Hanna Ilander grew up in a Finland-Swedish community in the provincial town of Borgå in a home of avid readers. Her mother was a librarian and her maternal grandfather a professor. In addition to studying photography, she also studied literature at Stockholm University.
Her collection haren misteln tjuven (P), 1993, marked her out as a talented and well-read debut writer influenced not only by world literature, but equally so by visual art and popular music. Till skuggan bakom min vänstra axel (P), 1995, contains prose poetry with a Baudelairean flair centering on the motif and milieu of the city and with references to many contemporary authors such as Carlos Castaneda.