Interview with Hannah Herchenbach

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Libertyville, Illinois, a town of about 20,000 on the outskirts of the Chicago suburbs. To give you a sense of its feel, it is far closer to Wisconsin than the city.

As a kid I found it really boring. Less than 1% of Illinois still has natural land on it, it's really mostly developments or farmland, so there isn't much to do outside. Most of my hobbies were either sports or indoor activities like reading, visiting the library, playing guitar and writing short stories.

After moving to New York to escape, I realised I didn't need quite all its noise and eventually settled on the other side of the world, in Christchurch, a town of 300,000 on the South Island of New Zealand. Funnily enough, now ten years after I first fled Illinois, I find myself returning to all those habits and hobbies that I cultured there in the boredom – playing guitar, reading, writing short stories. Perhaps Illinois never treated me so bad after all.

That being said, New Zealand is far more interesting and I will never look back.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
The first story that really blew my mind was F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, which I first read when I was 15. I loved how it seemed to take you by the hand, walk you gently into the narrator's life, and then sweep you along with him as he got lost in New York. At the time I was a kid bored in the Illinois countryside, so I really identified with the narrator's start in Lake Forest. It made me too want to move to New York, and years later I did, in pursuit of similar experiences and heartbreak.
Who are your favorite authors?
F. Scott Fitzgerald will always be my absolute hero – the way he could paint a scene in a sentence with the barest of sketches is heartbreaking.

The short stories of Nathaniel Hawthorne arrest me in a similar way.

I went through a huge Kerouac phase in college like everyone else, but ultimately find I aspire for writing to be a bit tighter than that. But when he nails a sentence it's like no one else.

Herman Melville's Moby Dick is excellent.

As for non-fiction, I love Tom Wolfe, Hunter S. Thompson, Truman Capote...
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Messing around on my bass or the piano, pottering around in the garden, playing around with my camera, finding new hills, mountains and lakes to check out with my dog Jarvis, stretching it out in yoga, creating in the kitchen, going to live gigs at the Darkroom, or, if it's below zero, taking Jarvis roller skating.
What is your writing process?
It changes every day. Usually I like to have at least four or five hours with nothing ahead of me so I can get really lost in it. If there's a pressure to be somewhere or do something within an hour I can flick off some non-fiction, but the creativity is limited. There were a lot of 14-16 hour stints logged while writing the novel, but I'm trying to do less of those because they're not good for your health.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Feeding my Samoyed, Jarvis – he is usually up before me, and I open my eyes to a white blur of happiness at the side of the bed. It makes getting up easy.
What are you working on next?
At the moment I am interested in long form non-fiction, and am hoping to start a doctorate somewhere to get some funding towards doing more research on the lifestyle and output of New Zealand bands, particularly in a sort of rock context that looks at the last forty years or so. The islands have such an amazing history in the form of Flying Nun, Xpressway Records, Failsafe and so many others like them. Plus there are so many new things happening now that do not get enough attention. I hope to be working towards a large archive of interviews, audio, and video profiling as many fascinating artists as I can over on my blog, highwhitesound.com. But at the moment that's a bit sporadic too...
What do you read for pleasure?
These days a lot of non-fiction. I love psychology and neuroscience, particularly when it relates to social behaviour. At the moment I am making my way through Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Scarcity by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir, and Thinking Fast and Slow by Dnaiel Kahneman.

I can't get enough of that stuff.

I'm also absorbing a lot of photography books at the moment.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
You are asking the wrong person – I haven't done much at all. After finishing the novel in 2010, I formatted some PDFs, printed off about 25 copies at the local copy centre, bound them up with ribbons and fabric and spent the next four years slowly giving them away to friends.

Feedback so far has been good and people enjoy it, in fact they are asking for it more often than I am willing to bind books, so I have put it online for free... I don't have many ideas beyond that at the moment, really. I'd really prefer to let people share it if they like it and focus on working on my next thing.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
Though I never would have gotten one for myself, my fiancé bought me an iPad a few years ago and I love it. That's the only e-reading device I have, other than my phone – but the screen is far too small to prefer it.
How do you approach cover design?
One of my friends, who is a drummer, made the excellent suggestion to draw inspiration from album covers more so than book covers. That is probably unfair to thousands amazing book covers out there, but it was what I needed to hear at the time. Since it's a debut, he suggested that the emphasis should be on the title itself rather than any illustrations per se – similar to the cover of the PJ Harvey album Let England Shake. Once glance at that album cover and I absolutely fell in love with it.

That being said, I haven't yet settled on anyone to design anything for it and just banged something together myself. Hopefully it'll look better at some future date.
Describe your desk
Huge, wooden with black vinyl, inspiring, peaceful.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Because I didn't think anyone else would let me just give it away for free.
Published 2015-12-30.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

High White Sound
Price: Free! Words: 51,400. Language: English. Published: November 8, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Coming of age
A coming of age tale about a girl who runs away from New York to live with a tribe of kids she meets on an island at the end of the world.