Henriette Gyland grew up in Denmark but moved to England after she graduated from university, and now lives in West London with her family. She wrote her first book aged 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. When she’s not writing, she works as a translator and linguist. Her first book, “Up Close”, was published by Choc Lit in December 2012, and her latest book “The Elephant Girl”, is out now.
We know that, like us, you were once a member of the NWS but we wondered if you could tell us a bit about how you came to join, how long you have been a member, the genre you write in and what inspired you to start writing?
When my son was about two, I had a few loose story ideas, and joined a writers’ circle. One of the women in my group pointed out that I was technically writing romantic fiction, and when I looked more closely at my work, I could see she was right. So I decided to look into it and bought a How To book by Marina Oliver, a long-standing member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. At the back of the book she mentioned the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme, and I joined up.
My genre is romantic suspense, sometimes also called psychological thriller, and I tend to deal with quite dark themes – e.g. in “The Elephant Girl” the heroine suffers from epilepsy – but I do try to give my characters a happy ending. They’ve overcome their difficulties, internal as well as external, so they deserve it!
Please can you tell us a bit about your journey to publication and how ‘The Call’ came about?
My journey is probably the same as anyone else who’s ever been a member of the NWS. Basically it goes along the following lines: write a novel, send it to the NWS, get an honest but fair critique, despair, rewrite, send out to agents/editors, get rejected, despair some more. Then do the whole thing all over again. Yet along the way the NWS reports became tougher and the rejections nicer, which in the midst of my despair told me I was getting closer. This culminated in being awarded the Katie Fforde Bursary in 2008, and winning the New Talent Award from the inaugural Festival of Romance in 2011. I also received a Commended from the Yeovil Literary Prize that same year. Two months later I signed with Choc Lit.
What’s next for you, Henriette?
At the moment I’m experimenting a bit, both with format as well as genre. My sweet romance novella, “Blueprint for Love”, came out as an e-book in June, and my next full length novel will be a swashbuckling historical romance set in the Georgian period. This is my favourite historical period because I just love the dresses!
Have you got any advice for others who might be hoping to emulate your success in securing a publisher or perhaps an agent?
Keep writing, and keep submitting your work. Take on board the professional advice you’re given. You may not always agree with it at the time, but when you look back over it, you’ll often realise that the person critiquing your novel was absolutely right. A bit of distance usually helps. Also, look at your rejections objectively (not easy, I know) and see what you can learn from them. Try to resist self-publication if you can – it’s true that some people have done so successfully, but this is a lot easier once you’ve built up a name for yourself with a traditional publisher. Regard your writing career as progressive.
What are your dreams and aspirations as a writer, in terms of your long-term career?
Easy enough question to answer: to be able to give up the day job and earn a living as a full-time writer!
What was the single biggest benefit of joining the NWS, do you think?
I treasure everything I’ve learned, and strange as it may sound, I’ve learned more about the craft of writing from what I did wrong than what I got right. The very frank, but constructive NWS critiques and the many rejections over the years have, with a bit of distance, taught me something. Every time I jumped up and down in frustration that I wasn’t going to get published, like, today, I learned the most important thing, that as valuable as feedback and suggestions are, if they spark off different ideas and different ways of solving writing issues, you’ve found something unique: your own voice. That’s worth its weight in gold.
Then there’s all the friendships I’ve made, both among published as well as unpublished members of the RNA. Only a fellow writer understands what you’re going through when you’ve received a rejection or a bad review, or what it feels like when your editor is putting you through your paces. They speak the same language as you.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us or any other advice you can offer?
I think it’s important to remember that getting a novel published isn’t the end of the journey, but a continuation of it.
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