Author Interview: H. C. Helfand

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1. Paperback, hardback, audiobook?

If this is about my preferences, all have their place in my heart. Paperbacks are easy to handle and notate; hardbacks are hardier, but less amenable to leaving notes, and I love audiobooks while driving.

If it is about my writing, I’ve published an ebook and paperback, but not a hardback or audiobook. Yet. 

2. Pick a genre, any genre!

Genres baffle me, actually. I can never figure exactly where some things fit. I like contemporary, literary, and historical fiction, legal thrillers, mysteries, and spy novels. I’m gaining an appreciation for the more fanciful genres after being exposed to them on Twitter. 

3. What is the first book you remember reading?

Probably the first books were anthologies of folk tales from other countries and cultures. I remember having a fascination for the stories and characters whose lives were so different from mine. 

4. What book shaped your childhood most?

This probably sounds a little nutty, but for some reason I developed this obsession with Mutiny on the Bounty. I loved the story, the action, and the characters. It had moral choices, adventure, and some romance. I probably didn’t think of it that way when I first read it, but looking back, I think it influenced my approach to literature and writing. 

5. When did you first start writing?

I wrote a lot as a child. I remember having folders full of stories. I wrote a play in grade school and staged it with my class. As a teenager, I was the poetry editor of the school literary magazine, and was always journaling and writing poetry and stories. My love of writing has been around for a long time. 

6. What made you want to write? Does it still hold true?

I enjoyed (and still enjoy) the process of creating stories and characters from observations I’ve made of people and situations. I find that much of my writing evolves from experiences I’ve had in my work and personal life, with embellishment, of course! Encouragement from those who have liked my work also influences me to keep it up. I think being a writer also becomes a part of one’s identity, and I’ll admit, I love thinking of myself as a writer!

7. What book/poem are you most proud of creating?

I created a children’s book with an artist friend that was well received, but I am most proud of my debut novel, Fee Simple Conditional. It was the culmination of observations and experiences over many years that I wanted to preserve. The characters touched my heart, and, while it may have been improved by some writing techniques I have since learned, I’m still proud I was able to bring the story and characters to life. 

8. Did you publish your first book or is it for your eyes only?

I’ve toyed with some other stories/book ideas over time that I kept to myself, but Fee Simple Conditional is my first serious completed work. 

9. How many books/collections have you published so far?

My children’s book—And There Was Evening And There Was Morning, and Fee Simple Conditional. That’s it so far, but more are planned and in the works.

10. What genres do you write in (or hope to)?

Probably the same as I’ve done—contemporary fiction, with legal themes. But I may branch out, someday, since I’m being exposed to so many others. 

11. Do you do research for your writing or is it all in your head?

It’s a combination of both. Most of my writing is from experience and imagination, but I enjoy the process of researching historical events, places, and other items that may come up, to improve the quality of the work. While I enjoy literary license, there are facts I don’t want to get wrong. 

12. To plan, or not to plan, your plot?

I characterize myself as a plantser, part plotter, part pantser. I don’t strictly outline, but collect a lot of notes. I have a good idea in my head where things are going, but if an intervening revelation occurs, I’m happy to deviate or embellish. I’ve had situations where I’ve written something, then a twist invades my brain, so if I feel it will improve the work, I’m excited to incorporate it into the story. 

13. What route of publishing have you chosen? Do you plan to stick with it?

My children’s book was traditionally published, but I published my novel with KDP. There were several reasons, the main one being that I wanted it out there in my lifetime! It was also a personal challenge, as I had never done anything like that before and am not skilled at the process. I was able to format the book myself and, although I do not consider myself much of a photographer, the cover is a picture I took with my iPhone! It was totally DIY. I’ve been encouraged to try the querying route in the future, but do not have high expectations of success. And, at any rate, I’m comfortable with and like the indie publishing process for the independence it affords, as well as the camaraderie with other indie writers. At this point in my career, I’m really not into it for financial reward; I’m in it for the joy. 

14. If you could live inside another author’s universe, which one would you pick?

Since alternate universes have not really been on my reading lists, I don’t have much familiarity with them so far. However, I’m finding so many great indie writers that create them—I would probably have a better answer in the future!

15. Do you currently have a WIP? 

Yes, several! After finishing Fee Simple Conditional, I realized I could not let my characters go and decided to follow them into the future. My grand plan is for a series of five, but we’ll see how that goes. Right now, I have completed a draft of #2—Clear and Convincing Evidence, and am about halfway through #3—The Right of Redemption. I’ve also compiled notes for and continue to plan the others. 

16. Tell me about the character you’ve created who is dearest to your heart.

Although some of my friends think Abigail Fischer is my avatar, we do have our differences. And I love her. However, and this will develop more in the series, David Armacost has captured my heart. He becomes more complicated as he evolves, but he compels me to seek him in my dreams. 

17. What do you consider your “current” magnum opus?

Since I still don’t have many to choose from, it’s got to be Fee Simple Conditional! However, I’m loving Clear and Convincing Evidence, which I think has some interesting plot twists and character development. I feel that with practice, my writing improves with each effort. 

18. Do you have a favourite romance in your books? Or if yours features no romance, tell us about your favorite character friendship.

The romance in the book, so far, is between Abby and David, so that is my favorite for now. As for friendship, readers will find that the relationship between Abby and Ted, former spouses, deepens over time and changes their lives. 

19. Do you listen to music as you write? Recommend a favourite writing song.

Sometimes I do. I like Celtic music, vocal and instrumental, and for some reason I find it inspirational. 

20. Do you have any character art for your books, whether by you or another artist? 

No, I don’t. I have pictures of my characters in my head and find the art shown by other writers interesting, but no plans yet. 

21. If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?

It might sound trite, but don’t give up! I started Fee Simple Conditional over 20 years ago, and while so much of life intervened, I never let it go, and I’m so grateful it stayed with me. As the saying goes, “If you will it, it is no dream.” Keep the faith and keep writing!

22. Have you entered any writing contests? Tell us about your experience! 

So far, I haven’t, but just registered for one, so we’ll see how it goes! I’m planning on writing full-time beginning this summer, and part of the plan is to pursue other avenues of writing, such as contests, blogging, and other postings. 

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