Today I have the pleasure of being today’s stop on Helen Richardson’s Waking blog tour! 🙂 I have a lovely Q&A to share with you all.
Interview with Helen Richardson…..
For those who don’t know already, could you tell us about yourself and your book(s) please?
Hi everyone, and thanks so much Kerry for having me. My name is Helen Richardson, and my debut novel Waking is out on 14th September, published by Accent Press.
Waking is a bit of a hybrid, a combination of the tightly-wound plot-driven energy of a thriller, wrapped around a softer more literary love story. Anna Caldwell has suffered from night terrors for about 15 years. She decides to move from Brighton to London with her best friend, in the hope that a change of scene will cause her increasingly bizarre nightmares to settle down.
Instead, they get worse, and as they do, Anna meets a man called Jack who she is certain she’s seen before somewhere. He recognises her too. Is this how new love feels, or have they met before?
I live in Dalston in East London and I work as a producer in the commercials and television industry. I write and develop ideas and then produce the films with a production team, film crew, and editors/post-production team. I make anything from tv commercials, to short online films or documentaries, and for brands, government bodies, and charities all over the world.
My life’s passion is and always has been writing. I’ve probably written every single day of my life since I was about six years old, and turning it into a published profession has always been my dream.
Where did/do you get your ideas from?
It’s not a great answer, but: I have no idea. I’m sure lots of writers would agree with me when I say it doesn’t feel as though I ‘get’ my ideas from anywhere. It’s more of a passive process. Ideas come to me all the time but 99% of them are small little thoughts, the kind of thing that might be interesting to explore in a poem, or a short piece of writing. Every now and then though, I have an idea that feels rich and deep enough to unfold into a book.
I do think that working mostly full-time, travelling a lot, and constantly being thrown together with new groups of people, definitely creates the right environment for fresh ideas.
Are any of your characters based (however loosely) on anyone you know?
Absolutely not. There is no representation whatsoever been the characters I create and the people I know in real life. I do draw on (read: nick!) people’s turn of phrase though, funny comments, memorable conversations or ways of looking at things, but it all gets repurposed and dispersed into the mouths of various characters in entirely different and unconnected contexts. I’m not sure if this counts as stealing or not!?
How do you pick your characters names?
Such a good question! I don’t know! I’m a speed reader, and I find it really interesting that I can read a novel incredibly quickly and genuinely digest the book, without remembering any of the characters’ names. Apparently that’s really common for speed readers – we see a repeated pattern or shape on the page that is the character’s name, and so we insert it into the sentence as required, but don’t actually remember it. I couldn’t tell you the names of the characters in my favourite books. (Obviously I remember Harry Potter!)
I think that I slide names over the top of each character (in my head) until I find one that fits. So I have the character drawn out first, and then I find the name. I definitely see Jack as being gorgeous and clever and likeable, and Jack is one of my favourite male names. I chose Anna because it’s simple and elegant like her, and I love how palendromic names look in type. To me, it lends itself to long dark hair and pensiveness. It just ‘felt right’, whatever that means.
Can you share your writing process with us, in a nutshell?
Thinking for months and years (hopefully this bit will speed up as I get more practised!).
Planning and plotting for a few weeks until the whole book is laid out from start to finish. This helps me to know exactly what is happening in each chapter, and means I can check that the pace and structure work together as a whole. I like to have the entire book in my hands in brief, before I start fleshing it out. It’s during this plotting phase that I also do the surrounding research I need.
Writing for 2-3 months. I work to a chapter schedule alongside my overall plot. I tend to write one or two chapters each day for about three or four days, and then spend the rest of the week editing them before I move on. So I’m generally averaging about 5 chapters a week – but this is after months/years of thinking and planning.
I’m definitely a lark. My brain functions much better during the first few hours of the day. I wake up around 6.30am and start writing immediately with (quite a lot of) coffee. I’ve usually got all the new words I’m going to write that day done by midday, and then I spend the afternoon thinking, or planning the next day. I make sure I switch off completely in the evening; periods of empty-headed relaxation are vital.
Who are your top 5 favourite authors?
Brutal question! These are all really big hitters, and in no particular order:
Maggie O’ Farrell
If you could meet any author, who would it be and what would you ask them?
Again, this is such a hard question! I can think of so many authors I would love to meet.
I’d love to ask Maggie O’Farrell how she somehow manages to find a way of describing life with words that are simultaneously brand new, and yet absolutely right.
I’d also love to meet David Mitchell and ask him how he manages to completely inhabit such an unbelievably diverse range of protagonists. I know that’s what writers do, but I can’t think of another author who does it as well as Mitchell – from young boys to teenage girls, 20th century musicians, and futuristic clones. I’d love to know what kind of research he does, and how he develops his characters.
Were you a big reader as a child?
When I say that writing is my passion, I really mean reading as well. The two are interlinked for me. Writing is basically just reading – you’re reading a book that doesn’t exist yet and then putting it down on the page so other people can read it too.
The books I have read have shaped who I am at every stage of my life. While I definitely crave and seek out real-life experiences beyond the page, there are certain worlds and communities, experiences or ways of seeing, that you simply can’t access if you’re limited to your own perspective.
I read avidly as a child and it has always amazed me that we apply so many age restrictions to films, but not to books (though I hope this doesn’t change!). I read books about intensely adult love, hollowed out loss, domestic violence, beauty, hope, and abuse, when I was probably still in single digits. I’m not sure my parents knew what I was ransacking from their shelves!
I appreciate it is entirely possible to live a brilliant life without ever opening a book (it is, honestly – I know bookworms find that a crazy suggestion but there are many people in my life who are living proof that this is true!) but there is nothing else on earth that allows you to engage in such detail with the interior landscape of people, places, experiences, cultures, and opinions completely outside of your own. And I think constantly reminding yourself that your own lens on the world is just a personal filter, can only be a healthy thing.
When did you start to write?
Hmmmmm. Difficult question! My earliest memory of it, is a book I wrote called Empress Jade, about a good witch who lived in a cave down on the Cornish coast. The cave was only accessible at special low tides on the equinox/solstice, and the book was about a schoolgirl called Catherine who discovered the Empress when she was out playing with her friends after school. I can remember what house my family was living in when I wrote that, and what school I was attending, so it must have been when I was around seven or eight.
Magic was a prominent theme in all my early “books” – magic but with proximity to/within the real world. More magic realist than fantasy.
If you could re-write the ending to any book what would it be and what would you change?
I’ll just start by saying obviously I wouldn’t actually want this book to finish any differently, because it’s one of the greatest classics EVER written, but on a purely emotional and impulsive level: Tess of the d’Urbevilles by Thomas Hardy! I think this book broke my heart forever!
I’d like Tess to get Alec convicted for her rape, and to leave her new husband Angel upon news of the pre-marital affair he had while they were falling in love. I’d like Tess to find a job that she enjoys and that allows her to support herself as a single woman. I don’t think this would make such a good book though unfortunately……
Is there a book you wish you had written?
Oh wow. These questions are so hard! In a way, no there isn’t, because I’ve enjoyed them and the authors who created them, but I have sat with books like The Goldfinch by Donna Tart, or A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, or What I Loved by Siri Husvedt, and just marvelled at how they managed to open a window onto an instensely private, personal, subtle experience, while maintaining such vast and synoptic vantage points.
If you wrote an autobiography, what would your title be?
Made using naturally gluten-free ingredients.
If you could invite any fictional character for coffee who would it be and where would you take them?
I’d love to meet Stark from Only Forward by Michael Marshall Smith (I have a moderate science-fiction addiction). Stark is a clever, quick, funny, unreliable narrator living in the Colour Neighbourhood in Marshall Smith’s lurid and inventive portrayal of a possible future. He’s kind of a criminal, but a good guy on the wrong side of the law with a great leather jacket, and I imagine he’d be excellent fun. I’d take him to Allpress coffee in Shoreditch, out for some cocktails afterwards, and hope that he didn’t do anything to get us arrested.
What are you working on right now?
I’m working on a new idea that I’m a bit in love with (which is a good sign) but I can’t say anything more than that at the moment!
Do you have a new release due?
Not at the moment.
What do you generally do to celebrate on publication day?
This will be my first publication day, so we’ll find out, but I imagine it will involve dancing!
How can readers keep in touch with you?
Readers can get in touch with me on Instagram @helen_richardson_writes and on Twitter @helen_r_writes or through my blog http://www.readmesoftly.com
Is there anything else you would like us to know?
I’d like to ask how you come up with your questions!?
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Helen. Your answers are obviously very well thought out. I’m sure everyone will enjoy reading them as much as I have.
In response to your question, I’ve tried to keep my questions a mix of the more obvious ones asking what most people want to know about an author as well as a few I haven’t seen asked before. Sometimes a new question will come to me and I’ll add it in. The re-writing the end of a book question was actually one my husband came up with! I keep the same questions for all authors as it fascinates me how differently you all answer them. 🙂
PS – I love that the paperback edition of Waking is to be released on my Birthday! 🙂
Publisher: Accent Press (14th September 2017)
‘Waking will stay with you long after you turn off the lights at night…’ Phoebe Morgan, author of The Doll House
There are dark corners in your mind that even you can’t get to.
Anna Caldwell is terrified of falling asleep. A nightmare, her very own, will be there waiting for her. After sharing her bed with the same vision for fifteen years, she’s desperate to shake it. But it only holds on tighter.
Then Anna meets Jack. She’s drawn to the strange, alluring tension that she feels when she’s around him. It’s as though it’s meant to be. But creeping beneath the roots of their intimacy is darkness.
If you knew your dreams were trying to tell you something terrible, would you listen?
Waking is a dark and addictive read that will stay with you long after the final page.