About me and my writing

I was born in 1938, the daughter of a skipper. During my childhood in Svendborg my dad would tell the most awe-inspiring tales when he arrived home from his travels on the oceans. Soon after I too began telling stories. When I had children myself, I continued to tell stories. Many of them became children's books, or books for young people. The first book was entitled Hyldehytten (The Elderberry Cottage) (1970). Since then, about 50 books have come to be. I have also done scripts for Radio Denmark and vast numbers of song lyrics; particularly for Povl Kjoeller (Jeg har en rokketand) (I Have a Loose Tooth).
I am very curious by nature, and as soon as my three daughters had moved away from home, I began to travel the world. Native peoples interest me most, and I have stayed with Masai Warriors in Kenya, the Aborigines in Australia, the Meskito Indians in Nicaragua, the Black Foot Indians in The Rocky Mountains and the Eskimos in Greenland. I have worked in refugee camps in Croatia and been riding on horseback over Iceland countless times. I have collected stories on children in Ghana and Vietnam, and in 1999 I lived among street children in Honduras in order to go home and write about their lives.

I live at Gjorslev Castle,  which is one of the most haunted castles and the oldest inhabitated castle in Denmark
I have been very active in storytelling for many years. Often I swap stories with local kids, so I learn something about their culture.
One thing which inspires me, apart from travelling the world, is to be together with children. That is why I love to go out into the schools and tell stories. I am also lucky to have twelve grandchildren, all full of beans and eager for stories. My grandchildren have given me ideas for fantastic new adventures, stories and songs. I have moved back to Funen now where many years ago I heard my first stories.
This article was written by Bente Strand in 1999.

Many of Charlotte Blay's exciting and entertaining books are set in other countries, i.e. in countries outside Denmark. Charlotte Blay has travelled a great deal, and she often describes what happens when youngsters come into contact with other cultures. She has written books set in Iceland, Africa, Australia, South America and Vietnam. Her latest novel, Gys og guld (Terror and treasure), is set in Canada's native Indian community, with its exciting history and wild scenery.

Nicolai immediately accepts when he is given a ticket to Canada to spend the summer with a distant relative, 29‑year‑old Sam. Nicolai, who spends most of his time in front of his computer, first made contact with Sam and his wife over the Internet. When Nicolai first arrives in Canada, he is thus mostly interested in Sam's new games and computer programs, but he soon discovers that reality is far more exciting than all the computer games in the world.

In Sam's loft he finds an old suitcase containing a treasure map and a diary written in Danish in the 1870s by 15‑year‑old Ingeborg who emigrated with her parents. Before long, Sam and Nicolai are off on a treasure hunt, hoping that the map and the directions in the diary will enable them to find a gold ore that countless others have tried to locate over the past many years.

They get plenty of warnings, however, not least from Sam's wife, who is a native Indian, and from others who believe the gold to be cursed. Nicolai ‑ or Nickie as his new friends call him ‑ quickly discovers how difficult life can be in unfamiliar surroundings, not least when their provisions suddenly disappear. Had it not been for the native Indian girl, Beverly Bearpaw, all may well have been lost - life in the wilderness is radically different from the world found in computer games and films. It goes without saying that the shy Nicolai falls in love with the beautiful and spirited Beverly. Needless to say, he is also willing to grasp life outside cyberspace.

This is essentially an exciting book from beginning to end, not least because of the stories of treasure hunts and survival. There are dangerous outlaws who play dirty, and three days spent without food in the wilderness is a long time for a boy from such an affluent nation as Denmark. The description of life in the Indian reserve where Beverly lives is both a harsh critique of a society in decline that is plagued by alcohol abuse, and a moving portrayal of solidarity and respect for family values and traditions. The story of the gold hunt in the old diary blends beautifully with Nicolai’s adventures, and the portrayal of first love found both in Ingeborg's diary and the relationship between Nicolai and Beverly is sensitively rendered. The book also comprises an element of adventure traditionally found in storybooks, with strenuous hardships and the Wonderful days spent in the Indian village making the book a pertinent and very enjoyable read for a wide age range.

Charlotte Blay always researches her locations thoroughly, and her descriptions of foreign cultures are very convincing. Many of the themes she tackles are universal, be it the relationship between young people, their relationship with their parents or their attempts to overthrow old, restrictive traditions.

Løven brøler (The lion roars) is set in Africa, where 14‑year‑old Anja spends a period of time with a Masai family when her parents, return to Denmark. Anja, who has always been spoiled, at first finds it very difficult to accept the Masai way of life, but she soon gets used to living with her friend Tikako. In Kængurudrømmen (The kangaroo dream), we share Peter and Tony's sweat and thirst when they become stranded in the Australian outback as a result of a stupid blunder during an excursion. Had they not met the native Mathilda, who is, familiar with the ancient Aboriginal paths and is able to find food in the outback, they would have been helplessly lost. In addition to the fundamental survival story, the book focuses on the relationship between whites and Aborigines both now and in the past.

Fortunately, there is also time for a little young love beneath the stars. In Kys og knogler (Kisses and bones) we meet Tham, who normally lives with his family in Denmark, as he returns to Vietnam to move his grandfather's bones from the mountains down to the paddy fields in true Vietnamese tradition. Initially, Tham is not keen on the journey since he would rather go camping with the beautiful Katrine. In Vietnam, however, he meets his extended family and, despite his comfortable life in Denmark with his friends, school and parties, he slowly begins to appreciate the strengths of the Vietnamese society.

Many young people today travel extensively, and Danish youngsters often encounter foreign parts of the world through exchanges, holidays, their parents' jobs, travel and friends on the Internet. As a result, there is a great deal of interest in books for children who come into contact with youngsters from different cultural backgrounds.

Charlotte Blay is an excellent contemporary storyteller whose books are not only engaging, exciting and full of energy but also well-written and highly readable. They often contain an element of romance as well, which no doubt reflects what really happens when young people meet!

Translated by Malene S. M. Tingley