Name Helen J. Barnes
Where are you from Nottinghamshire, UK
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc I’ve been married to a DJ/Producer/Record label manager for 10 years. We have 3 children who we home educate. When I’m not teaching them I’m writing or reading. My other duties include being a slave to my family, pets and house.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
I just released my new stand alone novel called The Final Note. It’s about an independent woman who meets a hot up and coming DJ but their love story isn’t as easy as simply falling in love. There is jealousy, spite and his dreams of making it to the big time pose a threat to their love affair.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I began writing many years ago but none of my work was published, just family and friends read it. My husband pushed me to release my first novel, The Learning Curve, Inner Strength book 1 in Feb this year. I wrote stories because I had an amazing English Lit teacher who encouraged me to write my stories in school and it was always a pastime I loved and I got great feedback on.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Not until August when people were actually asking for book 2 in the Inner Strength Series! I was surprised people connected with my characters so much they wanted more of their lives. Only then did I feel like I was actually writing for readers rather than as a hobby.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
A fantasy. My muse was Ian Somerhalder and I saw a picture of him sat at a desk and he looked like a teacher, albeit a damn gorgeous one and I played out this fantasy in which he was my old English Lit teacher (who I already mentioned I had a great relationship with) The Learning Curve came to life in my head and I had to write it. It was only the fact that these characters felt so personal to me that when my husband told me to look into publishing it did I consider releasing my work to everyone rather than friends and family.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I’m always told my characters feel real, the settings are realistic. I’ve actually been asked if they are true stories or taken from real life. I don’t write the fantasy billionaires, my characters are normal people from real walks of life, living realistic stories. In reviews I had people say you can imagine it happened to you or people you know, the plot line isn’t unbelievable or far removed from reality. If that makes my characters ‘common people’ then so be it, they are who they are, I can’t control them, they just evolve in my mind.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
I don’t! I such at naming my novels, my Sister thought up the name for my first and third book. My husband named my second and my sister named the series. I generally sit and brainstorm all words linked to the plot of the book and give them to them. Also I read my books back looking for a title to jump out at me.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Yes! I’m a bit of a feminist (that’s not to say I hate men, I love men!) but I think sometimes women become so comfortable in relationships we settle into domesticity and parenting that we don’t give ourselves credit for how incredibly amazing we are. The strength we don’t realize we have until we have to draw on all our resources to better ourselves and make our lives what we want them to be. The Learning Curve is about learning, not just to gain qualifications but learning to love, trust and be selfless. A Rising Angel is about breaking free from what holds us back (in this case domestic abuse) and finding ourselves again. The women in my books are perfect, glamourous women. Jessica isn’t thin and gorgeous, she has had two children, is curvaceous and confident. Jessica has frizzy red hair and a gap between her teeth. But these women are amazingly inspirational and have an Inner Strength we all possess but fail to acknowledge.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
So much of it, most of it. I based a lot of it on stories from real people who have lived the plot line in my books. I research the hell out of things and everything I write I ask myself if it really would happen. As I mentioned before, there are no CEO’s with yachts or rock stars pumped up on fame. The men in my books are a teacher, a guy who works in an office and a DJ who works as a roofer during the week to pay the bills so he can afford to go out clubbing and mixing. Does that make them less appealing? Maybe to some readers who love billionaires and far fetched fantasies, but to my readers these men still get into your heart, because ultimately they are real men who you could meet any day, any where, living a normal day. What they do for the women in my books is much more than spending money on them.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I won’t deny I did go to college to train in admin like Jessica in The Learning Curve and I am married to a DJ/Producer but he isn’t Dayton Scott in The Final Note, the stories about these characters are totally fictitious although I do take some of my experiences in life into account for information purposes.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most?
Christopher Reeves: Still Me. This book had a profound impact on my mind as a young lady. Christopher’s story of personal growth after his accident was inspirational. If you can go from being a superhero to being so physically broken you can’t breathe unaided and still find the strength to write a book and pioneer a charity then we as people are made of stronger stuff than we realize (again, Inner Strength) I loved romance from being a teen and that doesn’t always mean being swept off our feet by a new love but also by steadfastly standing by the one we love when you hit a disaster, which Christopher and his family did. But love was steadfast, in sickness and in health. That influences me to love hard.
Fiona: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Wow, that’s hard because I love so many writers. I would love to learn from Sylvain Reynard, his works are so intellectual and take writing to a whole new level. To base a modern romance on Dante is just inspiring. I wish had half the talent of Sylvain.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I have just finished Never Give Up by Sarah Hardy. The story was so emotional, I won’t use any spoilers but it made me want to hold my family close, tell them I love them and I counted every single blessing.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Sarah Hardy for sure. Here first novel, When Past and Present Collide was a unique read. It was every parents terror brought to life but the format of time slips and working backwards in a count down to an event was a first for me & kept you engrossed as the angst built. It was very clever writing.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I am just about to go back to writing the third novel in the Inner Strength Series. I used to push to get novels out there for readers as fast as I could but with this novel being the final novel in the series I want to dedicate real time to it to finish off the stories for our four characters.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Numerous friends but I found the collective support of the writing community invaluable. It surprised me as informative and supportive other writers and blogs could be to an indie author starting on their new journey.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I would love to say so before ultimately, before anything else I am a wife and mother and I love that writing can be a sideline to them but it will always be a case of ‘Babies before Books’ for me.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I think I can honestly say I wouldn’t change a thing. I would have had more to spend on editing and cover design. I would have liked to have the book in paperback ready for the release event.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Reading a million novels as a teenager by writers such as Freya North and Jill Mansell. I always wanted the stories I wrote to be half as good as theirs. Then I moved on to more saucy books. I didn’t start to write sex into my stories until EL James rocked the book world with Fifty Shades of Grey.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
I wish I could but I’ve literally not started yet. I released my latest novel two days ago so I’ve not even started writing the third Inner Strength book yet. I can tell you this much, there will be two weddings and a lot of challenges for the two couples. Will it be wedded bliss for our four friends?
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I find writing surprises in hard, that and finding the time to write. I can’t dedicate a certain amount of time every day to writing like some can because I have to stay flexible to my children’s education.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
It’s so hard just to pick one author. Sarah Hardy is one of them and I told you why I loved her work but SR Grey is an author who I can honestly say touched me with her work. I loved all her work but her Judge Me Not series touched me. The lives of Chase and Kay were like a rewrite of my life when I first met my husband. There were so many similarities it took my breath at times. If you haven’t read I Stand Before You then you really need to.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I currently don’t because I don’t do signings. I hope one day I can but my babies are still young so I just enjoy attending signings as a reader.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Rowdie of Rowdie Dezines. The man is a blessing. I redid the covers on the Inner Strength books and he never grumbled once.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Knowing when to write and when to leave things to the readers imagination. We don’t want to be fed a story, we want it to unfold in our minds eye. Sometimes I over explained things.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Yeah, writing a book is the fun part, marketing is hard and tiring. Getting readers to leave a review is also a challenge so PLEASE if you’re reading a book by an indie author then review it. You can make an authors day and sometimes mean all the difference between a writer quitting or starting their next novel.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Keep going, don’t quit just because of one bad review, we ALL get them. You will NEVER please everyone so don’t let one bad review stop you, there will be three, four or more other reviews that spur you on. I’ve been there and almost thrown in the towel and now with hindsight I’m so glad I just kept going.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I FLUFFIN’ LOVE YOU!
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I was a child and it was called The Tiger That Came to Tea.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I have to admit I laugh my ass off at girly scenes in books, us women are a strange breed and the things we do without male presence is hysterical. We can be so damn crude and that’s my kind of humor. What makes me cry? I rarely cry, but stories involving a child’s pain just hurts on a different level. Dave Pelzer’s story… sobbed my heart out. A story of a child growing without security and love just hits a nerve.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
I would love to meet my street team. I can only imagine the behavior (I already said we can be crude when women get together without male presence, right?) Well, my street team are so ‘my kind’ of people, they are well grounded, have filthy minds and know how to laugh. We constantly rib each other, sometimes torture in Wendy’s case, but we love each other and have each other in hysterics. I’d love for us all to meet up one day!
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
Party hard people because Helen still is.
Because you better believe I won’t be crawling to the pearly gates, when I arrive I wanna roll in dancing and saying during my time on earth I LIVED.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
Reading and drawing. I love to draw but, man, do I suck at painting. I also love taking pictures, I’m no David Bailey but I try.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
The Vampire Diaries, Twilight and classic love stories like Pretty Woman, Dirty Dancing, An Officer and a Gentleman. My favorite actors are Ian Somerhalder, Julia Roberts and Morgan Freeman.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Food: Eggs. Scrambled, boiled, fried, omelets, any way they come.
Color: Purple in any shade.
Music: Take That, The Vamps, and many EDM DJ’s that I’ve met through my husband’s line of work.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
A Photographer or artist.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?