Author Interview: Helen Harper

An Author Interview with

Helen Harper

I'm originally from Scotland, although I've lived all over the world. I 
started a career as a teacher then, after working in the UK, Japan and 
Malaysia, I left behind the world of education to write full time. I've 
always been a book lover with eclectic tastes but I particularly enjoy 
devouring science fiction and fantasy tales! I currently live in Devon 
in the UK with a crazy dog and far too many cats – not to mention the 
dragons, fairies, demons, wizards and vampires that seem to keep 
appearing from nowhere.


WHAT DREW YOU INTO WRITING?

It was actually initially nothing more than a stress release! I was 
promoted at work and found myself juggling so many balls that I was 
going crazy. I read urban fantasy as a way to escape the pressures of 
daily life and then, when I couldn't find anything else to read in that 
genre, I wrote my own. It was never with a view to publish. I was just 
writing for myself. It still seems amazing to me that now I get to write 
full time.

WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE GENRE TO WRITE WITHIN, AND WHY?


Urban Fantasy. It's the perfect escape. As UF books take place in a 
modern setting, it's easy to imagine yourself as part of that world. The 
characters are always strong and powerful and get to experience all 
sorts of things which are technically impossible but imaginatively 
amazing.

With a number of successful books under your belt, what’s your writing goal?

I'd like to branch out into other genres one day but I love what I do so 
much and there are so many more fantasy stories in my head still begging 
to be told that I'm not sure I'll ever get there!

Which of your book series do you wish had more spotlight?

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The Dreamweaver series. There are three books in total, following an 
agoraphobic young woman called Zoe who can only find an escape through 
her dreams. It's not your typical UF series by any means and Zoe has a 
lot of issues to work through. Out of everything I've written, I feel 
it's the most realistic, however.


What does your writing process look like?

I start with a germ of an idea, which pushes at me and demands to get 
written. Sometimes it's just a character or sometimes it's a scene or a 
plot point. I'm a pantser rather than a plotter so the ideas come as I 
write - I don't plan out what happens. That way it's (hopefully) as 
exciting for me to see what unfolds and what happens as it is for a 
reader!

what made you choose the self-publishing route?

As I never really planned to become a writer, self-publishing just 
seemed like the natural progression. I only released my first books to 
Amazon on a whim! I've never sought a traditional route and as an 
independent author I feel I have far more control over every stage of 
the process. I get help with editing and book cover design from some 
wonderful people who I've worked with almost from the very start and I 
can't imagine doing things any other way.

YOUR THREE BIGGEST AUTHOR INSPIRATIONS.

Stephen King. Not only is he a pantser too but he writes beautifully, 
with immensely readable books that carry you along and which are 
impossible to put down.

Ilona Andrews. They're actually a writing couple who are at the very top 
of the urban fantasy game and whose books I have to snap up as soon as 
they're out!

Amanda Hocking. Although it's been some time since I've read any of her 
books, it was her story as an independent author that gave me the push 
to self-publish in the first place.

THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY.

The good - My characters become very real to me when I'm writing. I feel 
their pains and woes and celebrate their successes. I can often be found 
sobbing when things go wrong for them too!

The bad - There is always (ALWAYS) a point in each book where I am 
convinced that I have no skill and that what I am writing is the worst 
thing ever. Then I go and read all my bad reviews and feel even worse. 
It can be a very lonely job sometimes. Fortunately, the moment always 
passes. It's hard at the time though!

The ugly - When I tell people I'm a writer, they often seem to think 
it's a very glamorous life. Usually, however, it's me slumped in a 
chair, wearing slobby clothes and guzzling coffee by the gallon. It's 
not a pretty picture!

IF YOU COULD GIVE your past self ADVICE ON WRITING, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Don't worry about what people think! Just write that book and have fun 
in the process.


The Final Stretch / Author's Journey: Part Three

My Self-Publishing Journey

Part Three

 

Last time I blogged (which was far too long ago—sorry), I was delving into explaining my experiences with finding an editor and how I made that come to pass. Let's resume the story the moment after I got my first editors email. Upon opening her file, I was quite concerned that her edits would pull apart my book and discourage me, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that they did the exact opposite! I found motivation in her words and guidance in her suggestions.

Then came the unexpected grueling task to incorporate said edits into my work. People might believe that an editor does a lot of work for the writer, but you’d be surprised at the truth. With each of my three editors, I had my manuscript document and the editor notes opened side-by-side. For the next week or two, I went word by word, sentence to sentence, page to page, through each note they made—spending upwards to 8 hours a day combing through my manuscript until I finally reached the last page. I remember on the nights after that, I would plop onto my bed like a dead fish, completely exhausted with an aching back, hands, and mind.

After that stage (thankfully) was completed, it was at this point in my journey that my novel had a mostly finished first draft. I say mostly because I still had not formulated an ending. Due to my ambition of writing a trilogy, I then had to create a half-ending—one that would satisfy the reader and set a hook for the following book in the series. That is a rather tall order for an inexperienced writer. It took a long while before I felt the ending I chose was the right move.

Then came the beta readers. While editing, I enlisted anyone and everyone who wanted to help as a reader. Some of them were more proactive and read different versions of my draft so many times we lost count. This was such a critical part of the process that I hadn't considered before it was suggested to me. The collective feedback from my readers really helped me shape the story into what it is today.

So, what could possibly be next? This was the point in my journey where I needed to create the visuals for the book. Such as: the cover design, the layout format, the blurbs, the author biography, and the name of the book itself. But where in the world would I get all of that done and how I afford all this?

During a rather self-doubt fueled night, I tweeted at the best-selling author, Patrick Rothfuss, and asked him what one piece of advice he would give to a new writer trying to self-publish. His daunting response was, “Don’t do it.” He went on to say that you would need to have the skills of a dozen people to properly self-publish. This broke my spirit for a bit as an author I admired just told me to not even bother.

I didn’t listen.

Instead I hit the web and found each person fit for each task. Slowly, but surely the book took physical form. I was able to partake in the process as well, like being able to see Amethysta’s face take form as the cover was created. I made creative choices alongside these talented people to help steer them in the direction I was hoping for. I remember how I felt when I finally saw Amethysta evolve into the person I envisioned after all these years. I imagine it felt something like how a mother feels when seeing her child for the first time.

Step by step each piece was completed, but one critical matter was still unsure;

what was the book’s title?

From the beginning, I wanted to call the book simply ‘Amethysta.’ However, that felt more like a series name than for the book itself. So, I brainstormed and jotted down tons of ideas. Among the list was: Wayward Princess and Veiled Princess. Then for some reason I had typed out, Throne of Lies and it just clicked. It had the correct feel I wanted and it was very accurate to the story line of book one. I had found my title.

All that was left was to wait for the proof copy to arrive in the mail.

The day came and that was when I had Throne of Lies in my hands for the very first time, all that self-doubt, financial struggles, and hard work led to that moment. I cried the happiest of tears. Many people say they want to write a book in their lifetime, but I actually did it. I fulfilled my dream and it was right before me. While my original plan was to wait a while to release the book, I simply couldn't wait one more day and made Throne of Lies available on that day: August 2, 2016.

The journey to make this book a reality was exhausting, and to say I am proud is a huge understatement. Rest assured that I am already in gear to do it all over again for the second book. Stay tuned for more of Amethysta's story coming soon.

Book Review - Finding Molly: An Adventure in Catsitting

Finding Molly: An Adventure in Catsitting

Fresh out of art school and creatively unfulfilled, Molly is stuck in the suburbs with her parents and their cat, Pishi. When she is offered an opportunity to cat sit, she sees it as a way to get closer to her friends who live in the Los Angeles Arts District while fulfilling her dream of making a living as an artist.
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Personally, I found this graphic novel to be one of the more relatable ones that I’ve read. As an actress and author, I could easily put myself into the shoes of a young struggling artist trying to make something of herself. She’s quirky, kind, and thoughtful, the kind of character that drums to her own beat. Then throughout her tale there are other memorable characters: from her wonderfully supportive mother to her best friend Sarahh (which notably made me giggle as a fellow Sara who has done similar things in the past) to the boy that was a friend, but in the silence, he was also so much more. 

I’d like to gush about this beautiful art style which was splashed with vibrant color and decorated with a very current, hip style. One of my favorite character designs aside from Molly and Sarahh was a certain silver-haired character that the reader was not meant to like. The brilliant illustrations of cute cats and eye-grabbing urban environments were such a staple of this story.
 

A struggling young artist is pensive throughout her days; troubled with friendships, boys, and a father who just wants her to get a real job. But Molly swims against the stream - wanting nothing more than to follow her passions of becoming a well-established artist in her own unique way. She stumbled upon a quick way to make a buck and that blossoms into something more, but also something unexpected. Then there’s a moment where change becomes overwhelming as she makes big steps in her life. I admired Molly in those moments.

 

As a gamer, I was delighted by this page!

As a gamer, I was delighted by this page!


I picked up this graphic novel via YA Bound Book Tours and at first glance I believed it was going to be a silly little story about a girl sitting for some people’s cats, but to my fortunate surprise the story quickly shifted into so much more. This graphic novel was inspiring, funny, adorable, and left me wanting more from these very talented people. I would highly recommend Finding Molly if you are in the market for an adorably inspiring tale of one artists path to finding herself and her muse.