Hello from Henri

Hi there. I‘d like to take this opportunity to introduce myself as the latest chocolate flavour in the Choc Lit box. For those who don’t know me, my name is Henriette Gyland, although most people call me by the androgynous Henri. On Twitter I’m known as @henrigyland.

I signed with Choc Lit last year in November after having won the New Talent Award at the inaugural Festival of Romance. Both events were absolute highlights of the year for me, and I’m delighted that my novel Up Close is going to be published this year.

Holkham Beach - the inspiration for my setting

Holkham Beach - the inspiration for my setting

Described by the book trade as “a dark, romantic suspense story in true Hitchcock tradition”, it’s set on the desolate Norfolk coast, a landscape which with its endless flat beaches and fir trees remind me very much of my country of birth, Denmark. Years ago I was staying with friends in Norfolk, and we took a day trip to the coast.

There I was completely bowled over by the raw beauty of the place, the smells and the sounds of the sea, the flora and fauna, especially the seals – I’d never seen them in the wild before (scary creatures!). It was a revelation, and I remembered thinking, “I wonder what it’s like living here in winter” followed by, “I want to write about that”.

In other words, my novel started with a place.

But novels have to have plots and people in them, and that still escaped me. Then, completely unconnected, I read an article about soldiers returning from the Gulf War (1990-1991), and how some of them were suffering from an unexplained illness, later referred to as Gulf War Syndrome.choclit-blog-13-jan-2012-scuba-diver3

I started reading up on this and learned that they’d been given an experimental vaccine as protection against Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons, and that this might be making them ill. With the bit between my teeth I tried to track down ex-soldiers, doctors, nurses, etc. – anyone who’d been in The Gulf – but nobody would talk to me!

Frustrated (and paranoid because of the black van with tinted windows which had taken to parking outside my house…) I decided, after much soul-searching, that the subject matter was altogether Too Dark for a romantic novel, so I put the book on the back-burner. But it wouldn’t go away, and eventually the hero and heroine were “born”.

The setting and the background are merely strands woven into a story about the relationship between bitter ex-navy man, Aidan, who finds solace in his passion for art and scuba diving, and Lia, an aqua-phobic ER doctor haunted by a tragedy in her own past. It’s the story of love and loss, betrayal and divided loyalties.

And murder. Let’s not forget that…

39 thoughts on “Hello from Henri

  1. What a wonderful place in which to set your story, Henri. When I lived in Suffolk, I went regularly to Norfolk, to the Brancaster area, as I loved the desolate beauty of the coastline. It’s a terrific place, and a highly original idea, for a story, and I can’t wait to read it!

    Liz X

  2. I know and love the bleak beauty of that part of the coast too. Spent a lot of time there as a student at UEA. And after that introduction, I’m really looking forwards to reading ‘Up Close’. Congratulations, Henri, it’s lovely to see you here.

  3. Thank you, Liz, Lesley, Christ and Christina, for your lovely comments.
    Yes, it’s funny how a place can inspire us. Actually, now when I’m thinking about that lonely beach, in winter, I’m feeling a distinct chill running down my back!
    It’s great to be here, and I’m really excited about what sort of cover Choc Lit are going to give. Hopefully something with a beach on it.

  4. Well, I’m certainly intrigued, Henri. Sounds great. I shall look forward to reading it. Congratulations! x

  5. I can’t wait to read this book, Henri! Having had a sneak preview of an early draft, I can’t wait to see what you’ve done with it and I know Aidan is a wonderful hero! I’m from Norfolk and adore the north Norfolk coast – a fantastic setting for any novel. Can’t wait to see your beautiful Choc Lit cover : )

  6. Jan and Kate, I’m so glad you’re intrigued by the premise. I think I shall have to very careful not to give anything away by accident too early!

  7. Hi Henri
    So good to see you here. Interesting that a number of the Choc-Lit authors find their inspiration on the coast. Something about the power of the sea?

  8. Wow, Henri, it sounds fascinating… SCUBA and murder…? Can’t wait to read it! And Evonne, I have a theory about water being inspirational in its own right – maybe something to do with the white noise? I get some of my best ideas in the shower…

    Never been to Norfolk, but want to go now.

  9. Evonne and Jane – I wonder if it’s something to do with (supposedly) being ruled by water. I’m a Cancerian, and that’s a water element.

    Talli – you should go some time. The coast is stunning, but I’d recommend the summer time when the wind isn’t blowing direct from Siberia…

    Rebecca – Glad to hear it. I am to please 😉

  10. Vicki – Yes, I remember that. It has changed a bit since you read a draft, and if anything Aidan is probably more gorgeous than he was before (well, I like him).
    Sarah – Thanks, so far 2012 is shaping up nicely (crossing fingers and holding onto wooden desk for dear life).

  11. It sounds so atmospheric, I’d love to read it. My parents met along that coast, so it’s always been special to me!

  12. It sounds like a wonderful story, Henri – am really looking forward to reading this new Dark Chocolate novel! I know what you mean about the coast in that part of the country. I’m shivering now.

  13. Hi Henri. I was going to buy your novel in any case but when I discovered that you’ve set the story in Norfolk I was doubly sold. My friend has a caravan right on the marshes at Thornham and we spend most of the summer there. I will need to buy two copies now; one for me and one for the caravan’s very eclectic ‘library’. A signed copy would go down a treat. The marshes are so atmospheric and when the mist swirls round the old building on the marshes known locally as the COAL HOUSE, all kinds of terrible deeds can be imagined. Good luck, great blog and hope to see you soon. Lizzie xxx

  14. Jean, Margaret, Jaxx, and Lizzie. Thank you all for your lovely comments. I’ve been overwhelmed by everyone’s response to this, and now I only hope no one will be disappointed when the actual book comes out!
    Lizzie – So agree with you about the whole area. The isolation itself is enough to fire up the imagination.

  15. Henri, lovely to hear the tale of your novel’s evolution. And that black van outside your house? Scary. 🙂 Will watch out for your book when it’s released. I love reading about other countries and always showcase some part of my own country [Australia] in my own novels.

  16. I can’t WAIT to read this novel, Henri. Choc Lit’s chocolates get more and more intertesting. The covers are fabulous and the writing they select has integrity. Good luck with it all. love Carol

  17. Fantastic idea Henri. I shall be buying it as soon as it comes out. Just as a matter of interest, after this blog appeared did the black car with tinted windows return?

  18. Noelene – Yes, the black van moment was a bit scary, especially after my Other Half almost convinced me that it must be spooks. Probably wasn’t but there’s another story there, I think.
    Carol – Thanks, I’m very excited, and I’m sure I’ll love my cover when it’s been done. As you say, they’re fabulous.

  19. Henri – I’m really looking forward to reading this.I know what a gift you have for creating mood and atmosphere, and I’m sure you’ve woven a gripping storyline too. Many congratulations!

  20. Go, Henri! Well, it was good enough for Dickens…
    It’s a magical place. I visited Cromer Museum once, and got a whole book out of it. Mind you, I added mermen…

  21. Thank you, Maria. It’s an interesting journey from that first seed of inspiration to the finished novel, sometimes frustrating, but mostly very rewarding.

  22. Mary – Good question. We’ve since moved but maybe I ought to check… Gah!
    Katie – Thanks for your kind words. Because I was so attracted to the place, I’ve allowed it to be almost a character in its own right.
    Lynne – I’ve sort of got mermen in my novel, only they’re encased in neoprene 🙂

  23. Not only do I want to read the book, I want to go to Norfolk. It all sounds wonderful. Maybe ‘Up Close’ will do for Holkham Beach what ‘Persuasion’ did for Lyme Regis! Congratulations, Henri, and good luck with it.
    Jan x

  24. What a fab opening for a book Henri, I love a book with a good sense of place. The plot sounds great too! I hope I don’t have to wait too long to read it! Lynne

  25. Thanks, Lynne. If everything goes according to plan, it’ll be out in the autumn. Hope you’re well.

  26. Autumn is not soon enough! Love the photo and the idea of the the secnery being the start for the story. Ignore the black cars with tinted windows, they go away after a while (although maybe they’ll come back when you’re really really famous). x

  27. Hi, Fennie. Thanks for your lovely comnment, and I certainly hope you’ll enjoy the book when it somes out.

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