Review & Interview with Henriette Gyland author of The Elephant Girl

cover image

cover image

Today we’re delighted to welcome Henriette Gyland to the CTG blog. Henriette’s book The Elephant Girl is out now, published by Choc Lit. But before we quiz Henriette, let’s see what guest reader Sally Fallon thought of The Elephant Girl …

What the blurb says: “When five-year-old Helen Stephens witnesses her mother’s murder, her whole world comes crumbling down. Rejected by her extended family, Helen is handed over to child services and learns to trust no-one but herself. Twenty years later, her mother’s killer is let out of jail, and Helen swears vengeance.

Jason Moody runs a halfway house, desperate to distance himself from his father’s gangster dealings. But when Helen shows up on his doorstep, he decides to dig into her past, and risks upsetting some very dangerous people.

As Helen begins to question what really happened to her mother, Jason is determined to protect her. But Helen is getting too close to someone who’ll stop at nothing to keep the truth hidden …”

This is a clever mix of light thriller and romance.  You are immediately drawn into Helen’s world, and the cataclysmic event that shapes her past. Clearly haunted by the fatal events of that day, she forges a new life for herself until a stranger turns up unexpectedly.  Returning to England she ends up re-connecting with her long lost family and discovering some unpleasant and shocking revelations about their business.

The story is told from different points of view and you find yourself eagerly turning the pages to follow Helen’s story, hoping she will emerge safely from the unfolding dramas that surround her.

Thoroughly recommended.

Henriette Gyland

Henriette Gyland

Sounds fabulous. So now it’s our chance to ask Henriette some questions about The Elephant Girl and her writing process. 
First off, can you tell us where you got your inspiration for writing The Elephant Girl?The book was inspired partly by a real-life horrific murder which involved a child witness, but it’s also a personal journey for me. A good friend of mine suffers from epilepsy and has been very candid about her condition, about how it affects her life and her relationships with other people, as well as occasionally her memory. In the novel the heroine is a young child when the crime takes place, and also suffers an epileptic seizure at the time. This gave me an opportunity to explore the theme of the unreliable witness. How much did she actually see, and can her interpretation be trusted? Can she even trust herself?

We’re big fans of romantic suspense here at, but tell me, what was it that attracted you to the genre?

I’ve always been a huge fan of Nora Roberts. I love the way her heroines are basically ordinary women who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances, having to overcome inner conflicts while they simultaneously have to deal with dangerous outside conflicts. Although they have to solve their own problems, learning to trust the hero and finding love help them do this. It’s the same story with my own characters – I keep them in the crucible and make them work hard before they can be rewarded with their upbeat ending. You might say I’m cruel to my characters, but you have to be cruel to be kind, as the saying goes!

If The Elephant Girl were made into a movie, which actors would you like to see playing your main characters?

Now we’re definitely entering the territory of big dreams! But dreaming is allowed, I suppose. I would love for Emma Watson (of Harry Potter fame) to play Helen. She has just the right degree of mettle and vulnerability to fit the character in the novel. Cillian Murphy would be great as Jason, and I’d like Imelda Staunton to play the grandmother.

Tell us a little about your writing process, do you plot out the story events before sitting down to write, or do you drive right in and see where the story takes you?

I’m very much a plotter. I like to include a few twists and turns in my work, and if I don’t plot carefully, there’s a real danger that the book will end up in a right old mess. When plotting, I tend to write detailed chapter-by-chapter summaries, colour-coding the settings for the various scenes, who’s in it, a few specific words of dialogue, and what will be revealed.

How do you organise your writing day: do you have a favourite time and place to write?

I write best in the mornings between 10am and 1pm, preferably using pencil and paper because there’s less friction with pencils (better for my wrist). I then type up what I’ve written as soon as I can, usually after I’ve finished a scene, effectively doing my first edit along the way. I like to work in the garden when the weather allows it, but if I can’t, I’ll sit on the sofa, or at the local library, or even in a café. Away from the computer it feels less like “proper work”.

And what’s next for you, are you planning your next novel, or already well into the writing of it?

My next novel, which is already scheduled for publication in 2014, is a complete departure from anything I’ve written so far. It’s a swash-buckling historical tale set in the Georgian period, with highwaymen, a spirited heroine, and a mystery at its core.  But right now, as we speak, I’m working on another romantic thriller.


Thank you so much to Henriette Gyland for joining us today. You can follow her on Twitter @henrigyland  

The Elephant Girl is out now in paperback and Kindle versions.


[A big thank you to Choc Lit for our copy of The Elephant Girl]

My Reading List

Piles of books

Piles of books (Photo credit: ollily)

So many crime fiction books, not enough time!

I’ve always been a real hoarder of books, but recently my ‘To Read’ pile seems to have grown far more than usual.

On my list at the moment I’ve got:

  • BAPTISM by Max Kinnings
  • Heart-Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne
  • Snakes & Ladders by Sean Slater
  • Dark Eyes by William Richter
  • Sleep Walkers by Tom Grieves
  • The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz
  • 11.22.63 by Stephen King
  • A Wanted Man by Lee Child
  • Survivor by Gregg Hurwitz

And with the darker nights drawing in, it’s the perfect time to curl up by the fire and read my way through them.

What’s on your ‘to read’ list at the moment?

Review: S is for Silence by Sue Grafton

 A real page-turner of a mystery

In July 1953 Violet Sullivan, a local good-time girl living in Serena Station, California, drives off in her brand new Chevy, leaving behind her husband and young daughter, Daisy.  Violet is never seen again.

Thirty-five years later, Daisy wants closure.

Reluctant to open such an old, cold case, Kinsey Millhone agrees to spend five days investigating, believing at first that Violet simply moved on to pastures new.  But a lot of people shared a past with Violet, one that some are still desperate to keep hidden.  And in a town as close-knit as Serena there aren’t many places to hide when things turn vicious …

S is for Silence is the nineteenth novel in Sue Grafton’s “alphabet” series, featuring her female PI, Kinsey Millhone.  The story is told from two points in time: 1953, when Violet goes missing, and 1987 when Kinsey picks up the investigation.

Grafton uses the two time points to great effect – showing the reader what life was like for Violet before her disappearance, the community she lived in, and the things that where troubling her.  She shows Violet through the eyes of different characters, and we see not only the ‘good-time’ aspects of Violet’s life, but also how the web of relationships she’d become entangled in could provide a motive for several people to wish her gone.

With the interconnected 1987 story, the reader is able to see how the years have changed (or not) the characters from 1953, and as the story progresses it becomes clear that several characters aren’t as honest and truthful as they’d like Kinsey to believe. For me, this ‘insider knowledge’ added to the feeling of suspense.

The story moves at a quick pace and I found myself compelled to keep on reading. The element of mystery, of not knowing if Violet (and her little dog) had run away, or if something more sinister had occurred, was key to this.  As a reader, I wanted to figure out the puzzle along with Kinsey. And if something bad had happened to Violet, I wanted to work out who had done it and how.

I found Kinsey Millhone is a sassy, dynamic character. Riding shotgun as she worked the case, and watching her dealing with the situations and people she encounters with her practical, non-nonsense approach, was fun.

This book is not as noir as I would usually read.  But that said, it’s an interesting and cleverly told story that kept me interested and turning the pages right to the end.