Thursday, 7 November 2013

Interview with Author Helen Howell

Helen Howell graciously agreed to do an interview for my blog, for which I am most grateful. Helen is an inspiration to women everywhere, who have always wanted to write, but have not had time because of family obligations, and think they are now too old. Helen is a shining example that we are never too old, and in fact, many of us get better and more creative as we age, Helen most certainly has! Enjoy the interview!

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was born in England in 1951 and lived in Essex. I think because I was there for all my formative years, (I didn’t leave for Australia until I was 31), that most of my stories have an English flavour to them. It is those memories that I call on when I write even though I have now lived in Australia for almost as long as I lived in England.

When did you first start writing?
I started writing around five years ago.  I’ve always done something creative. I taught ballet in my younger years. I also spent 18 years exhibiting my watercolour paintings and when I grew tired of doing that I needed something to replace it, and writing seemed the natural course to follow. Now I’ve always wanted to write, and did in fact write the odd silly poem, but I never thought I had what it took to be a writer. Then one day I came across a site that had the title, ‘Let’s Write’ and it said write about anything and so I did and from there I grew in confidence. Writing is a skill that has to be learnt, just like any other skill. I was lucky because I have a good imagination, and you’re half way there with a good imagination; the rest can be learnt and the more one writes, the better they become.

What's the story behind your book ‘I Know You Know’?
Some of you may already know that I read tarot, both for fun and professionally, although not so much professionally these days. I got to thinking what if a tarot reader saw something terrible about a client of hers, and what if the client suspected she knew? What would happen then? So my two characters were born: Janice the tarot reader and Mr. Edgar Kipp the serial killer who targets fortune tellers. Then I decided to add to it a paranormal element in the form of Janice’s dead grandmother and so this psychic thriller came into existence.

What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I love to breathe life into the various characters that swim around in my head. Also it is a joy not to have limited myself to one genre. I write fantasy (which I love doing) horror (so enjoy scaring people) humour and noir.  Very occasionally I will write slice of life. I guess you could say the greatest joy of writing for me is the ability to explore these different avenues of writing.

What do your fans mean to you?
My readers are very important to me. It gives one a sense of purpose to know that others not only read what one writes but enjoy it too.  I love to receive comments on my website, (we all know that comments are like chocolate to a writer ^_^ )  and am always open to constructive criticism.  To know that people will come and read what one writes because they enjoy your style of writing is very humbling.

Who are your favorite authors?
I read such a diversity of writers that it’s hard to say who is a favourite. I guess Terry Pratchett would be among this list, I like most of what he writes. I’ve read all of Laurence Sanders Deadly Sin series (sadly he is with us no more I believe). I enjoy fantasy writers. As you can see, it’s hard for me to actually pin point favourites as I’ll read anything from Alice in Wonderland to Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes.

When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Most of my spare time is spent in the garden; my second love is gardening. Nothing gives me more pleasure than to raise something from seed and see it flourish regardless of whether it be a flower or vegetable. Also I like to go walking and try to do this most days of the week.  I’ve just started a new hobby, card making and I am enjoying spending time creating new cards. I’ve done beading and have made and sold my jewellery. So really anything that is creative is where I spend my time and that includes cooking too. I’m just planning the gingerbread house for this year’s Christmas and I think it will be a Swiss House.

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes, I do. It was just after I found the site “Let’s Write,” where it said write about anything. So I went for a walk and came back and wrote about that walk; the sounds, smells and sights that I had experienced. I sent that first tiny piece of writing to my author friend Scotti, who was and is a well established writer. She was so encouraging about what I had written that it jump started me into writing. In fact I went from that tiny story to writing a fantasy fiction novel for 9years — adults. This was later edited (several times) and published by me in 2012. It was met was a good response and received some lovely reviews on Smashwords.

What is your writing process?
Well, now that depends on what I’m writing. If it’s just something small, say a 100 word story (Drabble), then I just write by the seat of my pants. If it’s a flash fiction of up to 1000 words then I do like to have a beginning, middle and end in mind, although sometimes I will just write and see where it leads me. For novellas , etc. I do an outline, just the bare skeleton of one so that I don’t lose direction. Then I outline each chapter, again just a bare skeleton for direction, but I usually allow the writing to take me there and sometimes I become surprised at the direction it takes. By not plotting a strict structure to either the novel or the chapter, but just putting down a marker of where I want it to go, I find the writing to be more spontaneous and fresh.

What are your five favorite books, and why?
1: Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll opened the door to a wonderful imaginative world where the reader could suspend their disbelief and enjoy this incredible adventure along with Alice.
2: Dracula - Bram Stoker wrote this classic, and what a classic it is. It’s true horror without the gore. It’s a wonderful gothic tale that captures the true nature of what Dracula really should be.
3: Mort-Terry Pratchett shows us his remarkable talent as a writer in this book which is filled with humour as Death experiences an alternative existence.
4: Wind in The Willows by Kenneth Grahame purely because it’s such a delightful tale, one I have read and re-read.
5: Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin - This is an epic fantasy and Martin’s ability to write descriptively takes the reader right into his world, he gives you just enough information to allow your own imagination to take over.

What do you read for pleasure?
All of the above — basically anything that takes my fancy, but I do love reading mid grade fantasy.

What is your e-reading device of choice?
Right now the only one I have is an Ipad.

Describe your desk
It’s an L shape desk. My computer sits in the corner of the L and note pads sit to the side. Also to the side of that sits an oil burner, my tarot reading cloth, an obsidian crystal ball and three crystals. Down the long part of it, sits my old portable Imperial Companion typewriter that I’ve had since I was 16. My father gave it to me when I was at secretarial college — it was his. Beside that sits an old pewter inkwell and my feather quill. Of course lots of bits and pieces get left on the desk and I have to have a tidy up every now and again.

Do you have another book planned for the future?

Yes I have a new novella that will be published early next year by Crooked Cat Publishing called Mind Noise. Mind Noise is about a boy who can hear peoples' thoughts and this tends to alienate him from others. Then one day an old man appears who is able to communicate with him through thought. The old man offers to help him control this gift he has, but the question is, is the old man who he seems to be? And should the boy trust him?

I Know You Know - Published by Crooked Cat February 2013

The darkest cards in the tarot deck reveal the darkest side of the man sitting opposite Janice—Mr. Edgar Kipp.

She feigns an inability to read for him, but will he believe her?  His parting words indicate that he knows she knows he's a serial killer. And he plans to return. 

The voice of her dead grandmother urges her to be careful, warning Janice she might be seeing her own future in those foreboding cards. 

But Janice doesn't want to listen. Gran's dead. 

How can she possibly help her?

Jumping At Shadows: Self Published 2012

When Belle discovers the secret of a family heirloom, she and her friend Rosy are propelled into a world of the shadows—the same shadows that have been haunting Belle all her life. Soon Belle realises that the future rests in her hands, and only she can keep the magic of her ancestors from falling into the clutches of a dangerous mad man. 


  1. Fabulous and highly articulate interview. I particularly liked the idea of breathing life into characters.. we do play God with the people in our heads.. Thank you Sue and Helen..

  2. Thanks Sue for inviting me over and thanks Tom for taking the time to read ^_^

  3. Thank YOU Helen for coming, and thank you Tom for your comments!