Jen: This week we welcome Helen Scott Taylor to Book Talk with J & J. Helen, will you please share a short bio with us?
Helen: As a child, when I didn’t pay attention my teachers accused me of being away with the fairies. Things haven’t changed much! Only now, the fairies are tall and sexy and they live in my stories rather than just in my head. I reside in South Western England near Plymouth with my husband, two teenagers, two Shih Tzus, and a cat who rules the household with a velvet paw. With the rocky cliffs of the Atlantic to the south and the windswept expanse of Dartmoor to the west, I love to walk in the countryside while I plot my stories. I believe that deep within everyone there’s a little magic.
Jen: Tell us about The Magic Knot and where it’s available.
Helen: The Magic Knot is a paranormal romance about Cornish piskies and Irish Tuatha Dè Danaan. The heroine visits Cornwall looking for her father. She discovers she is the Cornish pisky queen and her father is a dark druid who has imprisoned her people in portraits. The race is then on to discover the fairy lore needed to release her people before her father destroys them forever.
I initially conceived the idea for The Magic Knot to be a contemporary story of identical twin Irish brothers running a pub in Cornwall. Somewhere during the thought process, the brothers became fairies, and I threw in a dark druid, a vampiric winged fairy, and a fire-wielding Irish fairy queen.
The book is available in all good book stores and online book retailers.
Jen: At what age did you discover writing and when were you first published? Tell us your call story.
Helen: I have always loved reading, and when I was young, I enjoyed making up stories. For many years, I concentrated on my career, then building my business and my family. It was only when I turned forty and I started looking for something I felt was missing from my life that I rediscovered my love of storytelling.
I started writing in 2003. I took many writing classes and read a lot of writing craft books. The Internet is wonderful for giving access to online writing classes run by RWA chapters. The first book I wrote was a short contemporary, which I sent to Mills & Boon. My characters were too unconventional for contemporary romance, so I tried my hand at paranormal. My first paranormal romance did well in contests, but it was my second paranormal romance, The Magic Knot that brought me success when in 2008 it won the American Title IV contest run by Dorchester Publishing and Romantic Times Bookreviews Magazine. I was also delighted that my winning book, The Magic Knot , was a 2008 Golden Heart® finalist. The Magic Knot was released on Jan 27. The second in the fantasy romance series, The Phoenix Charm will be a December 09 release.
Jen: How do you approach your writing? Do you plot or go with the flow?
Helen: I have tried outlining before I start writing, but it boxes me in. My creativity works best when I get to know my characters and then let them create the story as I write. This way the characters always behave ‘in character’ rather than doing things to fit a pre-planned plot. When I read a book, my pet peeve is characters who do things that are out of character because they need to in order for the plot to work.
Jen: Do you have a writing routine?
Helen: I’m an evening person rather than a morning person. I tend to get up late, deal with my business in the morning, then I write in the afternoon and evening. When I’m writing a first draft, I need undisturbed quiet to think. I often work late into the night when my family is asleep. When I’m revising and editing, I don’t mind noise and disturbance, so I do that during the day.
Jen: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing? Easiest?
Helen: At every stage of the process, be it writing the first draft, revising, checking for plot holes, or editing, I always think that particular stage is the most difficult. But once I start, I realize whatever I’m doing isn’t as difficult as I remember. Most of the hurdles are inside my head.
Jen: What’s the most rewarding aspect?
Helen: Since I’ve had my first book published, I’ve discovered the most rewarding part is receiving emails from readers telling me how much they enjoyed my story. This is the nirvana of writing, sharing stories I love with other people and bringing them pleasure.
Jen: Do you do anything special to celebrate a sale, new contract, or release?
Helen: Most high points in my life are good excuses to buy expensive chocolate! I like to celebrate in a way I can share with my family so it’s fun to all go out to dinner. A friend suggested I should also mark my sales with something more tangible that I can look back on. I haven’t thought of anything suitable yet, but I’d like to buy a keepsake for each sale. Another lovely thing is that my RWA chapter From The Heart Romance Writers celebrates each step of progress their members make by awarding a silk rose. I have a large pot of different colored silk roses on the table in my bedroom. These are lovely mementos of my contest wins and sales.
Jen: Where do you draw your inspiration?
Helen: I often find inspiration in music and song lyrics. If I visit historic houses or ancient villages or towns I always leave dying to use them as settings in my books. I’m lucky that living in England I have access to many ancient buildings and acres of mystical countryside to inspire me. Once I have a story idea, I love reading about myths, legends, and folk law to give me ideas on how to add paranormal elements to the world.
Jen: Do you have a favorite character or one that you identify most with?
Helen: There are elements of myself in both the hero and heroine of The Magic Knot. But I think I identify more with Niall. Strangely, I’ve found I usually understand my heroes better than my heroines. I also prefer to write male secondary characters. I have two male secondary characters that play sizeable roles in The Magic Knot. Michael is the hero’s brother, and Nightshade is a vampiric nightstalker fairy who can’t decide if he is their ally or enemy. I’m hard pressed to choose which of those two is my favorite. They will both have their own books. The sequel (The Phoenix Charm) features Michael as the hero, and the third book I have planned is Nightshade’s story.
Jen: Who are some of your favorite authors and books? What are you reading now?
Helen: I like to read different genres to those I write so my ideas are not influenced by other paranormal romance authors’ ideas. Recently I’ve read books by Mary Lawson and Santa Montifiore that I enjoyed. The last book I read was Reckless by Saskia Walker and I loved everything about that book, plot, characters, writing style. I’ll be looking out for more of her books.
Jen: What’s next for you?
Helen: I’m currently working to finish the second in The Magic Knot fairy series. The Phoenix Charm features the brother of the hero in The Magic Knot. The second book will be released in December 09.
To find me on Facebook and Myspace go to my website and follow the links.
Jen: Do you have anything you’d like to ask our readers?
Helen: In my fairy world featured in The Magic Knot series, each fairy embodies the qualities of one of the elements. The leprechauns and Cornish piskies are Earth elementals, the noble old blood Tuatha Dé Danaan are either Fire, Air or Water. This gives them their powers, strengths, and weaknesses.
Humans embody all four elements, but we each favor one, which manifests in our personality and dictates our moods and emotions.
Find out which element you are! Visit http://www.helenscotttaylor.com, take my elements quiz then come back to tell us which element you are and if you think it suits you.
Jen: I’m looking forward to taking the quiz and hearing everyone else’s results. 🙂 Readers, Helen is giving away a copy of The Magic Knot to a random reader this week. So, go take her quiz and give us your results and you’ll be entered in the drawing. The contest will run until 5pm PDT on Thursday, February 19.