This week we're sitting down to chat with Hannah Warren, author of the literary romance Casablanca, My Heart, and the upcoming thriller, The Cottage on The Border.
Q: Thanks for taking the time to stop by today, Hannah. For those who haven't yet had a chance to enjoy your work, please tell us a little about yourself and what we can expect.
Casablanca, My Heart, the main character – a romance writer- says to a fan: (…)” I do hope you can draw a distinction between the writer and the books. I don’t live the life I write about.”(…)
Sooo, confused by the question I am. It’s ten times easier to talk books than real life, writers tend to be happier shielding their vulnerable selves behind their characters and I’m no exception to that. But know what? My life has been such a rough journey lately and my online writer pals have been so incredibly supportive that I feel like sharing some personal info with you first before we have a look at Hannah, the writer.
Two-and-a-half years ago I was just another single, quinquagenarian lady with a respectable job + writing hobby and three grown-up children living their own lives. It seemed like I was finally getting enough time to dedicate to my life-long dream: novel writing.
But it wasn’t meant to be.
My 27-year old daughter fell ill, seriously ill with bile duct cancer and despite her two-year Herculean fight against her illness, passed away on 15 March of this year. We - her husband and I - fought alongside her, putting our own lives on hold, lovingly, unconditionally. Joy and her enormous desire to stay here with us, in this realm, became the only thing that mattered.
So after 15 March 2014, my life is diametrically different. I have become a mother in mourning, broken-winged; with more questions about life and its unpredictable course than answers. Everything has become simultaneously precious and of limited value. For the first 10 weeks after Joy’s death I couldn’t get write a single word but then I forced myself to start a mourning diary on my blog because this period- above all others- marks my life.
And then in the middle of all that sadness, new hope dawned for my writing career. I was given the opportunity to join the young and fresh publishing company, Thorstruck Press. That was the first sane, positive turn my life has been taking in this utter darkness and I’m infinitely thankful for it.
Q: Wow. My condolences on your loss, but I'm glad to see life taking a new turn. The journey from 'aspiring' to 'accomplished' can be a long one, even without those kind of challenges. When did you begin writing, and what has the journey to publication been like?
Oh, it’s taken me a life-time! Well, nearly, ‘twas in fact half a century. As soon as I could read, I picked up a pen and wrote stories à la Enid Blyton. Till the age of 20, I wrote in Dutch, but gradually changed over to English, my mother tongue (Brit mum, Dutch dad). I finished my first novel The Goose Eater in 1992 but only started taking writing really seriously after my dad died in 2001. He was a well-known Dutch poet and novelist and two days after his death his pen was symbolically handed down to me in a dream.
I joined Authonomy in 2009 and for the first time ever doors opened to inspiration, world-wide writer friendships… and publication. I joined Taylor Street in 2011 and they published the literary fiction novel Casablanca, My Heart in 2012; on my birthday when Joy was at the height of her first fight in hospital. They had promised to publish my second book, the psychological thriller The Cottage on the Border but unfortunately had to close their business in early 2014. Now, there are new vista’s, new horizons with Thorstruck Press. On 22 June 2014 they re-launched my debut with a gleaming new cover and the same, solid content.
Q: In terms of writing, what comes easiest for you, and where do you struggle the most? Is it the title? The first paragraph? The last chapter? The cover blurb?
I never struggle with not knowing how to get the next word down as soon as I get hold of a piece of paper or sink my bum in my office chair at the screen: titles, beginnings, middle parts, ends – inspiration a plenty. My problem is continuation. All my life I’ve written in fits and starts and I’m afraid this is never going to change. I’m definitely an all-or-nothing kind of person. So for three years I’ve forced myself to take part in the National Novel Writing Month, writing the bulk (50,000 words) of the project at hand and taking most of the rest of the year to edit stuff, write poems, or like now – entries in my mourning diary. Blurbs? I can’t write them, same with bios. Hopeless at that.
Q: Sometimes, characters can take on a life of their own, pulling the story in directions you hadn't originally anticipated. Were there any twists or turns in your writing that surprised you, or really challenged your original plans for the story?
I was surprised when the villain in The Cottage on The Border, Markus Brenner, got involved in a new love affair when all I wanted was get to the end of the story so the reader would find out what had happened to him. It certainly was a detour for me. Markus Brenner hadn’t been really pleasant (understatement) with the women he had been romantically involved with earlier in the story and he had turned into such a loner that I didn’t see it coming but when I went along with his new lust-filled adventure, it was quite fun.
Q: When writing, do you ever consider how a reader or reviewer will react, or do you write solely for your own satisfaction?
I write for the anonymous reader, for the big love of my life. I don’t write for myself. Deep down, behind all the civilised appearance, I’m a seducer. I lure my reader into my web with the power of my imagination. I want the anonymous reader to love me to pieces, not for me-myself but for the wordsmith and storyteller I was carved out to be. Being a writer is being adorned with a mysterious gift.
Q: I like the way you put that. In terms of reader reactions, what is the strangest or most surprising reaction to your work that you've encountered to -date?
That people think I’m Heather Simpson, the main character in Casa. Even calling me Heather in their reviews. Huh? It’s pure fiction, folks.
Q: To turn from pen to page for a moment, is there a particular author who has influenced or inspired your writing? Somebody who either made you want to write in the first place, or who just refreshes your literary batteries?
Always and ever: Leo Tolstoy. What I admire him for most is his absolute ability to synchronize his story with the pace of the reader. That’s Art Sublime.
Q: Assuming you had total creative control over the production, who would you cast as the leading roles, were your work to be optioned for the big screen?
Funny you ask because Thorstruck Press has just suggested I turn Casablanca, My Heart into a film script. Readers have commented on my cinematic, visual style of writing so apparently there are options there. I’m looking forward to the process but I’ll leave it totally to film people to come up with actors and actresses. I see my characters quite clearly in my mind’s eye but they do not “take on” the faces of any actors right now. Let me be surprised by the choices that will be made and I’m sure I’ll nod my head in agreement. One creative source leading to another. Isn’t that beautiful?
Q: Before we let you go, what can we look forward to from you next? Is there another story yet to be told in your latest world, or perhaps something completely different on the horizon?
Well, I set out as a romance writer with Casa, but The Cottage is a thriller and my third project Daughter of the Alvar is a historical family saga. So yes multi-genre writer, who leaves all doors open.
Thank you, Bob, for this opportunity. It was lovely “talking” to you. Lots of love to all of you from sunny-spelled Holland.
About the Author
Hannah studied Dutch literature and Mass Communication at the University of Amsterdam and later obtained a B.A. in English Literature and Language and a B.A. in Translation from Rotterdam University. After having been a lecturer and a translator for many years, she now works as a staff member at the International Office of HZ University of Applied Sciences in Vlissingen.
Her free-time is taken up by writing fiction, teaching Yoga and pottering around in the garden. After having been a single mum for nearly two decades, her three children have flown the nest. The great sadness that befell Hannah in March 2014 was the loss of her eldest child, daughter Joy, who died after an intense two-year struggle against bile duct cancer. In time Hannah will launch a foundation for more research into this rare but deadly form of cancer.
From the age of 8, Ms Warren has written poetry and short stories but it took her over 50 years to become a published author. Her debut novel – the literary romance Casablanca, My Heart was initially published by Taylor Street Books in 2012 and relaunched with a new cover by thorstruck Press on 22 june 2014.
Her second novel, the psychological thriller The Cottage on The Border is currently undergoing its final edit and will be out soon. Number 3 is a historical family saga situated in south Sweden called Daughter of The Alvar.
About the Book
Casablanca, My Heart by Hannah Warren
Published June 22nd 2014 by Thorstruck Press
Heather Simpson takes a cruise to get away from her husband. Far away from judgmental eyes she meets Ghalib, a French-Moroccan aristocrat who seems to know everything about her and has been eager to meet her for years. When the ship docks in Casablanca Ghalib invites this soulful author into his home and into his heart.
Returning from Morocco to every day life, Heather faces a dilemma. Sometimes it seems we are destined to meet the love of our life for only a fleeting moment, leaving us thinking, 'Did fate work so hard to bring us so little or is there more to come?'
This glorious romance will take you to the exotic, stranding you in love's oasis, feeling as if you too have captured the diaphanous emotion of soul-love, questioning your choices and your destiny.