I was born in London in 1964. I’ve always been passionate about stories and legends - in fact I was told off at school for writing stories under the desk in Maths lessons! I read Classics at St. Hugh’s College, Oxford and then worked in Marketing for 10 years in order to fund my love of travelling - I have visited many countries including Uzbekistan and the Lebanon. During that time I mostly kept travel diaries, but I always had it in mind that I would write a book one day. After I married and my two children were born, we moved to Germany and in fact we stayed abroad for ten years. Living in the beautiful German town of Bad Münstereifel inspired me to write my first book, The Vanishing of Katharina Linden, which is set there. In 2011 we moved back to the UK. My husband is a Scot so we decided to make Scotland our home. I love living here; I like hillwalking and swimming outdoors, and I especially enjoy visiting heritage sites such as standing stones, ancient churches and castles. I can never see enough of those!
About writer's work
The Vanishing of Katharina Linden was published by Penguin in 2009 and subsequently shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal and the Booktrust Teenage Prize; it was published in the USA in 2010 and won an ALA Alex Award. Since then my work has also been published in Germany, Norway, Spain, Brazil, Romania, Italy and Holland. My second novel, The Glass Demon, was nominated for the Carnegie Medal and shortlisted for the Leeds Book Awards. A third book, Wish Me Dead, was published in 2011. To date, I have never written a book set in Britain. This is because we lived abroad for most of the last 10 years. I was asked about this by children at a school I visited recently and explained that I had never seen The X Factor nor Britain’s Got Talent (the shock on their faces at this revelation was rather amusing!) and had no idea how much a newspaper or a loaf of bread cost in Britain any more. My first three novels are set in Germany because we were living there when I started work on them. I am currently working on a book - possibly books - set in Flanders because we lived in Belgium from 2008-2011. I like to explore local culture and local issues. In Belgium there is the interplay and often actual friction between the French- and Flemish-speaking regions, and in addition there is a large expatriate population. I’m not writing a political tract so my new book isn’t “about” that, but it’s a vital element in the background. There is always a good deal of debate over the question of Flemish independence and I see parallels in the debate about Scottish independence. Eventually I would love to write a novel set in Scotland. At the moment I am working on my “Belgian” book(s) but I’m spending a lot of my spare time immersing myself in local history and heritage in hopes of producing inspiration for the future!
Current events and projects
The party piece is that I can also do readings in German - I have done two in Bad Münstereifel! - although there probably isn’t much call for that in Britain. I am also very happy to do talks about my work and inspirations, for which I like to use a Powerpoint presentation if possible, as I have some gorgeous photographs of book locations etc. I can talk about a specific book (usually the most recent) or about my work in general. I run workshops about ghost story writing - I normally like to limit the group size to 15-20 max as otherwise not everyone gets a chance to join in. I am happy to run the workshop more than once in a day though! I have run this workshop for the British School of Brussels Book Week and also recently for some schools in Leeds in connection with the Leeds Book Awards. I can also talk about “getting published” as this seems to be a very popular topic with writers’ groups. I did a talk entitled “Getting published as a children’s author” at Waterstone’s Brussels with fellow writer Leila Rasheed. I was Writer in Residence at Innerpeffray Library, Scotland's oldest lending library, on 31st October 2013, and wrote a set of ghost stories set in the library that are available as a chapbook to raise funds for the library. I am happy to do readings or talks about these and my other ghost stories.
Before writing my first novel, I wrote a number of supernatural stories which were published in All Hallows (the journal of the Ghost Story Society), Supernatural Tales & various anthologies. I consider the classic ghost story an excellent way of honing writing skills - the aim is to make the flesh creep, not to disgust. For this reason I sometimes run ghost story writing workshops. One of my ghost stories, The Sea Change (first published in Supernatural Tales) can be read on my website at: http://www.helengrantbooks.com/sea-change.php I’m also a great fan of the ghost story writer Montague Rhodes James, and have written a number of articles about his work, which were published in the small press literary journal The M.R.James Ghosts & Scholars Newsletter. Some of these articles can be read on the Ghosts & Scholars website at: http://www.pardoes.info/roanddarroll/News.html