In the Spotlight: Nina Hanssen
Nina is a Norwegian Viking with a heart for writing. Already a successful journalist and author, she has sought out new lands for conquest… screenwriting. Having already mastered an understanding of the struggles and subtle truths that make us human, Nina has set her eye for total victory as a screenwriter. This is why I am excited to introduce you to her. This is Nina Hanssen…
My passion is human and social development where I am known for my strategic eye and analyses of those subjects. That led me into reporting where I am now an award-winning journalist in Norway. I have had the opportunity to visit and speak at many countries about topics such as labor market trends, health sector developments and women's rights.
Since I’ve been writing for over 30 years I have seen my body of work (7 books) published in Norwegian, Danish, and even English. Now I find myself fascinated by screenwriting. This presents an exciting new challenge for me and I am excited to be part of this community.
Q: How did you stumble upon screenwriting?
I have always been curious about it, and I really enjoy a good story, so in my opinion this is a very exciting area. I have friends who are screenwriters and also in my extended family we have two excellent screenwriters who are both getting a lot of international interest now. Karianne Lund has written the first two series of Occupied and Martin Lund has received two Amandas (the national Norwegian «Oscar»/film/movie prize) and a lot of international attention for his film “Psychobith” (2019). They really inspire me and now I am working towards writing for television and features as well as my own work.
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Q: when did you first start writing?
I started writing diaries as soon as I learned the alphabet. At the age of seven, I sat in the stairs at night writing some words about small and bigger things I observed in my everyday life.
Q: Who/what inspired you into taking this path?
I was inspired by my father. He was always reading. Books, newspapers, weekly magazines, and he did crosswords. He sat in our best chair in the living room, looking like he enjoyed himself while smoking a lot of roll up cigarettes and drank cold coffee.
The little girl - me - was wondering what dads world was all about? I was curious. I stole copies for the weekly Mens magazine “Vi Menn”, (The Norwegian equivalent to FHM etc.) and started reading in my bedroom. There were many interesting long features (articles) in the magazines and I learn a lot from reading it. As I grew older, I borrowed his books, mostly political biographies, and read them in my bed. One book in particularly spellbound me. It was written by Trygve Bratteli. This book was about his personal experience from being in the resistance during the second world war, and when he was captured by the Germans in 1942. His struggles during the war led to me becoming peace-activist.
I then borrowed many books at the local library. When I read “The Diary of a young girl” (Anne Frank), I got hooked on history. Especially literature from the WW2. I later studied history and social anthropology in my first university degree in social science. I always kept a diary, and I still do. Some years, later I filled four or five books, hence it was so many thoughts and associations on my mind.
Q: Who was the first person who believed in you?
No one believed in me as a writer when I was young. Least of my teacher in Norwegian language. When I met my former teacher later in life, she was shocked to learn I had become a journalist and that I was a writer.
The first person to put trust in me was Mr. Per Christian Øiestad in the publishing agency. We met for a coffee and he signed me on a contract to write a biography of a politician on the same day. That was in 2011, the year the same year as the horrible terror attack that killed 77 people in Oslo (just a few meters from my office) and Utøya (where I use to attend summer camps every year during my youth). I had signed my first contract when the attack happened and was in shock. To ease my pain from the loss, I started my first blog on internet that week. My first blog was about the terror attack.
Q: When was the moment you knew you wanted to be a writer?
I first decided to become a professional writer when the tabloids in Norway made a story about my brother. I accursed the press and media because they wrote untruths. Therefore, I made the decision to become a reporter, and rewrite my brother’s story in a truthful way! I might have been 13 or 14 years old at the time. I followed my dream and traveled to Nairobi in Kenya for my first journalist job.
I was one of the main political writers during the country’s first multiparty-election in December 1992. As a young and curious writer I then moved to Israel and the Middle East to be a freelance reporter and cover the peace process for Norwegian media. Sadly, my brother passed away from a heart problem when he was 54 years old, so I never managed to write his story.
Shockingly, I also had a problem which required open heart surgery. When I was in hospital I was inspired and motivated to write my first fiction children’s book “The Last Flamingo”. Our former prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland wrote the foreword on my book about plastic pollution and sustainable development. She was the key speaker at the island Utøya during the terror attack and the speculation was that she was one of the terrorist prime target 22 July 2011.
Q: How do you define success for yourself?
I have never been concerned about success, fame or money. So, for me success is when one writes something that has an impact on other people and their life. I am moved and touched every time somebody tells me that my books have influenced them and their life in a good way.
Q: Give us a typical day in your life.
Every day my alarm clock goes off at 06:00 AM. It continues every five minutes for an hour, before I get up and make a pot of coffee.
After reading the morning papers and drunk at least three cups of strong black coffee I check if my sons are awake before I run through the shower, get dressed and run for the bus to work. My daily work is as a journalist and we are 65 journalists and editors making magazines, online papers, podcasts and sometimes videos. It is all about story telling. I mostly write consecutively news concerning work, the workplace, labor and rights. I usually line up interesting people to eat lunch with to get ideas and inspiration. I get off work at 16:30 PM.
On the bus back home my creativity returns, if I’m not so tired that I fall asleep. I can sleep everywhere! On buses, trains, planes, or other places. Even in my sleep it seems my brain still is working on high gear and when I wake up from power-naps I often have new ideas. It is essential for me to write down these ideas immediately. Experience has shown that if I don’t the ideas will vanish like smoke in thin air.
Q: What’s been the most important skill you've developed on your path to writing?
Since I was a young girl I have been very curious and interested in other people and how they live their lives. With empathy and good listening skills you will always get an interesting story from any person you meet along your way.
I have also been very interested in the research on flow and positive psychology. To experience flow on an individual level, we must find a balance between challenges and skills.
After working with the flow-theory I have developed a flow-writing skill where I first do all my research, structured the story and then I fully focus on the story and I just write without thinking nor stopping up to correct spelling mistakes. I find this an effective way of writing when you have deadlines, and this stimulate our creative mindset.
Q: What’s been the greatest challenge in your writing so far?
My greatest challenge is that I sometimes have too many writing tasks at the same time close to deadline. Then I procrastinate and play the piano or take a walk in the forest to fine peace in my mind and clear my head.
Q: What’s been the greatest reward in the choices you've made?
My greatest reward is my three handsome and kind sons. I am proud to be their mum and be an important part of their lives. I am also proud to have published seven books in well-known publishing house in Norway.
Q: What do you want to learn from a community of your peers?