Hannah Herchenbach was born in Lake Forest, Illinois in 1984. After graduating from Columbia University with a B.A. in History and English, she returned to New Zealand to write a tale about all the friends she met there while studying abroad. She has remained there ever since.
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.