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.
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.
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…