As authors we wouldn’t exist without readers. It’s as simple as that. So when I embarked on my historical fiction rebrand, I vowed to myself that I’d personally get to know my die-hard fans from the beginning and keep them in my orbit. Fans like Elisa Hordon are the making of Hannah Byron. I mean how can you resist a reader who compares your writing style to that of Barbra Taylor Bradford and Judith Krantz?
On the happy day of the release of my second book in The Resistance girl Series, Elisa interviews me. Let me give the floor to my friend from down-under.
My name is Elisa Hordon, I live in sunny Queensland, Australia and I am an avid book reader and reviewer. Today I’m interviewing the amazing Hannah Byron on the release of her latest novel The Diamond Courier. This was a must-read book for me after already falling in love with Hannah’s writing after I read the prequel, In Picardy’s Fields.
Cover of The Diamond Courier
So, Hannah when did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
When I held my first pen at the age of 4, Elisa. Tongue out of my mouth, I produced the same letter over and over until I mastered first the letters, then the words and finally the sentences. I never stopped writing and wrote my first stories at age 8 inspired by Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five. I had two sets of twins and multiple dogs. Loved imagining big from an early age. Alas, no proof of any of that early toil today but here’s a picture of me at age 4 with my big sister. You can already see the heavy responsibility of storyteller resting of the shoulders of the young author. 😊
The young author and her big sister 1960
What made you decide to pick this time in history to set your amazing novels?
Ah, good question! I wanted to try my skills as an HF author with a backdrop that was intense and broad, a time that forced humanity on its knees, not once but twice. Hence the First and Second World Wars. I also wanted to set my novels in a time of budding feminism, a time when women started liberating themselves from apron strings and childbeds. Hence the 20th century.
Have you personally traveled to all of the places you mention in your stories?
So far yes. I was born in Paris so many of many heroines have a connection with the City of Light. I did research in Picardy in the summer of 2019. My mum grew up in Kent, England, so I travelled extensively in the UK but only crossed through Switzerland on my way to Italy. Belgium is on my doorstep as I currently live in the south of Holland close to the border. Book 4 is going to be trickier for me as it is situated in Austria and Norway, both countries that I haven’t visited. With Covid it’s going to be difficult to do research on the spot.
My mum and me on our way to Dover 2007
How do you go about researching for your books?
I tend to read some books on the subject and for the rest I research Google when I come across something I need to check. For The Diamond Courier I was in touch with the Belgium researcher Eric Laureys who extensively documented the Antwerp diamond industry before, during and after WW2. He’s currently reading my book so I await his ‘verdict’ with bated breath.
Yes, my Great-Uncle Jack Westcott died in the trenches in Picardy in 1916 (see my other blogs on this). And my mother’s eldest brother David Malcolm Ferguson died on 15 March 1941 and is MIA. He was a pilot in the Fleet Air on the H.M.S. Ark Royal.
What did you do for work before becoming a writer?
I’m not a fulltime writer yet. I work part-time as a Dutch-English translator for a Dutch university and before that I was an English lecturer at that same institute. I’ve also been a journalist and a mum for many years but translating has been my daily work for over 30 years now.
What is your favourite colour?
Green. In all its shades from mint to dark-green and khaki.
Uncle Malcolm 1940
Do you have a favorite holiday place?
I’m eclectic in that respect. I love the sea, mountains, cities. Don’t get me started. I miss travelling so much, like everybody else. But I think my happiest hols were on a small island in the Baltic sea called Öland.
Scanning Södra Öland with youngest son and guide – 2004
How long does it take to write one of your books?
The Resistance Girl Series are long books at 120-130K so it takes me about three months. After this series I want to write shorter books as I’d like to publish more and faster.
How many books have you written?
In total I’ve written 11 books now, of which 9 have been published. Two as Hannah Byron. Book 3 and 4 in the series are planned for March and June 2021.
What was your very first book you finished writing?
The first full-length book I wrote back in 1992 was typed in Word Perfect and called ‘The Goose Eater’. Still have a print copy somewhere but it will never see the light of day. Too cringeworthy.
What would you say is your main writing quirk?
I need coffee to write. That’s about as crazy as it gets. LOL.
What would be the one piece of advice you’d pass onto anyone wanting to become a writer?
Keep going, find your own voice, believe in yourself, don’t give up before you’ve written 1000000K words, stay in touch with other writers.
What is your favourite childhood memory?
Gosh, that will have to be the annual Christmas pudding event. From the moment the basins started clattering for hours in boiling water in October, to the rinsing of the six pence by my mother the week before Christmas, to the absolute highlight of the pudding set alight with brandy and then being cut, after which the deliciously smelling, steamy pudding with a dollop of thick custard landed on my plate. And then hoping against hope I would be the one to find that shiny object so the next year would be my lucky one. I don’t actually recall ever winning it. Hence a bleak childhood – I suppose – but the suspense and the taste of the pudding is still with me today. I think it’s my forever favourite food in the world.
Thank you so much Elisa for this interview. I hope you enjoyed reading a little more about my writing life and interests.