We’re thrilled to have had the chance to interview the highly creative, best-selling author Helen Harper!
Helen has written 25 books and is one of the top authors on Amazon. Her Blood Destiny series alone has sold over 100,000 copies. She’s a true inspiration for all aspiring writers!
We hope you enjoy reading this interview.
Interview with Self-Published Author Helen Harper
I’ve been writing professionally and full time since July 2013 and it’s been a rollercoaster ride! I started out writing just as a hobby, as much to fill my evenings with something creative and because I’d run out of books in the Urban Fantasy genre which I wanted to read. When I began, I didn’t even imagine I’d ever get my scribblings to a full length novel, let along a series which real people would want on their virtual shelves. I think it was the stories and the characters who took a life of their own. Now I’ve written 25 books in five separate series and I’ve never looked back!
My very first series, which found an audience almost from the get-go, is the Blood Destiny series. It follows a young woman called Mack, who lives with a shapeshifter pack in Cornwall in the UK. She’s supposedly human – and as such isn’t permitted to even know of the pack’s existence, let alone live with them. There’s more to her than meets the eye though… The first book is free on all platforms so you can try it out obligation-free! Be warned though, this series does include a fair amount of profanity.
The last series I’ve written (and actually my most popular to date) is The Highland Magic series. It’s close to my heart because it’s set in the Highlands of Scotland where I grew up. The main character, Integrity, has a morally objectionable job but in reality she’s a very upright person who’s been dealt some terrible cards from life.
Although as a reader, I have very eclectic tastes, I always come back to fantasy for the escapism it offers. As a genre it can help us make sense of the real world but it’s also something where almost anything can happen and where rules can be broken.
How did you become involved with the theme of your book “Gifted Thief” ?
Gifted Thief, the first Highland Magic book, actually started with a name. It seemed like a lot of fun to have a character called Integrity who was actually a skilled thief. I loved the idea of placing her in Scotland – and imagining a Scotland where the very rich history is very different. Instead of the union with England in the 18th century, I imagined a country where the Lowlands were overtaken by demons instead.
What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
It was important to me to keep the book – and indeed the series – lighthearted, especially because some of the issues I was dealing with could be overly serious. I gave Integrity’s character the dubious honour of being addicted to cheesy jokes at inappropriate moments and I think her humour really makes a difference to the stories.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
The ending! I always find writing finales very tough, for all sorts of reasons. First of all, it can be very hard to say goodbye to characters who I love and who have become very real for me. Secondly, I don’t think our stories ever really do end. The fighting and the problems might all get cleared up but life still continues, whether it would be interesting to read about or not!
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
Oh, the magic and the romance and having a character strong enough to fight her own battles and inspire loyalty without ever having to raise her fists or hurt someone.
Give us an interesting fun fact about a character in your book.
One of the characters is Bob, a puffed-up genie filled with narcissism but a secret heart of gold. Instead of a lamp, he lives in letter-opener. He has delusions of grandeur, however, and insists that it’s called a scimitar.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
As I long as I got to travel, I didn’t care! I went from wanting to be a flight attendant to a war correspondent to a diplomat to a merchant sailor – anything that meant I could see the world and satisfy my itchy feet.
At what age did you start writing stories or books?
I think it’s always been there! Funnily enough, I was contacted out of the blue by an old childhood friend quite recently. Her strongest memory is of the fantasy worlds we used to create. Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree featured very heavily!
What was your first book writing experience like?
Unbelievable, really. I didn’t think I’d ever manage to write a full length novel and I was really only doing it for fun. I can still remember staring at the word count and realising that it had the potential to be a ‘real’ book and how wonderful that felt.
What kept you going..?
Definitely the characters and their stories! I don’t tend to plan out books before I write them so I’m usually on tenterhooks to find out what happens to them. I think I approach writing in the same manner as I do reading – I like being on the edge of my seat and wondering what will happen next.
How has your environment, family & upbringing influenced your writing?
Reading was always a large part of my upbringing. My dad had piles and piles of fantasy books and my whole family was always ‘big’ on books. But having experienced a fair amount of tragedy at a young age when my mum died unexpectedly in an accident, I think I also learned to appreciate the value of having a book to escape into, whether through reading or through writing.
Are you a full-time or part-time writer?
Full-time. I’m very lucky!
What genres do you write in?
Urban Fantasy mostly but I’m planning two upcoming series – one will be sci-fi and one will be epic fantasy. Still in the same ocean but perhaps not the same sea!
What are the titles of your other books?
Naming them all would take some time so I’ll go with the series titles!
The Blood Destiny Series
The Olympiana Series
The Bo Blackman Series
The Dreamweaver Series
The Highland Magic Series
Which 3 of your books are you most proud of?
Oh dear! That’s like choosing my favourite child… Here goes though –
My first book, Bloodfire, for obvious reasons. Night Shade, which is the first Dreamweaver book, for the very damaged character and because it’s the book where I think I’m most proud of my writing style. And Last Wish, the final Highland Magic book because I think the ending is just perfect for that character.
What makes your writing special?
It’s imaginative, fun and exciting (of course!).
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
It’s a bit general but probably just being successful and managing to pull myself up through life and do everything I’ve really ever wanted to do. It’s been a lot of hard graft but my mistakes are my own and so are my successes.
What are your current projects?
I’m finishing off the final Dreamweaver book and then starting a brand new series called The Lazy Girl’s Guide To Magic.
What’s the strangest thing you have ever had to research online or do for your book?
Oh goodness, all sorts. If you took a look at my search history, I’d probably be pegged as a serial killer with a penchant for the dark arts!
Do you ever suffer a writers-block? If so, how do you overcome it?
It depends on my mood. Sometimes I just force myself to stay seated and get the job done regardless and sometimes I’ll get up and walk away until inspiration hits. It always works out better when I force myself to continue to be honest, even if it’s very slow-going.
What’s your process of writing a story?
I always start with a character and imagine what world they could live and what problems they could be facing. Then I write chronologically from beginning to end because I enjoy experiencing the story as a reader would.
What’s your favorite environment for creativity and productivity?
Truthfully, I can write just about anywhere. I find it hard when I only have fifteen minutes to squeeze in here and there – I like knowing that all my chores are done and my schedule is clear for several hours so I can really get into the zone but the place doesn’t matter to me.
Describe what your ideal writing space looks like.
As long as there’s someone around to bring me regular caffeine, I’m good!
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I get up early, walk the dog and exercise because I know I’ll be sitting down for most of the day. Then I tend to write for several hours until my brain is too exhausted to continue. Once I reach saturation point, I move onto emails, social media, marketing, that kind of thing.
Where do you sell your books?
Mostly on Amazon as the majority of my books are in the exclusive Kindle Unlimited program. Some titles are across e-retailers though, such as Nook and Kobo.
Tell us about your self-publishing experience…
The biggest challenge with self-publishing for me is discipline. When the only deadlines I set are my own, I have to work hard at maintaining my schedule. I suspect that’s a personality defect rather than anything to do with the nature of the business though. I have to admit though that I’m very happy to be self-publishing and I can’t imagine having a publisher would be more financially or creatively rewarding. I can certainly write and publish many more titles than I’d be able to if I had a traditional publisher to work with as the self-publishing process is so much faster. It means I can move with the market far more easily and quickly (should I choose to do so).
As a self-publisher, I’m entirely in control of every aspect, which can be incredibly satisfying and incredibly stressful all at the same time. I find it particularly helpful to know many other self-published authors through networking online so there are always people in the same situation who I can go to for a whine or for advice. I’ve also built up some very strong relationships with the people who I outsource certain things too, such as cover creation and editing.
How do you promote and market your books?
There’s an adage in the self-publishing world that what worked last time might not work this time and vice-versa so there’s no hard and fast rule about what to do. I experiment a lot. Social media is definitely incredibly useful, not just for chatting to readers but for maintaining a presence and advertising. I send out regular newsletters to people who sign up, informing them of what I’m up to and any new releases, and occasionally do promotions to help boost sales.
What is your advice to Indie Authors?
The writing is the easy part! If you write the sort of story that you would enjoy as a reader then I think you’re halfway there. Only halfway though…
It’s very important to use other people as sounding boards and to not take criticism personally (easier said than done but absolutely vital). Get a team of beta readers who will scour your finished story before publication to see what they think. Always, always, always get someone who knows what they’re doing to edit and proofread. It doesn’t matter how good a writer you are, there will always be mistakes that you will miss.
The self-publishing arena is growing by the day and there is a lot of support available. There are professional organisations which you can join, conferences and conventions which you can attend, and online groups which you can participate in. Although writing is essentially a solitary business, it doesn’t have to be lonely.
What are you really good at and love doing asides from writing?
I have permanently itchy feet and absolutely love to travel! I’m a big reader too so for someone who travels and reads, my Kindle is my most treasured possession these days.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Chill out, meet friends, walk my dog, read books, visit new places, cook….
What are your favorite books? What authors do you admire?
I absolutely love Julian May’s Many Coloured Land and old style fantasies such as Raymond Feist’s books. I’ll also read just about anything at all by Stephen King. He’s the kind of author whose books suck you in and don’t let go until you’ve not slept for days and managed to reach the end!
If you were deserted on an island, which three people would you want to have with you? Why?
My friends. While there are many fictional characters I’d be interested to meet, if we’re talking about a lengthy period alone together, then I’m lucky enough to have some of the best friends in the world.
What would you do if you weren’t a writer or could no longer write?
Teach! I was a high school English teacher when I started writing and, as much as I enjoy my life now, I still miss the classroom from time to time. There’s a lot to be said for showing others how wonderful literature can be.
What do you love best about an author’s lifestyle and being an author?
The flexibility, the freedom and the chance to have other people interested in the funny voices in my head!
Thank you very much for your time, Helen!
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