Name Helena Smrcek
Where are you from
I was born in Czechoslovakia. Our family left the country in 1986 and became refugees, finding a new home in Canada. I have finished high school and began to work, as immigrant life lacks many privileges such as the mean necessary for higher education. Writing was already a part of my life. I began making up stories as a little kid, in my grandma’s garden. Somehow I possessed the audacity to pitch a story to Mississauga News, and earned my first by line, broken English and all. My first editor was beyond gracious.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
We live on a farm, and I love everything about it. The only struggle is finding enough time to entertain all my interests, be it bee keeping, chick hatching, planting, harvesting, canning, cheese making and so on, and still find time to write, edit and promote my fiction..
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
That would have been at a writer’s conference in 2002, where the instructor made us say “I’m a writer”, out loud three times. Despite the growing collection of my by lines, I still felt a lit like a fraud, after all I had no degrees to prove it, and my English would never be perfect.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Strangely enough I met my mentor at the same conference, a very well established author. He looked at my clippings, simply stated I had nothing to prove, my writing was good, and asked what I would like to do next. I was shocked, then found enough courage to say I’d love to write fiction. He asked for three pages of my story, then guided me through the hill of valley of creating a novel, with a patience of a saint, yet with an eye of an eagle, and I did start to learn. See, the learning process is never really over. I purposed to remain teachable, read books, go to seminars, network with other writers, and of course write, and then re-write, over and over again.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
This is a difficult question. I believe each author develops their own style, a voice, much like a painter, it is part of who the artist is. Of course, there is the technique, structure, grammar and so on, but the style itself is a natural way of telling a story, it has a rhythm, nuances, and personal touches.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
A title of a novel is a crucial part of the creative process, and it has several functions. First it has to captivate the reader, intriguing the audience just enough to pause and decide to click or reach for the book. In our age of technology, it should also be ESO friendly and so on, by I chose my titles more organically.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Of course. Actually there are several layers. My goal is to entertain my readers, give them a break from their busy lives, but also make them think, may it be through character development, their actions, dialogue or the setting. Each work of art has a purpose, may it be a composition, a short film or an article.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
The old say goes: “Write what you know.” It took me a while to grasp that concept, but I think I’m beginning to understand. An author draws on his or her own experiences, may it be favorite vacation spots, the current economic situation, family dynamics or the latest headlines. Those can become seeds of inspiration, and spark an idea. A novel is like a mosaic, composed from a little bits a pieces of emotions, experiences and encounters with other people, yet it remains a work of fiction.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
I’ll have to go with the classic, and that is the Bible. It is more than a religious text. It gives us a historical record of ancient events, it lets our imagination wonder about old civilization, event plot expedition to uncover long lost cities. But it also gives us hope, the good wins over the evil, and I find courage in that. Life is difficult as it is, and we all need a little bit of light to navigate around the obstacles.
Aside from that I love Ernst Hemingway, Ken Follett, Anthony Doerr, David Baldacci, DiAnn Mills, Loiuse Penny, of course there are many others.
My mentor still is Cecil Murphey, his patience, wisdom and approach to life inspires me every day, aside from his hundred and twenty some books.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest and who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I have just recently discovered Louise Penny, and absolutely fell in love. Her books take us on a little vacation to the great province of Quebec, Canada, and bring us to a small village, not found on any map. The murder mysteries are always engaging, and I find myself guessing every time, but what I love the most is the cast of her characters. Each novel is a deep study of human condition. I feel emotionally attached to many of them, getting invested in their lives, wondering about their next adventure, even fearing for their lives. What can I say, I’m in love.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
My readers. I can’t tell you enough what an e-mail, or a review means to me. There are days I wonder if all the effort I put into the creative process is worth it, if I’m actually any good, or have the ability to tell a good story, and then I venture to Goodreads or Amazon and take a look at what my readers posted. I remember, one particularly hard afternoon, their kind words made me cry. These glimmers of light in the darkness help me find courage to go on, finish the next chapter, make a new blog post, or continue to edit one of those pages that need a substantial re-write. So, thank you to everyone who takes time out of their busy day and cares enough about the author to post a review.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
For me it’s more like a life-long calling. Truthfully there are only a few people who make a living in this occupation. To me, writing is much like sculpting, I work with a piece for a while, then go do something in my garden, or make a meal for the family. It is part of who I am and what I do, but I wouldn’t call it a career.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Well, yes. I’d make darn sure I didn’t lose the final draft and didn’t have to do all the edits again. Technology and I are not always on friendly terms. But for the books already published, I’d say no. The stories are finished, the way they should be.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I ran out of paper writing composition in a grade school. I always had so much more to say, or write, and my teachers let me.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
I’m working on a novel about a marriage in trouble, loss of a baby and subsequent depression, because it is important to remember that even in the deepest,darkest recesses of our soul, there still is a spark of light, a glimmer of hope.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Yes, English grammar, but I have an amazing editor, that combs through my sentences and makes me fix stuff.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I love to travel, so that is never an issue. Often places I visit become settings in my work.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Finding the time.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Persistence matters. It is the time in the chair that makes things happen.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you, and I really mean it. There are so many choices out there, the books available to us are in the millions, and yet, they did chose to spend their time with my characters. It is a great honor and privilege, and I truly am humbled.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Louise Penny’s series.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Yes, it was a story of a hedge hog warrior prince with beautiful illustrations, my grandma had it in her library, and I loved everything about it, the softness of the old pages, the delicate artwork, and of course the story, the terrible snake lost, and the hedgehog saved all the little animals.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I love good humor, but also my goat makes me laugh with her antics. I try not to cry often, let me see, acts of kindness move me to tears.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
Right now I would like to meet Louise Penny and tell her how much I love her characters.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
Wasted no time.
See, time is the one thing no one can buy, and I have always felt responsible to use my time wisely.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
Where do I begin? I did mention the gardening, animals, I love crafts, also trying out old receipts, browsing through thrift shops and looking for old china, traveling, definitely traveling, hosting family dinners, the list goes on.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I like people focused stories. It helps when they are good looking people stories, like the cast of Fast and Furious franchise.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
A good home grown steak, fuchsia, and nature sounds.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?