My first name is Helle [ˈhɛlə], which few people outside Denmark know how to pronounce. (I don’t mind being called Helen, but dislike if I’m called Hell.) That’s the reason I use my initials H. S. in my author name. The S. stands for Sidelmann, which is a middle name.
I’m Danish and I grew up on a golf course in Denmark. Literally! The driving range was on the other side of our garden hedge. I started playing golf with my dad when I was two years old, I learnt to ski (cross country) on the golf course, and it was our playground when the golfers had gone home in the evening. I was also a scout, so I spent a lot of time outdoors.
Whenever I wasn’t running around outside, I had a book in my hands. I read while eating, brushing my teeth, walking home from school, under the covers at night with a flashlight, and sitting on swings. I credit my mum. She was an English teacher and a full-time reader. From an early age, she fed me fairy tales and passed her love of books on to me.
I used to daydream about fairies or good witches or magic carpets appearing out of nowhere. (The magic carpets usually popped up when I was walking home from school and it was raining.) I imagined opening doors into other worlds and disappearing into them. Nothing ever happened. Not really. But I discovered that I could stay inside the books, continue the stories, and imagine futures for the characters I liked or even invent my own stories. I kept daydreaming and imagining things, as I grew up, but I never wrote anything down and I never thought becoming an author was a possibility.
At university, I got a Master’s degree in Economics and Business Administration. Afterwards I had a career, working in corporate marketing strategy and communications. My jobs were interesting and gave me opportunities to travel and work abroad (and later, so did my husband’s jobs).
I have lived in the UK (Milton Keynes and London), the US (New Jersey and Georgia), Austria, Singapore and Switzerland, where I live now with my husband and two teenage sons.
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I began trying to write stories when my children were quite young, but for years I never got beyond chapter three. Then in 2010 I finally made it to the end of a first draft of a middle grade novel. The next four years was spent rewriting and editing that novel, while I learnt the craft of writing through books, workshops, and writing groups. In 2016, I put my writing-apprenticeship novel aside and wrote a story about a ski-racing girl and a barbegazi. That story, THE MISSING BARBEGAZI, was published by Pushkin Press in 2018 and Jolly Fish Press in the US in 2019.
When I’m not writing or reading, I spend my time outdoors either skiing, hiking, walking, golfing or taking photos.
Read more about me and my journey to becoming an author in these Interviews.