Ann Henning Jocelyn was born in Gothenburg, Sweden, in 1948. After her father’s death just after her birth, her mother took her three young children to live with her own parents in Ed: a winter resort famous for its natural beauty, remotely situated in the province of Dalsland, on the Norwegian border.
Ed was “a haven of childhood serenity”. Ann thrived. At the age of four, she was reading; aged five, she typed out her first story. But the idyll was shattered shortly after her sixth birthday. Her grandmother died suddenly, and her grandfather passed away a few months later. Her mother took the children to live in Molndal, outside Gothenburg, remarried and set about building a new life for herself and her family.
For Ann it was a difficult time. She pined for the life they had lost. At school she was bullied by other children and unpopular with teachers for being too far ahead. She escaped into writing, producing her first childrens’ book, Honeylove The Bearcub, aged seven. It was published exactly forty years later in Ireland, and is now available as an Ebook, published by Saga Egmont.
At second level she excelled and rebelled in equal measure, achieving top results but rejecting the idea of further studies. Only after a near-fatal car crash followed by a lengthy convalescence, did her interests crystallize.
In 1968, she enrolled at Gothenburg University, specializing in Classical Architecture and Drama. Before long, she was appointed Junior Lecturer in Art History at Gothenburg University, but gave up her promising academic career for work in the London theatre. After two years at Studio 68, she was employed by the Open Space Theatre in London, working with legendary director Charles Marowitz. She appeared in several productions at the Open Space, but acting did not appeal to her. She was more attracted to writing for the stage.
Her first play, Smile, about a dying rock star, was premiered in her home town of Gothenburg in 1972, but rejected there as politically incorrect. In the Swedish theatre climate prevalent at this time, plays had to deal with the underprivileged, not the wealthy and successful. Disillusioned, she returned to London.
A period of hardship followed, with odd stage and film appearances, but then she realized that she had a comfortable career within reach as translator of novels, films, and plays. She added a degree in English to her academic credentials, and within a few years was well established, introducing leading authors like Ruth Rendell, Joanna Trollope and Kazuo Ishiguro to Swedish readers. Contact with Swedish publishers also led to a year-long commission to collaborate with film star Ingrid Bergman on her autobiography, ‘My Story’, and to commissions for non-fiction.
In the U.K., she became Chairman of the Translators’ Association and served for two terms on the Committee of Management of the Society of Authors, representing Britain at international authors’ conventions including the Congress of European Writers’ Organisations.
Early on in London, she had made the acquaintance of a young Irishman, who spoke fondly of his home in Connemara, on the West Coast of Ireland. In 1982, she went to stay in his house in order to finish her first book, Modern Astrology, commissioned in both Swedish and English. The idyllic setting, the magnificent scenery and the quiet pace of life reminded her of Ed: it felt like coming home after a long absence. Today she is still there, living in the same house, married to the owner. Their son Shane was born in 1989.
Her husband came from an ancient Irish family, and Ann found a use for her art historical background in helping to preserve the rich cultural heritage. As wife of the tenth Earl, she is known officially as Countess of Roden.
Some adjustments had to be made for her to fit into her new culture, but one thing she shared unconditionally with the people of Connemara: her love of horses. The beautiful ponies, for which the region is renowned, soon became part of her daily life. She discovered a new talent: the ability to tame, break and train ponies used to semi-wild conditions on the mountains. A training centre was set up to help local breeders add value to their ponies before offering them for sale on the export market.
The work on behalf of Connemara pony owners, initially intended to provide a diversion from writing, led straight back to the books, as she was commissioned by Poolbeg Press to write a work of fiction about life in pony circles in Connemara. The Connemara Whirlwind, with her own stallion Cuaifeach as protagonist, went straight to the bestseller list, was sold internationally and chosen to represent Ireland in UNESCO’s International Youth Library. With its two sequels, The Connemara Stallion and The Connemara Champion, it is read in Irish schools, appreciated by people of all ages and still available, now as Ebooks, published by Saga Egmont. In 1995, Poolbeg published The Cosmos and You, soon to be republished as an Ebook entitled Teenage Astrology.
The only thing Ann Henning Jocelyn ever missed in Connemara was the theatre, and in 1997, during her appointment as Artistic Director to the 4th International Women Playwrights’ Conference at University College Galway, she set up the Connemara Theatre Company together with fellow playwright Maire Holmes. The inaugural production was Baptism Of Fire, a comedy written by Ann during a period of renewed tragedy and trauma in her family. It kept audiences laughing in Clifden and Galway, and was later produced in Pernik, Bulgaria. Another of her plays, The Alternative, dealing with the delicate issue of child abuse, was produced by the same company and shown nationwide in 1998. More recently, her English translations of contemporary Scandinavian playwrights Jon Fosse and Henning Mankell have won much acclaim. Her translation of The Luminous Darkness: The Theatre of Jon Fosse by Leif Zern was published in 2011 by Oberon Books, who also published her Fosse translations.
Over the years, Ann has lectured and done much broadcasting. In Sweden, she has twice been host for the popular program Sommar and presented her Thoughts for the Day. In Ireland, her contributions to A Living Word over ten years lead to a collection entitled Keylines, being published by Doonreaghan Press in 2000. It has been translated into a many languages, including Chinese, and an extended volume, Keylines for Living, was published by O-Books in 2007. A sequel, Life Harvest/Words of Wisdom, published in 2021, is available from Doonreaghan Press or as an Ebook, published by Saga Egmont.
Her stage play Doonreagan, about Ted Hughes and his lover Assia Wevill, had its world premiere at Jermyn Street Theatre, London, in 2013, before touring the UK and Ireland. The play is now set to become a feature film,with Ann writing the screenplay. The critically acclaimed Only Our Own was shown in 2014 at the Arts Theatre in London’s West End and had a second production in the UK and Ireland the following year. W – The Truth Beyond, a new Swedish opera about Henning Mankell’s detective Wallander, was performed with Ann’s English libretto in Germany and Sweden in 2015.
Her latest play, The Sphere of Light/Secrets of the Boleyn Women, was presented at the Howard Theatre in Cambridge on July 1st, 2017, and will be shown as part of the Hever Castle Theatre Festival in August this year. The novel on the same theme will be launched at Hever Castle in May.
At the moment, Ann is busy with a number of projects for film and TV.