Today I am pleased to host a visit from Danish author Hanne Holten.
Welcome, Hanne. Would you like to tell us about your novel, Snares and Delusions?
First, I want to thank you for this opportunity, Tim. Should I give a
brief idea of the plot? Snares and Delusions is set in the late
nineteenth and early twentieth century. The protagonist, Hedda, faces
her life — and death — in dreams and nightmares. At the beginning a
feisty teenager, Hedda develops into an independent woman, through
traumatic events and brief moments of romance. There are elements of
Norse myths in the nightmare sequences, and I’ve drawn on Danish
folklore about elves in a birth scene.
It’s not always easy to talk about one’s own writing, perhaps because
it’s too close. I suppose one could say that ‘Snares and Delusions’ is
an attempt to get inside the imagination of a character. On the other
hand, one could say that about most fiction writing.
Various authors have commented on the third-person present-tense
writing, but I couldn’t see any other way to do this. If my protagonist
is dying and relives her life in dreams and nightmares, it isn’t
possible to write in first person, because it suggests that she
survives. Neither can it be told in past-tense: my character would be
dead and there would be no story. I must agree with Shakespeare that
‘we are such stuff that dreams are made of, and our little life is
rounded with a sleep’.
To what extent does the novel draw upon your own experiences?
Obviously, I have no personal experience of the historical period. On
the other hand, I’ve relied on my family history, although my
protagonist is invented. The inspiration for this was a real person, but
I know almost nothing about her. She hid her past and was long dead
when I was born. I only knew that she arrived in Denmark from Sweden,
that she had a boarding house, and that she had a daughter. Whether or
not she was married is questionable. Let me just add, that I don’t
think it’s possible to write anything without drawing on personal
Am I right in thinking that you are working on a second book? What can you tell us about that?
Yes, I’m working on, that is, I’m revising my second book at present.
It falls in three parts, mainly set in The Great War and during the
twenties and thirties’ Denmark. This time I work with two protagonists: a
young man from Sønderborg (then part of Germany). He goes to China as a
volunteer but ends up as a POW in Japan. My second main character is a
young girl who lives in Copenhagen and writes a diary about her life,
her puppy love, and the war as she sees it — from a distance.
Eventually, these two characters meet. They fall in love, but their love
isn’t simple. The climate in Denmark during the twenties and thirties,
the rise of Hitler, all makes their life together difficult. He carries
the trauma of The Great War inside, and she doesn’t understand his
fascination with the German ideas. The third and last part presents the
female character, as a widow looking back on the events of her life.
You’re from Denmark, have spent time in the UK and now live in Germany. Where feels most like home?
Do you know, I can’t really say? Sometimes, I believe that I don’t
belong anywhere. I left Denmark for personal reasons and enjoyed living
in England for fifteen years. Admittedly, I have a certain nostalgia for
that period, but I see little opportunity to return in the current
situation. For me, Brexit is a sad development. There are good and bad
aspects of living in Germany, but the current atmosphere of xenophobia
is, I fear, present everywhere.
As well as writing, you also play music and paint. Which art form means the most to you?
It would be simple to say that every art-form is equally important to
me, but that would be a simplification. I grew up with music as an
essential part of my life — my dream was to become an opera singer. I
did realize that dream to some extent but found that my calling veered
in the direction of teaching. This I continue to do.
Although I always loved the fine arts and dabbled a bit in drawing,
painting came later. When I first moved to London, I missed having
pictures on my walls. I couldn’t afford to buy them, but I had some
colour and brushes. In short, I started painting my own art-work and
quickly developed my personal style. Painting is something I do with
great pleasure, but my other activities — and the frequent lack of
natural light — put it in the back seat as it were.
Always an avid reader, I started to write early. There have been times
when I couldn’t find time to write regularly, but during my years in
England, it became a necessity for me to write every day. I made many
false starts on writing my first novel. It took years before I dared to
believe it could be published. I don’t think Snares and Delusions would
have appeared if I hadn’t joined Authonomy — up to that time, I had no
feedback and felt hampered by insecurity and — procrastination. That is
a thing of the past now, I mean the procrastination.
What else is important in your life at the moment?
Cooking! I love to eat well — and a healthy diet is necessary to keep going.
Like most freelance writers, I must earn money besides through my
writing. The teaching paid well during the first years I lived here, but
then my job fell through. That’s another story. Suffice it to say that
the number of students fell, but that I still have some loyal and
promising pupils. To close the income gap, I administer two holiday
flats in the house where I have my flat. The workload differs with the
seasons but tides me over.
Friends and family are spread wide, so social media plays a large role in my day to day interest.
Finally, what question would you have liked me to ask that I didn’t?
There are always unanswered questions — and always questions we don’t
ask. It’s difficult to think of something right away but give me a
moment, and I might come up with something. I think we’ve covered most
of what is important in my life, unless you’d like to know something
about my publishing journey?
And what is the answer?
I believe that everybody is aware that getting a publishing deal with
one of the major publishing houses is next to impossible unless you
know some high animal — are a celebrity — or have a viable platform (a
successful blog or another internet prominence). When I started
submitting the former version of my book to literary agents: it was then
Of Foes and Friends, I had no idea of this except a vague feeling that
it might not be easy to get recognized. The theme for my book, or rather
the Scandinavian setting might not interest a large audience. Having
said that, I chose that setting for obvious reasons (being of good
Danish stock) and thought it could appear exotic. Anyway, that brings me
back to Authonomy and the feedback, which made me realize that there
was plenty of plot gaps in the ‘Foes’. In other words, back to the
writing desk. I rewrote most of the book and that version received
admiration — but still no contract. That was when I decided to go indie.
I took the plunge straight away. Only to realize that I hadn’t followed
the advice that abounds for indie authors. That’s when I started my
blog. Being unsure about how to do it, I started two blogs that I later
united. A year on, there are still lessons to learn, but I know a lot
more than I did. Learning by trial and error isn’t always the easiest
route to take, but I don’t regret anything but my own naivety at the
Thank you for those fascinating answers, Hanne. Good luck with your writing!
You can learn more about Hanne, and Snares and Delusions, through the following links: