Say hi to Helena Fairfax, one of my fellow authors at Accent Press. Helena 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 Yorkshire. After many years working in factories and dark, satanic mills, Helena now writes full-time. She walks the Yorkshire moors every day with her rescue dog, and finds this romantic landscape the perfect place to dream up her heroes and her happy endings.
I wrote The Silk Romance as part of the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme. I’m forever indebted for the critique I received from my reader in the RNA, who advised me to focus on the conflict between the hero and heroine, and to make the story character-driven rather than plot-driven. I bear this in mind whenever I’m beginning a fresh project.
Good advice! [Stores it away…] So are you now a complete writing obsessive?
Not by any means! I’m certainly a reading obsessive, though, and honestly think I may be addicted to reading. My idea of a nightmare is being stuck on a train with no book to read. If no book is to hand, I’ll read anything – the back of a cereal packet or an old bus timetable!
I like anything creative where you can see things take shape. (This includes writing, of course.) I enjoy gardening, for example, and I also love knitting. At the minute I’m knitting a cardigan for my soon-to-be-born niece. After that, one of my grown-up nieces has requested a bright pink cover for her iPhone, so that’s next on my list. I love doing tapestries and needlework, too, and in one of my cupboards I have a pattern to stitch a replica of Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss, complete with gold thread. It’s very complicated, but it looks fabulous. It’s my dream to finish this one day!
You must have a load more patience than I have! Getting back to writing – what inspired your latest novel?
A few years ago I accompanied a group of disadvantaged teenagers from a German city on a week in a hostel near Ilkley. The German lads were both enthralled – and a little terrified! – by the vast open moors around them and the flocks of hardy Yorkshire sheep. I took some of their reactions and wove them into my London heroine’s feelings, along with her teenage charges.
The very first germ of an idea for my hero, Paul, came from watching the film Love, Actually. There’s a scene where Keira Knightley discovers her husband’s best man has been in love with her for years. I thought how strong this man must have been to keep his secret for so long, and how loyal he’d been to his friend. The best man disappears from the film, and I wondered what happened to him? How did he go on? Did he love again?
If a character lives in yor mind after you’ve finished reading a book or watching a film, that’s a great character. What are you working on now?
I’ve just finished my fourth novel, which is set in the Lake District. The hero has inherited an ailing hotel, and the heroine arrives to help him turn it around. My working title is Happiness at the Cross Hotel My heroine is called Felicity, and I like the symbolism of it!
Tell me, Helena, have you any other published books available?
Yes, I have two other, shorter romance novels published. The Silk Romance is set in a modern-day silk mill in the historic silk-weaving district in Lyon. There’s an alpha French male and an equally determined English heroine.
My second novel, The Antique Love, is set around London’s oldest royal park, in Richmond. My Wyoming hero has all the romantic appearance of a cowboy, but is in fact a logical accountant. By contrast, the heroine is the romantic owner of an antique shop on the King’s Road. I had fun bringing their very different personalities together!
Groan! More books to add to my reading list! Thanks for joining me today, Helena, it’s been fun chatting.
Thanks so much for having me today, Jenny, and for being such a gracious host!
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 Romantic Novelists’ Association Joan Hessayon Award and a runner-up in the Global Ebook Awards. Her work in progress was recently shortlisted for the Exeter Novel Prize.
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After the death of her husband in Afghanistan, Kate Hemingway’s world collapses around her. She spends her free time with a charity for teenage girls in London, helping them mend their broken lives – which is ironic, since her own life is fractured beyond repair.
Reserved, ex-public school journalist Paul Farrell is everything Kate and her teenage charges aren’t. But when Paul agrees to help Kate with her charity on a trip to the Yorkshire moors, he makes a stunning revelation that changes everything.
Can Kate take a risk with her son’s happiness as well as her own?