Here is the fifth instalment of my Author Interview Program. If anyone is interested in participating, please let me know!
But for now, please welcome Ms. Helen Valentina!
What is your author name? Or do you use a penname instead?
Helen: I write under the name Helen Valentina. This is a pen name. I do this deliberately because I want my creative life to be separate from my day to day work life. In real life my name is Helen, but the surname Valentina comes from another part of my family, and just sounds nice I think.
What is the title of the book you’re currently writing?
Helen: There are two books I’ve written and I am currently in the last stages of preparing to self publish. The first is called ‘The Seed’ and the second is called ‘Curiosity’. There is a third novella I will be getting manuscript assessed later this year called ‘Denial’.
What is the genre of your book?
Helen: ‘The Seed’is probably psychological/dark romance….not sure if that is a specific genre!! ‘Curiosity’ is a black comedy. If I proceed with ‘Denial’ it would fall into the same sort of category as ‘The Seed’. I’m working on another novel now more in the black comedy vein, but it’s a work in progress so we will see how it goes.
One of my challenges is I don’t just write in one genre – which is creatively satisfying but I recognise makes marketing the work more complex.
I also write a lot of poetry on my blog – again this crosses genres, or possibly poetry is a genre in itself. Some people have suggested I write and publish a poetry book so I’m thinking about that too. The other challenge, of course, is having time to do it all!!!
What inspires you to write?
Looking back, I think I was inspired to write through being a frustrated philosopher who was, quite frankly, too lazy to make that an academic profession, LOL. So I use writing to process what I experience and think about the world, and to uncover the themes that drive my – and from my observation – other people’s decisions. In the end, that’s what it is in essence to me – an exploration of why we do the things we do, or why we think the way we think. Whatever genre I write, whatever story, whatever poem, has that at is heart. It’s me just trying to figure it all out…always failing of course…but the journey is the thing!
What this has also meant for me is that I tend to write in bursts during particular periods of my life rather than all the time. This is also partly the need to earn a living too. I think it’s a form of therapy for me in some way, and it’s like I’m a creative creature of hibernation…I go for long periods writing nothing and just observing the world (literally years at a stretch) then tend to write a lot, fast, over other periods of time, like I ‘wake up’ to do so.
It may be I would write more consistently if I did it for my actual living…who knows? I also expect the joy I get from my blog may be a real incentive to not ‘go back to sleep’ creatively, so that’s a great side benefit of this community of writers.
Self-publish or traditional publishing, and why?
Helen: Self publish…partly because of the aforementioned laziness I suspect. I actually only dusted off the novels recently because in downloading some stuff from Kindle there was a book on how to publish on Amazon and I thought, why not? I wrote the books to process thoughts, as I said above…I didn’t have the author ambition to be published, even though I got some good feedback on them (which I mainly pursued out of curiosity for whether they’d worked as novels). But self publishing looked a bit easier to navigate. Once I’ve gotten into it I’ve realised it’s not so simple, but it’s still very creatively liberating.
I’m not averse to traditional publishing if a publishing house approached me, but for the moment I’m quite happy to publish myself. Even a small readership is better than having the books gather dust, so to speak, in my house, unseen.
What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
Helen: Write the way that suits you. Write what really interests you rather than what you think will be popular or marketable. If you are excited by your story, others are likely to be. It starts with really caring about the story.
Also, take lots of advice, but stay true to yourself in the end. Some people tell you to structure out everything very methodically, before you start to write – there are even programs you can buy to help ‘build’ a book’s plot etc. That may work well for some, but when I tried one once I was bored after plotting it out – it had served its purpose to make me think everything through (given that is essentially why I write in the first place) so I had no motivation left to write the actual novel (no matter how interesting the original premise might have been)
Instead, for me, if I have the story ‘whole’ in my head (and by this I mean..this is how it starts, this is broadly what will happen, and this is how it ends), but without all the plot detail intricately though out, I find I will write the book to find out all that detail…why did I have that whole story in my head, what was really driving it? That works for me but won’t for others.
I do find, though, if I just start with an idea but I don’t know the overview and the book’s end, I never finish it. Perhaps the more formless idea in itself is not sufficiently compelling as a philosophical premise for me to sustain it.
So my main message is be yourself. Don’t write like others because that won’t work..find what drives you and follow that path without doubt or regret.
Thank you so much Helen!