henri
As I said before, but hey, lets say it again, Henri’s debut novel Up Close is released in paperback on 7th December - Just click on the book cover and it’ll take you to Amazon! She has a very interesting website at www.henriettegyland.wordpress.com and is also on Twitter, here.