Tell us a bit about you and your background.
I’m a British author, and I live in Yorkshire, in the north of England. My first contemporary romance was released in 2013, and there’s been no stopping me ever since
What’s the logline that describes your writing?
Heartwarming romance with believable heroines, strong heroes, and uplifting endings
What are your hobbies away from the computer?
I live near the Yorkshire moors – close to where the Brontë sisters used to live – and I walk the moors every day with my rescue dog. I love to watch the changing seasons, and now, in spring, everything is coming alive. It’s wonderful to see the colours creeping back over the barren winter landscape.
Besides walking, I also read, read, and read!
Do you start a new story with the plot or characters first?
I start with the characters. Romance novels are all about internal conflict – the personalities of the hero and heroine, and what it is that’s keeping them apart. I will also have a particular setting in mind. The story evolves naturally out of these elements.
Is your writing style planned or freestyle?
I generally have a good idea of the overall structure of the story and the character arc of the hero and heroine. In The Scottish Diamond – the novella I’ve just released – things didn’t go quite according to my initial plan, and the hero turned out to have a secret that surprised even me! That was really exciting to write, and I love this hero possibly more than any of my others (and that’s saying something )
What is the starting point for research—story concept or when you get stuck while writing?
It’s a bit of both. I’ll research as I’m mulling the story over, and then when I get stuck I go away and research some more. It’s easy to get sucked into the research side of things, so I try not to let it become a distraction. Having said that, I’ve had some of my best ideas for moving the story forward while researching.
Have you traveled to any locations that appear in your books?
My stories are set in various locations, from France to Scotland, London, and the north of England. I’ve been to all the places I’ve written about. I think it is possible to write about somewhere you’ve never been to – the internet is a wonderful resource – but it would take a lot more effort and possibly not be as realistic.
Can you share a tip about what you do when you get stuck in creating a story?
I take a break from it. Sometimes as little as ten minutes away from staring at the screen. By the time I get back, I’ve worked out what to do next, and it seems obvious. Other times, it takes a lot longer. When I’m really stuck, I find it useful to discuss the story with someone else. Just talking about it can often help you see the solution. My husband is brilliant at seeing an answer, especially when it involves the development of a character. Talking things through with him will often fire me with new enthusiasm
Describe a normal writing day (or period, if you have other employment obligations).
On a normal writing day I take my dog for a very long walk first, before sitting down to my computer. I get my emails, social media, etc, out of the way, then settle down to write as much as I can before my brain starts to freeze and the words start to dry up. I find it quite hard to write in the evening when I’m tired.
What’s your dream vacation destination?
Anywhere by the sea. I love Cornwall, and also the Welsh coast, and the Mediterranean for the sunshine.
Do you use visual aids (storyboards, Pinterest, collages) when plotting or writing?
I’ll find a photo of someone – usually someone famous, like a film star or musician, and I use it as the basis for my main characters – the hero especially. I’ll refer to the photo when I’m describing them. This helps me have an image in mind, and it keeps my descriptions consistent. There’s no changing the hero’s eyes from grey to brown half way through the story, for example. I’ve pinned some of the photos I’ve used for each story to my Pinterest board.
In what genre do you read?
I read a lot of contemporary romance in order to keep up with what’s happening in the genre. Besides that, I read pretty much anything, apart from horror and psychological thrillers, which I find too tense. I like detective novels and sci-fi, and I read a lot of literary classics. I’m just reading some Chekhov short stories. They’re really entertaining and a surprisingly easy read.
What resources do you use for picking character names?
It depends on the age of the character, what they do for a living, etc. If it’s a child, I might have a look at newspaper lists of most popular names, for example. Once I’ve decided on a name, then that’s it – I find it very difficult to change it. It would be like renaming one of my own children!
Are you a pet person? If so, what do you have?
As I said above, I have a rescue dog. She’s a Staffie cross, and was abandoned as a puppy on the streets of Leeds (a large city near where I live). She was already called Lexi when we adopted her, and so we’ve kept the name. She’s a brilliant dog with us – very loving, playful, and affectionate – but she gets very stressed around strangers and other dogs. Living near the moors is ideal. We can walk in splendid solitude, which suits us both – Lexi so she can chase rabbits, and me so I can dream up my stories!
What do you hope readers gain from your stories?
I’d like them to find my stories a page-turning and entertaining read, to fall in love with my characters, and to come away feeling uplifted.
What do you do when nothing is what it seems…even the man you love?
“Fair is foul, and foul is fair…” When Lizzie Smith starts rehearsing Macbeth with her theatre group in Edinburgh, she’s convinced the witches’ spells are the cause of a run of terrible luck. Lizzie’s bodyguard boyfriend, Léon, is mysteriously turned down for every job he applies for, until he’s finally offered the job of guarding “The Scottish Diamond,” a fabulous jewel from the country of Montverrier.
But the diamond’s previous guard has disappeared in mysterious circumstances. The Scottish Diamond has a history of intrigue and bloody murder, and Lizzie is plagued by nightmares in which Macbeth’s witches are warning her of danger.
Then Lizzie discovers she’s being followed through the streets of Edinburgh, and it seems her worst fears are about to be realised…
I continued to frown up at him, troubled. He took my face in his hands and kissed me.
‘I know what it is,’ he said, his eyes twinkling. ‘It’s all your talk of witches and ghosts. Your Scottish superstitions are rubbing off on me and I’m seeing things in this gloomy weather that aren’t there at all.’
He swung me into his arms and kissed me again.
After that, Léon dismissed his vigilance as something brought on by the strangeness of his new city. And once he began his new job at the Castle, he didn’t mention being followed again, and in fact, all the tension he’d been showing disappeared, and he became almost his old self. He left the house with a sense of purpose that had been lacking in his previous aimless wanderings around Edinburgh. And the best thing was, he was beginning to understand more and more of our Scottish brogue every day.
I later discovered it wasn’t just our Scottish way of speaking he was mastering. A few days after he started work, I was in the kitchen preparing our evening meal, when I heard the front door close and Léon’s light tread in the hall. Usually he went straight upstairs to change, but this evening he came directly to the kitchen and put his head round the door. His eyes brimmed with amusement.
I stepped closer to give him a kiss, and he pushed the door wide. My mouth fell open. He was dressed in a kilt. The green tartan cloth was thrown over one broad shoulder in Highland fashion, and the pleated skirt revealed an inch or two of tanned, muscular leg above a pair of thick, cream-coloured socks.
‘Wow,’ I stuttered. ‘You look…’ I breathed out in a long whistle. ‘You look amazing.’
He smiled broadly, showing his white, even teeth in one of the first real smiles I’d seen him give since we left Europe.
‘This is my new uniform.’ He spread his arms a little, glancing down at himself. ‘Not a bad effort for a half-Italian, half-Montverrian. What do you think?’
‘Not bad at all.’ My face decided right then and there to turn a decided pink, and to hide the fact that I couldn’t keep my eyes off him, I threw my arms around his neck and planted a kiss below his ear.
His arms encircled me, and he murmured, ‘Ever made love to a man in a kilt?’
And after that, everything between us was perfect again. All my worries about Léon wanting to go home to Italy, and all his former tension vanished, and we were just as we had been during those idyllic two weeks we’d spent at his home on the Amalfi coast that summer.
But of course, perfect times can’t last forever. Everything changed when I realised it wasn’t Léon who was being followed. It was me.
Helena Fairfax writes engaging contemporary romances with sympathetic heroines and heroes she’s secretly in love with. Her first novel, The Silk Romance, was a contender for the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme Award and a runner-up in the Global Ebook Awards. Helena Fairfax was shortlisted for the Exeter Novel Prize in 2014.
Helena is a British author who was born in Uganda and came to England as a child. She’s grown used to the cold now, and these days she lives in an old Victorian mill town in the north of England, right next door to the windswept Yorkshire moors. She walks this romantic landscape every day with her rescue dog, finding it the perfect place to dream up her heroes and her happy endings.
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