Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Flying High with Hélène Young!

by Anna Campbell

Back in 2005, I'd finaled in the biggest romance writing contest in Australia, the Emma Darcy Award. One of the great pleasures of that for me was that I got to know my fellow finalists including today's guest, the fabulous Hélène Young.

Hélène is a fascinating person to talk to - she's traveled all round the world and currently works as a commercial pilot. Added to that, she's incredibly smart and funny. Just who you want sitting next to you at a long awards dinner.

I was utterly delighted when I heard last year that Hélène had sold a romantic suspense story to Hachette Australia. BORDER WATCH is out in Australia this month and it sounds absolutely fabulous.

Here's the blurb:

Above the crystal-blue waters of North Queensland, Captain Morgan Pentland patrols the vast Australian coastline. When Customs Agent Rafe Daniels joins her crew, she is immediately suspicious. Why is he boarding her plane when she isn’t there? And why is he asking so many questions?

What Morgan doesn’t know is that Rafe has her under surveillance. Critical information about their Border Watch operations is being leaked and she is the main suspect, but when Morgan and Rafe are shot down in a tragic midair attack, they realise they have to start working together – and quickly. One of Australia’s most loved icons is the next target and they have only nine days to stop it.

Will they uncover details of the plot in time, or will the tension that is growing between them jeopardise everything?

You can find out more about Hélène and her books on her website: http://www.heleneyoung.com/

You can buy BORDER WATCH from the Book Depository: http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/book/9780733624902/Border-Watch

People outside Australia can also purchase the book online from Booktopia: http://www.booktopia.com.au/border-watch/prod9780733624902.html

Welcome to the lair, Hélène! And huge congratulations on the publication of your debut romantic suspense novel BORDER WATCH.

Hi Anna.Thanks so much for inviting me into the lair – I love dropping by to read your guests’ posts and I now I get to be here too! Woohoo!

You work as a commercial pilot in beautiful Far North Queensland. Can you tell us how your career and this environment influenced your work?

My day job definitely influences my writing. The action is set in an aircraft very similar to the one I fly day in day out. The setting is North Queensland, a part of Australia that captivated me the first time I flew into it twenty years ago. Looking out of the flight deck window on a beautiful winter’s day, the view is spectacular – cerulean waters stretching to the horizon, white reefs rising out of darker depths, beaches dotting the coasting as we track north to the tip of Cape York, and the lush green of pristine rainforests. Gee, can you tell I love it?

Can you tell us about your writing journey?

I first started writing with intent when we moved to Cairns for me to pursue an airline career. Initially I shied away from writing about aviation because I didn’t think anyone would be interested and I also didn’t think I could demystify it enough to make it readable – who knew there were so many acronyms... My early manuscripts wandered around in the wilderness of ‘I don’t know where my voice fits.’ I tried writing to Harlequin Mills and Boons guidelines for Sweets. That didn’t work. I tried writing Sexy. Nope, no better – the only heat in my sex scenes were my cheeks when I reread them… I entered contests and learnt so much from the feedback. I attended RWA conferences and sat in stunned silence in workshops realising I knew so little. Bit by bit I learnt my craft. Four books later, after some great advice from a contest judge I took a deep breath and starting writing BORDER WATCH. Ten years after completing my first manuscript, my fifth one finally found a home!

Here in the lair, we love call stories. Would you share yours with us?

I still smile when I remember that day! I’d been fortunate enough to final in the RWAmerica Golden Heart Competition and through that, met the wonderful Bronwyn Parry (love DARK COUNTRY, her latest book!). At Bron’s book launch for AS DARKNESS FALLS, she introduced me to Bernadette Foley from Hachette. I may have been guilty of stalking Bernadette … but in a nice way! (When I pitched to her at the 2008 RWA conference it did mean I wasn’t incoherent with nerves – I’d got that out of the way at Bron’s launch!) Bernadette asked to see the complete manuscript and she then sent me some wonderful advice on that first draft. I took it on board, pulled the manuscript apart and tried again. And waited.

My husband and I were headed to the stunning Whitsunday Islands for a week’s sailing holiday where phone contact would be limited and I was fretting. We dropped anchor in Nara Inlet in time for sunset. My husband was ripping the top off a bottle of champagne when my phone rang. I could tell it was a Sydney number and one I didn’t recognise. I hesitated for an instant, took a deep breath and then there was this lovely familiar voice telling me Hachette Australia was interested in buying BORDER WATCH and my next book! I did manage to say yes, (after some prompting) and I did manage not to scream until I’d hung up though I clearly remember standing on the deck of the yacht with tears streaming down my face.

What a great call story! What’s next for Hélène Young?

My next book is BEYOND THE BORDERS and it takes Lauren, one of the secondary characters in BORDER WATCH, on her own adventure. She’s also a pilot in Border Watch and has more attitude than a cage full of leopards.

Love "more attitude than a cage full of leopards!" Now this is a story I want to read! Can you give us a glimpse of your working day?

A typical flying day involves four to six sectors of flying which can be up to eight hours in the air. We start by flight planning, checking the weather, working out how much fuel we can carry, briefing the cabin crew, then heading for the aircraft. On a typical summer’s day in North Queensland. I’ll be soaked to the skin by the time I finish inspecting the aircraft for serviceability… On a glorious winter’s day I’ll be feeling sorry for anyone stuck in an office. I fit writing in when I can. I try to be disciplined about either doing internet stuff – blogs, emails, e-loops - or working on a story. That involves having to turn the internet off. I have lousy self-control…

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

My advice is join RWA Australia or America – they are both wonderful organisations that foster writing. Enter competitions, get feedback, toughen up and persevere. Write what you know, write what you love and believe all things are possible! Write characters that people can connect with, empathise with, love with!

Hélène, thanks for that great interview. Is there anything you'd like to ask the Bandits and Bandita Buddies?

I was chatting today with a journalist about what makes a character believable. She was fascinated with the process of creating a new character from scratch and how a writer does that. What do you start with? Is it a face, a photo, a whiff of aftershave on a train? Does your character drive you or do drive them? I’d love to hear about your process.

Writing Banditas, we'd love to hear your answers to Hélène's question. Readers, what makes a character come alive for you in a book?

Get commenting, people! Hélène has very generously offered one lucky commenter a signed copy of BORDER WATCH. Good luck!

121 comments:

limecello said...

Hi Hélène!

chelleyreads said...

woot!

chelleyreads said...

being a reader and not a writer, i wouldn't know but i can't wait to hear the writer banditas' responses! :)

chelleyreads said...

damn! lime, i thought it was me who got the gr this time. congrats!

Anna Campbell said...

Oh, Lime and Chelley, neck and neck! Lime, congratulations on the bird!

It's an interesting question, isn't it, Chelley? I'm looking forward to seeing the answers too! We have a lot of writers who hang around the blog so I'm suspecting we'll get a variety of responses.

Anna Campbell said...

Helene, this is completely off topic, but I wondered if it has been difficult being a successful woman in such a male-dominated profession.

Bronwyn said...

Hi Anna. Hi Helene,

First let me say, a little stalking goes a long way (or at least I hope it does=))

My characters usually start with a name. The name tells me who they are, their physical attributes depend on the strength of the name and because I know a little about their motivation, I get the rest from there. And then I like to let them write the story for me. They usually know what's coming before I do!
I like to think of this as a the lazy writer's way of doing it but apparently there are few of us out there! Complete and utter pantser writing a story based on a name... Sounds interesting =)

Good luck on the release!

Bronwyn.

limecello said...

Hélène, what a fantastic call story! Also, I'm ridiculously jealous of the gorgeous sites you get to see! One of my favorite things to do on trips is to take pictures out the windows. (Or am I not allowed to do that and I shouldn't tell you?) :X
As for what makes a character come alive for me... one that is realistic. Human. Has a personality. A dynamic character - in the lit crit sense. Static characters are almost always ferreted out as such, and/or labeled TSTL.
I like characters that make *some* mistakes, otherwise s/he is totally unrelatable. Just something I can see/believe, and knowing there are a lot of quirky people out there, it shouldn't be so hard. But, I know that it is because comprehensively bringing together aspects of a character to give him/her depth and dimension, and have it all meld together, is incredibly difficult.
But still, that's what I demand as a reader :D

Fiona Palmer said...

Hi Helene and Anna, a great interview, thanks.

I would love to have a great answer on how my characters develop but i don't. I tend to already have a picture in my head as how they will look and then i write little bits about their personalities as i get the feel of them but they do tend to drive themselves. As i find out more about how the story goes, then i also learn more about the characters. I like the idea of finding a picture of them but haven't done it yet, they form in my mind too easily instead.

I can't wait to read Border Watch and best wishes for great sales Helene.

Authorness said...

Hi, Anna and Hélène!

Hélène, congratulations on the release of BORDER WATCH! I loved your call story.

I'll do my best to answer your question from a writer's POV, but it's going to sound a little kooky. My characters simply materalise in my head. They walk, they talk, they complain about the weather. I wish I knew how/when/where they enter--probably through the same wide gap where my maths skills exit!

Once the initial introductions are over, I spend time getting to know the characters with a short interview. It's all very nice and civilised...until I torture them mercilessly in my books. Of course, I make sure they get a happy ending.

~ Vanessa

CC Coburn said...

Hi Helene!
Firstly, gorgeous photo of you. Was it taken professionally, or do you have a clever family member? You look very serene. :-)
Lucky you living in such a special part of Aus. Getting to see it all spread out below you... well, it's a wonder they have to pay you to do it!
Congrats again on the release of Border Watch, I love the premise and am so happy to hear there will be more in the series.
As for the answer to your question - I start with the character of the character if that makes sense. I just get a very clear vision of what makes this person tick, what their occupation is, what their secrets are. I usually have a name for hem immediately, but their appearance is a foggy thing that develops later. What can I say, I'm a pantser!
And I agree with you, Vanessa, my characters entered where my maths skills exited (with amazing rapidity!)
cheers and once again, Congratulations!
CC

jo robertson said...

Hi, Helene, welcome to the Lair! What an interesting and exciting life you lead. And what great material for your books.

I love the story line in Border Watch, very intriguing.

Congrats, Limecello. Sorry, chelleyreads, maybe next time?

Great question, Anna. I was going to ask Helene to same thing about being a female pilot in a male-dominated occupation.

jo robertson said...

My characters usually start with a line of dialogue. Something in a character's voice that only he or she would say with a certain tone and inflection.

Sharon Archer said...

Hi Helene and Anna - 2005 was a fine year for the EDA! ;)

Great interview and gorgeous pictures! I love your call story, Helene - and that setting is hard to beat - much more exciting that the phone on the wall in the kitchen!!

My characters seem to start like Jo's - a line of dialogue. If I'm lucky they're chatty - otherwise it's a case of "Come back here!"

Congratulations on the release of Border Watch! I'm off to town on Thursday so I'll be picking up my copy then!

:)
Sharon

Anna Campbell said...

Bronwyn, how interesting about the name! You know, I was thinking and there's something in that. I have to know what the characters are called before I start. And I never really get going until I know I've got exactly the right name. Weird how that works, isn't it? Hey, stalk away!

Anna Campbell said...

Wow, Lime, what an amazing answer. How comprehensive was that? Actually something that makes characters real for me is something you mentioned - the flaws that make them interesting. And often it's the flaws that get the story going, have you noticed?

Anna Campbell said...

Hi Fiona! Great to see you here. I'm really enjoying hearing about these different approaches to characters. Yours seems almost mystical - like they're coming at you from some other realm. I often feel that - you know, they're telling me about themselves and I don't really have a lot of control over them!

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Vanessa, isn't that a cool call story? I just love it! Sounds like you're with Fiona on the slightly mystical origins of your characters. It's odd, isn't it? These people are utterly real to us so they must have some existence in some realm!

Anna Campbell said...

Catherine, nice to see so many Aussies popping over to say hello to our fellow countrywoman. I 100% agree with you about how gorgeous that photo is. Helene, you're so lucky you're so incredibly photogenic!

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Welcome to the Lair, Helene!

And BIG THANX to FoAnna for inviting you here to celebrate your debut release!

Congrats on the GR, Lime, but no real surprise. You 2 can't seem to stay apart...

Usually, my characters arrive in my imagination with their full names (first, middle, last) intact. Then it is a matter of getting them to 'talk' to me about their backstories. I always know WAY more about their past than I do about what will happen to them in the course of the story.

I know, I know, only crazy people hear voices. :-P In this case, I think I'm in good company!

AC

Anna Campbell said...

Jo, it's funny, after I'd put up the interview, I suddenly thought that's something I should have asked Helene. I've never actually asked her in person either, which strikes me as odd. You know how curious I am! ;-) So glad you enjoyed the interview. Helene is the only female commercial pilot I know - yay, her!

Anna Campbell said...

Ha ha, Miss Sharon. I had Helene on one side and you on the other. Sort of the rose between the thorns, bwahahahaha! Hmm, not sure if anyone would agree with that. Isn't Helene's cover beautiful? I love that blue.

Anna Campbell said...

AC, I remember going to a great presentation Marion Lennox, the wonderful Harlequin writer, gave at one of our local conferences. It was the first time I thought about visual, auditory or kinetic writers. And sounds like you and I are definitely auditory writers. I hear my people way before anything else. And I have to start the book when the clamour in my head has reached such a pitch, I can't ignore them anymore. Hey, we're not crazy!!!!!!!

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Of course we're NOT, Fo. Just a wee bit eccentric... ;-)

AC

Jane said...

Hi Helene,
Congrats on the release of "Border Watch." I think a character comes alive if they're realistic. They might have admirable traits, but also be flawed.

Anna Campbell said...

Hmm, I'm not sure we should totally rely on diagnoses from each other, AC! ;-)

Anna Campbell said...

Jane, I must say I find perfect characters rather hard to hack. I like the grit in the oyster that makes the pearl!

Mitzi H. said...

As a reader, What 1st grabs me is the description of the man. If I'm not attracted to the man, then I'm not going to be interested in getting to know him....and his scent is part of that descripton.

What I least like are names that I can't pronounce. When they are difficult/made up names, they are distracting from the story and I end up giving them my own (nicknames) so that I can read the story easily....(which is great for reading but not for remembering/recommending the novel)....as I tend to remember my nickname before the authors.

PinkPeony said...

Hi Helene! Hi Anna!

Your book sounds fantastic! I'm going to order it from the Book Depository tonight!

I have to agree with Bronwyn...the character's name is everything. When I was younger, I wouldn't read a book if I didn't like the heroine's name! My characters drive me but I don't have an actual picture of what the H/H look like. Having said that, I do look through clothing catalogs and clip out pics of models who fit the look of the secondary characters.Strange, but it works for me!

I'm taking a Margie Lawson workshop right now and the Australian contingent is well represented!

Cheers!

PinkPeony said...

Loucinda wrote..."Then it is a matter of getting them to 'talk' to me about their backstories. I always know WAY more about their past than I do about what will happen to them in the course of the story."

Thank you for this! I was beginning to think there was something wrong with me. I'm a backstory slut.

flchen1 said...

Hi, Helene and Anna! That is a fabulous call story, and like other commenters, I'm totally intrigued by your personal story--being a commercial pilot AND Australian makes you cooler than cool in my book! Plus you write romance--what could be more amazing?

As for characters, I think ones that come alive for me are very rounded--they seem like real people, and have quirks and weaknesses. Those tend to make them easier to relate to and a little more likeable (unless they also come across as incredibly stupid or selfish or have some other horrible character flaw, which might also make them all the more real...) As Limecello said though, it seems a rather complicated thing, to breathe life into a character to the point where s/he reaches this point of believability!

Congrats on the GR, btw, Lime!

Helen said...

Congrats limecello better luck next time chelleyreads.

What a great interview Ladies and Helene I love that call story and the pics are fantastic. Cairns and The Whitsundays are such a beautiful part of Australia I have been to both and I really need to get to a few more of our wonderful spots.

Congrats on the release of Border Watch I have heard so many great things about it can't wait to read it I will be off to the shops on Friday.

As a reader a character comes alive basicly as soon as they start "talking" if that makes sense when I get to now a bit about there feelings and if they have a sense of humour and their integrity that sort of thing and of couse they are usually described in the begining and are always tall and handsome what more could you want except to curl up and get lost in a wonderful story.

Have Fun
Helen

Helene Young said...

Limecello and chelleyreads, you guys make me laugh! The battles for the GR are classics!

Sorry for being late to the party. Had to work today and what a day it was.

Two engine fire, three hyraulic leaks, one collapsed undercarriage and finally a demented passenger... Lucky it was all in the simulator!!!

I spent today training (read tormenting) two new captains. They have to go through an intensive training programme before we allow them to take command of an aircraft. So, Anna, to answer your question. Being a female in such a male dominated arena can have its draw backs but since I'm the one doing the training and testing mostly the boys behave themselves... :-)

Helene Young said...

Hi Bron, interesting that you start with a name. I have had problems recently with a recalcitrant hero who clearly hated his name. When I changed it, voila, he finally started co-operating....

(Limecello, I won't tell anyone you're taking photos out the window... They don't lock you away for long if you get caught...) No, seriously you can take photos - it just depends on the equipment!!!

And you're so right. Characters must be believable - they need foibles and fetishes, mistakes and mannerisms, maybe even some humour!

Helene Young said...

Fiona, welcome to the lair! I've searched for pictures for my stars but haven't found any yet. Luckily the woman on the cover of Border Watch looks pretty much like I imagine Morgan. Hachette has already roughed out the cover for Beyond the Borders and Lauren, the heroine, is a dead ringer for the girl they've chosen for that one!! And thanks for the good wishes!! Love sharing Australia Outback Romance and Mysteries with you, Fleur and Bron!!

Helene Young said...

Vanessa, lol, we must have the same sized math's exit! Lucky for you, your visitors come calling! Love the idea of interview them!

CC, glad you like the photo! The photographer was a gentle professional soul in Cairns who made me so relaxed I even managed to smile without shutting my eyes... And yes, the character of the character makes sense - I think? ;-)

Jo, I am very lucky and I appreciate that every day I go to work. I was nervous about using aviation in a story partly because I dreaded what my male colleagues would say. I needn't have worried. The vast majority have been lovely - although the first question many of them ask is 'So what's the sex scene like?' I cringe, wondering if next time I fly with them (and they've read the book) they'll be looking at me with the 'hee, hee, we know what she does in bed' kind of smirk.... argghh.!!!

Helene Young said...

Sharon, 2005 was indeed a fine year! And where it all began for me. I framed that particular award certificate and put it up on the wall just to remind me that somewhere readers had connected with my writing!

Dialogue is so strong in your stories I can see why they would develop along those lines. And the wouldn't dare walk away from a good chat!!

And Anna, photogenic comes from photoshop! A bit of airbrush here, a bit of airbrush there, a bit of airbrush everywhere... you get the idea...

Helene Young said...

Aunty Cindy (love that name!) Glad to hear I'm in good company. I thought I was weird having discussion with them about what they were trying to do, but now I know other people have the same experience. My husband says he can tell when I'm writing a passage with lots of dialogue because I pull all these weird expressions...

ANd back on the girlie pilot thing - in the Cairns base where I work we have 52 pilots, 7 of them are women so that puts us at 13.46 % of the workforce! That is awesome by Aussie aviation standards!! And everyone of them could be a star in one of my stories! Love them!

Helene Young said...

A rose Anna? I thought it was more like a selection of exotic orchards all lined up together!

Jane, you're so right - they must have some flaws otherwise we can't relate to them - and I could never have perfection in a heroine or I'd be jealous!! (Can I borrow the 'grit in the oyster' line Anna?)

Mitzi, I had to laugh - a complicated name IS a distraction! I'm the same but if I have to rename them, then I'm likely to be uncomplimentary and then I won't end up liking them...

And I think PinkPeony is on to something. If I don't like a name to start with, I probably wont read the book! Must be why my publisher has some strong views on names.

Helene Young said...

fichen1 can you come to Australia and tell my husband I'm cool? Long suffering beautiful man that he is, cool would not be his description of me...

Finding my character's flaws is interesting - time consuming and hard work on occasions, but I think you're right, it's the flaws that make them believable. They have to be faults we can identify. Lauren, a secondary character in Border Watch gets her own story in the next book. She has some classic issues but hopefully she's redeemable because she works to overcome them.

Helen, humour is definitely a big part of a character for me - they don't need to be funny all the time (that would wear me out) but they need to be able to laugh at themselves and the world! And I love a man with sense of humour - hubbie definitely wins on that count!!

Becca J. Heath said...

Hi Helene,
What a wonderful call story! I can't wait to read Border Watch.

Characters... for me they sometimes come with a name and sometimes just with a flaw or problem (one i can't wait to torture). In my WIP my heroine's name drove me crazy. I knew it had to be nature based and she hated it but I wanted to like it. I trawled plant and animal sites for hours until i found the perfect name. Then i could see/hear her clearly and I'm truly pantsing the story (first time for me).
=)

Serena said...

What a great blog entry! Loved learning about Helene and reading her wonderful call story :)

My characterization varies from book to book. There's no easy answer but sometimes it starts with a prompt from a show - like my perfume book which started when I caught the end of a show about the chemistry of lipsticks. I thought about creating perfume and then the people who do that. And it just took off from there.

BTW NEWSFLASH! I picked up Helene's book today from Dymocks in the city! But if I am lucky enough to win one, I'll keep the autographed copy and give this one to a friend who is eagerly waiting for me to read it first :)

Good luck with the sales, sweetie!!
Hugs
Serena

Serena said...

BTW thanks for having Helene as your guest, Anna!!
Muuuuah!
Serena

Gillian Layne said...

Border Watch sounds like a great read. I love it when the characters really have to fight the odds to be together, and "main suspect" has conflict written all over it.

I think most people have one little quirk or obsession that makes them really happy--a hobby, a job, a special interest of some kind. When you know what your character's trigger is, it helps them come alive.

I can't imagine how you find the time in the day to write. But I'm sure those gorgeous views are very inspirational.

Wonderful interview, Anna!

Joan said...

Welcome Helene to The Lair!

What a great way to weave in your love of flying with your writing...very similar to Susan Grant.

And your call story. I believe it was providence that had your DH opening champagne AS THE CALL CAME IN!!!

Joan said...

As to my characters....they come in various ways.

Jared in The Patrician was fully formed but nameless....had to figure out how to balance his two heritages for that Jared..Lucius

Damon in The Patrician's Fortune. He just showed up, looked me in the eye and said "What? I am what I am"

Bran in Barbarian's Soul has made me dig for who he is.

And Ruarc in my first paranormal? He keeps putting up smoke screens thinking to remain an enigma....hint to Ruarc...I have a fan to blow away that smoke and I seeeee you... :-)

Kim in Hawaii said...

Thanks, Anna and Helene, for the interview! To answer Anna's question as a reader, I read the author's website before reading his/her book. Reading the author's bio and other related info allows me to envision hwo the author wants readers to “hear” his/her the story.

I checked out Helene's web page and immediately felt a connection. I served 12 years in the Air Force, flying a desk. But I have been around pilots long enough to appreciate Helene's comments as well as her experience that contributed to her new book.

Returning to the Sacred Rooster of Hawaii, I offer you a fabulous photo:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jaybergesen/2267684979/.

More to come about these feral birds!

Anna Sugden said...

Welcome to the Lair, Helene and congrats on your sale! It's very inspiring to someone who is still on that brink, waiting to sell, that you stuck with it for some time and sold your fifth book after major rewrites! Thank you!

Your book sounds fab! Went to order it from The Book Depository and you're already sold out! I have it on order from them.

My characters appear in different ways - some with a line of dialogue, some with an image, some with a situation that they're in. Often what happens is something sparks my imagination and my brain goes into 'what if' mode. eg my book In Safe Hands came about because I was watching an episode of Secret Army - an old TV program about the undergound railroad in Belgium during WW2. What if there was an underground railroad for abused women, trying to escape rich, powerful men? And, so The SAFe Network was born!

Helene Young said...

Hi Becca, glad you liked the call story - I still smile when I think of it! Pantsing is a fabulous way to write - I like to think I'm a pantser but I suspect the pilot (retentive, checklist driven) side of me occasionally asserts itself. If my characters don't like that they go walkabout... Not good... Sounds like your heroine took you on a merry little dance before you pinned her down!!

Serena, a book about perfumes sound fascinating!! I always wanted to meet one of those people with the 'noses' that were insured for millions of dollars - that is a cool job!!! And thanks for picking up a copy of BW in Dymocks - I'm headed into Sydney proper (as opposed to the airport hotel I stay in) so I'll be browsing round to see if I can spot someone's reaction to it! (Sounds a bit like stalking really... oh dear....)

Helene Young said...

Gillian, Rafe and Morgan most definitely have to fight the odds! And I hope I discovered both their quirks and obsessions.

I don't know how I find the time some days either, but those darned voices in my head don't let go... Would worry me more if they stopped talking to me... And yes, you're right, I only need to go for a fly to find the inspiration of the landscape again!

Joan, thanks for the warm welcome! I haven't read Susan Grant's work - I'll have to track her down. Did she write galactic type SciFi? Oooh your heroes sound divine! Such hot names - and a guy how stands with a hip thrust forward and says 'I am what I am'... I'm melting here in my hotel room!!!

Helene Young said...

Kim, having spent 12 yrs in the Air Force you'll understand the world I work in - boys rule, but we girls are finding some traction in that world! Glad you liked my website! I wanted it to reflect the gorgeous part of Australia I'm privileged to live in as well as give some glimpses into my day job.

Anna, stick at it! It's been almost ten years from fingers to keyboard to book on the shelf for me! I learnt so much along the way and I know I still have so much to learn. The posts here tonight have added a few light bulbs to the forest of illumination in my brain (and I need all the light I can get...). Am amazed the Book Depository has sold out??? Maybe they didn't order many?

Safe Hands sounds fascinating! The premise is full of potential - can't wait to read it!! And thanks for the welcome!

Kandy Shepherd said...

Hi Helene, I went into a Dymocks in the wrong end of town today and they didn't have your book! Said they would order it, but I don't want to wait for an order to come in. I'll go elsewhere!
For me a character is real when they feel and behave like people, not "book characters". This might mean they are not predictable or cliched and that their reactions might surprise me.
Easier said than done to write, though! Like Bronwyn and Anna, names are really important. I have to get the name right before the person feels real--especially the hero!
Best of luck with the launch!

Helene Young said...

Kandy, you got the names just right with Maddie, Brutus and Tom in "Love is a Four-Legged Word'!

Thanks for dropping by and I hope the next store you visit has a copy of BW - and that when you do track a copy down you enjoy it! My local Collins Bookstore now has your book on order for me!

Christina Phillips said...

Hi Helene and Anna!

Helene, congratulations on the release of BORDER WATCH!I'm so looking forward to reading it (another order to Book Depository!!)

As for my characters, they come to me in a vivid scene in my head (which may or may not end up in the final version of the book, but it does give me the overall feel for the story!) I have to know their names before I start writing and then their backstory filters through. To be honest, I find it hard to analyse my process as I have this silly fear that if I do the magic will vanish and I'll never to able to write another word again!!! (I hope that doesn't make me sound too strange!!)

Susan Sey said...

Good morning, Helene! Thanks for coming by the lair today! Border Watch sounds incredible--I'll have to pick up a copy ASAP!

As for making characters believable I haven't the first clue. I sat down with a writer friend the other day who knows her characters better than I know my kids--down to their Meyers-Briggs personality types! I was amazed. I can't say I give it that much thought--they either sound like normal people when they talk--both how they talk & what they choose to say when the talk--or they don't. If they don't, I keep revising. If they do, hurray. :-)

Barbara Monajem said...

Re writing - I have no method for creating characters except to begin writing. The characters start talking and doing, and their personalities emerge. I love this aspect of writing, because there are so many surprises!

Re reading - My favorite qualities in characters usually have to do with the voice and worldview of the author who wrote them. I prefer characters who either share or expand my own worldview - in other words, either I relate well to them (which is comforting) or they teach me something (which may be uncomfortable but is definitely necessary).

Joan said...

and a guy how stands with a hip thrust forward and says 'I am what I am'... I'm melting here in my hotel room!!!

Yeah....and he says it with a little half smile.

I think you would like Susan. She uses her own experience and knowledge as a commercial pilot to add dimension to her Sci Fi romance.

MsHellion said...

Hi Helene! Great book--and great question! *LOL*

I'm not real helpful though. My characters sorta show up. Like Luc, who is in a couple books, he's just there. He seemed to show up fully formed, looking vaguely like Johnny Depp, but even better looking. *LOL* And much more rascally.

When I created Ben for my 2nd manuscript, I just knew he had caramel colored hair. (Wavy--all my men have wavy hair. *LOL*) And he had electric blue eyes. His eyes were very important.

Then again, Ben came out of the premise that I knew a guy who was married, and his girlfriend showed up at the door. His wife went to get her gun, and he was hastily trying to encourage the woman to leave before the wife returned with the gun. I was like, what if the guy had gotten shot? Would he live or die? And what if he was shot by the girlfriend; and the wife, who he was with, didn't know he had a girlfriend? It was a bit of trying to put back together everything you thought you knew about someone and how you carry on from there. Only it was funny too.

jo robertson said...

Do you think that's because names are highly symbolic (or can be, anyway).

I was playing with names for a YA I'm experimenting with. One of the girls is named Corinna Anderson, a cheerleader-perky type, but I wanted her to have a light-hearted nickname that belied the serious nature she hides.

I came up with Kiki. Now I have no idea if that's a diminuative of Corinna, but I liked it better than Nina!

Julia Smith said...

Hi Hélène and Anna - wonderful interview!

Congratulations on your debut novel, Hélène. This must be so exciting!

To answer your question about how characters come to me, they arrive fully formed in the middle of a scene that takes over like a Joan of Arc vision. So once I recover myself, I have to find out a little more about that person I witnessed.

Once it comes time to name the character, I use my knowledge of numerology to give him or her the right name. It's like assigning an astrological sign to a character. If my character has trust issues, I'm going to want him to have a name that starts with G, P or Y, because those are the letters for 7, the Doubting Thomas.

Virginia said...

There are some interesting answers here now! Myself I am a reader so I can't really answer your question! Do you enjoy being a pilot? I can't see me doing this either. Your book sounds fab and I can't wait to read it.

Suzanne Welsh said...

Lovely interview, Anna! And welcome to our Bandit Lair, Helene! BORDER WATCH sounds like a very intriguing book and I'll have to add it to my TBR list.

As for how do I come up with a new character from scratch? Usually they pop into my mind's eye as a physical type. I rarely use pictures of real people, although Shemar Moore has become the inspiration for my newest hero...but only because my CP asked me some pointed questions and I realized my mind was focusing on him.

What really forms most for me is the hero or heroine, or even secondary character's inner qualities or lack thereof.

I guess I see their soul first.

jo robertson said...

Helene said, "since I'm the one doing the training and testing mostly the boys behave themselves... :-)"

LOL, payback for years of women being second-class citizens. Hehehehehe.

You mentioned that you were initially fearful that writing "pilot stuff" wouldn't be interesting to your readers. How did you figure out how to make the technical stuff more palatable, or what to put in (for understanding of story) and what to leave out?

Suzanne Welsh said...

Susan said: I sat down with a writer friend the other day who knows her characters better than I know my kids--down to their Meyers-Briggs personality types!...

She's a plotter, isn't she?

One of the things I love about being a pantzer is when that character reveals that vital part of himself or herself that propels the story at just the right moment. I think that would get lost in extreme characterization detailing pre-writing. IMHO

Anna Campbell said...

Mitzi, laughed at the nicknames! How interesting that the book's so herocentric for you!

Anna Campbell said...

Jen, interesting take on your characters - especially that you need visual stimulation for your secondaries but not your hero and heroine. I usually start out with some 'type' for my hero and heroine but as the book develops, that original becomes less and less important.

Margie is terrifically popular down here in Australia. She came to our conference two years ago and everybody just loved her. Good luck with your course!

Anna Campbell said...

Fedora, I can definitely confirm that Helene is tres cool indeed! ;-) I find the whole creation of character thing fascinating - how do people draw imaginary beings who are so real out of nothing but air? It's like magic!

Anna Campbell said...

Helen, I had to laugh at the "usually they're tall and handsome." Well, what's wrong with that? Snort! Absolutely nothing. I hope you enjoy Border Watch!

Anna Campbell said...

Helene, I think I have a collapsed undercarriage! Is there anything you can do for it? Snort! Hmm, along the lines for pilots like saggy middle jokes for writers, I would think! I've got a saggy middle too! Sorry you had such a bad day. We'll cheer you up here in the lair. Sven, massage now! Cabana boys, margaritas. Gladiators, do the macarena for our guest's entertainment.

Karyn Gerrard AKA~Drew said...

I almost hesitate to post this, it sounds so silly, I create my characters in a game.
I know, strange.
I play "The Sims", you can create characters, give them personalities, names, get them to act out scenes, I use it almost as story-boarding as such. It works for me. I tend to drive my characters, though they have overtaken me more than once!
Yeesh, now I am embarrassed~LOL!

Border Watch sounds just wonderful!

Anna Campbell said...

Helene, laughed at you holding the whip hand! Snort! Also laughed at photoshop - you're too modest, my friend. Remember I've seen you in all your glory!

Anna Campbell said...

Actually, Helene, another thing about humour in a book is that I love how you can use it to indicate that, for all their current conflict, the hero and heroine basically have a lot in common.

Becca, it really is a revelation when you get exactly the right name for the character, isn't it? Occasionally I'll make a false start with the wrong name and I'll wallow for a while. But then I get the right names and I'm off!

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Serena bella! Always lovely to see you! And fantastic you've picked up Border Watch at Dymocks.

Helene, how has it felt to see your first book on the shelves? I remember it was an incredible thrill for me. Where did you first see it?

Anna Campbell said...

Serena, I've been stalking Helene to be my guest ever since she told me she sold! There was no escape! ;-)

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, thanks, Gillian! Hey, are you coming to Nashville this year? So glad you enjoyed the interview. What an interesting comment about getting that one essential ingredient of a character and everything else falling into place afterwards. I think you might just be right!

Anna Campbell said...

Joan, Helen's DH must have been psychic. Or perhaps just VERY fond of champagne ;-) You're right about Susan Grant - she's a pilot too. How cool!

Anna Campbell said...

Sorry, Helene, that should have had an 'e' on it in the previous post. It's very early in the morning. I'm still a bit dopey!

Anna Campbell said...

JT, that's one of the things that keeps me interested in writing - the fact that every single book and every single character presents different challenges! Love the insight into your gorgeous boys. Hmm, did the macarena feature?

Anna Campbell said...

Wow, Kim! That rooster looks like he could give our guy a real run for his money! That's one serious dude!

How interesting about reading the website first. It makes me think (as I've thought before) that the internet has fundamentally changed the way a lot of people read. I love that it's so easy to find out about writers I like - when I grew up, all you got was that little bio in the book and sometimes you didn't even get that. So someone like Mary Stewart who I read like she was chocolate when I was a teenager was a complete mystery to me as a person.

Anna Campbell said...

Anna, I used to love the Secret Army! Gosh, that takes me back! Love your descriptions of how you come up with characters. And how cool that the Book Depository is already sold out of Border Watch!

Anna Campbell said...

Kandy, how interesting to describe those characters who don't quite emerge off the page as 'book' characters. I know exactly what you mean. Sometimes to me, it's like they're a list of characteristics without ever actually gelling into a person who I believe exists as a whole.

Anna Campbell said...

Helene, you'll love LOVE IS A FOUR-LEGGED WORD (isn't that the best title?). I'm really looking forward to HOME IS WHERE THE BARK IS. I read the beginning ages ago and it's another winner.

Anna Campbell said...

Christina, I remember once John Cleese was interviewed about why he was funny and he said he didn't really want to know because in analysing it, he might lose the magic. You know, pulling the wings of a butterfly to see how it works which is fine, except you no longer have a butterfly! I can understand that feeling. Hey, can't wait for your Romans!

catslady said...

As a reader, I don't know either but I do know that if I don't care about the characters, then no plot can save the book for me.

Loved your call story - hubby had the champagne all ready!!!!!

Anna Campbell said...

Susan, how interesting about your friend's in depth knowledge of her characters. I can't really do that - they emerge organically as I write the book, much as I get to know someone over time and through their actions in real life. I can talk about their character in detail after I've written them, not before. And they've told me most of the details!

Anna Campbell said...

Barbara, I love the way the characters surprise me too! For example, Charis in CAPTIVE OF SIN was meant to be much more of a waif than she emerged in the final book. By the time we get to the end, she's Boadicea! ;-) I know what you mean about characters who challenge you sometimes being the most rewarding to read about.

Anna Campbell said...

Hi Hellion! Love the sound of your heroes! Especially the one who's EVEN better looking than Johnny Depp! Love hearing about the inspiration for your story!

Anna Campbell said...

Jo, I think names are so important. One of the things I love about writing historicals is that the formal society gave the granting of the right to use someone's Christian name a huge impact. There's nearly always a scene where my hero insists my heroine calls him by his first name. And for most of those heroes, hardly anyone else does. Instead they use the title which was the standard way of even quite close friends addressing each other back then. Like that the Christian name is such an indicator of the growth of intimacy between the characters.

Helene Young said...

Christina, I don't think there's any danger of your magic vanishing!!

Meyer-Briggs personalities, Susan? I think Suzanne is right, your friend definitely is a plotter!

Barbara, love that you like to learn something from characters. It adds an extra dimension for me too!\

Joan thanks for the tip, I'll definitely track Susan Grant down!

Helene Young said...

MsHellion, wow, Ben's story sounds wonderfully complicated - how do those characters get themselves in the situations??

Nicknames are a great idea, Jo! As to how I decided what technical stuff to leave in? My husband is most definitely NOT a pilot so I wrote it at a level I thought he would understand. So far, so good, but the editor I work with is also very good at identifying anything o convoluted!

Julia, hope those visions don't turn up at inconvenient times!! And how cool, using numerology to work out their name. I'm going to have to try that!

Anna Campbell said...

Julia, how absolutely fascinating about the numerology! I love it when these tools get our subconscious working for our benefit. Thanks for saying you enjoyed the interview.

Helene Young said...

Virginia, glad you've enjoyed the interviews!

Suzanne, seeing their soul is very profound - wow! It would certainly take you to the essence of your characters and hopefully their conflicts and flaws would be easier to see.

Anna, we can fix collapsed undercarriages :-)) It's all in the big red reset button! Reboots 12 computers and hey presto we're upright again. The Sim is a wonderful tool but I can be very disorienting after a long session - you go and the sun's up, we put you through a night session for four hours and then you leave the sim and the sun's still up.... I call it simlag... Only trouble is you've got no duty free to show for your pains...

Anna Campbell said...

Virginia, I'm fascinated by Helene's job too. And aren't the answers interesting? What I'm finding really fascinating is that very few people do things like character charts or interviews although the how to books often recommend that. I can't do that - I need to find out about the characters at the same pace the reader does.

Anna Campbell said...

Suz, oh, yum, Shemar. I'm currently watching early episodes of Criminal Minds and he's just luscious in that! Actually there's some serious man candy in that show - I've always had a thing for Mandy Patinkin. He's not conventionally good looking but I find him lovely to watch. He's got quite hypnotic eyes - real windows to the soul. And I love that he can sing the house down! Although he hasn't yet sung in CM!

Anna Campbell said...

Jo, I'd be really interested in the answer to this question too. Actually I'm such a nerd, I always love to find out about stuff I know nothing about when I read a book. I wish there was more technical detail in a lot of books - I think writers shy away from it because they think it's boring. But in something like HOMICIDE IN HARDCOVER, by our superstar Kate, I adore all the info about book binding.

Anna Campbell said...

Suz, you're so right. Pantzing is scary but if you trust your subconscious, often it's capable of the most amazing revelations and twists and turns. I love the way it makes me let the character set the pace.

Helene Young said...

No need to be embarrassed, Karyn! Sounds like you have a method that works for you and those characters do need a good shove along some days!

Anna, me with a whip in my hand is no laughing matter! And you're so right - humour can be the connection that overcomes the conflict.

As to how it felt to see BW on the shelves? Surreal, very very surreal. My local Collins Bookstore is owned by a lovely couple and they had BW on the display facing the door, in amongst more pastel covers. With its beautiful colours, it just jumped out! I had a moment of clutching my hands together and feeling quite silly! Then the grin got stuck and I knew I also now looked quite silly.... sigh.....

Anna Campbell said...

Drew, I don't think that sounds silly at all. I think anything that gets those creative juices flowing is valid. Well, perhaps hurting small animals or eating your peas off your knife are my exceptions to that rule, but otherwise, have at it, my friend! ;-)

Anna Campbell said...

Catslady, I love the idea of someone having champagne on tap for me just on the offchance I should need to celebrate something. I told you Helene was cool!

Helene Young said...

Serena, not sure who's been stalking who?? I've learnt so much from following Anna around the blogsphere and she's been a fantastic sounding board! I know I'm going to love having her drop into my blog late May!!

Anna, Kandy's titles are fabulous! Can't wait to read them!

Catslady, I'm with you - if I don't connect with the characters they bore me and that will be that.

Anna Campbell said...

Helene, good morning! Is it pouring in Cairns? We've had inches and inches and inches of rain over the last few days and it's still bucketing down out there. There's been quite a party overnight, as I'm sure you've noticed! I'm really enjoying the answers to your question - really fascinating insights!

Anna Campbell said...

Ha ha, Helene, love your take on seeing the book for the first time!

Anna Campbell said...

Really looking forward to my visit to your blog, Helene!

Helene Young said...

Good morning to you too, Anna! Looking at the weather radar it's pretty clear in Cairns. Looking out my hotel window, Sydney is shaping up for a lovely day! Sounds like you are almost under water and they are forecasting more rain for the day... poor you... although that could be a good excuse to curl up with a good book, dvd, chocolate and have some downtime!

Anna Campbell said...

Sadly, Helene, I used that excuse on Monday. Today, I have to get some serious pages under my belt! Lucky you seeing the sun! It's an absolute quagmire outside.

Maureen said...

A character comes alive for me when I keep learning about them as the book goes on and they act in ways that makes sense for them.

jo robertson said...

Thank heavens for husbands, Helene! Mine is a font of trivia so I always ask him a question before I turn to the internet.

Of course, when I make him stand up and I make a move on him, he always says, "You're research a sex scene for your book, aren't you?"

A mile a minute, that guy!

Anna Campbell said...

Maureen, I think you're 100% right. There needs to be that inner logic to a character's actions or else they just don't come alive, do they?

Anna Campbell said...

Oh, Jo, what a cynic your husband is! I love it! Researching a sex scene!

Helene Young said...

Oh Jo, that's too funny! I have a friend who resolutely refuses to read my work because she's terrified of having a mental image of my hubbie in one of my sex scenes... I keep telling her, he's way better than that! Don't think I'm helping... ;-)

Maureen, it's part of the journey isn't it - learning more as the story goes on and hopefully getting under the characters skin.

Caren Crane said...

Helene, so glad to have you with us! I can't wait until we can get our hands on your book here in the USA. It sounds fabulous! I had to laugh at you thinking no one would be interested in pilots. We all think our work is so dull, when it's potentially fascinating to those who don't do it. *g*

As to where characters come from, I have no clue. Stories start from different germs. Sometimes a news story, an overheard conversation, a line of dialogue from a TV show - anything, really. For me, my brain works on what sort of person would find themselves in that sort of situation, or saying such a thing or whatever. Then the character totally drives the plot for me.

I think everyone's creative process is really different. I'm sure someone, like your journalist friend, who writes nonfiction might find it hard to think where the characters come from. I mean, the characters a journalist deals with are real people, already formed. Or are they? Invariably, ANY writer puts her or his spin on a story and the people in it, so maybe the "characters" in a news story aren't as "real" as we might think. Hm...

denise said...

Looking forward to your book!

Anna Campbell said...

Caren, it's weird but true how fascinating other people's bread and butter occupations are, isn't it? I remember when I captioned TV shows for the Deaf, people were utterly curious as to how it all worked. And believe me, while that was a good job in many ways, exciting it was not! I hope Border Watch does come out in the States - it's odd, publishers are so reluctant to try Australian settings but I think the readers would love them.

Anna Campbell said...

Thanks for swinging by, Denise!

Helene Young said...

Caren, very astute comments - how real are the people in news stories? As the saying goes - why ruin a good story with fact?

I know every time I read an article about some mishap in an aircraft I cringe because the journalists writing them seldom get their facts straight... So maybe they've just embellished a touch because they're frustrated fiction writers!

Thanks for dropping by to say hi, Denise!

Deb said...

Hi, Helene. Thank you, Anna and Helene, for an interesting post and interview.

I think the characters come to life for me in a book through the author's descriptions and my own interpretation of them.

@Karyn--I think that is an interesting way to develop a character, and fun! Since Shary has one of those SIMS games, I can understand how and why you would use it to help create a character.

Anna Campbell said...

Deb, one of my best friend's daughters was absolutely hooked on SIMS for a while. I can absolutely see how Drew would use it to develop a story. Thanks so much for swinging by - I thought you'd all enjoy meeting Helene. I know I always do!

Helene Young said...

Deb, I agree. A readers interpretation is the key! All a writer can do is supply enough clues and then let the reader's imagination take them where it will.

Will have to investigate this SIMS game though - I've never seen one...

Thanks Anna, for inviting me into the Lair! I've had a fabulous day meeting everyone and being awed by how different the creative process is for each of us.

Thank you!!

Regards
Helene

Louisa Cornell said...

Stopping by late in the day to wave and say G'day to my Pixie Sister, Helene !! I am SO excited about this book and I can't wait to get my hands on it! Helene is SUCH a sweet person and loads of fun!

What a wonderful call story !!

Anna Campbell said...

Oh, of course, Louisa, you and Helene were pixies together.

Which I must say sounds rather strange!

Lovely to see you whatever time you turn up.

Anna Campbell said...

Thanks, everyone, for a great day in the lair. Thanks, Helene, for being a fascinating guest. And I love the answers your question sparked.

Don't forget to check back to see who won the signed copy of BORDER WATCH! Good luck!