Helen Grant

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Helen Grant

Helen Grant was born in London and showed an early leaning towards the arts, having been told off for writing stories under the desk in maths lessons at school. She went on to read Classics at St Hugh’s College, Oxford, and then worked in marketing for ten years to fund her love of travelling. In 2001, Helen and her family moved to Bad Munstereifel in Germany. It was exploring the legends of this beautiful old town that inspired her to write her first novel, The Vanishing of Katharina Linden, which is set there. Helen now lives in Scotland with her husband, two children and two cats.


Interviewed 04 July 2015

Ten words to sum up your working life to date ...

“Let me finish this paragraph. I’ll be right with you.”

Nine things you can see from where you're sitting ...

A statue of Kali I brought back from India in 1990; a bottle of Hungarian palinka I haven’t dared try yet; an enormous second-hand painting of a stag in a forest that is leaning against the wall because it weighs a ton and needs industrial standard hooks to hang it up on; a tatty paperback of the ghost stories of MR James; Dundee Contemporary Arts cinema listings brochure; a toffee tin full of old coins; a box of watercolours; a plastic gravestone with RIP written on it; a trampoline.

Eight minutes to prepare a meal. What's it going to be ?

That depends whether I have to use things I currently have in the house! If I could pluck the ingredients out of thin air, I’d probably have a huge salad with bacon and avocado and some crusty bread on the side. Or I’d choose ready-made sushi which takes 30 seconds max to take out of the fridge, and spend the other seven and a half minutes mixing cocktails. But if it had to be made with things I already have in the house right now, it would be a ham and salad roll, an orange and a glass of Ribena. Sorry. I really do need to go grocery shopping.

Seven people you'd like to go for a drink with ...

Guillermo Del Toro, so I could tell him how much I loved The Devil’s Backbone. If they were alive, I’d also love to have a drink with Anthony Trollope, H Rider Haggard and MR James. Oh, and Sir Walter Scott, so I could take him to task about Ivanhoe’s marriage choices over a nice malt. Hmmm, I’d love to have a drink with my agent because I’m in Perthshire and she’s in London so we hardly ever meet and you never get all the goss when you email each other! And I’d like to go out somewhere really fancy for a drink with my husband Gordon because we don’t often get to do that!

Six things you can't live without ...

My family (does that count as three people or one unit, I wonder? I’ll assume one unit); books; internet access; excitement; real butter; lip salve.

Five favourite words ...

Palimpsest; sapphire; luminescent; scunnered; klootzak (Dutch swear word).

Four places you'd run away to ...

Not the circus: I’m pitifully bad at juggling. The sea, perhaps: I’ve sailed twice with square riggers and would love to do that again. Or somewhere I’ve visited in the past and would love to explore again, like Paris or Istanbul. If I really wanted to get away from it all, there would be worse places to choose than Agia Roumeli on Crete, a village that is not accessible by road, only on foot or by sea. I’d rent a room and sit in the sun with a glass of wine and some fried aubergines and now and again I’d ask foreign tourists for news of the outside world. That sounds very nice, actually. When can I go?

Three books you've bought recently ...

The Lady Ivie’s Trial by Sir John Fox; Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury; Saltire: Invasion by John Ferguson, with art by Gary Welsh and Tone Julskjaer.

Two things that make you rant ...

Only two? Well, here is one serious one and one frivolous one. I rant about politicians who don’t understand how horrible and desperate the situations of those less well off than themselves can be. And I rant about people who use archaic forms of English (thou hast and so on) when they don’t know how to.

One thing you'd tell your teenage self ...

Dump him now.