Interview: HelenKay Dimon

Jen: Please help us give a warm welcome to HelenKay Dimon as she stops by the blog today. HelenKay, will you share a short bio with us? Where can we find you online?
HelenKay: HelenKay Dimon is a former divorce attorney turned full-time romance author. She has sold more than thirty novels, novellas and shorts to numerous publishers, including Kensington, Harlequin and Penguin Berkley, Samhain and Carina Press. Her nationally bestselling and award-winning books have been showcased in numerous venues and her books have twice been named “Red-Hot Reads” and excerpted in Cosmopolitan magazine. But the best part of the job is never having to wear pantyhose. You can learn more at her at

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Bet you’re sorry you asked for links…

Jen: Please tell us about your newest release and where the idea came from.
HelenKay: My newest release is Just What He Wanted, the 4th in a series of books connected by characters (they are standalones novels) set in the fictional West Virginia town of Holloway. You know, this is not a book I expected to write, mainly because the hero kind of appeared out of nowhere. Travis was not planned. I was writing book #2, Lean On Me, and this younger plant nursery foreman stepped on the page and I spent time doing the “where the heck did he come from?” thing. Travis was young (twenty-four) in years but wise when it came to women and very grounded. To be honest, I kind of fell for him. I kept having this vision of Travis finding a woman who totally knocked him off stride. The one he couldn’t charm just by standing there … I also thought she should threaten him with a gun. Andie, his heroine, does just that the first time they meet.

Then there’s the part where I think about Travis looking like Jensen Ackles from the television show Supernatural. That’s pretty inspirational, too.

Jen: What age did you discover writing?  Tell us your call story.
HelenKay: You know how writers talk about knowing they wanted to write from the time they came out of the womb and how they wrote their first book about dragons or ponies or whatever by age three? Yeah, that’s not me. I had an active imagination and used to group my paper dolls into families and act out these dramatic scenes, which I now see as the precursor to writing romance, but I didn’t think about writing then. I’ve also been an avid reader but I didn’t even read romance until I was thirty. The idea of writing one never crossed my mind. I started reading romance while I was a trial attorney specializing contested custody cases. For the record, that is the least romantic job on Earth. A fellow attorney handed me three romance novels and promised me a happy ending, something that was lacking in my work life. I started reading and fell in love with the genre.

Then I decided I should write one. The first attempt was a complete mess. Something like 700 pages of a mess. I didn’t try to send it out, but I caught the writing bug. Around that time NYT bestselling author Lori Foster ran a contest off her website where you turned in the first three pages of a manuscript. She picked her twenty favorites and sent them to Kate Duffy, her then-editor at Kensington. Lori picked mine and Kate called and told me what she liked and what she didn’t. She said to go write something new and send it to her. She also said the one thing that made all the difference: “I’m going to be your editor one day, just not today.” Eighteen months later on May 9, 2005 (at 3:03 p.m., not that it made a big impression on me or anything) she called and made an offer for a novella. My first book, the novella, was in an anthology with Erin McCarthy and Lori Foster called When Good Things Happen To Bad Boys. I’ve been writing ever since.

Jen: Are you a plotter or pantser?
HelenKay: I am a pantser. I usually start a book with nothing more in my head than the main characters and the first scene. I write that first scene and then step back and wonder “what do I have here” and then start thinking about the book and the characters and where it all will go. The one time I tried to write a lengthy outline first, one much more in-depth than the kind I turn in for option book proposals, I had a terrible time trying to write the actual book. In my head, by writing the involved outline the book was already written and out of my head. Not fun. I actually blame Suzanne Brockmann because I heard her speak and was so inspired and she wrote these 90 page outlines, so I thought I should. But no. Didn’t work for me at all.

Jen: Describe your writing in 3 words.
HelenKay: Crazy runaway trainwreck

Jen: Do you have a writing routine?
HelenKay: Routine is a strong word. Theoretically, I write from about 9-6 every day but Saturday and write one to two chapters during that time. That’s the ideal. The reality is much messier. I wrote my first two books when I was a partner in a law firm and working nutty hours. That led to late-night writing, and I still write better in the late afternoons into evening. I’m working on that.

My overall process is a bit convoluted. Every day I revise what’s already written. By that I mean, up until the halfway point of the book, I revise from page one to wherever I stopped writing the day before then I write forward. Don’t try this at home. For whatever reason it works to put the plot and characters in my head and help me to nail down the continuity issues, but it is time consuming.

At the end of every day, I write out a few pages of pure dialogue – nothing else but the words in quotation marks – at the start of the next chapter. That way I never start from a blank page. The dialogue is there and I build from the dialogue.

Jen: How do you remember ideas that come to you at odd times?
HelenKay: I have very faulty short-term memory (and that’s being kind). I can’t remember a thing unless I write it down. When I write it down, it goes in my head and I’m fine. So, I always carry a small notebook with me. Keep one by the bed as well. An idea comes to me and I jot it down. This system works everywhere but the shower. And ideas do come in the shower. That involves bolting out, water on the floor, soggy paper…you get the idea.

Jen: Is there a genre you’d like to write?  Is there one you’ll probably stay away from?  Why?
HelenKay: I love writing romance and suspense, so combine those in romantic suspense and I’m happy. I love contemporary romance and have an absolute weakness for futuristics and space cowboys, really anything science fiction-y (pretend that’s a word). My goal is to write a sexy space cowboy series, complete with a marriage of convenience and some suspense. Within romance the only thing I can’t imagine writing is historical. I don’t gravitate to them as a reader, so I’m taking that as a sign I don’t have the voice and leaving those books to the amazing authors who do.

Jen: What’s next for you?
HelenKay: The end of 2013 is really busy! Next up is the beginning of a new romantic suspense miniseries for Harlequin Intrigue, revolving around a group of undercover agents. I love those protective secretive types. The first, Fearless, comes out in July. The second, Ruthless, comes out in August. This summer I also return to another contemporary series called the Hanover Brothers. It centers on the sons of a notorious con man. Book #2, Simple Twist of Fate, comes out in July. Then in October I’m one of the launch books for the Cosmo Red Hot Read line from Harlequin. That story, Everything You Need To Know, takes place in Washington, D.C. – no small towns here! – and follows a woman with a secret and the businessman who wants to know everything about her.

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