Why don’t you start out by introducing yourself (where you call home, how long you’ve been writing, etc.)?
Helen, thanks for having me here today. I live in Wellington, New Zealand. I’ve been writing stories for as long as I can remember. I used to write when I was at school but picked it up again when I got my first computer, and discovered fanfic on the internet. Dreamspinner Press published my first novel Cat’s Quill in 2011, and my sixth publication with them, Shades of Sepia, is coming out end of January. My day job is in a public library so I guess a lot of my life revolves around books.
Please tell us a little bit about your current release. What inspired you to write this story? How did it come about?
Shades of Sepia is book 1 of The Sleepless City series. This urban fantasy series is a joint project with Elizabeth Noble – we’re alternating books. We were chatting about how we both had vampire characters we wanted to do something with and that’s how the series was born. The other character I had morphed a little into a local Wellington guy, and we added a few ‘joint’ characters and it grew from there. Shades of Sepia was a lot of fun to write, and I’m looking forward to revisiting the characters when I write book three later in the year. It’s also quite a buzz having someone else write my characters, and Elizabeth did a great job with it as Simon and Ben also appear in her book, Electric Candle, which is the second in the series.
Here’s the blurb from Shades of Sepia:
A serial killer stalks the streets of Flint, Ohio. The victims are always found in pairs, one human and one vampire.
Simon Hawthorne has been a vampire for nearly a hundred years, and he has never seen anything like it. Neither have the other supernaturals he works with to keep the streets safe for both their kind and the humans.
One meeting with Simon finds Ben Leyton falling for a man he knows is keeping secrets, but he can't ignore the growing attraction between them. A recent arrival in Flint, Ben finds it very different from his native New Zealand, but something about Simon makes Ben feel as though he's found a new home.
After a close friend falls victim to the killer, Simon is torn between revealing his true nature to Ben, and walking away to avoid the reaction he fears. But with the body count rising and the murders becoming more frequent, either, or both of them, could be the killer's next target.
Is there an underlying theme in your stories?
I write across a range of m/m genres but I like to give my guys a happy ending but I expect them to work for it first! My characters screw up and make mistakes, and aren’t always 100% sure of themselves. They’re often strong willed and stubborn, but ready to do whatever it necessary to protect the guy they love. I like a few plot twists, and a good mix of action/drama in with my romance, so it’s more a story with a romance than a romance with a story, if that makes sense. I try to put in some kind of Kiwi connection, although that’s not always possible, and some whumping (hurt/comfort). If there are handcuffs or restraints involved in the whumping that’s an added bonus.
What’s your favorite part of the writing process? (the spark, the research, character oultines…?)
The brainstorming and seeing the characters come alive as their story takes shape. I love character interaction, throwing them into a situation, and seeing what they do. Often it’s not what I thought they’d do either, but I take that as a good sign that they’re three dimensional and this is going to be a fun story to write.
What’s your least favorite part of the writing process?
Finding the time to sit down and actually write the story. Sometimes it’s really frustrating when there’s a lot going on in life and all I want to do is sit and write. I find writing is good stress relief but unfortunately when stuff is going on that really stresses me, that’s often the time I can’t squeeze in time to write. Catch 22 and all that.
What’s your favorite part of the publishing process? (writing the story, working with an editor, working with the art department, marketing, etc?)
Getting the cover, from the initial sketches/ideas through to the finished results. I love covers, and Dreamspinner Press has some very talented cover artists working with them. I have my high resolution prints of my covers hanging on my wall. I love them.
What’s your least favorite part of the publishing process?
The wait between submission and contract. The longer the time in between the more I start to second guess myself about whether they want it or not. I’ve never been good at the waiting game. When I decide I want to do something, I want to do it now.
Do you listen to music while you write, prefer absolute silence, run off to the coffee shop…? If you do listen to music, can you name a few songs off your playlist?
I always have music playing in the background when I write. What it is depends on what I’m working on, the characters, and the mood. Some of my playlist for Shades of Sepia is: “Dancing in the Moonlight” by Toploader, “Demons” by Imagine Dragons, “Kiss Me” by Ed Sherran and “Photograph” and “If Everyone Cared” by Nickelback.
*happy squee* I love those songs!
What do you do to get in the mood to write, especially when you don’t feel like it?
I make a cup of tea, and put on the CD player, then settle in front of the computer. Once I’ve started writing all is good, but it’s getting started especially if I’m tired or distracted by the not so great things that happen in life. I then tell myself I need to reach x amount of words for the day (it’s usually 500). Sometimes the first hundred or so go slow, then it runs and I look up and it’s twice what I aimed for so all is good.
What makes for a great hero/heroine?
I like heroes who aren’t perfect because they’re far more interesting that way. A self-assured totally capable hero doesn’t interest me that much, and in fact can be really annoying. I much prefer a hero who makes mistakes, isn’t always sure he’s doing the right thing and isn’t afraid to admit he screwed up.
What makes for a great villain?
Shades of grey. I love villains who have their own motivations and think they’re doing whatever for all the right reasons. They don’t perceive themselves as the villains but in their mind are doing what is necessary for the greater good. To me, that’s far more interesting than greed, though that and revenge often factor in as well.
What makes for a great overall story?
As a reader I read for characters and plot. Characters make or break a story for me, and if I can’t connect with them or are interested in their journey I lose interest in the story. I like a few twists in my plots, and interesting three dimensional characters who make mistakes. Some whumping (hurt/comfort) in there too tends to seal the deal.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing? (hobbies, time with friends?)
Spending time with friends, whether it be meeting for a cuppa/lunch, or getting together to watch movies and TV shows. The discussion that follows the latter is just as much fun as whatever we’ve just watched and has led to many a very late night. I also watch a fair bit of TV shows (as a way to unwind as I don’t get home from work till after 9pm), and I play violin in a local orchestra.
What are the three most important things in your life, the things you absolutely could not do without?
Family, friends and reading/music.
If you could have one (and only one) super or magical power, what would it be and why?
Teleportation. It would save not only a lot of time and money but it’s probably the only way I’m ever going to get to the other side of the world to meet the friends I’ve made through the internet and writing. Although I love living in New Zealand, it often does feel like I’m very far away from everyone else. I’d also love to be able to pop over to other countries to go shopping, in particularly for books/graphic novels/DVDs and CDs. The prices of books here is very high and it’s difficult to get hold of a lot of stuff. A lot of online stores charge a small fortune in shipping and that’s IF they will ship here.
It’s the Zombie Apocalypse and you can take three of your characters along with you to help you and your family get to safety. Which characters would you take and why?
Denys from A Knight to Remember, as he’s a dragon so could provide air support, and toast the zombies to a crisp. Simon from Shades from Sepia as he’s a vampire, so he’s strong, very fast, and a good fighter. Will from Hidden Places as he’s an archer and could take them out from a distance, especially if he tars and lights the end of his arrows. Denys is also an archer in his human form so between the three of them they’d make a good team and line of defense/attack.
If your books were to be turned into a movie, which channel would it air on (Logo, Lifetime, Syfy, etc.)? Assuming you have an unlimited budget, who would you cast to play the leading roles? Who would direct it?
Elizabeth and I already cast the main characters of Shades of Sepia/The Sleepless City because a)it was fun and b) with us both writing the characters it was easier to have a common point of reference. It could air on Syfy, Fox, CBS, or WC – the homes of a lot of our favourite shows with supernatural themes. For director – the team behind the TV show “Arrow”.
Simon – Jason Dohring (“Moonlight” and “Veronica Mars”)
Ben – Andrew Lee Potts (“Primeval”)
Forge – James Murray (“Primeval”)
Lucas - Noah Wylie (“ER”, “Falling Skies” and “The Librarian movies”)
If you could have a lunch date with anyone in the world, living, dead, or fictional, who would it be and why?
My dad. He passed away just over a year ago. I miss him and there’s still so much I want to talk to him about.
What’s your favorite genre to read? Why, what about it do you love the most? What are your favorite books/authors in that genre?
I read a lot of sf and fantasy but I’ll also read anything else that catches my interest. I also read a lot of graphic novels. SF and fantasy appeals to me because it’s about what-ifs, and I like reading about how characters react in those kinds of situations. But, despite the different settings, it’s still about people and their interactions with each other. I also have a fondness for stories about psi powers and time travel. I love the dual nature of the characters in graphic novels, and often having to hide or make the two very different parts of their lives mesh. I’ve been reading about some of these characters for years and seen them grow, it’s like catching up with old friends.
I’ve read a lot over the past— we won’t say how many years—so it’s really difficult to name favourites so I’ll go for a few I’ve read fairly recently ie within the last two years.
Tanya Huff is an author I’ve read a lot of. I love her books and own most of them. I loved her last book The Silvered which was about shape shifting wolves, and elemental magic. Wonderful characters, and I couldn’t put it down.
I’m hanging out for Lynn Flewelling’s next Nightrunner book. They’re a great mixture of action, drama and fantasy and I love the relationship between the two main characters, Alec and Seregil.
Also waiting on new books next year from Suzanne Brockmann and Diana Gabaldon.
In graphic novels, I tend to read a lot of DC and in particularly the Bat family, and am collecting the stories which feature Nightwing and Red Robin (both of whom were Robins at some stage, and in Dick/Nighwing’s case also Batman). I’ve also recently got hooked on Marvel’s Young Avengers series, and in particular the characters of/and relationship between Billy (Wiccan) and Teddy (Hulking).
What television shows are you currently watching?
Probably far too many but there is a lot on at present, and more I need to play catch up on. But the ones I’m currently watching are: The Tomorrow People (I’m a fan of the original and 90s version of this show so was thrilled when I found out it was being remade), Arrow (I’m a huge comics reader so again this makes me very happy), Grimm, Once Upon a Time, Murdoch Mysteries, Atlantis, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, Dr. Who, Almost Human, Agents of Shield, Sleepy Hollow, Young Justice, Smallville, Eureka, and far too many others I need to play catch up on.
What’s in your CD / MP3 player?
I usually have an audio play from Big Finish on my mp3 player. I’ve just finished listening to ‘The Light at the End’ which is BF’s Dr Who 50th anniversary special. It was really good.
My CD player is where I play music. I have a stack of CDs I’m going between at present (and others from work as my reserves come in): Michel Buble, Nickelback, Robbie Williams, Ronan Keating and a few ‘mix’ CDs.
What’s next on the horizon for you? WIPs, writing goals, personal goals…?
I’m presently working on book 2 of the Echoes series, Winter Duet. It’s an historical action/drama set in Germany in 1944 and is the sequel to Shadowboxing. So far I’m over 60K in on it, and aiming to finish it by end of February. After that I’m writing On Wings of Song which is a novella set in WW1, and then Family and Reflection, the third book in The Sleepless City series. Lou Sylvre and I are also co-writing a series of historical fantasy novellas. The first one is set in 1745 in Scotland.
I’ve worked out that it’s going to take me until 2017 to finish the series I’ve started and I have several more waiting in the wings once these are done. I have pushy characters.
For personal goals I want to keep writing, and have a good balance between work and down time, which can be difficult with the day job being full time and the writing I want to get done. It’s one of the reasons I play in an orchestra and have movie nights with friends once or twice a week. It keeps that balance in place and helps me hang onto what I like to call my sanity.
Links (in case you need/want them):