Welcome to the Dames of Dialogue, Helen. Tell us about your latest book, Invitation to Die.
Invitation to Die is the first full-length novel in my new British murder mystery series. It’s an entertaining read featuring an amateur sleuth, twenty-six-year-old Emily Castles. When a murder takes place at a romance author’s conference in Bloomsbury, London, Emily teams up with eccentric philosophy professor Dr. Muriel to investigate.
The paperback and ebook were published in May this year. The audio CD was released yesterday, 15th October, narrated by award-winning actor Alison Larkin.
Sounds intriguing. I’ll be sure to add it to my TBR list. Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?
The follow-up, Beyond Belief, will be published in January 2014. It’s set in Torquay, England. A famous magician has offered £50,000 to anyone who can prove the existence of the paranormal during the Belief and Beyond conference that takes place in Torquay over the Easter weekend. When a celebrated psychic predicts that the magician will die that weekend, Emily and Dr. Muriel investigate.
I love series book which only makes Invitation to Die (love that title, by the way!) more appealing. What is a typical writing day like for you?
I’m trying to be healthy and take some exercise every day because writing is so sedentary. I have promised myself that a typical writing day will begin with a swim. After that, I’ll spend about five hours writing and an hour or two on emails and admin. The truth is that my days can vary wildly, depending on how the writing’s going. I need to spend less time doing more. But I think we all feel that, no matter what kind of job we do.
Less time doing more, yes, that’s a problem for almost every author I know. Promotion is a big—and usually the most hated—part of being a writer. Can you share a little bit about how you promote?
For me, promotion means meeting people in a sociable, fun environment – whether in real life or online – and giving them the opportunity to discover my books, with no pressure to buy. I enjoy doing it.
I give readings and participate in panel discussions at book festivals and other literary events, including crime conventions like CrimeFest and Bouchercon. I have hosted a popular event called The Literary Cabaret at book festivals in London, programming a mix of readings from award-winning authors interspersed with music from our house band. I have also taken part in Literary Death Match: four authors read from their books and are judged on literary merit, performance and intangibles. I have been a judge and a participating author, and was delighted to win my event. It was a lot of fun –I have a medal to prove that I’m a Literary Death Match champion!
Facebook, Twitter and blogs provide an online opportunity to “meet” and interact with people from all over the world, even when they can’t get to London to hear me read. I’m very grateful to book bloggers for hosting me on their sites and giving me the opportunity to connect with their readers by doing interviews and guest posts like this one.
I started my first novel when I was about ten years old, with the world-weary feeling that I had already “left it too late” to make my mark on the literary scene – I was right, too, because it never did get published. In my teens, I made a plan to live an interesting life and then settle down to write when I was thirty, which is what I did. I traveled all over the world with my daughter. And then I came back to London and started writing my first book, which was published a few years later.
All I can say is congratulations for your determination. I often say my biggest regret is that I waited so long to get serious about my writing. What do you consider the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer?
It makes me really happy if someone tells me one of my books made them laugh.
Love that answer! Tell us a little bit about where you live.
I live in London, where most of my books are set. It’s an extraordinarily inclusive, ethnically-diverse city with a rich literary heritage and I’m fortunate to live here.
London is in the top five on my list of places I’d like to visit someday. Who were your favorite authors as a child? Have they influenced your writing career in any way?
I loved reading when I was a child. The books I read had such a profound effect on me that I knew I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. My favorite authors included Lewis Carroll, C. S. Lewis, Mary Norton and Joan Aiken.
All wonderful authors. Where do you find inspiration for your writing?
I find inspiration in the things around me. My books usually start as a “what if…”
Ah, the old “what if?” game. I play that all the time and it’s an excellent way to get your writing going. What is your VERB? (This is a big poster at a local mall) If you had to choose ONE verb that describes you and your behavior or attitude, what would it be?
Good one! I don’t believe we’ve ever gotten that answer before. Describe your writing process once you sit down to write—or the preliminaries.
I make plenty of notes before I start. I always know how the book will progress, including the beginning, the middle and the end, together with most of the major plot points. I use a document on my computer as a notebook and I work up ideas and revise blocks of text in it before transferring them to the manuscript. I only count the words that go into the manuscript in my daily word count, so sometimes the total can be quite low.
A very organized—and probably effective—way to write. Have you bought an e-reader? What is your overall impression of electronic publishing?
Yes, I have a Kindle and I love it. Electronic publishing is a fantastic innovation. People are buying and reading more books and the author gets a cut of royalties on every sale. Electronic books are reasonably priced and easy to download. What’s more, they will never go out of print. It’s a revolution and it’s good news for all of us, whether readers or writers.
I agree wholeheartedly, Helen. Thanks so much for joining us today and giving us a brief insight into your life as a writer. The Dames hope you’ll come back and visit us often!
Want to find out more about Helen and her books? Visit the following links: