I’d like to welcome back award winning author Helen Hollick today. She is here to talk with us about a big part of her writing. I first started this series-A Writer’s Life- over at Layered Pages and decided to bring it to indieBRAG for our authors. This is Helen’s third participation in this series. -Stephanie M. Hopkins
Helen Hollick lives with her husband, daughter and son-in-law in North Devon, England, in an eighteenth century farmhouse, surrounded by thirteen acres of fields and woodland. A variety of pets include her daughter’s side-saddle riding horse and a show jumper, two Exmoor ponies which once ran wild on Exmoor, two cats who ignore each other, two wonderful dogs from the Dog’s Trust rescue Centre, some chickens, ducks, and a very grumpy goose called Bernadette (although Boudicca is a more appropriate name!).
All of Helen’s books in The Sea Witch Voyages series are B.R.A.G.Medallion Honorees. She also has a number of respected books of historical fiction which are traditionally published. Including the bestseller The Forever Queen the story of Emma of Normandy and The Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy, set in the fifth century, has also been widely acclaimed as a different telling of the Arthurian Myth – no magic or Medieval Knights, no Merlin, no Holy Grail – just a down-to-earth ‘what might have happened’ story of the boy who became the man, who became the king – who became the legend.
Helen, what makes you feel happiest when you are writing?
When a scene goes well and that feeling of no idea where the words came from; the scene just wrote itself (well with a bit of input from fingers and the keyboard! *laugh*) You read it back and think, “blimey, this is good! Did I write that?”
What makes you feel the most frustrated?
The persistent, although fortunately minority, attitude towards Indie writers. There is still this perception, sadly coming from traditional writers more than publishers and agents, that indies are inferior or ‘trying to take over’. Both complaints are nonsense. There are good and bad indie and traditional writers, but there are also many good novels out there written by both indie and traditional writers. It really is utter nonsense for the two to maintain this air of bickering. Readers couldn’t care less about what status the author is – all they want is a good book to read.
I am an indie and traditional writer, with a foot on both sides of the fence, and I very much appreciate the advantages and recognise the disadvantages of both worlds. I wish the squabbling maintained by these persistent (and in my mind somewhat blinkered few) would be set aside. These few traditional authors who have been so derogatory towards indies should realise the fact that if their backlist goes out of print (which often happens) or they are dropped by their publisher/agent (which also often happens) they might be pleased that us indies worked hard to pave the way for them to retain their own alternative independent career!
What are the challenges you face when sitting down to write?
My sight. I have glaucoma and thin retinas which causes a misting to my vision (it is like walking into a steamed-up bathroom, I can see things, but only through a misty haze.) Fortunately I can see a computer screen with no problem thanks to larger fonts, and I love my kindle, again because the font can be made larger. Reading smaller print in books, correspondence or labels, however, is very difficult. I also fall over a lot because I don’t see kerbs, slopes or hazards. Which doesn’t do much for my arthritic knees!
What traits and values do your characters have that you have most in common with?
Honour and loyalty. Both are perhaps somewhat old fashioned now, but if I say I’ll do something I do my best to do it, and I am very loyal to my friends – just like my pirate Jesamiah. Although I don’t go around with a pistol and cutlass…
How would your character, Captain Jesamiah Acorne, describe you?
Well Jesamiah, what say you? “Mistress Helen is a person who does her best to do her best. She is highly supportive of others, often at her own expense. She is actually very sensitive and not very self-confident but she hides it well. She values her friends but is not very patient with fools, or those who think the world owes them something on a plate. She forgives – but never forgets.”
If you were to write your memoir, what title would you give it?
“Avoiding Ditches”. I’ve fallen down many a figurative ditch in the past – those awful holes that swallow you up when depression strikes. You sit there feeling miserable, unable to climb out until someone lends a hand to pull you up or lowers a ladder for you to slowly climb back into the light. I learnt, after having a breakdown many years ago, to keep a watchful eye for those sort of ditches. Some I didn’t see and fell down, but now I know how to avoid them – apart from, because of my poor sight, real ditches!
What are your themes in storytelling?
Action, adventure, a good romp of a sailor’s yarn. Characters that come alive – to myself and my readers.
What is the emotion/feelings you have after writing for hours?
Tiredness and feeling drained of energy. But then I usually finish a writing session in the early hours of the morning long after everyone else has gone to bed!
Do you have a habit in your writing that you wish you could get rid of?
Habitual spelling errors – I always have to stop and think how to spell abrupt, for instance, my brain tells me it is spelt ‘abrubt’. Most annoying! (although thank goodness for auto-correct!)
What is the best compliment someone gave you about your book(s)?
Obviously good reviews are nice, and when you hear that a reader has bought all the rest of a set of books – two and three in my Arthurian Trilogy for instance, or all the Sea Witch Voyages. But I love it when a reader tells me a certain scene made them laugh or cry; that’s when you know you’ve done it right and achieved what you set out to achieve.
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