New month, new interview!
Today, we are joined by prize-winning author Helena Halme. Helena writes contemporary fiction with a hint of both Nordic Noir and romance. She’s a former BBC journalist, bookseller, and magazine editor. Originally from Finland, where she gained an MSc in Marketing, Helena also holds an MA in Creative Writing. Helena acts as Nordic Ambassador for the Alliance of Independent Authors and helps other writers publish and market their books.
Helena has published 12 fiction titles, including The English Heart, a best-selling Nordic romance, which won an Awesome Indies badge on publication. The bittersweet 1980s love story between a Finnish student and a British Navy officer is now a series of six books. Helena’s latest title, Book 2 in Love on the Island-series, An Island Christmas, came out November 2019.
Helena has also published two non-fiction titles, Write Your Story: Turn Your Life into Fiction in 10 Easy Steps, which we will be talking about today, and Write in Another Language in 10 Easy Steps.
Helena is addicted to Nordic Noir and dances to Abba songs when nobody’s watching.
Welcome, Helena! Please tell us, what is Write Your Story: Turn Your Life into Fiction in 10 Easy Steps about?
The title of the book is quite self-explanatory! However, it’s much more than just a simple guide book. Having written many books based on my own life, I wanted to share my experiences and show other writers how they can fictionalise their lives in a structured way. And without embarrassment.
How is Write Your Story: Turn Your Life into Fiction in 10 Easy Steps different from everything else out there? What does it add?
In this book, I talk a lot about the structure of a novel, and how writers can, using the events from their own lives, produce a great read. I also show how the plot, time-frame, and characters can be manipulated to improve the story and to avoid embarrassment when the book becomes a bestseller. It’s often the fear that people recognise themselves that prevents talented authors from writing about their own lives. I show how you can write your life story without having to reveal everything.
My first published book, The English Heart, is based on the story of how I met and fell madly in love with my English Navy Officer at the British Embassy in Helsinki. The story was first published on my blog, where it became really popular, gaining over half a million readers. (That was a lot in 2004!) When I decided to turn the blog posts into a novel, I realised I needed to work a lot on the structure. Once published in 2012, many other writers and organisations such as the Alliance of Independent Authors asked me to write blogs about how I turned my life story into fiction. After a few years of blogs, appearances, and interviews on the subject, I felt there was sufficient demand for a book.
Who will benefit from Write Your Story: Turn Your Life into Fiction in 10 Easy Steps?
Anyone who has a desire to write a book about their own life, but doesn’t really know where to start. Or those of us who wish to write about our lives, but don’t want to share everything. This is not a book about biography writing – it could be called the exact opposite. The book also shows how you can continue to write stories from your own life. When I first published The English Heart, I had no intention of writing a sequel, let alone a series. But now there are six books in The Nordic Heart Series, all of which are more or less based on my own life. Of course, I’ll never tell you which bits are ‘true’ and which are fiction!
What is the best writing advice you were ever given?
One of the tutors on my MA in Creative Writing course told me that I should never bore the reader. I was obviously devastated by her comment (I still remember it after more than twenty-five years), but now completely understand what she meant. It’s hugely important to keep the reader’s interest alive, whether you are writing fiction based on your own life, or nonfiction.
I couldn’t agree with you more, Helena!
(Some of the Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage if you buy through these links.)