Interview With the Hero by Henriette Gyland

I’m nervous. There are no two ways about it. Sweaty palms, unable to sit still, I keep touching my hair and face to make sure it isn’t sticking out in all directions, and that I don’t have toothpaste on my chin.

This is the first time I’m interviewing one of my characters for the Choc Lit Gazette, and this guy, Aidan Morell from Up Close, is Drop Dead Gorgeous. Classic features, thick brown hair (a tad too long?), a physique to die for. Bright green eyes, like peridot gems, regarding me as if he knows something I don’t.

I clear my throat and begin the interview with a confidence I don’ t feel. “So, Aidan,” I say, “I understand you trained as an artist.” He nods. “I did a college course, yes, but I’ve always enjoyed drawing. I used to scribble in my school books, much to my mother’s horror, but now I’m a bit more sensible and carry a small sketch pad with me for whenever inspiration strikes.”

Photo by Stonda via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Stonda via Wikimedia Commons

“I’ve noticed you do a lot of seascapes,” I continue. “Is this why you chose to make your home on the North Norfolk coast?” “Not really,” he shrugs. “One of the joys of being an artist is that it’s a very mobile profession, and you can do it anywhere. As it happens, I was born and raised here, and came back to help my mother when, uhm, my brother became ill. I then realised that the wild beauty of the place inspires me in my work.” He throws me a smile, and my stomach does a little dive.

“But before that, I understand you were in the Navy, as a Mine Clearance Diver,” I say. “Could you tell us a little bit more about that?” “Sure. An MCD deals with any explosive ordnance below the high watermark. The Iraq War was over, but there were still a lot of unexploded mines bopping around in the Gulf, and it was our job to make sure it was safe for shipping. And before you ask, because I can see you’re about to, I was injured, yes, but not by a bomb, just an accident on board. One of my colleagues wasn’t quite so lucky…”

Feeling bolder, now that the interview is going so well, I pose the question I’ve been burning to ask him. “Your mentioned earlier that you came back because your brother was ill. Isn’t it true that he attempted suicide several times, and eventually succeeded? What were your feelings about that?”

In the silence which ensues it dawns on me that I have truly put my foot in it, and in my first interview too. A vintage Gyland gaff. Choc Lit Gazette are never, ever going to ask me to interview one of my characters again!

“Are you for real?” he says eventually. The gentleness in his voice is almost too much for me to bear, and makes me feel like a naughty child brought to task by a kindly neighbour. “What do you imagine my feelings to be? However, if it’s all the same to you, I’d rather not talk about it.”

“Okay,” I say, swallowing hard, “perhaps we could return to your art. I’ve had a good look at some of your pictures and see you use a lot of greys, but when I get up close to the paintings, those greys suddenly turn into many other colours. How do you achieve that effect?” His eyes light up, and he launches into a lengthy explanation about blending oils, about light and brush strokes, all of which appears to be quite involved and technical.

But it’s his passion which shines through – passion for his work, for what he regards as purity, indeed for life and everything in it. I’m beginning to form a picture of the real Aidan which unfortunately is outside the scope of this interview.

Finally he gets up, and we part, shaking hands and exchanging promises to keep in touch. “And I’m sorry about that personal question earlier,” I add. “Don’t sweat it,” he replies and turns to leave. From the doorway he sends me another smile which has me in turmoil and makes me wonder what life with this guy would be like.

If I wasn’t already hitched, and he wasn’t fictitious, I mean…

Remember, Remember …

… the 7th of December. Well, I’m not likely to forget that date in a hurry, am I? Because it’s PUBLICATION DAY of Up Close today! Hooray!

Box of author copies

Box of author copies

There’s a tremendous sense of achievement. Some people even liken it giving birth, and there are certainly elements which can easily be compared: the hard slog (read: feeling like a beached whale), dealing with rejections (read: hormones), the long wait (a lot more than 9 months…), the final hard push, and then cradling the product in your arms.

That’s where the analogy ends. This isn’t just nature taking it’s course, each day moving closer and closer to an inevitable outcome, but something born out of my imagination alone. It didn’t come from the blue lagoon, instead it came from what can be best described as resembling an overblown, grey walnut – my brain. And that makes it so much more.

So is it all it’s cracked up to be?

Recently my friend and fellow writer, the lovely Jean Fullerton (see, pulled me to one side and said, “I didn’t want to tell you this before, but you’ll never get a break now. You’ll either be writing a book, editing a book, or talking about a book.” And she’s absolutely right.

Today I’m talking about Book 1 (Up Close), while I’m awaiting the edits for Book 2, and the creation of Book 3 is well under way. I get breathless just thinking about it!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. Far from it. This is what I’ve always wanted, even before I realised I wanted it. Where my heart always was, what I am. An author. And even if I’d known beforehand what crazy, hard work it was going to be, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Henri’s first EVER book cover!


I think I just fell in love… with my book cover!

When I wrote Up Close, I pictured the characters in my head, their feelings, the things they did, places they went, and all these thoughts featured heavily when I was imagining what the cover of my book would look like. Or, to be perfectly honest, when I was fantasising about how it would look…

So I was surprised when I saw the first visuals from Choc Lit, because it was nothing like I’d imagined. It made me realise that, although I’d dreamt about covers a lot, it was all very vague, just something to do with the Norfolk coast where the novel is set.

But the cover made me go “Wow!”, and I take my hat off to the talented cover artist who was able to put this author’s nebulous thoughts into a visual format. It can’t have been an easy task.

I love the colours, the contrast between the dark foreground and the grey-blue winter sky, the rickety groyne leading into the unknown and creating a sense of distance in the image. And I love the lone sea gull perched on a post, haughtily surveying its kingdom: the untamed nature in this corner of the country.

The brooding atmosphere with the curling mist speaks of secrets yet to be revealed and hints at hidden dangers. And for both Lia and Aidan there are plenty of secrets and dangers to do battle with.

The best thing, of course, is that it has my name on it. Nothing can quite describe how I felt when I saw my name in print, and the knowledge that my first novel containing my words and my imagination will soon be on display for all to see and read if they want to (a scary thought, actually…).

So, in December I’ll be up close with Up Close (sorry, couldn’t resist!) when I finally get to hold the physical book in my hands. Can’t wait!

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…