Hanne Holten was born in Denmark and grew up in a scholastic family with Croatian, Swedish, and German ties. She learned to read and played several instruments before starting school and has worked in all wakes of life, starting as a ground hostess in the Copenhagen Airport. Her reading habits are both inspiring and educational, something she regards as decisive when she started to write diaries, poetry, and other observations. Eventually that sparked her interest in composing a full-scale novel. Her family history presented the setting and influenced the story line of ‘Snares and Delusions’.
Could you tell us about yourself?
First, I’d like to thank you for inviting me to this chat, Roger.
What should I tell you about me? I was born in Denmark where I finished my education as an opera singer. Not long after that, I decided to move to London. I had no connections and didn’t imagine what it would be like to move countries. It turned out to be harder than I thought. I started working for Pizza Hut but, eventually, I got several jobs with good drama schools as well as some private students. During this time, I painted and composed music, as well as writing for fun.
When did you first decide to write and what got you started?
It isn’t easy to put a date to this: I wrote short stories as a kid but didn’t think too much about it. My family was ‘musical’ and my singing was the ‘big issue’, although I also played the violin and the piano. Maybe I should add that reading was my hobby: there was nothing like going to the library when I was a kid. My writing was out-of-focus until I moved to the UK, but, from then on, there was no stopping me. It took a long time before I thought that my writing could go somewhere though.
What is the best part about writing, and the worst?
The best part of writing is getting caught up in the characters and the story line. When that happens, I forget everything around me. It’s a bit like music: you become part of the flow. The worst is looking at a blinking cursor and thinking what am I doing? Where am I going with this. . .?
Do you have any inspirations for you writing? Other authors / people / events?
It depends. When writing poetry, my inspiration can come from art, from history, or from something I’ve felt or experienced personally. When writing prose fiction, inspiration comes from the period around both the world wars and the time leading up to them. Not only that: my family history plays a part too. That leads me to the next question, if my characters are based on real people. In a way they are, but my family was secretive about many things. Also, I don’t want to expose people, I may or may not have known. That means, that I’ve used their history, as far as it’s known to me, but invented the characters freely, to suit my ideas. Maybe I should clarify this: I know about certain locations, like Sweden or Japan, where some of my family either came from or went to, but I have no idea what happened to them.
What are you currently working on? How long before release?
I’m working on a novel, set in The Great War and the aftermath, leading up to Hitler’s rise to power. The locations span from Denmark and Northern Germany to China and Japan, where one of the characters becomes a POW. The other protagonist lives in Copenhagen. My two protagonists, Ellie and Hans, meet when he returns to Denmark. I hope to publish later this year, but it depends on my work schedule when I can finalize the manuscript. Should I add the working title? It’s Woes and Wonders
When you have finished writing the book – what do you do next? By that I mean, do you edit the book yourself? Do you design your own book cover? Do you prepare a project plan to market your book?
I did everything myself the first time. In other words, I edited and edited (for years), designed my book cover, and did the marketing too. Not an easy task. I don’t know what I might do this time. Perhaps, I’ll draw on my experiences. On the other hand, there are some interesting independent publishers, and I might test the waters . . . although I like to be independent.
What is the best piece of advice you could give to someone starting out on a writing career?
Write every day. Be dedicated, and don’t let anybody stop you. Get advice from people who have published already. Join a writing group and find some good beta-readers. Trust your ideas but be open for critique.
What are you currently reading?
Let me think. I’m reading a book about Leonora Christina, daughter of Christian the Fourth of Denmark, by the Danish author Helle Stangerup. Also, The Bastard Princess, by Gemma Lawrence, and Up at the Villa, by Somerset Maughan.
Who do you count amongst your favourite authors?
That’s a hard one. Among the nineteenth century authors, I’d say Dickens, George Elliot, and Thomas Hardy. Moving forward to the twentieth century: Somerset Maugham, AS Byatt, and Doris Lessing. Also, I must add that there are so many new and promising authors to read, like SS Bazinet, Karl Holten, Charles Peterson Sheppard, Ellie Midwood, and – yourself – Roger. (And all fine choices Hanne 😀 👍 )
What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing, marketing, or being involved with your book business? Do you have any hobbies?
Music is a hobby as well as one of my sources of income. I love to teach people to sing. I paint, when the light allows it, and when it doesn’t, I sometimes make digital sketches. I knit and sew too, I used to make costumes for a children’s opera while I lived in Denmark.
Any fun facts about you that you would like to share?
I have perfect pitch. Unfortunately, I also suffer from a tinnitus, something that happens to many musicians.
You were born in Denmark and have Swedish, Croatian and German ties which sounds absolutely fascinating can you tell us a bit more about your heritage?
My great grand mother was born in Sweden, around the time Germany reduced Denmark to its smallest size (The war of 1864, which started the Danish Golden Age). She came to Denmark, possibly as a young girl, and opened a boarding house sometime around the turn of the century. She had one daughter. My grandfather was born and grew up in Sønderborg. He went to China around the beginning of The Great War. His mother’s family came from Croatia and, according to what I know, had ancestors in Sisak Castle. It is one of the family legends that they were robber knights.
On your website you blogged about the Winter Solstice with beautiful words and a picture of Stonehenge! Are you by chance Pagan orientated?
I grew up a member of the Danish Church but left the Christian religion some years ago. The Christian idea of setting humans over the environment has done much to bring on the present climate change and other ecological problems.
Am I a pagan? There’s something about paganism that I find attractive, especially the idea of living in balance with nature.
Thanks Hanne, for taking part and for you excellent and candid answers. Good luck with your new manuscript, I look forward to seeing it in print.
You can catch up with Hanne on her website and on social media and find her book ‘Snares and Delusions’ on Amazon.
Thank you, Roger, for a wonderful and full interview which tells us so much about Hanne. I really enjoyed reading about her life and path to becoming an author. Snares and Delusions is already on my TBR list and I look forward to reading it.
Lovely interview. Thank you both, Roger and Hanne! As writers, we learn from every source, and one of the finest is an author interview! Well done.