My second day in a row here at SOS. I’m excited to ask you to welcome my good friend from Great Britain, Helena Fairfax. Helena (and the accent is on the first syllable) and I got to know each other because our first books were published by a small Canadian e-press, MuseItUpPublishing. We both joined the team about the same time and though we have gone on to other opportunities, we keep up with and support each other.
Thanks to our sister Kathryn Jane for these great questions.
Hello, Helena, and welcome to the SOS Blog.
What’s always within arm’s reach when you’re writing? (Post-it Notes? Pens? Coffee? The dog/cat?)
I always have a cup of tea within reach. I drink a lot of tea – I think it’s my Irish heritage!
My dog, Lexi, always sleeps next to me. She’s a rescue dog, and after being abandoned as a puppy she’s formed a very tight bond. Where I go, she likes to go, too.
What time of day do you find the best for writing?
My routine is to take Lexi for a walk – usually on the moors near where I live – and then when I get home, I catch up with emails, social media stuff, etc. Then mid-morning, I start writing and write for as long as I can think straight. I find writing the first draft a tortuous process, and so my words start coming out as mush by late afternoon.
How about editing, is that different?
For me, editing is a lot easier than writing the first draft. I can edit at any time of day, even when I’m tired. Somehow my brain seems to know just what is needed to improve the text I have down. This is a part of the process I enjoy, and in fact, I’ve recently started offering editing services to other indie authors. I’ve also just joined the Society for Editors and Proofreaders.
How much time do you put into marketing?
That depends on whether I have a release coming out or not. With a new release, it feels like far too much time has to be spent on marketing. I can spend a whole week or more not even doing any writing at all. I wish I didn’t have to market and sell my own books, as I’m not very good at it, but that’s the way of the world now for all authors – even if you are with a big publisher.
Where do your ideas come from?
They come from a lot of different places. With my novel A Way from Heart to Heart, for example, I was watching the film Love, Actually, and I was struck by the young man in love with Keira Knightley, who had just married his best friend. I wondered how he could possibly bear the pain of that in secret over the years that followed, and what would happen to him after the film finished. My story grew out of asking myself that question. (This is a beautiful story, Helena.)
The idea for The Scottish Diamond grew out of the setting. Edinburgh Castle houses the Crown Jewels (worn by the Queen for state occasions) and so I had the idea that my bodyguard hero is given the job of guarding the Scottish Diamond – a magnificent jewel belonging to the fictional royal family of Montverrier, lent by them for display in Scotland. This story contains a lot of treachery and some twists to surprise the reader along the way. It enjoyed writing it, and I fell in love my hero, Léon, more than any other hero I’ve written.
Do you fall in love with your characters?
Yes – see my answer above! They say all romance authors fall in love with their characters, and I think that’s true. It’s what I love both about writing and reading romance. After all, who wouldn’t want to spend time getting to know the brilliant characters that populate romance novels?
Why do you write romance/suspense?
Actually, I usually write contemporary romance. I wrote my first romantic suspense novella – Palace of Deception – last year because I had an idea for a story that I just had to get down. I thought this novella would be a one-off, but I loved it so much – and loved the hero – that I brought him back in The Scottish Diamond. Both these novellas have been such fun to write, I plan to write more in the future.
Do you always have a bad guy?
Not always. I did in my romantic suspense books, and there is a bad guy in my contemporary romance The Antique Love. I do enjoy writing bad guys (and bad girls), though – and they certainly add interest to the story.
Where do you write, and why does that spot work for you?
I write sitting on the settee in my sitting-room. It works for me in a lot of ways. If I work at my desk, no matter what I do I start to get repetitive strain after a while. I’ve tried all sorts, but nothing has worked, and I find it very tiring to sit in front of a computer in this way for long periods. The way I work now, I’ve never suffered at all, and I can work for long stretches at a time without feeling any aches or pains.
As I said, my dog loves to be with me at all times. This way, she can sit next to me while I work, and she often has her nose pressed right against my knee.
Do you read reviews of your work?
Yes! I’m lucky in that I’ve very rarely had negative reviews. If I consistently received negative reviews for a book, I’d have to take the book off sale and try and work out what was wrong with it. I do listen to what readers say.
Do you believe in love at first sight?
My father-in-law saw a photo of my mother-in-law when they were both teenagers – before he met her – and he said that was the person he wanted to marry. This year they celebrated their sixtieth wedding anniversary. So it can happen. (Love this real life love story. Thanks for sharing.)
On the other side of the coin, my husband and I had nothing good to say to one another when we first met It was a typical romance novel situation, where he thought I was snooty and I thought he was a pain in the butt. It was only after a very long while we gradually realised maybe we’d underestimated one another. Love grew from a most unlikely start!
One final question, just for fun… Boots, tennis shoes, or flip flops?
In the weather we’ve been having in England this winter, it’s definitely boots. I dream of the days of flip-flops…!
* * *
Léon and Lizzie, the hero and heroine of The Scottish Diamond, met first in my novella Palace of Deception. I’m giving away a FREE copy of Palace of Deception to all new subscribers to my newsletter. You can sign up here: http://eepurl.com/bRQtsT
Here is the blurb to The Scottish Diamond:
What do you do when nothing is what it seems…even the man you love? “Fair is foul, and foul is fair…” When Lizzie Smith starts rehearsing Macbeth with her theatre group in Edinburgh, she’s convinced the witches’ spells are the cause of a run of terrible luck. Lizzie’s bodyguard boyfriend, Léon, is mysteriously turned down for every job he applies for, until he’s finally offered the job of guarding “The Scottish Diamond,” a fabulous jewel from the country of Montverrier.
But the diamond’s previous guard has disappeared in mysterious circumstances. The Scottish Diamond has a history of intrigue and bloody murder, and Lizzie is plagued by nightmares in which Macbeth’s witches are warning her of danger.
Then Lizzie discovers she’s being followed through the streets of Edinburgh, and it seems her worst fears are about to be realised…
(Love the theatre background for this book.)
And here’s an excerpt:
He picked up one of my hands in both of his. ‘Now this is why I didn’t say anything,’ he said, with his down-turned smile. ‘I didn’t want you to be worrying. And you’re right – who on earth would want to follow me? I’m worrying about nothing. I’ve just had too much time on my hands.’
I continued to frown up at him, troubled. He took my face in his hands and kissed me. ‘I know what it is,’ he said, his eyes twinkling. ‘It’s all your talk of witches and ghosts. Your Scottish superstitions are rubbing off on me and I’m seeing things in this gloomy weather that aren’t there at all.’
He swung me into his arms and kissed me again.
After that, Léon dismissed his vigilance as something brought on by the strangeness of his new city. And once he began his new job at the Castle, he didn’t mention being followed again, and in fact, all the tension he’d been showing disappeared, and he became almost his old self. He left the house with a sense of purpose that had been lacking in his previous aimless wanderings around Edinburgh. And the best thing was, he was beginning to understand more and more of our Scottish brogue every day.
I later discovered it wasn’t just our Scottish way of speaking he was mastering. A few days after he started work, I was in the kitchen preparing our evening meal, when I heard the front door close and Léon’s light tread in the hall. Usually he went straight upstairs to change, but this evening he came directly to the kitchen and put his head round the door. His eyes brimmed with amusement.
I stepped closer to give him a kiss, and he pushed the door wide. My mouth fell open. He was dressed in a kilt. The green tartan cloth was thrown over one broad shoulder in Highland fashion, and the pleated skirt revealed an inch or two of tanned, muscular leg above a pair of thick, cream-coloured socks.
‘Wow,’ I stuttered. ‘You look…’ I breathed out in a long whistle. ‘You look amazing.’
He smiled broadly, showing his white, even teeth in one of the first real smiles I’d seen him give since we left Europe.
‘This is my new uniform.’ He spread his arms a little, glancing down at himself. ‘Not a bad effort for a half-Italian, half-Montverrian. What do you think?’
‘Not bad at all.’ My face decided right then and there to turn a decided pink, and to hide the fact that I couldn’t keep my eyes off him, I threw my arms around his neck and planted a kiss below his ear.
His arms encircled me, and he murmured, ‘Ever made love to a man in a kilt?’
And after that, everything between us was perfect again. All my worries about Léon wanting to go home to Italy, and all his former tension vanished, and we were just as we had been during those idyllic two weeks we’d spent at his home on the Amalfi coast that summer.
But of course, perfect times can’t last forever. Everything changed when I realised it wasn’t Léon who was being followed. It was me.
* * *
Helena Fairfax writes engaging contemporary romances with sympathetic heroines and heroes she’s secretly in love with. Her first novel, The Silk Romance, was a contender for the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme Award and a runner-up in the Global Ebook Awards, and she was recently shortlisted for the Exeter Novel Prize.
Helena is a British author who was born in Uganda and came to England as a child. She’s grown used to the cold now, and these days she lives in an old Victorian mill town in the north of England, right next door to the windswept Yorkshire moors. She walks this romantic landscape every day with her rescue dog, finding it the perfect place to dream up her heroes and her happy endings.
If you’d like to get in touch, or find out more about my books, writing, and photos of my settings or the Yorkshire moors where I live, please follow my newsletter by subscribing here http://eepurl.com/bRQtsT
And don’t forget, all new subscribers will receive a FREE copy of Palace of Deception