I have the pleasure of welcoming Helen Henderson to Chat About Books today 🙂
For those who don’t know already, could you tell us about yourself and your book(s) please?
I’m a former feature-story writer and correspondent, but my first love is fiction. The descendent of a coal-miner’s daughter and an aviation flight engineer, my heritage reflects the contrasts of my Gemini sign. This dichotomy shows in my writing which crosses genres from historical adventures and westerns to science fiction and fantasy. In the world of fantasy, I am the author of the Dragshi Chronicles and The Windmaster Novels.
Where did/do you get your ideas from?
The Dragshi Chronicles grew from a desire to fly. Of course, due to my father’s occupation, I was exposed to airplanes and their crews from an early age. Among the first words I learned were ADD, DELETE, and REPLACE. Adding numbers put the pages in their proper sequence and place. If you guessed the task being accomplished was updating a manual, you’re correct. I didn’t know what the information was but took pride in making sure all changes were done correctly. Something my father always verified.
Are any of your characters based (however loosely) on anyone you know?
I am not one of those authors who routinely pattern all their characters, or at least the main ones, after people they know. That said, the women of my heritage have served as the basis for several of the clan leaders in my early books. It might not be physical or even a personality trait. Homage might be paid them by use of their name, appropriately translated into Gaelic or the language of the land.
How do you pick your characters names?
Selecting a character’s name is not a simple, one-step process. Too many similar sounding names slows reading and can add confusion. The main characters usually tell me their names once the outline has begun. Secondary characters are more challenging. Baby name books are one resource while English to Gaelic dictionaries (or whatever language such as Chinese or Polynesian is appropriate) can provide a name based on the character’s occupation or personality.
Can you share your writing process with us, in a nutshell?
Writing process? Hmmmm. How to answer? Most novels start off with a statement of the hero’s journey and a few lines about the setting. My first draft is an outline where some scenes are actually complete with dialogue. As the storyline unfolds, there are less bullet points and more complete scenes, until the bullet points disappear completely.
Who are your top 5 favourite authors?
First up are Anne McCaffrey (Talent series, Tower and Hive series,) Barbara Hambly (Walls of Air series), Katherine Kurtz (The Adept series) and Lois L’Amour (the Sacketts.) Choosing a favorite to fill the final slot required thought. Should it be a contemporary author or someone I’ve met in person (or the virtual world.) Another problem is that favorites change. Books I love today are not necessarily the same ones from years past. So I’ll leave the fifth slot open for my next favorite author.
If you could meet any author, who would it be and what would you ask them?
First off, let me state I am not an introvert and would not do this in real life. But for the purposes of this question, I’d ask Anne McCaffrey, queen of dragons, for a review quote for my dragon shifter series.
Were you a big reader as a child?
I would not say I was a big reader as a child. I was a voracious one. Although I grew up in a rural area and the town library was only a small, one-room local library, the county replaced their small, in-town library with a large modern one. And back then farm and household auctions were popular. You might not have a wide variety of authors, but box lots of books for fifty cents or a dollar filled the void between visits to town.
When did you start to write?
If you include non-fiction, I’ve been a published author for XXX years. Yes the amount is blacked out on purpose. The total doesn’t include years writing computer programs, technical manuals, and the sundry forms that went with them. Although the manuscripts were tossed out during a clean-out several years ago, and the storylines are somewhat blurred, I do remember receiving rejection notices when I was in high school.
If you could re-write the ending to any book what would it be and what would you change?
No books, but two movies come to mind. In both of them, the hero died at the end. In one movie, after multiple fights in the gladiatorial ring, of rescuing friends, and setback after setback when trying to escape, the hero and heroine earned the right to freedom, but at the edge of the island, lava overtakes them. All their effort and hours of our time rooting for the characters to no avail. As to what would I’d change? Have the pair off the island. Even if they were bobbing on a piece of wood, they’d have a chance for life. In the other movie, a husband fought for his wife’s freedom from a medieval curse placed on her family when an ancestress was burned as a witch. He survives multiple attempts on his life and the reader is led to believe in doing so the curse was broken. He is holding her in his arms when she reaches behind the couch and pulls out a knife. The camera pans out as the knife plunges downward and you know she just killed him. I might be a romantic, and loyalty and heroism isn’t always rewarded in real life, but fiction allows us to escape that. While I don’t always demand a happily-ever after ending, when the hero has fought well and valiantly, I think he deserves to live.
If you wrote an autobiography, what would your title be?
Be Nice Or I’ll Kill You In My Novel. An alternative title would be Dragons, Swords and Wings: An Author’s Tale
If you could invite any fictional character for coffee who would it be and where would you take them?
It would be a toss-up between Honored Old One Llewlyn who is the twinned dragon soul of Lord Branin of Cloud Eyrie and Captain Jean Luc Picard of the Enterprise. The one would be taken to the top of a mountain for a dip in the lake and the other? Ten Forward of course.
Tell us a random fact about yourself.
Jersey born and bred, but am now having to get rid of my mid-Atlantic burr and develop a southern drawl.
What are you working on right now?
The working title of my current work-in-progress is Windmaster Legend. Set in the world of the Windmaster novels, it recounts the tale of Iol and Pelra, a pair of star-crossed lovers mentioned in the other books of the series.
Tell us about your last release?
My two latest releases are First Change: Legends From The Eyrie and Heart and Sand. First Change is a collection of three novellas and two short stories based in the world of the dragshi, humans who can take on the form of their dragon soul twin. Unlike the other books in the series, First Change involved different characters and eras in the world. They are stories of duty and honor, love and loss, happiness and despair. As with all such tales, some contain larger than life deeds. Others are the simple story of a man or woman doing what must be done, regardless of the cost. So while the other Dragshi Chronicles are romances with happy-ever after endings, the tales in First Change mimic real life and may—or may not—end happily ever after.
Hearth and Sand: Stories from the Front Lines and the Homefront is a tribute to those who have served in uniform and those they left behind. Set universes apart and separated by decades in time, the stories in Hearth and Sand reflect a continuity of service from the past to the present and into the world of tomorrow. The twelve short stories cross genre from contemporary to historical, and science fiction to poetry.
What do you generally do to celebrate on publication day?
First is housekeeping to make sure that an up-to-date hardcopy goes into the files, and that the production files are backed up to the cloud, thumb drive, and floppy. Then it is time for a glass of wine and to watch some television.
How can readers keep in touch with you?
I love to hear from my readers and I always invite them to join me on journeys to worlds of imagination. They can find me in the virtual world on my blog: helenhenderson-author.blogspot.com or at the following spots:
Is there anything else you would like us to know?
Despite me being their initial creator, my characters hate me during the short days of winter. Even if we’re at the part of the journey where they tell me the tale rather than me creating it, in the period between All Hallow’s Eve and Year’s End, I make their lives miserable. The characters get involved in sword battles (which they may lose), get captured, chained and thrown in dungeons, or suffer some other setback.
Thank you for having me. Being out and about in the virtual world is always fun, especially when we meet such nice people.
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Helen 🙂
Don’t miss this beautifully written, powerfully evocative sequel. The magic of the fantasies Henderson weaves will stay with you forever. – Amazon Reviewer
Newly handfasted to the dark-haired archmage Lord Dal, Ellspeth and her husband escort his mother to her ancestral lands. While Dal searches for Bashim, a rogue mage, mercenaries under his control attack. Dal’s mother is severely wounded and Ellspeth is captured. Her sole hope for escape is Nobyn, an untrained wizard going through the throes of awakening magic. However, Nobyn is Bashim’s apprentice and under the mage’s total control.
Dal must make an impossible decision whether to rescue his wife, cure his mother, or thwart Bashim’s plans. More than who lives or dies is at stake. He might be able to live with his guilt over the death of a loved one, but could he survive killing the future of magic.