Hana Esselink is a Public Relations Consultant, who has worked in Communications for 16 years for public and private sector organisations, charities and individuals. She has worked for organizations with high profile reputations such as the National Audit Office, HMRC and the Food Standards Agency.
Hana has helped an East London based artist who was a former businessman, to achieve success in producing two solo exhibitions. One featured on BBC London news and the other received good media coverage in East London.
A creative thinker who relates well to people from different backgrounds and ages, Hana grew up in multi-cultural London – a city that influences her work and writing. She likes to think and develop ideas outside the box. She is also interested in spirituality and is a devotee of yoga and swimming. A keen traveler who likes to experience other cultures, Hana enjoys writing, art, music, film, cooking, reading a good novel and visiting diverse parts of London, such as Brick Lane.
As a writer, Hana likes to explore the human and metaphysical aspects of life. She is currently writing her second novel, set in the era of Jesus Christ.
Hana currently lives in South Kensington, West London.
The Vanishing Café by Hana EsselinkThe cafe had a metaphysical spirituality, a mystical - almost holy - vibe. It's where Nina had felt most alive. Where she was reborn. There she shed her driven persona as a public relations hack who cared only for the surfaces of things and for getting ahead.
The place was hardly trendy. Dim, indifferently furnished, it existed almost outside time. Oddly, it never even had a name, just a distinctive red canopy. But inside, Nina met people who opened her eyes to the world - to worlds behind the world. Small-p philosophers, Tarot-card readers, wise misfits, inspired eccentrics. Miraculous things took place there. Nina found she could hear what others were thinking. For a few minutes one day, before her eyes, the dowdy room transformed itself into a Buddhist temple. Over time, the cafe transformed Nina. She became more mindful, more receptive...more loving. It was a supernatural experience; a metaphysical awakening. And that let her find love. Nina married Pieter. Reliable, stable, wonderful Pieter. Now, after five years away, she has the chance to revisit the cafe. She has the chance to show him the miraculous place that changed her.But the cafe, once so brilliant with life and spirit, is derelict.And there's a second shock. Pieter, ever the cool rationalist, scoffs at the very idea of the cafe's magical realism. He disbelieves Nina's transformation - the very thing that allowed her to love him.Nina is bereft. Her friends, her teachers, her guides are gone. Suddenly, with the cafe defunct and Pieter mocking it - mocking her! - she's no longer sure of anything.Had that red canopy truly shaded a doorway to higher consciousness? Or had it all just been a supernatural hallucination?And...must her marriage break up over this? If Pieter can't accept this most important, magical truth of her life, could it possibly last?If only the café would suddenly reappear, so that she can convince Pieter of its power and win back his trust!Or can she somehow manage that on her own?
So the question arises: why did I write my novel The Vanishing Café?
It’s a genre that is either classed as magical realism, ‘spirituality’- and whatever that entails or inspirational. I like inspirational because for me, writing that novel felt inspired.
It took me the best part of 10 years on and off to write the book, which was originally called The Butterfly Dance, until I realized that no one would ever understand what that meant and for someone who is a communications professional (I’ve worked in public relations and communications for 16 years) that was a tragedy.
So, I hired an editor to help me reshape the novel and a guy from the States called Mike Alvaer, who is a Kindle expert and we changed the whole thing from the cover design to the title, to parts of the narrative until it flowed better, until it read better, until it just was better.
You see, as a communications professional working most of my career in public sector organizations amongst other places, I was used to being told that we couldn’t talk about certain subjects to the media as some topics were too ‘sensitive’ or the reputation of the organisation had to be protected. There was plenty of red tape, silly politics and bureaucracy along my career path.
That’s when I decided to write a novel about a café in Soho, where the narrator, Nina, would be on a hunt for the ‘truth’. For her, it meant that after the death of her beloved grandmother in India, she realized that her driven persona as a public relations hack was too shallow, that there was more to life. Despite the obvious similarities, I didn’t base the narrator on myself.
Nina wants to know if there is life after death, as her spiritual grandmother told her there was, she is fed up of living a life that only cares for the surface of things and for getting ahead, not for the things that really matter.
At this time, I was also going to Speakers Corner in Hyde Park, London regularly. This is every Sunday, listening to people talking about religion, faith, socialism, anything that takes their fancy. People stand on their soapboxes and relay what they feel is most important, their Jesus, their Muhammad, the difference between the Bible and the Quran. Some of the speakers are serious and moody, others joke and want to play down religion. Still others, put each other down for their beliefs. However, for me it was a great way to learn about the search for ‘truth’, it was each to their own. It became a search for our feelings.
At one point during this time, I found a little café in Greek Street in Soho, which is now long gone (replaced by a small corner shop, selling sweets and chocolates and a few other things). During my time there, it was run by an Italian lady and was frequented by a transvestite and a few other regulars. I wasn’t working that summer, so the idea for The Vanishing Café came from this place.
However, I made my story very different. I wanted Nina, my narrator, to have been through something so painful, that she was hungry for a change in her life, a different direction that could pierce her reality after the death of her grandmother. I wanted Nina to create something so vivid in her imagination that no one would ever know if it was true or imagined.
So it was that the café in The Vanishing Café became the place for that transformation, the place where Nina met all the crazy characters who helped change her life. The café is like Dr Who’s tardis, it can transport her to other realities.
The cafe is hardly trendy. In fact it’s dim and indifferently furnished, it exists almost outside time. Oddly, it never even has a name, just a distinctive red canopy. But inside, Nina meets people who open her eyes to the world — to worlds behind the world. These are small-p philosophers, Tarot-card readers, wise misfits, inspired eccentrics. Miraculous things take place in the café. Nina finds she could hear what others are thinking. For a few minutes one day, before her eyes, the dowdy room transforms itself into a Buddhist temple.
Over time, the cafe transforms Nina. She becomes more mindful, more receptive and ultimately, more loving. And that lets her find love. Nina marries Pieter, her Dutch husband. He is reliable and stable, he is wonderful.
The novel begins with Nina and her husband coming back to London, after living five years away in Amsterdam. Nina has the chance to revisit the café again with Pieter, who has never been. She has the chance to show him the miraculous place that changed her. But the cafe, once so brilliant with life and spirit, has closed down and is derelict.
And there’s a second shock. Pieter, ever the cool rationalist, scoffs at the very idea of the cafe’s magic. He disbelieves Nina’s transformation — the very thing that allowed her to love him. Nina is bereft. Her friends, her teachers, her guides are gone.
Suddenly, with the cafe defunct and Pieter mocking it and mocking her — she’s no longer sure of anything. Had that red canopy outside the cafe truly shade a doorway to higher consciousness? Or had it all just been a hallucination? Nina is starting to think that her marriage can now break up over this. If Pieter can’t accept this most important truth of her life, could it possibly last?
If only the café would suddenly reappear, so that she can convince Pieter of its power and win back his trust! Or can she somehow manage that on her own?
The reader is like Nina’s husband - skeptical and wondering if the café really was as magical as she says. Or was she suffering from too much grief at that time and did that emotion take over her and did she, in fact, imagine it all?
Only the reader can decide if the café really was a place of magic that transformed a woman’s life or whether Nina is indeed crazy in her imagination. Was the café a gateway to a higher energy than ourselves? Nina is defiant that it is, but once again, her emotions may have taken her there.
So it is that the search for the ‘truth’ still continues.