What does H.Y. stand for? Is your name a secret?
No, it’s not a secret. H.Y. are the initials of my first name, which is Hsin-Yi. I just thought “H.Y.” would be a lot easier for people to spell, pronounce and remember! Can you guess how to pronounce “Hsin-Yi”? 😉
Did you always want to be a writer?
Well, I’ve always enjoyed writing stories (or letters, diaries, poems, invitations, shopping lists…I’m not fussy. I just like making words and putting them together. Yes, I was one of those annoying kids who actually loved getting English composition homework!) – but to be honest, when I was little, all I really wanted to be when I grew up was Nancy Drew. I loved reading mysteries and she was my hero. I especially loved her “titian” hair and always wished I had reddish-gold hair like her.
Where were you born and where did you go to school?
Do you want the short answer or the long answer? OK, I’m kidding because there is no short answer. 😉 I was born in Taiwan and my family moved around a lot as I was growing up, so I lived in many places, including Hong Kong, London, New Jersey, Taipei and for most of my teens, the United Arab Emirates. This meant that I changed schools a lot – almost every year between the ages of 6 and 10 years old! Having to move around so much taught me to become really adaptable, learn about new cultures and make friends from different backgrounds.
After my high school years in Dubai, I went to the U.K. for university and read Biology at Oxford University, followed by a Masters degree in Social Anthropology. Then I got a job in London and worked for a few years – before I got married and moved with my husband to New Zealand, and then to Australia. I worked as an English teacher for a while, teaching English as a Foreign Language – and then I worked as an Education Rep for Oxford University Press – and then, I decided I would do what I’d always wanted to do: become a writer! 🙂 I started working as a freelance journalist… and then eventually began to write my own books. And that’s what I do now – I am a full-time author and I write books for both kids and adults.
What gave you the idea for the Big Honey Dog Mysteries?
From my very own Big Honey Dog! 🙂 I was inspired by my own Great Dane, Honey, who has had many wonderful adventures of her own. (You can read more about Honey on The real ‘Honey’ page.)
I also wanted to write the kind of stories that I loved reading as a child – mysteries such as Nancy Drew and The Famous Five and animal stories such as Watership Down and The Trumpet of the Swan – so I thought a mystery series featuring dogs as the stars would be the perfect combination.
What are your hobbies?
Well, I know that every writer says this so it’s kind of boring but I do really love reading so I guess reading would be my No. 1 hobby. I also love dancing and have tried out lots of different kinds of dance, from ballet & tap & folk dance in my teens to ballroom dancing & belly dancing at university, and later on, hip hop, pole-dancing, jazz, burlesque, line dancing…pretty much everything! 😉 Oh, and I also did a kind of ‘doggie dancing’ called Canine Freestyle with my Great Dane, Honey.
ps. I also love eating so I guess you could call that a sort of hobby! 😉
Do you have any brothers or sisters?
Yes, I have one brother and two sisters. I’m the oldest so I’m really bossy! 😉
Do you have pets? What pets did you have as a child?
Well, sadly, I wasn’t allowed any pets as a child even though I desperately wanted one. I promised myself that I would get a pet as soon as I grew up and was independent. I especially wanted a dog. But of course, having a dog isn’t that simple: you need to have the right kind of home for it and have enough time to do all the important things like training, socialisation and taking it for walks every day. It’s really cruel to get a dog and then just leave it home alone all day. That’s when all the problems like chewing, digging and barking start.
So even after I finished university and was all grown up, I decided that it still wasn’t the right time to get a dog because I was working very long hours. It wasn’t until my 30th birthday that my dream finally came true and I finally got a dog… my Great Dane, Honey! 😀 I’m glad I waited, though – sometimes good things happen to those who are patient and wait for the right time for things to happen.
So Honey was my first dog – and we also adopted a calico kitten from the rescue shelter at the same time, who we named Lemon. Honey & Lemon were great friends and grew up together. Sadly, Lemon died of a mystery illness when she was just 5 years old. But after a couple of years after that, we adopted another rescue kitten from the RSCPA – a little tabby and white girl – and named her Muesli. And Muesli bossed Honey around the house just like Lemon did! 😉
** Sadly, Honey has gone to the Rainbow Bridge now. She was a very old dog and had lived a wonderful, full life. She will live on forever in the book series inspired by her.
What are your favourite books? Who are your favourite authors?
My favourite books as a child were almost always mysteries or animal stories. As I said, I loved Nancy Drew and also books like Five Children and It, the Chronicles of Narnia, books by Jack London such as White Fang, the Ramona stories, Watership Down, the Black Stallion series, A Wrinkle in Time books, the Little House on the Prairie books… One of my greatest favourites as a child was The Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White (who also wrote the more famous, Charlotte’s Web). When I finally visited Boston as an adult many, many years later, I was so excited to finally see the Swan Boats for real. There is nothing like travelling to a place that you have read about in a wonderful story and seeing it with your own eyes.
As an adult, my childhood love of mysteries has morphed into a love of crime novels. Some of my favourite crime authors are Reginald Hill, Minette Walters, Val McDermid…and I also love the romantic suspense stories written by Mary Stewart, full of mystery and adventure in exotic countries.
I’ve also discovered many new children’s books as an adult – I LOVE Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy and Suzanne Collins’s middle-grade Gregor the Overlander series is one of my all-time favourite books; I’ve read the entire series all the way through several times now and still cry at the end each time. I also love Michael Grant’s YA GONE series – I have to put everything on hold every time I pick up one of his books because once I start, I just can’t stop reading! 😉 (but these are probably a bit too scary if you’re younger than 12 years old) Oh, and I still enjoy animal stories and have a lot of the Warriors cats series.
More fun facts:
- I LOVE spicy food and I put chillis in everything I eat (well, OK, not ice-cream but pretty much everything else! 😉 )
- I do everything really fast: I talk fast, walk fast, type fast, think fast…although I think I eat at normal speed.
- I’m a hypochondriac. This means that I always think every headache I have is a brain tumour and worry that my pimples will turn out to be Ebola.
- I’m really, really scared of cockroaches. I find the way they wave their antennae around really creepy and I’ll freak out & start screaming and doing silly things like flapping my arms and jumping on a chair, if I ever see a cockroach.
- I love animals and I’m mad about dogs – I’ve been heavily involved in canine training & behaviour, dog sports and photography—and I can even bark like a dog! 😉
Do you have a serious author bio like normal people?
Well, I’ll try! Here it is:
H.Y. Hanna is the award-winning author of children’s fiction and also writes mysteries, romances and romantic suspense for adults. Her books have spent time on the Amazon best-seller lists and she has also won awards for her novels, poetry, short stories and journalism. Under the pen name, “Penelope Swan“, she also writes a romantic Regency mystery series inspired by Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’.
Hsin-Yi graduated from Oxford University with a BA and MA in Biological Sciences and a Master of Studies in Social Anthropology. She tried her hand at a variety of jobs, including advertising, marketing and ESL teaching, before returning to her first love: writing. Her middle grade series, the Big Honey Dog Mysteries, won Gold in the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards and the Children’s Literary Classics Book Awards, as well as Silver at the Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards. She has also won prizes for her short stories, the Thomas Cook Young Travellers’ Poetry Award and also received the Elsevier Butterworth-Heinemann Special Feature Award for her journalism.
Hsin-Yi was born in Taiwan and has been a globe-trotter all her life – she grew up in the United Arab Emirates, was schooled in the U.K. and U.S., and worked in London before emigrating Down Under. Currently, she lives in Western Australia with her husband and a tabby cat named Muesli.
You can find out more about me and my adult books on my own website: www.hyhanna.com