I’m letting you all in on a little secret. I know Helene has told everyone she has been sailing – she has – but that was her stunt double. The real Helene has been with me in Grasmere in the Lake District on the west coast of England. Her stunt double did such a brilliant job that even Zeus didn’t work it out. Not too sure about GW though – I think he just played his cards close to his chest.
As a writer of romantic fiction I thought Helene would enjoy a short romantic visit to Grasmere. William Wordsworth’s grave is in the beautiful little church yard of St. Oswald’s; it is springtime and despite a long, cold winter there is, ” a host of golden daffodils” , bending their heads in the chilly breeze. A weak spring sun filters through the new green leaves; it rained early this morning and the earth smells damp, the mosses are vibrant green. As idyllic as this is, it’s too cold to stay out especially for two far north Queenslanders. We take the short walk to The Grasmere Gingerbread shop – this is a must do – the best gingerbread in the world bar none. Laden with our purchases we aim for Greens Cafe for coffee and lemon drizzle cake or sticky toffee pudding or brownies. Anyway something naughty to go with our coffee.
As we get comfortable I ask Helene what she has been working on recently, she takes mouthful of coffee as she gathers her thoughts.
“At the moment I’m putting the final touches to the promotional campaign for Half Moon Bay so that means writing guest blog spots, organising bookmarks, library chats, and book club meetings … and still find time to write the next book.” She pauses, “It’s the business of being a writer.”
Our chocolate brownies arrive – they’re huge – we’ll have to have a walk around the village after this. Helene goes on to mention her book launch, “We had such a great night last year, for Burning Lies, at the North Queensland Aero Club we thought we’d do it all again, so put Friday 24th May in your diary and come along. RSVP’s are essential for catering purposes.”
I had such a great time last years as well so I’ve already RSVP’d I don’t want to miss out. We move onto more details of Helene’s recent success.
“My new Australian suspense story Half Moon Bay, will be released on 22nd May by Penguin Australia.” She pulls out the proof copy from her bag and reads the back cover blurb.
“Ellie Wilding has been running from her past, but when the residents of Half Moon bay call for help she knows it’s finally time to return home. As an international photojournalist, she’s used to driving in to war zones, but she’s shocked when it erupts in the sleepy hamlet on the north coast of New South Wales, threatening all she holds dear.
Battle-weary Nicholas Lawson walked away from his military career leaving unfinished business. In a coastal backwater, that decision returns to haunt him. He remembers all too vividly his last lethal assignment in Afghanistan when Ellie’s sister, Nina was shot and killed. Ellie’s been in his dreams ever since, even if she doesn’t remember him…
As a storm rages and flood waters rise, Ellie struggles to save her community. But who can she trust? Nick Lawson the dangerously attractive stranger with secrets, or an old friend who’s never let her down?”
I could go a stiff drink now – however if you want to know a little bit more ahead of the launch visit Helene’s webpage to read the first chapter on the ‘books page’.
Helene enlarges a little on the plot for me. “In this story, set in a coastal hamlet, I dropped into northern New South Wales somewhere near Yamba and Angourie, you’ll meet a surfing, flying, photographing heroine and a wounded hero to die for.” She sighs, “I think I still have a crush on Nick. I love the idea that someone could cross the invisible line between right and wrong in pursuit of justice. It was fun writing it.”
I ask Helene to tell me about her best moment as a writer so far. She smiles broadly and says,”The best moment for me so far has been winning my second Romantic Book of the Year award in 2012 for Shattered Sky, which is the second book in my Border Watch Trilogy. It’s a story very close to my heart and was wonderful just to be short listed let alone win the award. Then in complete contrast to that my worst moment was so disheartening. Shattered Sky didn’t sell particularly well. There were some compelling reasons for this such as the Red Book Group, including Angus and Robertson and Borders, went into liquidation the week Shattered Sky was released. Brisbane had its worst flooding for decades and Cyclone Yasi pummeled the North Queensland coast at the same time. All of that led to my publisher Hachette declining my third book in the series.” Obviously the hurdle was overcome but Helene goes on to expand on the business side of being a publisher. “The book was already written and my editor loved it, but sales and marketing couldn’t make a business case for it. It was a a hard lesson I needed to learn. Publishing is a business and there’s no room for sentimentality at the sharp end. Thankfully Penguin Australia loved it and was prepared to take me on. Burning Lies released in July 2012 with a reprint released late April 2013.”
We decide to pay up and go. There is still some blue sky outside – this is the Lake District – so we have to take advantage of it.
As we wander through the village Helene says she’s happy to talk about her experience with publishers to other writers, “Because we need to remember that, just like any other job, it’s okay to change employers along the way. After I’d changed publishers I was amazed at how many other writers had been through similar experiences.”
We wend our way back to the churchyard, it’s such a tranquil spot. I ask Helene what advice she would give to an aspiring writer. She had this to say, “Write what you love to read. Remember that rules are for fools and the guidance of wise men. I always cringe when I hear another writer saying, ‘No you must do it this way.’ And my pet hate is, ‘You can’t write until you’ve plotted your story.’ I haven’t plotted any of my four books and have no plan to start.” I’m so relieved to hear Helene say this – I’m a none-plotter. She continues, “It doesn’t work for me but that doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. Listen to your voice and remember the book will only be written when you put your bottom on a seat and your fingers on the keyboard.” Telling it like it is.
Time to begin the journey home but before we go I have one last question for Helene and it’s the most important. “Why do you write?”
“I started out writing because I wanted to tell stories that entertained, that transported, that possibly even made people think differently about a subject. Having opened that tap I don’t believe it is possible to turn it off now and I love the satisfaction of bringing people and places alive for my readers.”
I’ve enjoyed this interview immensely I love the Lake District – it has a special place in my heart and I know Helene has that same connection.
Remember the book launch for Half Moon Bay is Friday 24th May at North Queensland Aero Club. Get the details from Helene’s website http://www.heleneyoung.com