Interview with Author Helen Howell

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

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
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
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. 

About Susan McCaskill

Susan (or Sue, as she prefers to be called), was born in post war England, and lived there until the age of nine, when she and her mother emigrated to Canada. Her father died when she was nine, and left a huge impression on her. Both her parents encouraged her to read, and learn. She has always believed in fairies and elves, and probably always will, and as a child, she saw things many others didn't, and as a result she was thought to be a little strange.

Sue currently lives on beautiful Vancouver Island with her husband and three demanding cats.

Although she has been in Canada for so many years, she still misses the English and Welsh countryside, and because of this, her novel is based in the ancient, picturesque town of Betws-Y-Coed.

About herself, she says:

"I think I was born a writer, and got more confidence thanks to my grade five teacher, who was wonderful, and fostered my love for writing. I didn't write for almost 40 years, because of raising kids, life happenings, the usual drama. I started again sporadically ten years ago, and finished my first Mid Grade fantasy in 2013. Currently working on book 2.

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