Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Hannah Warren on Victoria's Pages of Romance

Let me introduce  Hannah Warren and her new book Casablanca, My Heart.

Please tell us everything about your latest book.

Oh boy, talking about my writing is not my forte. I’d much rather sit at my desk and invent another character than talk about the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ of the products of my imagination. A long time ago – when I was a literature student and a rebel - I walked out of the lecture room because I was fed up with my professors ‘tearing apart’ all my favourite books: what is the plot, which subplots can you detect, how is character development realised, how does the book fit in with its contemporaries, what are the author’s motives for blah-blah-blah?

 I became allergic to this kind of ‘vivisection of books’ because it destroyed all my fun in the sheer magic of reading and writing. No, I never passed that degree but at last my love for books has remained intact.
Anyway, I ended up as a translator for Miles and Boon’s (into Dutch) and fell in love with the genre. Just for fun I tried to write one myself but that soon got out of hand as I’m actually a bit of a poet at heart so I have a tendency to lard my sentences with a stiff dose of lyrical, sumptuous words not generally found in the standard candlelight romance.  

But back to Casablanca, My Heart, my début novel.

I loved writing it, I will always be grateful to the story because it’s the first one to go out into the world on its own, bravely defying all other millions of books in an attempt to find readers. It’s a tentative book, me dipping my toes in the water. Can I write, do people like my writing style, appreciate the way I tell a story? I love complex stories, can’t stop myself from jumping into a chaotic situation and then –splash, splash- together with the reader find all the pieces of the puzzle to make it a fitting whole. I love dabbling with POV’s and tenses, I guess I overdid that a bit in this one and am stricter with myself in the next book. Still, so far readers have told me they love the book, even with the changing chronology and POVs.

The genre.
Casablanca, My Heart is first and foremost a contemporary romance but it can also be labelled literary or romantic fiction. 

Who are the main characters?
The main female character is Femmy Lovecraft, pen name of Heather Simpson, a 31-year old acclaimed romance novelist, whose husband Luuk Routers, an artist and equally famous, is in a coma as a result of an accident for which Heather blames herself.
The male protagonist is Ghalib Tourniquet, Prince Hassan VII, a Moroccan aristocrat and playboy, who has been infatuated with Heather and her books for years.  

How long did it take to write?
I started writing the book five years ago and finished it a year later. Then, I left it in the recesses of my computer to gather dust amidst all the other short stories, poems, finished and unfinished manuscripts. Last year, I dug it out again and found the guts to send it to a professional editor. That set the ball rolling…

Was there a period during the writing of the story where you sat and stared at the screen because what your characters just did surprised the heck out of you?
Constantly, I have quite an erratic mind myself so it is no wonder my characters do unheard-of things all the time. Luckily, I have a good sense of humour and am broad-minded so I let them have as much fun as they can. At times they have to pay a heavy price for that, but the good thing about romance is that they always patch up in the end.
A good example of such surprising behaviour is the famous hot steam scene in Chapter 4. I’ve upset some applecarts there. Readers were shocked about the sudden passion that flared up between the two strangers, one of whom (the guy, of course) was absolutely untrustworthy. Why did Heather let herself be fooled like that by him? Ah well, strange things happen in Casablanca!  

How did you pick the title?
Gosh, I wouldn’t know. I know all my titles before I write the story but have no idea where they come from. Casablanca speaks for itself as the white city is featured so prominently in the book. And the heart? That’s the leitmotiv of the book. Everyone has or does something with his or her heart.

Who designed your cover?
My dear friend, the author and artist Sessha Batto. She is not only a fantastic cover designer, she also has the patience of a saint. I was super demanding and critical but in the end she made something that we both think has exactly the right feel.

Who’s your publisher?
My publisher is Tim Hewston of Taylor Street Publishing (formerly Night Publishing). I’m very proud to be part of TSP, Tim works really hard for his authors, many of whom have also become my friends. TSP publishes books in all genres, also non-fiction and is based in San Francisco, CA.

Have you written other books? Their titles and genres.
I’m currently working on a psychological thriller, Prior To You, which I hope to finish soon so I can start the editing rounds (some 15,000 words to go). As I’m a relentless editor and also work with professional editors, I hope to have it published this year but it might be the beginning of 2013.
My drawer contains another (finished) thriller I wrote in 1993, The Goose Eater, which I might pick up one day. Then, there’s another romance in the pipeline, Daughter of the Alvar, situated in Sweden; a romance scam I became involved in Maker of Despair; a children’s picture book Happy Dance and Scary Sky; at least two collections of short stories and a poetry volume. Enough to keep me off the streets until my last breath. J

Plotter or a pantser?  Why does this work best for you?
No doubt: pantser. I only have a vague idea where the story is going to lead me, I see the characters, their problems, the outcome but in between... no idea. I love this process of finding out on the paper, being the first reader of a developing story, it's one of the most exciting feelings I can experience. I know my characters and I know how they behave, but to start off with they’re like shadowy parts of myself, dream shapes that float in and out of my eyesight. Whether they like marmite or wear mustard-brown underwear is really of no importance to me at the beginning of the process. They will tell me in due course. One of the nicest compliments I got from a reader was that according to her each and every one of my characters was like someone she knew. 

Short question time.
Favourite TV show?
So You Think You Can Dance. I’m totally hooked on dance, wanted to become a dancer when I was young but it never happened. My next main character is a modern dancer so I see it as “work” watching the show. Haha.

Most romantic place you've visited?
Paris, always Paris, the city where I was born!

If Hollywood called, which actor should play the hero or heroine in your book?
Reese Witherspoon should play Heather and Hugh Jackman would be perfect to play Ghalib.

Three things you'd want on a deserted island.
My Kindle, an Ice Tea and pair of multi-coloured flip-flops

Which would you choose – a knight in shining armour or a roman gladiator?
A knight, whose shining armour is fastened with Velcro so it can be undone in one swooping movement to display his gorgeous muscles.

Favourite thing to do on a vacation?
Oh I’m not exotic in my taste: read on the beach under a parasol, then swim in clear blue seas, followed by a seafood-meal with my beau.

If you could meet one famous person – past or present – who would it be? Why?
Oh no, don’t tempt me! There are so many writers, actors, artists I am in awe of, past and present. But if I have to choose one, it would be Leo Tolstoy. I absolute adore every word the Master ever wrote. Anna Karenina is unsurpassed; I can read and reread it every hour of the day.

Any last comments – ideas – your blurb or excerpt.
Thank you so much for this interview, Victoria. Especially for your readers I’ve selected an excerpt from Casablanca, My Heart

Stansted Airport, 20 September 2010
“Mummy, do you see her yet?” Lucy cries.
“No, sweetheart, I don’t.”
Her four year old weight, constantly shifting on my shoulders, is starting to be considerable.
“I’ve got to put you down, Luus, if only for a couple of minutes. You’re getting way too heavy. Look. You can stand on the railing over there and I’ll hold you, okay?”
“Okay, but let’s run, Mummy. I don’t want to miss seeing Omy come.”
Lucy wriggles free, zigzagging through the crowds at fast as her chubby legs will carry her. I run after her, anxious I will lose sight of her, glad when I catch hold of her hand again.
“Heather? Heather! My God. It’s you!”
The voice freezes me in my tracks. My immediate reflex is to run and hide, but my feet refuse to move. I stand stiff and motionless, and unable to breathe. As if a barrel has been stuck between my ribs.
Lucy comes to a standstill as well, looking up at me with big, round eyes. Startled by my sudden rigidity, she forgets about her grandmother for a moment. Then curiosity gets the better of her and she turns to see who has called her mother’s name. Taking heart from my daughter’s bravery, I turn to face the inevitable.
It is him.
There is no doubt. He stands there, staring at me, at us, his expression shocked but intense. He is the same person, but looks much older. Lines fan out around his eyes and beside his mouth. He seems to have lost weight. But the light in his eyes hasn’t changed in the least. They still shine with that vivid blue passion that has been with me, inside of me, everywhere I went ever since our brief and fateful meeting five years before. Those eyes take me in with the intensity of someone drinking fresh, clean water after a long period of drought, but there is nothing teasing or lustful in them this time. His gaze is turned inwards, showing a restraint and pain that wasn’t there before. It seems to border on sorrow.
His dark brown hair has started to thin at the sides and is greying at the temples. Compassion sweeps through me, but I control the urge to bridge the few steps between us and touch his hand. I register all his visual details as if catching up on lost years and hoarding them up … for what? The lonely years ahead?
His skin can still be considered dark, definitely darker than most of the North Europeans surrounding us, but even his tan, once so glamorous, has lost some of its southern glow. He’s dressed elegantly in a dark blue business suit, but without a speck of extravagance. At some deeper level his inner posture is still intact, in the way he keeps himself upright, in the distinct classiness that reveals his aristocratic background. On closer inspection I think he looks even more attractive than he did five years ago, now all the former flashiness and arrogance is gone.
He is different from the other businessmen with their raincoats draped over their overnight bags, but he seems deliberately to have chosen a low profile.
This is not the Ghalib Tourniquet I remember. I’m puzzled by the dramatic difference in his appearance and wonder what could have happened in his life to cause such a drastic change. I also wonder why I care, and why I don’t feel angry with him. In fact, anger seems the only emotion I don’t have for him.
Swallowing the dry lump in my throat, I try to think of something to say. We must look like a pair of idiots just standing there, mute and frozen. But no words spring to mind. I realise Lucy’s hand is still squeezed in mine, sweaty and damp and I’m amazed she has stood still all this time. How long we’ve been standing like this, I don’t know.
Just as I’m getting grounded in reality again, he takes his eyes off me and turns his gaze to Lucy, a vague half-smile hovering on his face. Instantly, the smile disappears. His eyes search mine again, briefly, questioning. I see the enormity of the situation as it crosses his mind.
“Heather! Lucy! There you are! I’ve been looking for you!”
The spell is broken. I become aware of the movement of people around us; they pass us by on all sides, swiftly, anonymously. The private moment during which the three of us existed on a remote island has passed.
I turn to face my mother, then turn again, but he’s already moving away, his back disappearing in the crowd, a stranger among the strangers.

Thank you so much Hannah for visiting Victoria's Pages of Romance and for giving us a chance to get to know you and your book Casablanca, My Heart. 

Now that you've made it this far - Hannah has a giveaway. Post a comment and tell us what is your favourite flaw in a romance hero?  What does he do bad/wrong but is still a hero and sexy?


  1. Thank you, Martha. Feel free to answer the question and win a copy of Casablanca, My Heart!

  2. I agree- a great interview! What is my favourite flaw in a romance hero? I'm a sucker for the type who keeps his emotions to himself. Hard to reach a man like that, but, boy, what a challenge! :)

  3. Hi Hannah, See you're here already and responding to comments. Great.

  4. Good interview! I loved the excerpt from Casablanca, My Heart - definitely makes me want to read more! I guess the flaw that I like in my heroes is for them to be sort of a rake prior to meeting the woman that changes his life - it's something that annoys me in real life (hate real life man whores) but for some reason in a good romance it's a flaw I can for the giveaway

  5. Loved, loved, loved your excerpt.

    I guess the one flaw I like most in romance heroes is when they feel they know what is best for the heroine. But she shows him the error of his ways. I think I like this flaw because I like being right and proving others wrong, lol.

    Great interview.

  6. Thank you so much for reading and commenting Maria and Brenda. I will have a hard time choosing the answer I like best.

  7. From a mans point of view the hero might have everything a woman wants but doesn't hold her hand in public.

    Great interview Hannah. Even better book.

  8. Lovely interview about your lovely book, Hannah!
    The best flaw for a romantic hero is to be still suffering (and behaving badly as a result) from a hurt in his past, usually a hurt by some other woman. For instance, Dameral in Georgette Heyer's Venetia; Mr Rochester in Jane Eyre; many, many others; and your own Gahlib, of course.
    Then of course the heroine helps heal his hurt!

  9. Wow - everybody - what great responses. Hannah is in for a tough job selecting a winner!


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